If you’re one of those people who like to carry wads of cash and are also an avid traveler, you need to be careful when going abroad (or maybe even within your own country!). Every country has a specific restriction on how much cash you can carry in or out of them.
Here’s how much cash you can legally carry according to country or region:
- United States of America: $10,000
- Canada: $10,000
- United Kingdom: £10,000 (approx. $13,000)
- EU Countries: €10,000 (approx. $10,900)
- Australia: A$10,000 (approx. $7,500)
- New Zealand: NZ$10,000 (approx. $7,000)
- China: 20,000 RMB (approx. $5000)
- Japan: ¥1,000,000 (approx. $8,500)
- Singapore: 20,000 SGD (approx. $14,800)
- Other Southeast Asian Countries: $955-$70,000
- Latin America: $10,000 (except for Bolivia)
- Africa: $10,000 (may vary depending on the country)
This article will further explain the legalities of carrying cash in the countries or regions listed above. I’ll also cover general tips on traveling with cash, as well as how to stay safe when traveling with cash.
1. United States of America: $10,000
If you’re entering and exiting the United States with over $10,000 worth of cash and similar monetary instruments, you need to fill out the FinCEN Form 105 from US Customs and Border Patrol. You can file the form electronically or carry a physical copy with you. You should also file a Customs Declaration Form along with Form 105.
2. Canada: $10,000
Canada also requires you to declare anything over $10,000 when you enter and exit the country. You must make your declaration via Form E311, an Automated Border Clearance kiosk, a Primary Inspection kiosk, the CBSA Declaration Card, or orally when communicating with border services.
3. United Kingdom: £10,000 (Approx. $13,000)
The UK allows you to carry up to £10,000 (approx. $13,000) worth of cash on your person. Anything above this amount must be declared to border services. Before entering the U.K., it’s a good idea to declare items online via the country’s official government website.
Once you’re in the U.K., you should declare your goods to a Border Force officer when you pass through immigration. Otherwise, they’ll confiscate your money, and you may suffer a £5,000 penalty (approx. $6,500). They may also refuse to give your money back if they think you’re involved in criminal activities.
4. EU Countries: €10,000 (Approx. $10,900)
If you’re traveling to any EU country with a minimum of €10,000 (approx. $10,900) in cash, you need to fill out the EU Customs Declaration form, which varies from country to country. You should also check with the national customs administration of the country you’re visiting to ensure you’ve fulfilled all their requirements.
According to the official EU website, if you are caught with undeclared goods above the legal limits, you can face prosecution and imprisonment. They will also seize your goods and any vehicle used to move them. Depending on how your case turns out, you may not get these items back.
5. Australia: A$10,000 (Approx. $7,500)
If you have cash and other non-cash assets amounting to 10,000 Australian dollars on hand, you have to declare the total value of both to the Australian Border Force. You can fill out a Cross-Border Movement – Physical Currency form before departure.
6. New Zealand: NZ$10,000 (Approx. $7,000)
Technically, there’s no restriction on how much cash or its equivalents you can carry into New Zealand. However, if you have anything over 10,000 New Zealand dollars on your person, you need to fill out a Border Cash Report at the airport.
7. China: 20,000 RMB (Approx. $5000)
When traveling in and out of China, you can carry up to 20,000 RMB (approx. $5,000) whether you’re a Chinese citizen or not. If your cash and its equivalents total $5,000 to $10,000, you need a bank-issued “Permit for Taking Foreign Currency out of the Customs Territory” If you’re carrying over $10,000, you need to get a legal warrant from a State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) agency.
8. Japan: ¥1,000,000 (Approx. $8,500)
When you enter or exit Japan, you can carry up to one million Japanese yen (approximately $8,500) — including cash, checks, and gold of at least 90% purity — without having to declare anything. Otherwise, you need to fill out a Declaration of Carrying of Means of Payment form.
9. Singapore: 20,000 SGD (approx. $14,800)
If you’re entering or exiting Singapore with more than 20,000 SGD ($14,800), you have to file a NP727 form to the Customs Red Channel upon arrival, and another one via the immigration counter when you depart. You can pick up the form from any checkpoint (such as the Neighborhood Police Center or Post), or download it directly from the Commercial Affairs Department website.
10. Other Southeast Asian Countries: $955-$70,000
As you can see, Singapore has pretty strict rules on foreign currency coming into their country. In the rest of Southeast Asia, you’re free to carry as much cash as you want. However, you may need to declare your cash and its equivalents if they exceed the following amounts.
- Myanmar: $10,000
- Cambodia: $10,000
- Timor-Leste: $10,000
- Indonesia: No more than $70,000 can be brought into Indonesia. You must declare anything over $7,500.
- Laos: $2,000
- Malaysia: $10,000
- The Philippines: Anything over $955 must be given approval from the Philippines Central Bank.
- Thailand: $20,000
- Vietnam: $5,000
11. Latin America: $10,000 (Except for Bolivia)
Most places in Latin America require you to declare any cash or goods exceeding $10,000 upon arrival to or departure from the country. The one exception is Bolivia, which has a regulation that anything over $2,000 must be declared at customs. Otherwise, the countries where the $10,000 rule applies include:
- Costa Rica
- El Salvador
12. Africa: $10,000 (May Vary Depending on the Country)
Most popular travel destinations in Africa also require you to declare cash that’s over $10,000 on your person. However, many of the smaller countries set lower minimum amounts. Make sure you check the national website of the country you’re visiting just to make sure.
