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I was wondering if someone knows the legal limit of cash money allowed per adult tourist when entering the US, especially from the UK.

The reason is that I would like to get the best conversion rate and buy some dollars (selling my GBP) at the UK cambios/exchange offices so that my bank fees and other charges can be avoided. Therefore, taking the legal limit of cash will help me to make the most out from the currency conversion mishapps.

Any idea on those numbers?

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Related/Possible Duplicate: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/24153/… –  Karlson Mar 2 at 17:42
    
Why not get a new current account that has a debit card with low exchange charges? They rate will be better than taking cash. –  Ian Ringrose Mar 3 at 18:23
    
    

4 Answers 4

up vote 13 down vote accepted

When you are departing from the UK and travelling to a non-EU country, you have to declare if you have €10000 or equivalent at UK customs (around $13000). Then on entry to the USA you will have to declare if you are carrying $10000 or more. Also make sure you have some documentation on you to show the 'source of your funds', bank statement, receipts etc...

I can confirm that Thomas Exchange is currently offering 1.6605 and the company is certainly not 'dodgy', they have been in business for over 30 years. There are no fees or commission on top and their rates are always better than the Post Office, M&S and all banks as they are a currency specialist.

If you use your Natwest card abroad they charge around a 2% withdrawal fee plus a 2.75% exchange rate conversion fee, so the rate may seem ok but when you get your statement you will see the additional fees.

Another option may be to transfer the US Dollars to your US Dollar account instead of carrying so much cash (again Thomas Exchange will offer better rates than your bank).

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I think I will do that. But do they ask for my bank statements? Surely, if I show that my tickets and hotels are paid for and I am carrying about $600 cash, isn't that enough? –  hagubear Mar 3 at 8:58
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Metro Bank have a 0% withdrawal fee for taking out money abroad. When I went traveling around South America for a year I opened an account purely for this reason, as there was no way I could take a years worth of funds in cash, and it saved me a small fortune. –  Amicable Mar 3 at 14:26
    
From the 18th March the Metro Bank will charge fees if you use your card outside Europe. –  user11911 Mar 3 at 22:20
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So will you only be carrying $600? If so there is nothing to worry about :) –  user11911 Mar 3 at 22:23
    
If you're only talking about $600 in total, just use your credit/debit card. Sure, you'll have to pay fees but it's not going to come to any significant amount and it will give you the peace of mind of not carrying around relatively large amounts of cash. –  David Richerby Oct 18 at 15:54

There is no limit, if it's more than 10'000 USD however, you need to declare it:

There is no limit on the amount of money that can be taken out of or brought into the United States. However, if a person or persons traveling together and filing a joint declaration (CBP Form 6059-B) have $10,000 or more in currency or negotiable monetary instruments, they must fill out a "Report of International Transportation of Currency and Monetary Instruments" FinCEN 105 (former CF 4790).

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There is no limit to the amount of cash you can carry, however if you are carrying more than $10,000 USD (or equivalent in foreign currency) then you must declare it (full details on how to do that at the URL above).

However bringing cash is very rarely the best strategy for foreign exchange. Although your credit or ATM cards might charge you a fee when you use them in the US, they generally offer an exchange rate that is far better than you'll get when converting GBP cash to USD cash. The difference in exchange rate will normally at least cancel out the credit/debit card fees.

If you convert too much cash and have to convert it back to GBP when your trip is over then you lose out again as once again you'll get a poor exchange rate for the conversion.

Cash also leaves you at risk of losing it and/or having is stolen. Even if you have travel insurance it normally does not cover the loss of cash.

There are multiple questions on here regarding the best way to manage money when traveling - I suggest you do some searching and you'll find the better options than taking physical cash with you!

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Thanks for the answer, especially the $10k limit. I have to disagree on using the credit/debit card option because you can lose your wallet too - there is no guarantee. Also, the banks actually rip you off more e.g. NWest,my bank, offers $1.59 to £1, but thomas exchange global offers $1.66 to £1. If I accidentally run out of all my cash (~$650) in two weeks, I will just use my debit card to draw cash. Isn't that a lot of savings? Just pointing out. Not denying that security is the key, I can lose everything anyway. –  hagubear Mar 2 at 18:17
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NatWest may offer $1.59 when converting cash, but they will have a different rate for credit/debit card that will be much closer to the official rate. If Thomas Exchange is really offering $1.66 to the GBP then take it as that's a very good rate - but I suspect you'll find that there are fees and charges on top of that (it's too good of a rate to be real!). The "spot" rate for the USD/GBP at the moment is 1.674, and cash exchange is always at least 3-4 percent less. –  Doc Mar 2 at 18:22
    
I agree. It said on the money.co.uk site that without commission fee, it's the best. I will probably visit the physical shop to find out what the minimum is. I am doing a $500 minimum and they didn't charge me anything extra online. –  hagubear Mar 2 at 19:01
    
money.co.uk/travel-money/commission-free-travel-money.htm May be someone can find out that it's dodgy :P –  hagubear Mar 2 at 19:11
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If you lose your Nat West debit/credit card you may be able to get fraudulent charges refunded. If you lose a wallet with $650 it is gone forever. –  Josh B Mar 3 at 1:11

Entering the U.S. with over $10000 in cash (or equivalent in any combination of foreign currency) will require you to fill declare the cash and will raise a few red flags. They may require proof of where you earned the money and ask why you're choosing to bring it to the U.S.

Typically, withdrawing money from an ATM is an even better option for getting local currency than exchanging it at your bank. Simply use a U.S. ATM with your UK bank card to remove funds from your account in dollars. This will sometimes incur a fee from your bank, but it is possible that your bank will reimburse you for these fees. Check your bank's website for more details.

Since the U.S. Dollar and the Pound are both major world currencies, foreign exchange spreads should be very narrow. Be sure to compare rates. Generally, you will get the worst rates at the airport and the best rates by withdrawing at an ATM.

Consider also using your credit card. Some cards have an overseas transaction fee, but if yours doesn't, you can bring less cash by using your card for most purchases.

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