As part of the COVID-19 outbreak, central banks have resorted to quarantining physical bills. In South Korea’s central bank, the Bank of Korea has implemented a quarantine policy for physical notes. In Israel, the Ministry of Transportation has banned the use of cash notes in public transport as part of efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.

In the US, the Federal Reserve has also begun setting aside US dollar banknotes from Asia for 7-10 days before recirculating them into the economy. Similarly, in the UK, the Bank of England has acknowledged that banknotes in circulation can hold “bacteria and viruses” and recommended that people wash their hands after handling money.

At the same time, the two most COVID-19 impacted countries in Europe are Italy and Spain. Oddly enough Italy and Spain are 1 and 2 in terms of cash usage in Europe. In Italy and Spain, cash is still king and the adoption of cashless has been slow.

While Asia has overwhelmingly adopted cashless and contactless payments, Japan is the exception to the rule of Asian countries loving cashless payments.

No alt text provided for this image

So, WTF is going on? Is there a correlation between countries that are predominantly cash-based and COVID-19? Is this a wild coincidence? I think not.

Paper money harbors thousands of microbes from every environment it touches —whether that’s someone’s fingers, a waiter’s apron, a vending machine, or a clerk returning your credit card.

In a 2017 study published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers wiped $1 bills from a bank in New York City to see what was residing on paper currency. They discovered hundreds of species of microorganisms. They identified vaginal bacteria, microbes from mouths, DNA from pets, and viruses.

In addition, cash is also often stained with drugs. In a recent study of ten one-dollar bills in the US, nearly 90% had traces of cocaine residue.

Moreover, bills get exchanged constantly, and depending on the denomination, they can stay in circulation for many years. Think about it… How many hands do bills and coins go through?

There is no doubt in my mind that COVID-19 will alter the way we think about cash, coins, and credit cards. One thing that is clear is that contactless and cashless means of paying for goods and services will become a standard.

The acceptance of cashless and contactless payments will undoubtedly bring with it an upsurge in fraud. Cash is the safest payment method for merchants, as it cannot be reverted. There are no chargebacks in cash. Once cashless payments increase, merchants can expect to see a surge in chargebacks and fraudulent payments. That’s where we come in – Paygilant secures the cashless world. We specialize in digital-based fraud prevention, enabling mobile apps to prevent fraud and have a truly seamless customer authentication.