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guyanantigua Aug 14th, 2016 03:16 PM

Traveling with Cash: Problem at Customs?
I know that if you want to enter (or exit) the US with cash it has to be declared if it's over $10,000. But my question is what about if you enter the country with a large amount of cash (8000-9000) that is under $10K. Is it at all advisable?

I ask because I've heard horror stories about US customs seizing cash on the flimsiest pretext. Thus even though this is my money, legally earned, and I like to keep it cash because it's more convenient for me to travel this way, I fear that US customs will invent some reason to seize it from me. I've heard they do this to people under civil forfeiture laws, and then it's very hard to get back.

I've also noticed that they're very aggressive every time you come into the country, asking all kinds of questions, and in particular asking about cash that you carry even under the declaration limit. Needless to say I am wary of this. I'm afraid from the things I've heard that they won't respect the law and will do whatever they have to in order to seize cash or valuables.

I'm wondering if anyone has any experience with this or advice to give, and if it is indeed a bad idea to carry cash even under the 10K limit.

ribeirasacra Aug 14th, 2016 03:21 PM

you are asking in the wrong section. This is western europe.

guyanantigua Aug 14th, 2016 03:25 PM

Where should I ask? I imagine people in this section have experience traveling...

StCirq Aug 14th, 2016 03:31 PM

If you're concerned about entering the USA with this (insane) amount of cash, ask on the USA Forum. This is the Europe Forum. And why wouldn't you use an ATM to withdraw cash like everyone else instead of exposing yourself to enormous risk (and not just at immigration, just in general).

Christina Aug 14th, 2016 03:34 PM

yes, you should ask in the US forum. However, you are missing details -- what is your nationality? I suspect this might have something to do with it.

Call me a skeptic but it is very suspicious that anyone would need to carry that amount of cash on them. The only reason would be if they came from some country that didn't have credit cards that could be used in the US or something like that.

It cannot possibly be "more convenient" to carry around $9K on you in cash versus using bank cards and credit cards.

The US customs people are generally nice to me but occasionally I encounter a jerk, also (I am an American middle-aged white woman). I had one question me extensively a few years ago just because I traveled to Europe alone, as if women in the US weren't allowed to travel alone or something. I was questioned and held up at the border from Canada with my boyfriend about drugs, also, even though we had none, but that was when I was in my 20s. And yes, they lie to try to get you to "confess" something. They lied and claimed they found some marijuana seed on the floor of the car, for example, and we knew we had nothing so did not "confess." They finally had to let us go after going through our luggage, holding us separately so we couldn't talk to each other, etc. All based on the fact that we were young and alternative-looking. So yes, some of them let power go to their heads.

I've seen them questioning some foreigners and no, they are not usually "aggressive" which is why I'm sure this must have something to do with where you are from, your demeanor and demographics, etc.

guyanantigua Aug 14th, 2016 03:49 PM

I'm a US citizen. They're usually very aggressive, asking you if you have any cash at all, and also asking what your profession is, why you travel, and so on. I consider these questions aggressive. Furthermore I also know middle aged women (US citizens) who they've asked if they carry over $1000 (??) even though they looked very pleasant and well off. So I'm wary of this. Also I've heard stories of their abuse of civil forfeiture laws and your own stories of them essentially "planting" things on you are worrisome.

It is in fact more convenient to travel with cash, given the restrictions that banks place on me. In terms of withdrawals, conversion rates and fees (I can get better rates at changing bureaus) and the fact that they've often left me stranded abroad blocking my card even though I told them I was traveling. Aside from all this, we should all have the right to travel and work with cash without anyone finding it "suspicious." Your attitude is what allows governments to try to control our every move for no reason at all.

By the way, 8 or 9K isn't that much. And if you're trying to get a good deal on an apartment some place you're staying longer, you need to give them dollars up front. Regardless, I want to know if I will have any problems even though it's under the limit for declaration.

