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The Army and Air Force Exchange Service is asking shoppers to make purchases using credit or debit cards, instead of cash, to help prevent transmission of the coronavirus.

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service is asking shoppers to make purchases using credit or debit cards, instead of cash, to help prevent transmission of the coronavirus. (LaTunya Howard/U.S. Navy)

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service is asking shoppers to make purchases using credit or debit cards, instead of cash, to help prevent transmission of the coronavirus.

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service is asking shoppers to make purchases using credit or debit cards, instead of cash, to help prevent transmission of the coronavirus. (LaTunya Howard/U.S. Navy)

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service is asking shoppers to make purchases using credit or debit cards, instead of cash, as a coronavirus safety measure.

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service is asking shoppers to make purchases using credit or debit cards, instead of cash, as a coronavirus safety measure. ()

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The Army and Air Force Exchange Service is asking customers to pay with credit and debit cards, not cash, saying it will help protect people from the coronavirus.

Some stores might “transition to a cards-only environment” and others might not provide cash back and check-cashing transactions, the statement emailed to customers Wednesday said.

“Studies show that paper money and coins can harbor bacteria and viruses long after they change hands,” said the statement, which asked customers to rely on plastic.

Historically considered filthy, cash is under increased suspicion and many stores are going cashless to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The Federal Reserve is enforcing a holding period of seven to 10 days before processing currency shipments from Asia and Europe.

Swipe-and-dip machines have reduced the need for store clerks to touch consumers’ cards.

But credit cards, payment tablets and ATM keypads also carry a variety of germs, in some cases more than cash, a 2018 study said.

The study by CreditCards.com and the University of Texas at Austin found that some cards carried staph and salmonella bacteria.

Another study published March 17 in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested the coronavirus could live up to three days on plastic. It could live on copper for four hours and a day on cardboard, which is a porous surface like paper.

Additionally, shoppers using cards that require signatures may be using the same stylus or pen that others used.

It’s hard to clean cash. But credit cards can be cleaned the same way as hands: with soap and water.

montgomery.nancy@stripes.com Twitter: @montgomerynance

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
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