Traveling with Cash: Problem at Customs?

Aug 14th, 2016, 03:52 PM
  #1  
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Traveling with Cash: Problem at Customs?

Sorry for double post but I know this topic must interest some people.

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.
guyanantigua is offline  
Aug 14th, 2016, 03:58 PM
  #2  
 
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Sometimes I re-enter the US with some cash on me (sometimes close to 10k)

I would travel with large notes to make the size / bulk smaller. If you can have an invoice or a withdrawal slip proving how you got the money - thats always helpful.

If you are travelling here then consider a Pre-Pay visa instead.
EastCoastTog is offline  
Aug 14th, 2016, 03:59 PM
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Travel is always a balancing act, between how we're used to doing things at home and how we modify our behavior to accommodate another culture. So given your seeming belief that your cash is in danger of being seized for no reason, the solution is either don't much carry cash or don't visit the US.
MmePerdu is online now  
Aug 14th, 2016, 04:01 PM
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Correction, don't carry much cash.
MmePerdu is online now  
Aug 14th, 2016, 04:05 PM
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"Don't visit the US" ...I'm a US citizen and I live in the US. It's just that they always grill you when you reenter. And unfortunately I don't have a choice but to travel with cash. It's my money, legally earned, and I want to be able to do with it whatever I want to. I just want to know if anyone has particular experience with this and if indeed customs officials abuse their power as I've heard they do.

East coast, got you. Would pics of paychecks be enough? Unfortunately I can't get larger notes because ATM's only give $20's
guyanantigua is offline  
Aug 14th, 2016, 04:38 PM
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I would be more concerned about carrying that much cash outside the US.

Since you access your cash thru an ATM ("Unfortunately I can't get larger notes because ATM's only give $20's"" you can almost always use that same ATM card in many places worldwide with little to no fees. Safer by far do that then carrying $$$$$ with you on your travels. I have used my ATM cards all over Europe and in southern Africa with no trouble at all.

I doubt any customs/border control agents are going to be bothered to look at photos of paychecks, which can of course be easily altered.


I guess you have your reasons...best of luck.
DebitNM is offline  
Aug 14th, 2016, 04:49 PM
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No because actually fees outside the US can often be very high, there are limits on withdrawals, and more than once I've been left stranded without money when the bank blocked my card (even after I notified them I was traveling). There are many reasons I prefer to travel with cash. Ultimately yes, it's my preference and I don't want to be bullied by banks or governments into giving up cash.

I've also had my debit card cloned on two occasions and they took all the money out of my account. it was a pain to get it back. There are other reasons to be traveling with cash also especially in certain countries where, for example, you can get a better deal on an apartment with cash up front.

Ever traveled to Argentina?

I'd like to know from someone who has experience coming into the USA with cash (whether above the 10K limit or somewhat below) and whether it is true that customs may give you trouble over this. And what I can do to assure them it's OK, etc.
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Aug 14th, 2016, 04:50 PM
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Why would photos of paychecks prove where that particular pile came from? Don't have a choice? No one needs to carry wads of cash these days and why the practice is suspect. And why I find it suspect. And not cost effective if you have to change cash for local currency. Or maybe no will issue you a debit card. That would explain it, I suppose.
MmePerdu is online now  
Aug 14th, 2016, 05:00 PM
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Well, you say you have a debit card. The suggestion to get big bills is a useful one and answered by you that the ATM only gives $20s. Can you not go into the bank and get big bills? Fees to change cash will be higher than ATM fees. I still fail to see the point. We can't all be wrong and a couple of cash-carriers have the answers.
MmePerdu is online now  
Aug 14th, 2016, 05:02 PM
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MmePerdu I'm a college professor at a university ranked in the top ten on US News, and don't appreciate being accused of being "suspicious" by someone who is obviously a naive and very submissive person...simply for wanting to spend my money the way I want to, and not have to beg banks to use it. Since you don't know the answer to my question, why are you posting here? Is there something you want to prove, or display about yourself?

