Is Cash Allowed on International Airline Travel?

by Tim Grant

Cash is king around the world. But if you are traveling internationally with a enough greenbacks to retire comfortably on a small island, it may lead to some complications with border patrol officers. While there is nothing illegal about carrying cash -- even thousands of dollars in cash -- on international airline travel, you may be required to report your cash to Customs and Border Protection.

Federal Rules

People often travel internationally with large sums of cash for many different reasons and there is nothing wrong with it. However, federal law requires travelers to declare any cash they are carrying in excess of $10,000 to Customs and Border Patrol Officers upon leaving or entering the United States. They must fill out a "Report of International Transportation or Currency and Monetary Instruments." The form does not have a section asking travelers to explain the reason for the cash, but border patrol officers are likely to be curious.

Illegal to Divide

Sometimes people traveling with a group might be tempted to pull a fast one to avoid the $10,000 reporting requirement. But that could land them in hot water with the federal government. People traveling together with $10,000 or more cannot split the money among themselves to avoid declaring the currency, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. If the amount carried by the group amounts to more than $10,000, they must all report the cash. In other words, if one person in the group has $7,000 and the other has $7,000, they both must report their cash even though their individual amounts are less than $10,000.

Forfeiture

International travelers who try to conceal their cash or evade reporting their cash to Customs authorities run the risk of having the money seized. They might even have to pay a civil penalty and face criminal charges. Anyone who decides to lie to Customs and Border Protection officers or fail to declare the exact amount of cash or who tries to hide it on his body or in her luggage is taking a chance on losing it all.

Criminal Suspicions

When international travelers are carrying more than $10,000 in cash, customs officers become concerned about where the money came from and the reasons for carrying such a large amount of money. Transportation Security Administration officers often come across criminal activity at security checkpoints -- such as money laundering -- and they may ask a traveler to account for the money. Based on the traveler's reaction to the questions, the TSA officer may ask law enforcement authorities to intervene. For this reason, it may be a good idea to keep a record showing where you withdrew the cash you are carrying.

About the Author

Tim Grant has been a journalist since 1989 and has worked for several daily newspapers, including the Charleston "Post & Courier," the "Savannah News-Press," the "Spartanburg Herald-Journal," the "St. Petersburg Times" and the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette." He has covered a variety of subjects and beats, including crime, government, education, religion and business. He graduated from The Citadel with a Bachelor of Science in business administration.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images