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.

What happens if you 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. Use the online Fincen 105 currency reporting site or ask a CBP officer for the paper copy of the Currency Reporting Form (FinCen 105).

Is traveling with large sums of cash illegal? ›

Carry Large Sums of Cash Through an Airport

Under U.S. law, the transport of more than $10,000 in American currency isn't expressly prohibited. In fact, individuals can theoretically travel with any amount of cash and not violate any law.

Why can't I travel with more than 10k? ›

If you are stopped by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer and more than $10,000 are found on your person or in your belongings, and this money was not declared, you run the very real risk of CBP taking all of the money you were carrying and keeping it.

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

Although there is no limit as to the amount of currency that travelers can carry when they arrive to the United States, there are certain procedures with regard to customs and taxation that must be observed.

Can I fly with 20k cash? ›

Likewise, TSA has no rules that limit how much money you can bring through security. In other words, TSA has no cash limit per person. So you can bring any amount of money to the airport. Flying with a large amount of cash on a flight is not illegal.

Does cash show up in airport scanners? ›

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? ›

However, if the value of the money exceeds $10,000 USD, passengers must declare the amount they are carrying at customs and fill out all required forms and documentation. This applies to individual travellers, group travellers and business travellers.

Can I fly with $30000 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.

What is the safest way to travel with large amounts of cash? ›

Traveling with Cash Safely

Gather documents – Receipts, bank records, business paperwork, etc. Use concealed carriers – Discreet bags, compartments, money belts, etc. Notify credit/debit card companies – Prevent foreign transaction holds. Separate cash – Split between carry-ons and checked luggage.

What happens if you don't declare cash at customs? ›

The criminal consequences of failing to report cash are severe. Failing to make a report or making an inaccurate report by omitting or misstating a material fact in a report includes not only forfeiture of the money, but a fine ranging from $250,000 to $500,000 and jail time from 5 to 10 years.

Is it illegal to fly with more than 10k? ›

There is no restriction on how much money you can bring on an aircraft if you travel to the United States. If you travel abroad to the United States, you must disclose any sum above $10,000 to customs.

How much cash can you fly with without declaring? ›

Here's what the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website writes: “It is legal to transport any amount of currency or monetary instruments into or out of the United States,” But anyone carrying more than $10,000 must declare the amount by filing a Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary ...

Is $10000 cash limit per person or family? ›

If you're carrying currency equivalent to $10,000 or more, you have to report the money to customs. That limit isn't per person if you're with your family or another organized group, either. If you're traveling together with two other people and you're all carrying $5,000, that means your total is $15,000.

How much cash can I deposit in bank? ›

Cash deposit limits can be different for each bank or financial institution, but banks must report any deposits over $10,000 to the IRS. So, while you may be able to deposit more than $10,000 into your bank account, know that the bank will investigate, track and report that payment as a result to ensure it's legal.

Can I travel with 100K? ›

100K is certainly enough to travel the world for a year, depending on how you choose to do it. If you're looking for luxury, then 100K can go quite far.

Do you pay taxes when you declare money at customs? ›

CBP does not tax you on monies you declare. However, depending on your tax obligations to the US, the IRS may consider those funds as taxable income.

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