You must not have experience living abroad or traveling in certain places if you don't understand why people need to carry cash. It's actually very cost effective, depending on where you travel. You also avoid the inconvenience of having to deal with very unprofessional and nasty banks in the US, and several other problems of dealing with cards. Some people, you know, do like to travel for longer periods, and outside of tour groups.

Actually very rich people in the US also deal with cash more often than cards, and sometimes exclusively so, but that's another story. My question here is about procedure at US customs. My question is for people who have experience with this.
guyanantigua is offline  
Aug 14th, 2016, 05:39 PM
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"...a naive and very submissive person..."
"Is there something you want to prove, or display about yourself?"
"You must not have experience living abroad or traveling.."

None of the above.

"My question is for people who have experience with this."

Good. I'll be watching, too, for more self-important, paranoid "professors" to make an appearance.
MmePerdu is online now  
Aug 14th, 2016, 06:08 PM
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IMHO carrying that amount of cash is close to madness. What do you do - stuff it into a mattress? If you go to a bank with than amount of cash - esp in 20s - you will get a lot of questions.

Of course, why you are doing this is only your business, but it seems foolish to me to do something that is inherently suspicious and then get all exorcised when you are asked about it. If you are always asked about this it will continue to happen since they have obviously tagged you as a suspicious person regularly traveling with large amounts of cash and your name will pop up for extra questioning every time you enter the country.

I have entered the US at least 100 times by air into NYC and have NEVER had anyone ask me anything about cash I carried and have only once had my luggage opened when a beagle sniffed it - who knows why - perhaps another dog had peed against it or something.

You are really creating your own problem here and I would have rock solid proof that the money is legal, but assume that you will continue to be questioned and probably more rather than less in the future.
nytraveler is offline  
Aug 14th, 2016, 06:31 PM
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I keep the cash in my luggage or in drawers or a safe in my house/apt wherever I travel. Given that my debit card was cloned twice and all money taken out of my account, while money was never robbed from my apartment when living abroad, I find cash to be safer than a bank.

I don't go to a bank with that amount of cash, I use it. Unfortunately ATM's deal out 20's so that's what I have. I do have a record of the withdrawals, I wonder if that would satisfy an overzealous customs official.

So far I keep getting lectures and not so much practical advice. For those who give lectures, consider
http://nomadcapitalist.com/2015/02/1...-restrictions/
In some countries like Hong Kong cash is preferred. And being able to pay in dollars will get you far if you travel to many other countries. Your attitude about cash being "suspicious" is one reason governments in USA and Western Europe are becoming so abusive and controling. It used to be that ability to use cash is a sign of freedom. At the moment in some European countries governments demand to know every electronic transaction you make. I like to be free.

I am surprised no one has been asked about how much money they're carrying when coming through customs in America. Everyone I know has, including old ladies traveling from Europe. And a customs official on another forum openly said that this is their procedure now. I am surprised everyone here pretends they don't know that customs officials are abusive to returning US citizens and often ask all manner of inappropriate questions. Maybe you are all used to abuse and think it's normal. Those kinds of questions aren't asked in other countries, and people would be outraged if they were.
guyanantigua is offline  
Aug 14th, 2016, 06:32 PM
  #14  
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I would actually like some practical advice from people who do travel with cash and understand why this is normal.
guyanantigua is offline  
Aug 14th, 2016, 06:57 PM
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I do understand why you are choosing to carry so much cash with you. I had my card cloned and was left with very little cash on vacation. It's not a good situation to be in. While I don't have experience traveling with this much cash, I don't see why it really would be a problem. You are not lying on the custom form if the amount is under 10k. No one has ever questioned me or my form but maybe it's because of the port of entry? I ask because once years at Philly, I had to pick up my bag and have it X rayed again but so did everyone and I wasn't connecting. I wonder how the agents knew to question the people you know who had a problem. Maybe that's the key to doing it without being stopped, questioned, etc.
sassy27 is online now  
Aug 14th, 2016, 07:00 PM
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Well, it is apparent you are not going to get answers either here or on the Europe forum. You keep asking if any of us travel with large amounts of cash, but I very much doubt you will get responses from any of us because none of us considers this a normal or sensible practice.

