Is it illegal to mail cash? No, it’s just as legal as sending money online. You can mail checks and money orders the same way.
Then why do we believe it’s illegal? It’s all about how much cash you send.
Sending a few hundred is easy. But if you send tens of thousands of dollars, you risk losing that money. Not necessarily stolen, but confiscated, even if it’s 100% legal.
Why It Looks Illegal To Mail Cash
We’re slowly shifting towards a cashless world. And while that’s far away, we already have many better payment methods.
With digital payments, transfers are almost instant and super-cheap. It’s easier to store money online. Why would anyone want to use cash for big sums?
That’s what the government wonders every time someone mails over $10,000. Besides cash being the favorite money format for scammers, it’s an invisible payment method.
When you mail $10,000 and above, there are more verification steps:
- Your courier must fill out a CTR FinCen 104 Form (Currency Transaction Report)
- You have to send an IRS Form 8300. If you don’t do it within 15 days, they can fine you
When you know your transactions are legal, you could probably verify easily. But is it worth the risk?
The Risks Of Mailing Cash
While mailing cash should be as easy as it sounds, companies have complicated it for security reasons. That’s why online payments are superior. As for the risks, any of the following three may happen when mailing cash:
a. Mail Theft: Either the mail carrier or some local steals your package
b. Transfer complications: Your courier will likely ask for documents. Any minor blunder can make you go back and forth for weeks
c. Potential cash confiscation. Even if you’re legal, the police can interrupt the transaction if it looks suspicious. While you can defend your case, that costs money too
While there’s not much you can do about the Government, you can prevent mail fraud:
- Use bubble mailers to hide the content of the package
- Request a tracking number. You’ll be able to prove that the package didn’t arrive and ask for a refund (the USPS insures up to $50K)
- Unless cash is mandatory, convert it to cash or money orders. Only specific people can cash out this way
The Bottom Line
The easiest way to mail big sums is to convert that cash to another format:
a. Deposit it to your bank. But before you do, make sure you know what documents they’ll need (e.g., IRS FinCEN Form 8300). Ideally, the person who paid you can help you verify
b. Use money orders ($2,500 limit) and checks instead (high limit, changes with every company). You could instead mail these to the sender. Or if you want to convert your cash to bank money, you could write to yourself a bunch of checks under $10K or money orders under $2.5K and claim them
c. Use credit unions. Companies like Western Union allow you to send money to anyone worldwide without requiring a bank account (only ID verification and possibly a transaction number). If you don’t like WU, you can try:
- XE Money Transfer
Mind that, like couriers, credit unions are still required to report for amounts over $10,000.
One last trick you could try is opening multiple accounts. You use your familiar accounts and sign up for different banks. These will even pay you for spending money!
You can bring a lot of cash if you deposit just below $10,000 on each bank account. Every month, you can deposit another $9,999 without raising flags.
Note 1: For some banks, there may be an $8K limit instead of $10K
Note 2: Depositing over $100K per year is just as suspicious as putting over $10K per month
You can keep your money there if you want, or you send everything to one account. Because there’s no limit to how much you can transfer online.
If you want to send money safer and faster, turn it into digital money. If you want to send cash, couriers will do the job. It’s not illegal to mail cash after all.