Traveling Internationally With Cash
Technically, there’s no legal limit to the amount of cash you can carry. However, if you have $10,000 of cash or its equivalents on hand, most countries require you to declare the amount upon arrival and departure. If you need to carry more than $10,000 while traveling, there are a couple of things you should take into account.
- Forfeiture is always a risk. Carrying a suitcase full of cash naturally raises suspicion. If the local authorities have any reason to suspect that your cash is tied to any illegal or criminal activity, they will likely seize it.
- You can suffer criminal penalties. If the authorities seize your cash, it can be difficult to get it back, especially if you didn’t comply with the local legal requirements.
Filling Out the Customs Form
If the amount of cash you have exceeds the legal amount in the country you’re visiting, you need to fill out a customs form (or its equivalent) at the border. Otherwise, as I previously mentioned, you may face criminal charges or risk getting your money taken from you.
When filling out the customs form, make sure you declare all monetary instruments on hand. These include:
- Traveler checks
- Securities or stocks
- Anything negotiable, including business checks, personal checks, bank checks, cashier checks, third-party checks, etc. This includes checks that are made out to an individual, fictitious or otherwise.
- Incomplete instruments, including personal checks, business checks, bank checks, third party checks, etc. This includes checks that are not already made out to any payee.
Other than figuring out which assets you have count as “monetary instruments,” filling out a customs form is pretty easy. Most of them request the following information:
- Basic personal info (name, age, etc.)
- Passport number
- Shipping information if relevant
- Information about the cash or monetary instrument/s
Traveling Domestically With Cash
Similarly, it’s not technically illegal to carry large amounts of cash within the United States. Still, if you choose to travel with at least $10,000 around the country, you could encounter problems that (while relatively minor) can put a damper on an otherwise enjoyable trip.
- Carrying a bag full of cash is very suspicious. If a TSA agent notices you have a great deal of money on you, they may take you aside for questioning or alert a security officer. If they’re not convinced that your activities are entirely legal, they may take your money from you.
- You could get unwanted attention from security dogs. According to a study from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, approximately 90% of bills contain traces of drugs. When large amounts of bills are in one place, security dogs are sometimes able to smell the drugs.
- You may have to take your case to court. When the authorities seize your property, it can become difficult to get back. If you petition the seizure, you’ll essentially be taking the United States government to Court. This can be costly, not to mention a total waste of time. Only about 8% of Drug Enforcement Administration money gets returned to its original owner.
For the above reasons, having a large amount of money when traveling domestically isn’t recommended. You shouldn’t take anything more than a couple thousand dollars to be safe.
Tips To Stay Safe When Traveling With Cash
Luckily, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk of running into any unwanted issues when carrying a lot of cash during your travels.
Tell a TSA Agent Before They Scan Your Bags
If you alert the TSA agents about what you’re carrying before they check your bags, this can lower their suspicions. After all, if you’re doing anything illegal, you wouldn’t be so open about the fact. Show them any financial documentation you have and let them know why you have so much cash. They may ask you further questions, but if you’re not doing anything wrong, you should be able to get away scot-free.
Bring Your Cash as a Carry-On Instead of Checking It
If you put your cash in your luggage, you can run the risk of losing it. Losing $10,000 (or more) in one go isn’t something you want to happen. Also, if someone finds your cash in a checked bag, you’ll have to explain why it’s there, and it’s more likely the authorities will seize your bag. It’s also possible that there’ll be unscrupulous agents who will take your cash for themselves.
Bring All Your Proper Paperwork and Documentation
This goes without saying, but you should always make sure you have all the necessary paperwork required by your travel destinations. That way, you can enjoy a stress-free travel experience knowing that you’ve taken all the necessary steps to ensure everything goes smoothly.
Don’t Carry a Lot of Cash if You Have a Criminal History
When a TSA agent spots a lot of cash in your belongings, they may look you up to see if you have a criminal background. If you do, they’re much more likely to seize your money. In this case, as I mentioned earlier, you should carry up to two thousand dollars at most and let your debit or credit card cover the rest.
Protect Your Belongings Against Theft
Theft is always a possibility when you have a lot of cash on you. To protect yourself, you should always keep your money on you. If you’re traveling to a country that’s notorious for pickpockets preying on foreign tourists, you should look into buying anti-theft items such as a money belt.
No matter where you travel, never make it obvious you have a lot of money on you. Don’t leave the part of your bag that contains the cash open. Instead, keep a small amount of bills where you can access them easily every time you need to buy something.
Purchase Travel Insurance
Good travel insurance will protect you and your belongings up to a certain amount. Many insurance companies provide reimbursement if anything of yours is stolen or damaged. That said, double-check with your travel insurance company to see if they cover stolen money.
Although it’s perfectly legal to travel domestically and internationally with a great deal of cash, I don’t recommend it. You have to jump through a lot of bureaucratic hoops to carry the money safely. Also, there are risks due to the suspicion raised when you carry that much money. It’s a lot easier and safer to leave your money in the bank and convert it when you arrive. If you have to carry a lot of cash when you travel, make sure you follow the regulations of the countries you’re visiting.