Cash, Credit: It’s All Filthy

Nov 9, 2012 by

microscopic image of MRSA

MRSA Bacteria

Have you heard of this particularly nasty bacteria called methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA for short? It’s wreaking havoc because our arsenal of antibiotics has little effect on MRSA. One source I read claimed that MRSA now accounts for more deaths in the U.S. than HIV / AIDS!

 MRSA and Spending

This is a personal finance, not personal health, blog, so what’s the connection between MRSA and money? Well Monday a research group at St. Petersburg College released some preliminary results of a study done on MRSA contamination of currency and credit cards. The results:

  • 50% of credit cards tested positive for MRSA, and
  • 80% of paper money collected from non-hospital venues (malls, fast food restaurants, gas stations, etc.) tested positive for MRSA!

Associate Professor Shannon McQuaig led the study group. She had this to say about the difference between hospital and non-hospital paper money contamination rates:

“We’re finding about 20 percent of the dollar bills that we’re collecting from hospitals are contaminated with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus – also more affectionately known as MRSA,” McQuaig said.

“We’ve found that most of the hand soaps in hospitals contain an anti-microbial compound called triclosan and triclosan actually kills bacteria. So they’re washing their hands and then touching the money and it’s not getting as contaminated.”

We always knew that overspending can be bad for our financial health, but now we learn that each time you handle money or a credit card you might also be jeopardizing your physical health!


What To Do

It seems every day brings warnings of some new, potentially lethal hazard and accompanying recommendations for more behavior modification to stay safe. I envision myself soon self-confined to a dark, empty closet, equipped with a respirator, sterilized clothing, and a composting potty, eating only organic, GMO-free carrots and lettuce grown under the tutelage of a disciple of the Dalai Lama.

Still, MRSA is a nasty bug, and paper money and credit cards are pretty tough to avoid. Here are a few practices I’m considering adopting to keep myself free of spending-related MRSA infection:

  • Stop licking my credit card.
  • Don’t shake hands (or anything more intimate) with McDonalds or similar employees who handle lots of paper money from people of questionable judgement.
  • Dine out only at hospital cafeterias.
  • Hang one of those dispensers of magically disappearing antiseptic foam from my belt when I leave the house.
  • Ask the cashier to put my paper money change directly into my front pants pocket.
  • Wash my money and credit card along with the laundry (I do this unintentionally much of the time anyway, which I now learn has perhaps saved my life).
  • Carry a box of latex gloves and insist that anyone handling my credit card use a pair.

What About You?

Do Dr. McQuaig’s study results make you queasy about spending? If you really worked yourself into a paranoid frenzy about spending-related MRSA infection, do you think you’d save more? Do you plan to change your behavior because of the risk of MRSA infection associated with handling money or credit cards?

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  1. I’m not changing anything. Maybe I’ll try to touch my face less.
    You can’t worry about every little things. Seems ridiculous to me.
    Have a great weekend!

  2. John from ImpulseSave

    Ha ha, I guess you’re right, I’ll have to stop licking my credit card clean. But I’d like to see the amount of MRSA they tested for before I make any change in how I handle money. Was it a significant amount, like enough to actually infect you? Or similar to the study that found trace amounts of cocaine on 90% of U.S. bills.

  3. Good reasons to not put dollar bills in your mouth. You don’t know where they’ve been.

  4. FrugalPortland

    Really glad to hear you’re going to stop licking your credit card!

  5. LOL, “stop licking my credit card”!!! I’m not surprised about how much money tested positive, but credit cards? That’s scary, because you’ve got to figure if your card is “infected,” so is just about everything else in your wallet.

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