JAMH Aug 14th, 2016 04:04 PM

I have passed through US customs at least 40 times in the last 10 years and my husband has probably passed through 120 times in the same number of years. We are US citizens and neither of have ever been asked how much money we have on us. Of course, we have not had anywhere close to $1,000 (much less $10,000) in cash on us. I have not noticed Customs officials asking anyone about cash and I think I would notice because I have seen relatively aggressive questioning of people returning to the US from their country of birth about food items that might be in their luggage. You say oticed that they're very aggressive every time you come into the country, asking all kinds of questions, and in particular asking about cash that you carry even under the declaration limit." Something is going on that is triggering this if it happens every time you come to the country regardless of the officer on duty. As another responder says, either your appearance is causing the questioning which could be some kind of racial profiling or it could be how you act or it could be both or it could be either where you left from or other places that are showing up on your passport. So naturally, if I were aggressively questioned every time I arrived in the USA and had $9,000 in cash with me, I would just answer truthfully and say it is for the expenses of my trip though that makes no sense to me because that is what bank accounts and debit cards are for. If I find that suspicious, I bet a Customs Officer will as well. As to random civil forfeiture, to paraphrase Marvin Gaye, believe very little of what you hear.

StCirq Aug 14th, 2016 04:09 PM

If you have those sorts of problems with your bank, change banks. You are obviously naive if you think exchange bureaus will give you a better deal than banks. That isn't normal. I'm an American citizen, too, and I have never been subjected to any sort of "aggressive" behavior at all upon entering or leaving the country, but I would never in a million years carry that sort of cash with me. That's just crazy. I've been in and out of the country at least 200+ times and never encountered anything like that.

You sound paranoid. That alone, if you display your paranoid tendencies, could prompt US authorities to question you more than they would the average person. Yes, you could have problems, but they will be of your own making.

And get a grip on how to handle paying for things in Europe. No one in their right mind carries 8 or 9K in cash around Europe, even if they have to pay cash for apartments up front (in which case you are probably renting an illegal apartment, by the way). Are you going to whine to your bank when your stash is pickpocketed or you leave your wallet at a café?

Join a credit union that charges no fees and get an ATM card. Problem solved. You're way off base here.

guyanantigua Aug 14th, 2016 04:16 PM

Racial profiling: I'm pretty much a blond haired blue eyed guy lol. But I guess that's how profiling works now. And yes I've heard from everyone coming in lately that they ask you how much money you're carrying. They do this to very pleasant-looking middle aged ladies. So either you haven't traveled lately, you are very special, or you're not telling the truth.

I'd like some practical advice from people who've had to deal with this. It sounds like instead there are a lot of responders who are more interested in justifying the abusive and intrusive character of US customs officials, which are well documented, and the experience of pretty much everyone who travels now.

Again I'd like some practical advice from people who've carried cash into or out of the US, either over the 10K limit, or somewhat under. Do they give you trouble even if it's under? Will they seize it on a pretext even if I can show images of paychecks/etc.

StCirq Aug 14th, 2016 04:34 PM

I doubt you'll get many answers, because normal people don't travel with that kind of cash, for very good reasons. And I'm almost certain that no one here would have exceeded the 10K limit, because...duh...that's illegal.

You might not get stopped for racial profiling, but psychological...entirely possible.

I don't think anyone here "hasn't been traveling lately," and many of us are pleasant-looking middle-aged ladies. I doubt any of us has had the problems you anticipate or been asked how much money any of us is carrying. Never once happened to me in hundreds of trips.

guyanantigua Aug 14th, 2016 04:43 PM

It's not illegal to carry money over the 10K limit either within or outside the US. It's an administrative process whereby you have to simply declare it and fill out a form at customs. Educate yourself, please! If that were illegal, the US would be an authoritarian country like North Korea. In fact not even authoritarian countries have those kinds of laws restricting currency flows like that.

StCirq honestly if you don't know you need to at least not be so aggressive or dismissive. From the things you say it's not clear to me whether you've ever lived abroad or been on trips outside tour groups or package deals in resorts. I'm really not here to get into arguments over this though. Normal people--whatever your definition of that is--certainly do travel with large amounts of cash because in many situations and countries it's the easiest way to deal with things. No they don't carry it in their wallets. And many of them are very rich people, if this matters to you.

