Swiss money really is dirty: UK scientists

Swiss money is dirty and no amount of money laundering will change that, scientists say.

Swiss money really is dirty: UK scientists
Photo: Gabriela Schaufelberger

In fact, a study by researchers at Oxford University concludes that legal tender in Switzerland is among the dirtiest in Europe, second only to the paper money used in Denmark and Sweden.

The study shows that European banknotes carry an average of 26,000 bacteria.

By comparison, Swiss banknotes — with denominations ranging from 10 to 1,000 francs — contain 32,400 bacteria, according to the findings.

Only the Danish krone and Swedish krona are dirtier with 40,266 bacteria and 39,600 counted respectively.

This is more than just an academic calculation.

Ian Thompson, professor of engineering science at Oxford, says in a release that 26,000 bacteria is more than enough to pass on an infection. 

Previous studies have shown that bank notes can be contaminated with harmful bacteria that can cause respiratory, urinary, and wound infections and other diseases.

The Oxford study looked at the currency used in 15 countries and found that the euro is the cleanest of them all, with just 11,066 bacteria. 

Thompson has called for wider research into the spread of bacteria resistant to antibiotics through the global movement of money.

The Swiss National Bank, responsible for producing Switzerland’s money, is planning to introduce new banknotes in 2015 after several delays due to technical problems with paper.

It is not clear whether the new notes will be equally bacteria-prone. 

The Oxford study confirmed what many people fear about “filthy lucre”.

A study by MasterCard found that 57 percent of respondents across Europe found that banknotes and coins are the least hygienic items they come into contact with on a daily basis.

The credit card company is promoting plastic as a cleaner alternative.

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EXPLAINED: What you should know about Switzerland’s new slips for paying bills online

The customary red or orange payment forms that you have used to pay your bills online in Switzerland are being phased out and will become obsolete from October 1st.

EXPLAINED: What you should know about Switzerland's new slips for paying bills online

If you live in Switzerland, you are probably accustomed to paying your monthly bills using the payment slips.

But since June 30th, this payment method has been gradually replaced by the new QR invoices, which will become the only mode of payment at all Swiss banks from October 1st.

How are the QR-bills different from the old slips?

As the name suggests, these black and white forms include QR codes, rather than bank account numbers and other information that you have to input manually.

You can scan the code using mobile app from your bank. Once you do, the data will be automatically transmitted to your e-banking.

Some financial institutions, like Credit Suisse, Postfinance, and UBS, also give their customers the option of scanning QR-bills onto desktops using webcams.

You have probably received a letter from your bank explaining how to use the new payment slips.

Though these slips may look complicated when you first look at them, they are actually simple to use once you get the hang of it.

Can you input the payment information manually instead of scanning the QR code?

If you prefer to pay your bills the more laborious way, then yes, you can continue to do so.

The only difference is that the bank account information of the payee is no longer visible on the payment slip. Instead, you have to use the payee’s IBAN (for Swiss bank accounts, this code begins with CH followed by 19 characters), which is featured on the new payment slips.

You can write this number into the template in your computer manually, as you did before the system changed.

Important: review your standing orders

The standing orders you have with your bank, for instance your monthly rent or mortgage payments, and other recurring bills, are still programmed in the system on the basis of old payment slips.

If the standing order uses an IBAN rather than merely an account number, then the bank will continue to debit money automatically from your account.

However, if the pay-to recipient only has the account number, you have to contact them and ask them to send you either a QR-bill or their IBAN, so the automatic payments can continue.

If you make no changes before October 1st, your payments will not reach the recipient.

Is it still to pay bills with the QR code at the post office?

Yes, but while these transactions are free of charge for you (as are online payments), the recipient must pay a fee that’s proportional to the amount, according to Moneyland consumer site. So the more money you are paying at the post office counter, the higher the fee will be for the recipient.

However, you can continue to use blank payment slips at the post office for free.

“Postfinance confirmed that deposits will also be possible without a QR invoice. However, counter staff are instructed to ask customers to request a paper QR bill from the biller in order to make a payment at the counter”, Moneyland said.

You can find out more about QR billing here.

READ MORE: How to open a bank account in Switzerland