Everybody knows that flying with a large amount of cash can be dangerous. Although you can carry up to $10,000 in cash without declaring, many experts suggest keeping only some emergency cash when you travel.
But what should you do when you are flying to an exotic destination like Cuba? Cuba doesn’t accept ATM and credit cards of American banks, so the only option is carrying cash.
So, what are the limits, and how much cash can you fly with?
Limits on Carrying Cash
Technically, there is no legal limit on how much cash you fly with or can carry on the plane. Nevertheless, you have to declare on your customs form amounts of more than $10,000 if you are traveling internationally. Also, you must fill out form FinCEN 105 and prepare for possible interviews with a customs officer. You will have to explain why you need so much money.
Cash is Only One Kind of Money
Cash is only one of many things that U.S. laws and regulations consider as money. It is a physical form of the country’s currency, and its most used types are coins or paper notes like the British Pound or the U.S. dollar.
So there are limits not only for carrying cash but also for the following items: travelers’ checks, promissory notes, regular checks, money orders, or coins used as currency.
Domestic Flights in the United States
There are no limits to the amounts of monetary instruments or cash you can carry on the U.S. domestic flights. Nevertheless, the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) may ask you to account for the money.
And it doesn’t matter what you consider as a large amount of money. If it is enough to draw the attention of security officers, it is a large amount. A fat wallet is not a problem, but you will have to explain your backpack full of cash.
However, when you are entering the U.S., the value of your money is the only thing that matters. It can be a single piece of paper or a suitcase full of Zimbabwe dollars, but if its value is less than $10,000, you do not have to declare it.
Even on domestic flights, the TSA can confiscate your money if they suspect its relation to criminal activity, like money laundering or drug trafficking. The only way to get your dollars back will be going to court.
When you are flying into the U.S. and changing to the domestic flight, you also have to go through the TSA control before boarding.
As you already know, there is no limit to the amount of cash. Nevertheless, every passenger of an international flight who is either arriving or departing the U.S. has to report to U.S. customs officials the amount of currency, travelers’ checks, personal checks, or other monetary instruments valued over $10,000.
Otherwise, you will get a fine, or customs officers will confiscate your money. Moreover, this obligation refers both to individual travelers and families or groups of travelers. For example, when the family of four is flying together, having $12,000 between them, they must report it.
Also, you will have to report your non-U.S. currency or cash if its value in U.S. dollars is more than $10,000.
Traveling Outside the U.S.
When you plan to leave the U.S. with a lot of cash, gold coins, or other money, it will be best to check the laws and regulations of your destination country before your trip.
Traveling rules and customs restrictions vary considerably by country. So you should review those regulations and laws before your flight to make adjustments to your plans and avoid unpleasant situations.
Can You Carry Gold on an International Flight?
You can carry gold on an international flight, but there is no duty-free allowance for doing so. You will have to declare your gold and pay the customs duty. And there is a limit of 1 kg for carrying gold in any form.
Also, it depends on the country of your destination, as customs regulations and laws are different around the world. You may get a fine, and customs officials will confiscate your gold if the rule of that country doesn’t allow importing gold. So it is best to check the country’s laws regarding the import and export of gold.
However, there is no such limit on how much gold jewelry you should wear on your body. Nevertheless, customs authorities may ask you to provide proof of purchase if your gold jewelry catches their attention. Therefore, its quantity should be moderate.
So, when carrying gold on an international flight, remember that every country has its regulations. And it is best to determine the departure country’s export limit and the arrival country’s import limit. These amounts differ from completely forbidden to unlimited.
Also, you should have proof that your gold is jewelry, as there are other rules and limits for investment gold or coins. In this case, you may need some documents verifying its purity, price, and origin.
Do You Have to Declare Cryptocurrency at Customs?
Customs officers always ask travelers to fill out the customs form and declare different items when you enter the United States or any other country. They do it to find various unapproved foods, contraband items, and exotic animals. As you already know, you also have to declare large amounts of cash, gold, and other monetary instruments.
But what about cryptocurrency? Do you need to declare your hardware wallet or mobile client, or they treat it like a debit card? Travelers who have more than $10,000 in their bank accounts do not need to declare their debit cards. Would the same apply to bitcoins?
Customs officers do not like cryptocurrency, as they do not understand what it is and what they should do with it. So it is better to avoid raising red flags. With endless queues, lengthy layovers, and heightened security, traveling abroad is always stressful. Using cryptocurrency should reduce stress and risks related to carrying cash.
However, when you are carrying some bitcoins through borders, it becomes not only stressful but also dangerous. You can conceal your cryptocurrency easily. But it is the very concealment that makes TSA officials order you to decrypt your laptop or unlock your phone, baring your digital life for inspection. And you will have to provide your private keys and passwords to your digital wallets.
Today, no laws require declaring cryptocurrency at customs. However, U.S. Bill S.1241 introduced in 2017 aims to make all travelers declare their cryptocurrency if its value is over $10,000. But it looks that this bill is now dead in the water, so there is no limit to the amount of cryptocurrency you may carry.
Where to Put Your Cash
Traveling with a lot of cash might be unsafe, as you may have problems with customs or even get robbed at the airport. Still, if you decided to do it, you should remember a few things:
- Do not put your cash in your checked luggage. Airport workers and other people have access to them when it is out of your sight, so it would be impossible to find your money if it is lost.
- Also, be prepared for additional screening by TSA officers or a pat-down if you are carrying a bunch of cash.
- The best way to keep your money is to put it in your carry-on baggage, secure cash with a TSA-approved lock, and do not let it out of your sight.
- Also, you may ask the officer for private screening. So that other passengers will not know what is in your luggage.
Basic Steps to Protect Your Money from Theft or Other Losses
If you do not want to lose your money by accident or become a victim of theft, you may need to take several basic steps. Let’s summarize them:
- If carrying cash is the only available option, keep it in carry-on luggage.
- The best way to protect yourself is to avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
- Keep your jewelry and cash out of public view.
- Do not put your cash, precious metals, or monetary instruments in a checked bag.
- When passing through customs control, keep your luggage and belongings in sight.
- Ask the customs officer to keep your bag in your sight, if he needs to search it.
- When a TSA agent or customs officer asks you about the amount of cash in your baggage, tell the truth.
- If you get caught with undeclared cash, you should explain why you did not report your money and answer all questions. There is a chance to avoid consequences if you follow the customs officer’s instructions and tell the truth.
As you see, traveling with a large amount of cash can be problematic. If you are on the international flight arriving or departing the U.S., you should declare your money if its value exceeds $10,000.
Also, there are limits on carrying gold, so you should check it before your flight. And traveling with cryptocurrency can also cause some problems, as customs officer or TSA agent may ask you to provide your private passwords and keys.
It is best to avoid traveling with a lot of money, but if there is no other choice, do not forget to declare it if you carry more than $10,000. It doesn’t require much effort, but it will help you to save money, time, and nerves.