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Bringing Money From Your Home Country To The U.S.

Updated on Apr 07, 2021
Travel with money


United States laws require that you report your money to customs if the amount of money you bring into the country is more than $10,000.

There is no limit to how much money you can carry with you when you enter the U.S., but reporting is a must if it exceeds the limit set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Failing to do will lead to penalties. And you must avoid the penalties at all costs. 

Let's get into the details of what kinds of monetary instruments need to be reported, and get to know the requirements and the process of reporting.

What Counts as Money When Reporting to the Customs?

You can bring up to $10,000 in currency (including cash in the currency of other countries) and specific monetary instruments deemed equivalent to currency without reporting it to customs. 

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the following monetary instruments are counted as cash or cash equivalents for reporting to the customs.

  • Currency notes and coins in US dollars
  • Paper currency and coins from other nations 
  • Gold coins
  • Traveler's checks
  • Money orders/checks/promissory notes that can be cashed (including the ones that are made out to someone but endorsed to be cashed by you)
  • Certain types of stocks or securities

Please note that the $10,000 limit is not per person. If you are traveling with family members and the total amount of money between you and your family members is more than $10,000, it must be reported to customs. 

What are the Penalties for Failing to Report?

If you fail to file or declare your monetary instruments exceeding $10,000, U.S. customs officials can charge civil penalties such as hefty fines, or worse yet, confiscate all your money. You may even face jail time if convicted of illegally transporting money.  

Which Monetary Instruments Do Not Require Reporting When Coming to the US? 

  • Credit Cards (even credit lines above $10,000)
  • Monetary instruments that are not endorsed 
  • Gold Bullion 

Is Reporting Required if You Are Transferring Money to Your US Bank Account? 

All banks must report to the IRS for transactions that exceed $10,000.

Most often, money transfer companies that facilitate money transfer between countries have reporting thresholds as low as $1,000. 

How to Report Your Money to Customs?

If you are bringing in more than $10,000 in currency or monetary instruments that require reporting, you need to fill out a FinCEN Form 105, which is the Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments. 

The FinCEN 105 is available for download on the website of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. Or pick up and submit it to CBP before entering the country.

Or you can conveniently fill the form online via a computer or mobile device and submit it. 

The form contains questions pertaining to your identity, the reasons for carrying the money, and other relevant questions. If you are able to truthfully declare the money through the FinCEN form, the process of getting through the customs is trouble-free.  

Customs officers are there to help you with any difficulties in filling the form.

Money reported via FinCEN 105 is reported to the IRS and helps in tackling money laundering and illegal activities. 

Are There Duty Fees for Reporting?

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency doesn't charge duty fees for the money you carry into the country. 

The details on the FinCEN form are reported to the IRS which will eventually inform you whether the money is subject to an income tax. 

Is Credit Card Better Than Cash When Coming to the US?

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You probably don't need to bring $10,000 in cash when you come to the U.S. for a visit or a vacation. Besides, carrying a large number of physical notes puts you at risk of getting robbed, or getting lost in transit and can be quite cumbersome. 

Since credit cards don't have to be reported to customs, they are the perfect solution to fund your travel or vacation. 

With credit cards, you are protected from fraud and in case of being stolen or lost, it can be blocked and you can get a replacement.

If you have a good credit score, you are most likely to be accepted for the best travel credit cards that offer several rewards, travel points, and additional perks like free dining experiences. Also, go for cards that charge no foreign transaction fees

Typically, most credit cards charge 2-3% fees for foreign transactions which can unnecessarily increase your expenses abroad.  

Although you need to carry some cash with you, getting an international credit card is extremely convenient when traveling abroad. Such a card can be used both in your home country and abroad and bypass the hassle of carrying cash or traveler's checks. It can also be used at ATMs to withdraw cash.

Multi-Currency Travel Cards

A more convenient and cheaper alternative to credit cards when traveling abroad is multi-currency travel cards or forex cards. Such cards are prepaid currency card that you can pre-load in multiple currencies and use it at ATM to withdraw cash or pay for your purchases abroad. 

You don't have to worry about currency conversion and the fluctuation in the exchange rates. The exchange rate at which you loaded the cash onto the card remains constant all throughout your usage even when the rates are fluctuating in the currency market. 

Since it is preloaded, you can easily stick to your budget and avoid overspending. You can reload the cards using internet banking or mobile banking once you exhaust the funds. 

It also offers other perks like free ATM withdrawals, free cross-currency withdrawals, minimal transaction fees, unlike debit or credit cards. 

Apart from being globally accepted, these cards come with theft protection, 24/7 customer service, emergency cash, and other special offers.

Many people unknowingly and unintentionally get into trouble just because they are not aware of the rules and restrictions when they enter a foreign country. This is not how you want your foreign visits to turn out. Learning and planning will go a long way.

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