Common Law - The FindLaw Consumer Protection Law Blog

Is It Legal to Travel With Large Sums of Cash?

If you have $75,000 in cash, can you stuff it into a suitcase and board a plane with it?

One passenger actually did this. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at Richmond International Airport discovered $75,000 in cash in a passenger's luggage during a security check. The question remains: is it legal to travel with that much cash?

Traveling with Cash

Although it may seem sketchy, it is perfectly legal to travel with any amount of cash -- even very large amounts. You could cram a million dollars into your purse if you wanted. There is no law against that as far as domestic flights are concerned.

If you're flying internationally with more than $10,000, you'll have to declare the amount to customs. Other than that, assuming customs approves your luggage, you can carry as much cash as you want.

Can the Government Take My Money?

While carrying large amounts of cash isn't necessarily illegal, you may run into trouble if the authorities believe the cash may be tied to illegal activity.

Since the TSA routinely finds evidence of criminal activity such as illegal drug trafficking or money laundering, don't be surprised when the TSA pays a little extra attention to your cash stash. TSA officers may question you about where you got the money, where you're taking it to, and why. You are not required to answer these questions, but not answering can result in delays.

If the TSA suspects that the cash may be linked to illegal activity, it will call in a law enforcement agency to investigate further.

In the case mentioned above, a law enforcement agency was called in to investigate the $75,000 found. The cash was seized, as allowed by laws governing civil asset forfeiture, and the traveler was allowed to continue on his flight.

Tips for Traveling

If you do decide to stash stacks of Benjamins in your luggage, here are some tips:

  • Ask TSA officials to screen you in a private location. You don't want everyone in line to know you're carrying a lot of cash.
  • Always keep cash and other valuables with you in a carry-on bag. Never leave such items in checked baggage.
  • Don't forget to declare the cash to customs if you're traveling internationally.

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