The last time I traveled with a large amount of cash was in 1973, when such activity did make a little sense. Today, it makes none at all.

If you insist on doing this you must be prepared to take whatever consequences; from theft by muggers to confiscation by customs.
nukesafe is online now  
Aug 14th, 2016, 07:22 PM
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Thank you sassy27 for understanding. Does anyone know what it's like to be stuck in a third world country and have to argue with your bank about allowing you to access YOUR money? It's happened to me more than once. This was because of a mistake on their part. And there I am in a weird country and unable to access my account and really having to beg my bank and jump through all kinds of hoops. This is aside from the times they screw up and just lock your account and then "apologize" after seeing that you already put a travel note.

nukesafe, there are many advantages to traveling with cash, especially depending on where you travel and for how long. I explained elsewhere why. If you're trying to justify legalized theft by broke Western govts., that's another matter. No: it's not OK to be robbed by officials because you choose to travel with cash.

I find it funny to think that your cash is safe in a bank. Ask Cypriots about that. Or people--like me or sassy--who had their debit cards cloned.

Sassy I'll have to take my chances and hope that the customs official is not an authoritarian and won't abuse his power. I can show the origin of the money if it comes to that, but really, I shouldn't have to think about this.
guyanantigua is offline  
Aug 14th, 2016, 07:39 PM
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I would never keep all my cash in 1 bank account when I travel. I have 2 that I use strictly for travel and they have no fees for withdrawals. My husband likewise has 2. That prevent us from having our funds frozen.

No one would like to have their account compromised. But there are ways to reduce that risk, as I have just shown. And yes, it did happen to me when I was in Lugano last year. It wasn't a disaster because our funds were spread out in 3 other accounts. A bit much to handle, maybe, but it keeps us from carrying wads of cash.

As far as how much can be withdrawn at a time, same applies, we can spread it out over the multiple cards and get $2000 at a time with little effort.

Converting US dollars to local currency can be as much a hassle as dealing with ATM and the cost can out do fees, which you can avoid by shopping for the best debit cards - Federal credit unions are a great place to get fee free ATM cards.

Keeping cash in luggage or drawers, really? At least you don't carry it in a money belt...

And lots of people here travel a lot, and to some very out of the way places and for several months at a time. You aren't unique; perhaps a troll would be more fitting a description. Or just arrogant.
DebitNM is offline  
Aug 14th, 2016, 07:48 PM
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DebitNM
That's some good practical advice for the first part of your post. Unfortunately it doesn't apply to my situation as I'm already traveling with cash. I will consider multiple accounts later. There are downsides to that as well though, and there are great advantages to using cash: again the reference to "exchange bureaus" makes me think you don't know of these advantages. In many countries people accept dollars.
It's also not believable that people who travel for months to out of the way places use ATM's and prefer this to cash.
I'm not a "troll." I'm someone looking for practical advice dealing with potentially ABUSIVE customs officials. I've heard many stories on the news, and I've noticed in person that their attitude is very aggressive. I'd like practical advice, and I wouldn't be arguing with people if they didn't instead come on here to lecture me.

If you don't like cash, fine. Why try to get others to do the same as you do?
guyanantigua is offline  
Aug 14th, 2016, 07:58 PM
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I don't normally travel with a lot of cash. But I have had times when I have needed to travel with enough US dollars to pay for my whole trip. Before Burma became part of the international banking community in 2011-12, one needed US dollars to pay for everything. So I carried several thousand dollars to pay for our whole trip: flights within Burma, drivers, water transport, hotels, meals, etc.

I did have to fill out a currency declaration form when entering Burma. There were no problems. And I did not have a lot of US cash left over to bring back into the US with me.

I can't remember ever being asked about cash upon re-entry to the US.
Kathie is offline  

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