Here's What Happens if You Travel With More Than $10,000 in Cash (2024)

Travelers who don't follow reporting rules risk having their money confiscated.

Most people don't travel with more than $10,000 in cash all too often, but there are exceptions. You might need a large amount of money on your trip and figure the convenient option is to take it with you. Or, if you've been working internationally, you may want to bring back the money you've saved to the United States. Whatever the reason, if you're traveling with this much money, here's what you should know first.

You need to declare it when traveling internationally

It's legal to travel with more than $10,000 in the United States and abroad. You have the right to travel with as much money as you want.

However, during international travel, you need to report currency and monetary instruments in excess of $10,000. When entering or departing the United States with this much money, you're required to file FinCen Form 105 with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. You can file this form in advance online or while traveling by asking a CBP officer for a paper copy.

Many other countries have similar reporting requirements. For example, the European Union requires you to make a cash declaration if you're carrying 10,000 euros or more, or its cash equivalent. Make sure to review the laws for any country you're planning to visit.

There are some important details to remember here. The ones below apply to entering and departing the United States with over $10,000, but other countries may have similar rules:

  • It's the combined value of all your currency and monetary instruments that matters. For example, if you have $7,000 and 5,000 euros, you would need to report that, because that's over $10,000 in value. The same is true if you have $5,000 and a $6,000 money order.
  • Members of a family residing in one household must declare if the members are collectively carrying over $10,000. If you and your wife are each carrying $6,000, you'd need to report that.
  • Pocket change matters if you're close to the limit. Let's say you have exactly $10,000 in your carryon. That's not more than $10,000, so you wouldn't need to report it -- unless you also have any other money on you, like $5 in your wallet.

If you don't report it, your money could be confiscated

Federal law on importing and exporting money is strict. If you break the law, whether knowingly or unknowingly, your money could be confiscated and forfeited. Even if the source of that money is completely legal, it may still be extremely difficult to get back.

The reason why is the controversial subject of civil forfeiture. Civil forfeiture allows law enforcement to seize and keep any money or property they suspect is involved in illegal activity. The owner doesn't need to be convicted of a crime or even arrested for law enforcement to do this.

But does this actually happen to people while traveling? Absolutely. From 2000 to 2016, U.S. law enforcement conducted over 30,000 seizures and took over $2 billion, according to the Institute for Justice. The most common reason for seizures was traveling internationally with more than $10,000 and failing to report it.

You can hire a lawyer and fight to get your money back. But lawyers aren't cheap, and fighting civil forfeiture is often a lengthy battle.

There are always risks to traveling with large amounts of cash

The most common scenario where traveling with over $10,000 could get you into trouble is if you don't declare it during international travel. That isn't the only risk, though.

While it's technically legal to travel domestically with this kind of money, it can arouse suspicion from law enforcement. And to reiterate, if law enforcement suspects your money is tied to illegal activity, they can seize it. People have had this happen to them, even while flying domestically within the United States.

Carrying lots of cash is also very risky from a personal finance perspective. Unfortunately, robberies can happen at any time. Even if it's unlikely, all it takes is one worst-case scenario, and you'll lose a significant amount of money.

Given the risks involved, and the reporting requirements when traveling internationally, it's better not to travel with over $10,000 or anywhere near it. It's much safer to just bring along a good travel credit card and use that for your travel spending. If you need cash in the local currency, you can likely get it at an ATM with your debit card. Or you can wire money to yourself from your bank account. Try to avoid carrying too much cash, and you'll save yourself a lot of stress.

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Here's What Happens if You Travel With More Than $10,000 in Cash (2024)


Here's What Happens if You Travel With More Than $10,000 in Cash? ›

You're required to file a form with U.S. Customs and Border Protection when entering or departing the United States with more than $10,000. Failure to report this could lead to legal penalties, including seizure of your money.

Can I fly with 20k cash? ›

You can fly with any amount of cash. No law prohibits you from bringing any amount of money on a flight. Likewise, the TSA has no rules that limit how much money you can bring through security. In other words, the TSA has no cash limit per person.

