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How to clean your credit card amid coronavirus

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, CNBC Select reviews how to clean your credit cards, which could be the dirtiest thing in your wallet. Plus, tips on minimizing the spread of germs when paying with credit.

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Select’s editorial team works independently to review financial products and write articles we think our readers will find useful. We may receive a commission when you click on links for products from our affiliate partners.

If you're doing a daily clean of highly-touched surfaces, such as your phone and counters, you may want to add wiping down your credit cards to that list.

While the CDC's guidelines don't specifically state that the coronavirus can linger on credit cards, a recent study found that the coronavirus can live up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel, according to Harvard Medical School. Most credit cards are made of plastic or metal, so you should consider cleaning your cards after you go to the store.

Below, CNBC Select reviews how to clean your credit cards and tips on how to minimize the spread of germs when paying for purchases.

How to clean your credit cards

You can clean your credit card(s) with the same ingredients you use to clean your hands — soap and water. Or you can opt to clean your card with a stronger disinfectant, such as a household spray like 409 Multi-Surface Cleaner or sanitizing wipes from brands like Clorox and Purell. If you use a liquid cleaner, spray it on a paper towel instead of directly on your card.

Make sure you gently wipe your credit card — there's no need to put much elbow grease into it or use an abrasive material. Credit cards can withstand a gentle clean, but if you use too much force, you can cause premature wear and smudge the signature.

The Apple Card even made headlines last year when it released special guidelines on how to clean the unique titanium surface, listed below.

  1. Gently wipe with a soft, slightly damp, lint-free microfiber cloth.
  2. Moisten a soft, microfiber cloth with isopropyl alcohol and gently wipe the card. (Apple warns against using window or household cleaners, compressed air, aerosol sprays, solvents, ammonia or abrasives to clean your titanium Apple Card.)

How to minimize germs when paying with credit cards

When you pay with a physical credit card, there are a lot of hands that can come in contact with it. For starters, you're touching the card, then the cashier may touch the card and if there's an issue, a manager may step in and also make contact with the card. Then the card comes back to you.

That's a lot of hands, right?

And it doesn't end there — you may be asked to touch a payment terminal or sign a receipt.

But you may not know that cardholder signatures are no longer required for in-store transactions for credit cards that have a magnetic stripe or chip. Card networks, such as Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Discover, did away with most signature requirements in 2018.

Even still, the merchant may still ask for a signature due to store policy or local regulations, so this isn't a surefire solution.

An effective way to reduce the spread of germs as much as possible is to use contactless cards or mobile wallets. Most credit cards are issued with contactless capability and if you have an old card, you can request a contactless card. Keep in mind, card issuers are facing high call volumes due to coronavirus concerns, so a new card may be delayed.

Information about the Apple Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.