I'm a college professor at a university ranked in the top ten on US News rankings. I don't appreciate being called "suspicious" because I choose to deal in cash for convenience rather than have to beg banks and others to use my own money. I'm here to ask for practical advice.

I'm not here to argue. Please speak for yourself and if you don't know, which you obviously don't, consider posting in another thread.

StCirq Aug 14th, 2016 05:01 PM

I live in Europe. I've never been on a group tour or bought a package. I don't go to resorts. I have, as I have said, traveled between the USA and myriad other countries hundreds of times. I don't feel any further need to justify myself to you. You are nuts.

If you're a college professor at a prestigious U.S. university you should at least have been able to find the right forum to post your question in. YOU are in the wrong thread. Educate yourself about the basics of posting in the right forums. And educate yourself about banking practices that don't require you to turn over a percentage of your own money just to use it abroad. I don't care how your university ranks; it obviously hasn't taught you a thing about being wise about using money abroad.

guyanantigua Aug 14th, 2016 05:08 PM

Please no more lectures from other posters, I'm here to ask practical advice from people who travel and who know if US customs is as abusive as people are saying. Will I have a problem entering with somewhat under the 10K limit, or not? Anyone have experience with this and what I should expect?

Hobbert Aug 14th, 2016 05:32 PM

I'm a US citizen who's returned to the US three times this year and no one at Customs has ever asked me about carrying money. Or ever in the decades I've been traveling overseas. If you're getting a better rate at an exchange bureau than from your bank, you really ought to change banks.

No one can predict what will happen when you return home and clear Customs so I doubt you'll be happy with anyone's answers. Good luck to you.

cafegoddess Aug 14th, 2016 05:50 PM

Guyanantigua, I have never been asked how much money I have with me upon entering the US. I travel to Asia and Europe at least four times a year. I find the agents to be kind and helpful not aggressive at all. It is your business to carry a lot of cash. I hope the place you are staying has a safe.

I have a Capital one account and have had no problems using it and they do not charge a fee for withdrawing money. One of the most valuable information I learned in Fodor is to use my ATM card to get cash. I used to exchange my money locally, the exchange rate is not as good as using your ATM card aboard.

Have a good trip, relax, the border agents are not what you heard. Greet them with a friendly hello and answer their questions politely.

Some questions they have asked in the past:

What did you buy while traveling? You have to list the items you bought.
How long were you traveling?
Did you bring any meat?

See, nothing to it al all.

HappyTrvlr Aug 14th, 2016 05:54 PM

Sorry, never happened to me.

Sassafrass Aug 14th, 2016 06:17 PM

If the OP's attitude is as argumentative with customs agents as it is here, the experience might not be good.

nytraveler Aug 14th, 2016 06:31 PM

My suspicion is that from the first time you entered the country with a very large sum of money (and I know it's not my business why you do this but it's close to madness) your name has gone onto a list. Each further time you enter with huge sums of money your name will go further up the list of people to be questioned when entering the country.

If you do something suspicious and insist on continuing to do it (no matter how blond and blue eyed you are or whatever university you went to - all of these are immaterial) you will get more and more attention from Customs. Because they can;t figure out - just like most people here - why you would want to haul this money around, esp in $20 bills - unless you are laundering it or it is the result of illegal activities or is being used for terrorist activities.

So yes, you will continue to be questioned and at some point they may decide that it is so suspicious that someone will be put on to investigate whatever business you are doing.

Why not simply get a normal bank like Capital One with no fees and stop paying 10% of your funds to change cash, besides carrying around a gym bag full of money?

And sorry but I have done more than 100 trips back to JFK and no one has ever asked me about money I was carrying - and usually no questions at all from either Immigration or Customs.

guyanantigua Aug 14th, 2016 06:41 PM

I'd like practical advice from people who do travel with cash and can tell me what to expect. Have you ever had problems carrying under 10K? When you do have over 10K and declare it, do they give you problems?

Jean Aug 14th, 2016 06:42 PM

Here are the rules, straight from U.S. Customs and Border Protection:

There is no limit on the amount, as long as you properly report over $10,000 per traveling group. Amounts over $10,000 that are not reported are subject to forfeiture.

Happy now?

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