Is traveling with large sums of cash illegal? ›

Yes, there are no laws restricting the amount of cash you can travel with as long as you declare any amount over $10,000 when leaving or entering the United States. Domestically, you do not have to declare money. The $10,000 limit applies to all monetary instruments including cash, checks, money orders, stocks, etc.

How much cash can you carry legally in the United States? ›

YOU ARE ALLOWED TO CARRY AS MUCH CASH AS YOU WANT OUT OF AND INTO THE UNITED STATES. To summarize up front: no, you are not restricted to traveling with sums of $10,000 or less. In fact, you could travel with a checked bag stuffed to the brim with cash — as long as you declare the amount beforehand.

What is a safe amount of cash to travel with? ›

Traveler, beware: Having too much cash with you can be just as frustrating as having too little. Carrying wads of money can make you a target for foul play. In most cases, you should not need over $200 per day with you. If you do end up with a large sum of cash on you, make sure to split it up between your bags.

Can an airport scanner detect money? ›

A good X-ray scanner will always detect money. Airport scanners can detect even the smallest amount of metal and can detect paper. The scanners will always look after things that look different to the norm. In this case, if the currency is arranged in bundles, it will be more easily detected.

Can you fly with over $10000 cash? ›

It's legal to travel with more than $10,000 in the United States and abroad. You have the right to travel with as much money as you want. However, during international travel, you need to report currency and monetary instruments in excess of $10,000.

Can TSA confiscate cash? ›

However, passengers who are carrying currency, endorsed personal checks, travelers checks, gold coins, securities or stocks in bearer form that are valued at $10,000 or more must report the amount that they are carrying to US customs officials. Failure to do so can result in fines or confiscation of the money.

Why is traveling with cash illegal? ›

Traveling with Cash

There is no law against that as far as domestic flights are concerned. If you're flying internationally with more than $10,000, you'll have to declare the amount to customs. Other than that, assuming customs approves your luggage, you can carry as much cash as you want.

What if I travel with more than $10,000 dollars? ›

You may bring into or take out of the country, including by mail, as much money as you wish. However, if it is more than $10,000, you will need to report it to CBP.

Why is it illegal to carry more than 10,000 cash? ›

The Origins of the $10,000 Myth

According to Snopes, this misconception likely arose from the Currency and Foreign Transactions Reporting Act of 1970, also known as the Bank Secrecy Act (B.S.A.). Created to inhibit money laundering, the B.S.A.

Is $10,000 cash limit per person or family? ›

The answer: The $10,000 limit applies whether you're traveling alone or with a group. For example, four family members traveling together can't decide to split $30,000 so that each person carries $7,500 into the U.S. The $30,000 must be declared.

How to carry large amounts of cash safely? ›

Guidelines/Tips for Traveling with Cash
  1. Carry as little currency as possible.
  2. Carry cash in a money belt that sits on your waist (under your clothes) or a money pouch that hangs around your neck.
  3. Keep cash concealed and close to your body at all times.

What is the best way to fly with cash? ›

Always keep your money in a carry-on bag. Your airline will not compensate you if your money is in a checked bag and that bag is lost, stolen, or destroyed. Keep your money and other valuables out of public view. Keep your baggage and belongings in sight when passing through a security checkpoint.

How much cash is too much cash to carry? ›

In addition to keeping funds in a bank account, you should also keep between $100 and $300 cash in your wallet and about $1,000 in a safe at home for unexpected expenses. Everything starts with your budget. If you don't budget correctly, you don't know how much you need to keep in your bank account.

Can cash be detected? ›

Yes, cash does show up on a metal detector. that's why I take my coins out.

What happens if you fly with more than 10000 dollars? ›

You may bring into or take out of the country, including by mail, as much money as you wish. However, if it is more than $10,000, you will need to report it to CBP. Use the online Fincen 105 currency reporting site or ask a CBP officer for the paper copy of the Currency Reporting Form (FinCen 105).

What happens if I declare more than $10,000? ›

There is no maximum limit, however, any amount exceeding $10,000 USD must be declared upon arrival on both the Form 6059B and FinCEN 105. All forms must be filled in completely and truthfully. The penalties for inaccurate declaration and non-compliance can be severe including heavy fines and/or confiscation of funds.

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