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How to clean your credit cards

Oct. 03, 2021
4 min read
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.


When we talk about the prevention of spreading germs, there are a few things that immediately come to mind — washing your hands, disinfecting high-touch surfaces and wearing facial coverings. But there are a few everyday items that may not be top of mind when we regularly clean, including what's in our wallets.

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When buying groceries, grabbing takeout or making any other purchase, we're likely to touch our credit cards. Whether you're tapping to pay, swiping your card or inserting the chip, that means your card is touching surfaces that hundreds of other people's credit cards have also touched recently.

You may or may not have thought of cleaning your cards, but disinfecting them periodically can avoid the accumulation of germs from forming.

Here's our useful guide on how to clean your credit cards effectively.

How to clean your credit cards

Fortunately, disinfecting your credit cards isn't a complicated process and you can do so with everyday household items.

The easiest way to clean your cards is by using the same technique you use for your hands: soap and warm water. Like washing your hands, you should lightly rub for at least 20 seconds. You can sing "Happy Birthday" twice through or get more creative — Dolly Parton's "Jolene" has a chorus that lasts 20 seconds, as does Beyonce's "Love on Top." I'm a fan of using the chorus to the song "My Shot" from Hamilton.

You can also use one of the EPA-approved disinfectants against COVID-19, which includes many household wipes and sprays such as Clorox. For the tech lover, you can use a UV sterilizer since UV rays kill viruses and bacteria. Keep in mind that your signature may wash off the card when you use soap or a disinfectant. You can always resign the card if this happens.

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(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)
Soap and water is a simple, effective way to clean your credit cards. (Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Will disinfectants damage my credit card?

Short answer? No.

Credit cards, both plastic and metal, are made to be waterproof. Your card should also be able to withstand products such as bleach, vinegar or alcohol. I don't recommend soaking your cards in any corrosive liquids, but a quick wipe-down with a Clorox wipe or a 20-second wash with some soap and water won't render them unusable.

In fact, keeping your cards clean could help them stand the test of time. Dirt and grime can build up on your cards, which can scrape at EMV chips and magnetic strips. It's not a good idea to scrub your cards with an abrasive of any kind, but a gentle cleaning can help keep dirt from building up while killing germs — two birds, one Clorox wipe.

Tips for using card readers and pin pads

Even if your cards are fully disinfected, you might have to interact with germy apparatuses such as card readers and pin pads that you use to make payments at stores. In the U.S., chip-and-signature is the most common authorization method for payments. This means that even if you have a contactless card, you might need to use a stylus, your finger or a pen to sign your signature. Those surfaces have been touched by anyone who came before you.

Related: Airport kiosks are germier than toilets

The best thing you can do is immediately disinfect your hands after you pay and avoid touching your face (which is a best practice you should be following anyway).

Bottom line

As the pandemic lingers on, there's been a greater emphasis on cleanliness and disinfecting whenever possible. When it comes to your credit cards, good ole' soap and water will do the job just fine, or you can use a disinfectant to gently wipe down your cards after you use them.

Additional reporting by Stella Shon.

Featured image by Getty Images/Westend61
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

5XGet 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
1.5XEarn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year
1X1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

    Earn 150,000 points
    120,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Good, Excellent

Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.