How Much Cash Can You Fly With on a U.S. and International Flight?

Article Summary

In the United States, you are allowed to fly domestically with an unlimited amount of cash and you do not have to declare anything. But the TSA might ask questions if they discover a load of cash in transit. If you enter the United States from an international location with more than $10,000 cash, you will need to declare it. Most countries have a similar ceiling on the cash you can bring into the country without declaring it, with a few exceptions.

Who doesn’t like to have some cash with them when they travel? The boxer Floyd Mayweather, for instance, reportedly carries around $250,000 in cash with him all the time. Most of us who aren’t famous athletes will carry a more reasonable amount of cash with us when we are traveling, just in case we can’t access our money with an ATM or debit card.

According to United States law, you can travel domestically with as much cash as you want without declaring it to anyone. However, you might be questioned by the Transportation Security Administration if they discover that you are traveling with a large amount of cash. When traveling to the U.S. from another country, you’ll need to declare anything over $10,000 USD in what is considered cash when you enter the country. Most countries in the world will have an amount near $10,000 that you need to declare, but there are various exceptions.

If authorities do end up confiscating your cash, there are ways you can fight to get it back. If you’re the type that loves to carry a wad of cash, this article will take you through the various rules regarding flying with cash in the U.S. and abroad.

What is considered “cash”?

Cash is considered the physical manifestation of fiat currency in the form of bills or coins. However, governments, including the United States, sometimes consider other forms of financial instruments to be the same as cash. These are, but are not limited to:

  • Gold
  • Traveler’s checks
  • Regular checks
  • Promissory notes
  • Endorsed money orders

Effectively, anything that can be cashed immediately and is almost “as good as cash” can fall under the cash umbrella according to governments like the United States. When looking at the rules for how much cash you can bring into a country without declaring it, it’s important to take these other types of cash into account.

Domestic travel

When traveling domestically in the U.S., there is no limit to the amount of cash you can bring. If you want to take a flight from Denver to Dallas with $50,000 cash in your backpack, you are legally allowed to do so without having to declare the amount or mention it.

However, if you get caught by TSA agents with a bunch of cash, you can still run into problems. The TSA can question you as to why you have all of this cash on you. They can ask you a variety of questions and ask you to prove that the money was not acquired as part of an illegal scheme, such as drug trafficking or money laundering. Even if you do answer their questions and you haven’t been involved in any criminal activity, they might still refer you to a law enforcement agency. You then run the risk of having your money confiscated by that agency or other law enforcement representative.

Cash seizure on domestic flights

If law enforcement wants to, they can implement civil forfeiture laws and take the cash. You then need to go through all sorts of hoops to try to get it back. In some cases, because of the breadth of civil forfeiture laws, this is easier said than done. Later, we will go into more details about what to do if your cash gets seized.

So instead of bringing cash aboard with you, consider one of the below checking accounts to keep your money safe and secure.

Entering the U.S. from abroad

If you enter the United States from a foreign country with more than $10,000 in cash, then you must declare it at customs. Remember that the U.S. government defines cash as more than just the physical manifestation of fiat currency. You’ll need to submit a form called FinCEN Form 105. You must also fill out a Customs Declaration Form before you enter. You may hear this referred to as CBP Form 6059b. This form will typically be offered close to the time you land in the United States and will be passed out to passengers before descent.

If you are caught by border agents with more than $10,000 in undeclared cash, then there’s a good chance that any amount over $10,000 will be seized from you. Furthermore, depending on the circumstances, you could also be fined. According to Customs and Border Protection, in some circumstances, they can fine you up to $500,000. Even if your cash exceeds $10,000 because of an exchange rate issue, it’s best to declare it rather than be penalized significantly.

Pro Tip

For the purpose of this article, we’re discussing limits on cash you can have (without declaring it) when entering a country. Some governments, however, will also limit the amount of cash you’re allowed to take out of the country. This also applies to the United States. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “International travelers departing from the United States with currency or monetary instruments in a combined amount over $10,000 are also required to file a FinCEN Form 105 prior to their time of departure.”

Entering other countries outside the U.S. with cash

The U.S. tends to lead the world in terms of standardized norms of international policy. Due to this, many countries have policies that reflect a limit of $10,000 USD or a similar amount. Some countries will use the rule of $10,000 but in their own currency.

For example, Canada requires that you declare anything in cash that exceeds the value of $10,000 CAN. As the value of the Canadian dollar is not drastically lower than the U.S., this is relatively easy to do. In Brazil, on the other hand, the limit is R$10,000 (in Brazilian REAL), which is around $2,000 USD.

Cash entry limits

Here are examples of cash entry limits in various popular travel destinations around the globe. If you’re hoping to traveling abroad, it might be wise to confirm the rules at your time of travel in each country.

