How Much Cash Can You Fly With?

Have an upcoming trip? Wondering how much cold, hard cash you can legally carry on a plane?  The answer depends on where you’re from and where you’re flying to. 

When flying within the USA, there is no legal limit on how much cash you can carry on a plane. But it’s a different story when you’re traveling to the USA from another country, where you are legally required to declare any amount over $10,000 to the US Customs.

Here is what you need to know to avoid running into problems, the rules on how much money you can carry on a plane by country, or getting your cash confiscated.

Cash Limit Depending On Location

Flying Within The US

As mentioned, there is no limit on carrying cash when flying within the US. Although it’s not safe for you to travel with 1 million dollars of cold, hard cash, If you really wanted to, you could theoretically do it without repercussions.

But this doesn’t mean that you will be able to board the plane without any hassle. Airport security may get suspicious about why you’re carrying that much cash, as moving any large amounts of cash almost always leads to questions on how this money can be accounted for.

Say you’re stopped by airport security and get asked why you’re carrying a large sum of money in cash, and they are unsatisfied with the answer or suspect that the money is related to some kind of criminal activity, they may get law enforcement involved.

Flying From The US

If you leave the United States with large amounts of cash, gold, or other valuables, you should check the customs regulations of the country you’re going to before boarding the plane. The rules and restrictions for traveling with money vary from country to country, so it is recommended that you double-check the laws and regulations before you fly. This gives you the opportunity to make necessary arrangements and alternatives on how to bring your cash in case there are restrictions on how much cash you can carry.

Flying To The US

If you are flying with more than $10,000 cash to the United States, you are legally required to declare it to the US Customs to avoid it being seized.

You must fill out the Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments Form and you might also be asked personal questions related to the money you’re bringing, and be prepared to explain why you’re traveling with that much cash.

Flying To Canada

There are no restrictions on the amount of money you can bring with you if your destination is Canada. However, you need to make a verbal declaration to a border services officer if you are traveling with more than CAN $10,000. Before clearing security, you must also report to the CBSA office inside the airport and fill out the CBSA Declaration Card on an Automated Border Clearance kiosk or a Primary Inspection Kiosk.

Flying To Mexico

Like flying to the United States, any amount above USD $10,000 in cash must be declared to the Mexican customs office when departing from or arriving in Mexico. Several forms will need to be filled out for you to be in compliance when flying with cash to Mexico.

Flying To Europe & The EU

If you are flying to or from the EU with more than EUR 10,000 in cash, you will have to make a declaration to customs. Flying to any other European country that isn’t a member of the European Union, like the United Kingdom, it’s recommended to check with the local customs authorities for each country.

If you are entering or leaving the UK with more than £10,000 in cash, you may declare it before you travel or as soon as you arrive in the UK. They have the option to declare via phone or online. 

What If You Fail to Declare Amounts Over $10k?

It doesn’t matter whether you intended to fail to declare that you are bringing more than $10,000 cash on a plane. Once you get caught, the cash may be subject to seizure and forfeiture by the airport security, customs, or other authoritative bodies.

Can the TSA Seize Your Money?

The short answer: “absolutely not.”

There is no doubt that traveling with a large amount of money will trigger the TSA’s curiosity. However, they are not permitted to confiscate cash from any person boarding a plane.

If the TSA has probable cause that you have committed or are about to commit a crime and the cash that you are traveling with is directly involved in that crime, or possible evidence of that crime, they might illegally detain a traveler until law enforcement arrives.

Only a law enforcement officer can seize the cash from a traveler for civil asset forfeiture and they might ask you further questions regarding your money.

Safety Tips For Flying With Cash

When flying with cash, no matter how large or little, you should take some necessary safety steps to keep from yourself becoming a victim of theft, or from losing your money by accident.

  1. Tell the truth: If authorities ask you if you are carrying cash or how much cash you are carrying, you should always tell the truth to them in your response. Some people plan on giving the money as a gift. Or, the country you’re going to isn’t big on credit cards or digital payments. Unless you’re intending to use the cash for obviously illegal activity, there is no reason why you should lie. It might even save you the hassle of being suspected.
  2. Separate Your Money:
    Never put your cash, financial instruments, or other valuable items in one place, most especially not in a check-in bag. Find two or three different places to separate all your valuables, and as much as possible, keep your money separated. This way, if someone finds the cash that you have or tries to steal some of it, you won’t lose everything all at once. 
  3. Only carry what you need:
    Avoid traveling with large amounts of cash. Only do it unless absolutely necessary. And if you have to take cash, store it in a carry-on instead of a checked bag. Keep most of your cash locked away in the place you’re staying, and bring just enough for what you’ll need when going out and about for the day.
  4. Don’t let cash out of your sight:
    Keep your cash and other valuables out of public view and never let them leave your sight, especially when going through the hassle of traveling through the airport. As discussed above, the worst thing you can do is put your money in checked luggage. As a bag travels through the airport, many people will have access to it. If you need to take cash from your bag, make sure you do it in private.

Alternatives to Traveling With Cash

Given the possible risks of traveling with a large sum of cash, consider these safer alternatives before traveling out of the country.

  1. Open a worldwide checking account
    Depending on how frequently you travel internationally, it might be worth it to open a checking account with an international bank, or a bank that offers global services. By doing this, you can deposit your cash at a local bank branch while you’re still in the US and just withdraw it once you’ve arrived in your destination country. Many financial institutions can make arrangements for when you are traveling. The ability to withdraw your money from an ATM or your debit card in another country means you don’t have to go through the hassle of having your money exchanged or converted at the airport, which charges expensive fees, saving you time and even money.
  2. Use a credit card without a fee for foreign transactions
    While it’s convenient to have petty cash with you when traveling to another country for cab rides, subways, and tours, it is much safer to keep cash at home where it belongs and use a credit card that offers a lot of benefits to travelers. 
  3. Send the money abroad, instead
    You can make use of your bank’s international money transfer services or other money wire services like Western Union or Transferwise to send money from abroad to your destination country. Of course, this only works if your purpose for traveling is visiting friends or family and you intend to give them cash as gifts. 
  4. Create an E-Wallet Account
    Chances are, you’ll bring your smartphone everywhere and never leave it out of your sight. So using an e-wallet to make purchases and storing your money just makes the most sense. They allow for maximum convenience when transacting funds abroad. Researching your options on the different e-wallets available in the market could help you see which will work best while you’re traveling. Also, it may help to know which e-wallet platform is the most popular in the country you’re traveling to.

In Conclusion

Although there is no actual limit on how much cash you can fly with, it’s reasonable to say that your safest option is to carry as little cash as possible, whether flying domestically or internationally.

A bit of research about the place you’re leaving from and traveling to before you fly will be a life-saver and prevent any problems and inconveniences. 

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