Open letter: We need to end the practice of cash-shaming: cash is vital to the economy and safer to touch than cards

In response to continued misinformation about the cleanliness of cash and the refusal by businesses to accept it, the Canadian Association of Secured Transportation (CAST) issued the following open letter:

COVID-19 has exacerbated fears that as cash changes hands, it becomes a transporter of germs and viruses. But is cash really any worse than your debit or credit card? LendEDU, a company that helps consumers learn about financial products, used a scientific device that tests for bacteria on a given surface to examine just how dirty credit/debit cards and cash really are. They tested the front and back of 41 different debit and credit cards, 27 different bills and 12 different coins. After calculating the average germ score for each payment method, debit/credit cards turned out to be the dirtiest payment method. The study showed that the average germ score for credit/debit cards was 285 vs. the average germ score for cash/coins at 148 (almost 2x higher for cards compared to cash). Just think of how many surfaces cards touch as they wait on tables, bars or counter-tops to be picked up and swiped. In fact, the average score for plastic cards was worse than the score registered for the bathroom at New York City’s Penn Station, which used to see more than 650,000 people on an average workday!

Eliminating the use of cash only punishes some of the most vulnerable members of society: homeless people looking for a few dollars to buy breakfast, elderly people who may be uncomfortable with technology, people with no credit, coin drives for charities (like poppies for veterans, daffodils for CF, change at Christmas for the Salvation Army), tips for those in the service industry, and the list goes on. It is also critical for consumers to have options to pay for their goods and services. While some may prefer the convenience of cards, others prefer how cash protects their privacy and anonymity, while helping them manage their debt level. Cash is a vital part of our economy.

Fabio Panetta, a Member of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank, recently noted that “Adequate availability of cash is crucial for the functioning of the economy…[cash] remains the dominant means of payment for consumers, and is of fundamental importance for the inclusion of socially vulnerable citizens, such as elderly or lower-income groups… Overall, banknotes do not represent a particularly significant risk of infection compared with other kinds of surface that people come into contact within daily life.”

We need to end the practice of cash-shaming. Dirty cash is a stigma for songs, not economies. Everybody needs to continue to practice good hygiene and be considerate of those around them. But don’t buy into the fear. The best way to protect all consumers and retailers is to continue to provide options for payment and to keep our economy moving. Wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face and maybe even wipe your cards and cash with the right products, but don’t think you are protecting anyone by refusing to accept cash or removing cash from our economy.

Steven Meitin
President, Canadian Association of Secured Transportation (CAST)


  1. Still like to use cash and trust me when you go to any store they will still take it. After all it is “legal tender” and they can’t refuse it.

  2. Like most things, follow the money. The banks, credit card companies, software developers all charge fees for cashless transactions.
    Banks can lay off tellers, reduce dees for delivery if cash.
    And ask yourself, am I more vulnerable from someone stealing the money I carry, or digitally draining my bank account?
    Cash is king.

  3. Cash shaming, that’s a thing now? Of course it is, this shaming thing is like the “Little Johnny” jokes , plentiful & not very useful or remotely funny!
    Can’t shame me I pay cash….oh you won’t take my cash or choose to give me attitude, no problem I will take my cash elsewhere & continue to do so until I find one of you business types who understands the value of the currency approved by our governments. I also have a long memory so I will forever discontinue business with any & all companies who in their arrogance give me grief over a perfectly acceptable means of payment! If enough of us support this effort all the stores with cash attitudes could be out of business yet we continue on our merry cash carrying way. Cash shaming is bull$%#$ !

    BTW, what you gonna do when POS units are not available due to power outages or internet crashes? Pardon me while I move past you whiners & whingers & pay for my stuff with CASH! Also don’t dare tell me you cannot open the till, I worked with a plethora of tills for 35 years & guess what they all open during a power outage….train your staff!!

    Germ infested, dirty money…..yup, can’t do a thing about that but it was dirty & germ infested long, long before the pandemic & if you think refusing to take or making an issue about taking it is the answer you are fooling yourself but not those of us who still use cash! Wear those gloves you are deeming so necessary to survive or use the hand sanitizer you slather on moment by moment but graciously accept the darn cash!

    Ever stand in line behind someone who uses only plastic and observe how justified they seem in holding you up while their 10 various pieces of plastic are declined or insufficient funds keeps showing up? 15 minutes later (if you’re lucky) you snake forward to use your dirty money & yet you are the one who should feel should feel shame? Cash is power people & doesn’t inconvenience anyone unless it is someone with only 50’s or $100’s where each bill has to be painfully inspected by the cashier in training…. ya that’s annoying, but I still know I have cash to pay for what I want & am not holding anyone up due to an inability to pay, it’s store policy that is the culprit. I know I have enough so I patiently wait for store policy to be followed & walk out with my purchases & dignity intact. How stressful slapping card after card into a machine that keeps telling one declined/insufficient funds, that has to be. Yet I remain secure in my ability to pay with cash in hand, but I should feel shamed?

    Have mercy, when did we become this nation of shaming kumquats that forget that cash is a method of payment too! Lesson of this diatribe?? Keep cash handy, you never know how valuable it will be one day when it is the last currency taken. Cash shaming is not a thing… it becomes one when we forget the power of cash over plastic! Now let’s sit back and wait for the responses from germaphobes & pandemic shamers to prove me wrong, the enlightenment should be entertaining, ready, set, go……

  4. How many germs are on the card is irrelevant, nobody cares about the number of germs, it’s the spread of the germs. Your debit card doesn’t change hands. My card sits in my wallet, it gets pulled out to pay, and goes directly back into my wallet. We’re trying to stop the spread, not prevent germs from existing, and physical currency passes between numerous people constantly, instead of a plastic card that ONLY YOURSELF ever touches. It is completely within a businesses choice to refuse cash if they deem it a health issue they’re uncomfortable with.
    Also what is ‘cash shaming’? I’ve seen signs of businesses saying they encourage paying with card, but I’ve paid cash in many locations since this thing has started, and not a single person, employees or other customers, has ever made a comment about it, let alone attempted to shame me, and really, who fucking cares if they do. So what someone ‘shamed’ you, stop taking the opinions of toxic people so seriously and just move on, you’re gunna get significantly farther learning to not give a fuck, than trying to force a society of people with free will, to behave exactly as you expect them to.

  5. Not getting into a debate of one’s preferred method of paying for anything. That is a personal choice. Yet to suggest that debit/credit cards are worse than cash for germs, etc is just ludicrous. Especially with the advent of tap these days. In theory, no one else but the card holder may have to touch your method of payment.

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