Travel money: Should you ditch cash as covid shown to live for 28 days on banknotes?

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Holiday money may well come with a health warning after scientists shared the alarming truth about coronavirus and banknotes. Earlier this month, researchers at CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency revealed covid can survive for up to 28 days on certain surfaces. In perhaps concerning news for the upcoming winter months, the researchers also found the virus survived better at colder temperatures.

The results, published in the Virology Journal, showed COVID-19 can live for up to 28 days on smooth surfaces such as mobile phone screens and plastic banknotes.

The findings may lead to many holidaymakers questioning the safety of using cash when travelling.

Luckily there are solutions. Early on in the coronavirus pandemic, The Bank of Thailand shared its travel advice, suggesting people disinfecting currency by soaking it in soap solution or dishwashing liquid for a short period.

The bank said the notes should then be rinsed with water before being gently dabbed with a cloth and placed under the sun to dry.

If this sounds a bit extreme, then concerned travellers should make sure to wash their own hands with hot soapy water or using hand sanitiser after handling cash.

“Follow the same safety rules you would when handling other goods,” a spokesperson for Post Office Travel Money told

However, another answer to the problem of germy cash is simply to avoid using it where possible.

“If you are worried about banknotes, it’s certainly the case that a prepaid card is a very convenient and safe way for people travelling abroad to carry money,” said the Post Office.

“This may well be the time to change habits and switch over.”

Travel cards will generally provide you with the best rate, making them much cheaper than cash.

What’s more, you can use travel cards in multiple currencies if you are travelling across several countries without the worry of multiple exchanges.

Other benefits include being able to withdraw local currency if and when you need it, there’s no need to worry about leftover cash, and you’ll get chargeback protection on your purchases.

A prepaid card is also a useful budgeting tool and the Post Office Travel Money Card is just one of many such cards available right now.

“When you’re on holiday it’s easy to lose track of spending but money held on the Travel Money Card is separate from your bank account so you can see how your budget is holding up,” said the spokesperson.

You should be careful when it comes to ‘inactivity fees,’ however.

These can kick in when travel card users don’t use their card for 12 months – which could be a particular problem during the coronavirus pandemic when travel is so limited.

According to The Times, MoneyCorp charges £3 a month for inactivity while Travelex, International Currency Exchange and Caxton all charge £2 a month after the first 12 months of inactivity, so do stay on top on any prepaid cards you may have and make sure the balance is zero if you don’t use the card for a year.

However, it’s inadvisable to eschew physical money altogether when jet-setting.

“We always recommend carrying some cash to avoid getting caught out when paying for items where plastic is not accepted, for example, when taking taxis, buying items at a market or filling up at some petrol stations,” explained the Post Office.

Holidaymakers should also be sure to check if their provider charges them for ATM withdrawals to keep the cost down.

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