High touch objects have become sources of anxiety for many of us as we do our best to limit the spread of COVID-19. One of the most common items of concern we’re hearing about are coins and bank notes. To help, we’re sharing some information from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the BC Centre for Disease Control (BC CDC) to help give you a realistic idea of how worried you should be and share information about how to safely manage cash payments. 

Can COVID-19 be transmitted through coins and bank notes? 

According to the WHO there is no evidence either confirming or disproving that COVID-19 can be spread through the use of cash. However, there are studies that suggest respiratory droplets expelled from an infected person can contaminate a variety of surfaces, and conceivably, the surface of a bill or coin wouldn’t be any different. 

The short answer is that we don’t know for sure either way, but the BC CDC states that the risk of transmission through cash is expected to be low. While it seems likely that the virus might persist on cash for some length of time, it would likely be similar to other common surfaces like doorknobs and handrails. 

So, does that mean you should never use cash? 

In many cases you may be able to use touchless forms of payment (i.e. ordering online or using bank and credit cards with tap features). If that option is available, you may wish to take advantage of that. 

However, there are some businesses and individuals who are limited in payment options, and so in certain situations, continuing to use cash may be appropriate as refusing cash may cause undue stress for those who rely on it.  

In short, use the methods available to you, that you are the most comfortable with. And additionally, if you’re using cash, you can continue to use precautionary measures which will minimize your risk of transmitting and contracting the disease. 

How to best protect yourself and others:

If you’re using cash (or touching any other potentially contaminated objects, for that matter), here are some suggestions to reduce the risk of spreading or contracting the virus. 

Some things you can do that will help include: 

  • Frequently and regularly wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after handling cash. 
  • Refrain from touching your face (in particular, your eyes, mouth and nose): 
    • Especially when you’re in high risk areas (usually public places). 
    • Or after you have touched high traffic surfaces (including door handles, cash, etc.). 

As always, continuing to follow physical distancing and other prevention guidelines from health authorities and governments will also help to stop the spread of COVID-19. All of these prevention measures must be used together to be effective. 

We hope this realistic take on handling cash during the pandemic is helpful to you. Stay safe out there! 

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Look through all of our COVID-19 related information on our website.        

This is an evolving situation and information is changing all the time, so go to the source for updated information.   

Where do we fit in? Yes, we are a provincial regulator. We are responsible for some very specific transactions in BC. We aren’t experts on COVID-19. We won’t – and shouldn’t – ever give medical or legal advice. But we are in a unique circumstance right now and we want to help people navigate the current reality. We don’t have all the answers, but we will do our best to share information from reliable sources, put it in ways that are easy to digest and understand, provide referrals and help you navigate this situation.      
 
About Consumer Protection BC: We are responsible for regulating specific industries and certain consumer transactions in British Columbia. If your concern is captured under the laws we enforce, we will use the tools at our disposal to assist you. If we can’t help you directly, we will be happy to provide you with as much information as possible. Depending on your concern, another organization may be the ones to speak to; other times, court or legal assistance may be the best option. Explore our website at www.consumerprotectionbc.ca.