USA$10,000 USD
Mexico$10,000 USD
Canada$10,000 CAN
Costa Rica$10,000 USD
Panama$10,000 USD
Nicaragua$10,000 USD
Belize$10,000 BZD (approx. $5,000 USD)
Columbia$10,000 USD
Ecuador$10,000 USD
Peru$10,000 USD must be declared, $30,000 USD maximum
Bolivia$50,000 USD
Chile$10,000 USD
Argentina$10,000 USD
BrazilR$10,000 REAL (approx. $10,000 USD)
Uruguay$10,000 USD
EU Countries€10,000 Euro (approx. $10,000 USD)
United Kingdom£10,000 GBP (approx. $12,000 USD)
Russia$10,000 USD
Albania$20,000 USD
TurkeyNo limit entering, $5,000 USD can be taken out of the country
China¥20,000 RMB (approx. $5,000 USD)
Japan¥1 million yen (approx. $7,100 USD)
Korea$10,000 USD
Taiwan$100,000 NTD (approx. $10,000 USD)
Vietnam$7,000 USD
Cambodia$10,000 USD
Malaysia$10,000 USD
Philippines$10,000 USD
IndonesiaRp 1 million IDR (approx. $7,000 USD)
Sri Lanka$10,000 USD
India$5,000 USD cash or $10,000 USD if cash and other TC
Australia$10,000 AUD (approx. $7,500 USD)
New Zealand$10,000 NZD (approx. $7,000 USD)
South Africa$1,400 USD if only cash, $10,000 USD if cash and other TC
Egypt$10,000 USD
KenyaNo limit entering, KSh 100,000 can be taken out of the country

What happens if your cash gets seized?

If your cash is seized, then the best way to go about getting it back is to get a lawyer and fight the seizure in court. Here are the steps you need to take after your cash has been confiscated.

  1. Receive a “notice of forfeiture” in the mail. You’ll receive something in the mail that states that the forfeiture case and process have now officially started. This is called a notice of forfeiture.
  2. Note if there is an unreasonable delay. If there is an unreasonable delay in receiving your notice of forfeiture, then don’t panic. This can be used as part of your defense in your case.
  3. File an administrative claim. After receiving your notice of forfeiture, you will be given 35 days to file an administrative claim.
  4. Post a cost bond. You might be asked to post a cost bond. The bond is typically 10% of the assets seized and is used to ensure that you will cover your court expenses.
  5. Wait for the U.S. Attorney to review your case. The U.S. Attorney will then review the case. If the U.S. Attorney decides to uphold the seizure, then a civil suit can be filed in U.S. District Court.
  6. File a verified claim. You’ll need to file a verified claim within 30 days. Your attorney will submit your response and list any defenses that you wish to give.

Obviously, this will cost money, possibly above and beyond what was actually seized from you. The best scenario, therefore, is that either you don’t carry cash or, if you do, you declare it or make it known to the proper authorities. If you don’t, you could end up paying lawyers and waiting perpetually for court dates.


How much cash can I carry on a plane?

It depends on where you are. In the United States, there is no limit for domestic flights. However, it is possible that the TSA will pull you aside and question you for carrying an excessive amount of cash. For international flights entering the U.S., the limit is $10,000. Anything above that amount must be declared to law enforcement officers.

Can I fly with $20,000 cash?

You can fly domestically in the U.S. with $20,000 cash. If you enter the U.S. from another country or leave the U.S. with $20,000, you will have to declare it on a customs form.

Will TSA stop you if you have a lot of cash?

Yes, the TSA may stop you for having a lot of cash. They will ask you various questions about where the cash came from. However, the TSA doesn’t have law enforcement powers, so they would pass you on to a law enforcement representative immediately if they are suspicious. That person might do a civil asset forfeiture and confiscate the cash.

Is the $10,000 cash limit per person or family?

The $10,000 limit is for a person as well as a family if the family is immediate and resides in the same household. If any member of the family is carrying more than $10,000 individually, they will have to fill out an additional form.

Can you carry cash in your pocket through airport security?

You should keep your pockets empty when you go through security. You can keep any cash in your wallet or carry-on bag and then put that through the scanner.

Do airport scanners detect cash?

Yes, airport scanners can detect cash. Even dogs at airports are trained to sniff monetary bills.

Where do you put your money when flying?

You should keep your cash secured, locked, and concealed while traveling. People shouldn’t notice that you have any cash when you sit on the airplane. Consider using items like hidden necklaces, concealed travel pouches, and dummy wallets to ensure you keep your cash safe.

Key Takeaways

  • For domestic travel in the U.S., there is no limit on the amount of cash you can carry. If you enter the U.S. from abroad, there is a limit of $10,000 before you need to declare it.
  • The TSA lacks the power to confiscate cash, but they could refer you to law enforcement, such as an airport or local police officer.
  • If you have your cash seized, you can fight the seizure in court. The fees, however, are expensive and may total more than the seized funds.
  • Most countries have a limit on the amount of cash you can bring on a flight before you enter the country. This limit is typically similar to the U.S.’s $10,000 limit.
View Article Sources
  1. How much currency can I bring into the U.S.? — U.S. Customs and Border Protection
  2. Homeland Security seized $2 billion from travelers — Washington Post
  3. Notice of Forfeiture — U.S. Dept. of Justice
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