Skip to content

The One Thing You Shouldn't Touch, But Are—Risking COVID-19

Beware of this common item next time you do retail.
Happy woman choosing clothes and looking to mirror in clothing store.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world and although outbreaks are taking over states like Arizona, Florida and Idaho, other states are reopening according to plan. Many are relaxing stay-at-home restrictions. So, you might be able to turn off Netflix, put on something besides sweatpants, and finally go shopping in-person for socks or a new coffee table. While it's exciting to finally be able to go on a shopping trip, even if it's just for new silverware, safety and cleanliness are still top priority, no matter where you live.

Although you may be able to visit a lot more establishments than you previously could, it's still important to follow proper protocol any time you leave the house.

The One Thing to Never Touch

Wear your mask, use your sanitizer, observe social distancing guidelines, and follow other rules in place at the stores you visit. While the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirms that contact with other people is the main way COVID-19 is spread, it's still possible to get the virus by touching a contaminated surface, then touching your face. 

It's crucial to pay attention to what you touch, especially in a public place like a retail store. Door knobs, cash, shopping baskets…these are all frequently touched surfaces you should be cautious about. But the one thing you shouldn't touch in any store is: the buttons on credit card machines.

Well before coronavirus uprooted our lives, a study was published in BMC Infectious Disease Journal in 2018 that analyzed several surfaces, as well as the air, in an international airport. While many surfaces had germs and bacteria, the payment terminal's keypad in the airport pharmacy was by far the worst. It tested positive for rhinovirus and a coronavirus (a different strand than COVID-19), which can spread the common cold.

How to Stay Healthy While Shopping

So, how do you pay for your items without touching these buttons? Most retail stores understand your hesitation to touch anything while you're out and about. Depending on the guidelines in your state, store clerks may be responsible for wiping down the machine between each customer. 

You may also find many of these terminals covered in plastic so they're easier to clean. According to Niina Ikonen from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, "Many viruses, especially respiratory viruses transmit via contact and droplets. The cleaning of payment terminals certainly will reduce the risk of transmission of viruses."

You may be able to avoid these buttons during checkout by using contactless payment. Retailers are turning to this payment method to make customers feel safe. According to a study, in 2016, the contactless payment market was about $29 billion size but is expected to increase to $111 billion by 2021. These contactless payment systems allow you to tap your credit card against the machine or use an app on your smartwatch or smartphone to pay. No touching required!

But if you do use the keypad, use a clean tissue. And then dispose of it.

Whether you watch the cashier wipe down the keypad buttons or you opt for contactless payment, it's still important to remain aware of the surfaces you're touching. By following local guidelines and store rules, you can minimize risk in any retail store. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

Kelly Hernandez
Kelly Hernandez is a health and wellness writer and certified personal trainer. Read more
Filed Under