Is it Illegal to Keep Large Amounts of Cash at Home?

Is it Illegal to Keep Large Amounts of Cash at Home?

Nadia Tamara A Little Bit of Everything, Emergency Preparedness, Laws


Is it Illegal to Keep Large Amounts of Cash at Home?

It is legal for you to store large amounts of cash at home so long that the source of the money has been declared on your tax returns. There is no limit to the amount of cash, silver and gold a person can keep in their home, the important thing is properly securing it. 

We have become accustomed to a digital world where most of our money is used and transferred over credit cards and bank accounts. It’s a very easy way to protect our cash, especially in large amounts, but is it the wisest thing to do?

In this article, the term “cash” is not limited to paper money. In fact, it’s a good idea to invest in silver and gold as currency. The US dollar is the main type of currency in the world but it’s still subject to devaluation and inflation. Most people living outside of the US experience the uncertain yet constant fluctuations of their currency every day. The value of silver and gold  also fluctuate but are considerably more steady than paper money in the long run.


Should you keep most of your money at the bank?


Keeping money in bank accounts is convenient for many reasons. When you have to make a large purchase of any kind, it’s more secure to swipe your credit card rather than paying cash. It’s nerve-wrecking to be in possession of thousands of dollars in cash because of the fear of theft. Also, we very much depend on a good credit score to purchase a house, a car, among other things. A good or bad credit score can only be measured if you use a credit card which will most likely be paid through your bank account.

On the other hand, no bank can fully guarantee to give us complete access of our money at any given moment. Most banks have a withdrawal limit and debit card payment limit. In other words I could have thousands of dollars in my account but only have access to a small percentage of it today. There are many reasons for this, but consider that most banks don’t keep a lot of paper currency on hand to begin with. If a handful of people were allowed to empty out their accounts today, the bank would run out of cash quickly.

Over the last decade, we have seen the collapse of many banks and while things seem steady at the moment, who knows what the future will hold. In 2008, the United States suffered a financial crisis where some of the most important banks filed, or were close to filing, for bankruptcy. In a more extreme example, we can look at the great economic collapse of Argentina which occurred in 2002. Argentina witnessed a collapse that had been steadily declining since 1998 where most people lost complete control over their accounts.

I bring this up because unfortunately history repeats itself. I don’t want to sound like I’m opposing banks entirely, however I would be careful in how much of my money is saved by these institutions. Keeping some money in the bank is beneficial for investment purposes and most US banks offer insurance from the FDIC. Still, it’s important to consider what would happen in the face of another financial crisis.

I know many people who have chosen to keep cash and valuables in a safe deposit box at their bank. This can be a great idea as well, under the right circumstances. The valuables you keep at the bank are completely undisclosed, even to the bank. If anything were to be destroyed or stolen there is no chance of recovery because those items are not insured by the institution nor the government. Before experiencing a terrorist attack or natural disaster emergency, consider how accessible your money and valuables are going to be. Ask the bank what emergency operating procedures they have in place involving customers having access to their safety deposit boxes prior to and during an emergency.


Why should you keep cash at home?


These are some scenarios and reasons why you should keep at least some hard cash at home.

  1. Banks won’t give you access to your account. If there’s any bank closure or collapse, the extra cash you have on hand may be the only currency you can rely on.

  2. There is an economic collapse. If we were ever to experience a collapse like Argentina, Cyprus, and Spain did in recent years, we would be grateful to have our money at home and not at a bank. Just don’t tell anyone about it!

  3. There has been a power outage. ATMs run on electricity so unless the ATM has a power back-up, it will be impossible to withdraw money. This was the case during the Southwest Blackout of 2011 where over 5 million people were without power for over 5 hours. In large scale power outages like Hurricane Sandy, using cash might be the only way to purchase essential items. Any stores that are open after a disaster might accept cash even if they have power because their internet connection might not be working for their registers to work.

  4. Your car broke down. A large percentage of your time is spent driving, so the chances of an emergency occurring while you’re in your car is pretty big. Hide some money in your car for those unpredictable emergencies - keeping smaller bills is better.

  5. You’re evacuating and you have to take a toll road. Some toll roads don’t accept credit cards. In an emergency, it’s unlikely that they would be able to process credit cards at all.

Keeping money at home is a matter that should remain completely private within the boundaries of your home. No one, other than your spouse or a very trustworthy family member, should know how much money you have nor where you are hiding it. If you don’t want to tell anyone, then it’s a good idea to keep a letter or a note in your safe, the safe deposit box or your will for the person who is to inherit it.

I’m sure every person keeping a stash of money in their house has considered the possibility of home robberies. There are places that are known as thief-targets and places where money can go easily disguised.


Where should you store large amounts of cash?


There are several hiding spots that will be less obvious to amateur thieves. Some clever places to consider are the following:

  • A hidden safe securely bolted to the wall or in a slab.
  • In a hole in your yard. Protect your money in a double ziplock bag, then put it in a jar or tin and dig it up outside. Make it as water-tight/ waterproof as possible so it doesn’t rot due to moisture.
  • Inside a sock or an article of clothing kept in a drawer with similar items.
  • Taped in an envelope under the cat’s litter box.
  • Taped in an envelope under a low shelf in the kitchen or bathroom.
  • In a crawl space. If your house burns, the crawl space is less likely to get damaged.
  • Inside a fake outlet. Make it look believable by putting it in a location where an outlet could go. You can hide the outlet with a piece of furniture. If you can’t hide it, make it more believable by plugging something to it.
  • In your bug-out-bag. Any go-bag should be equipped with some extra cash.. a couple hundred dollars in change should be plenty in case you need to evacuate at a moment’s notice.

In any case remember that anything you read online is public to honest and dishonest people. An amateur thief will probably not consider committing the crime until almost the last minute and will break into a house, look through things quickly and flee. If that's the case, the ideas you read above might work as good hiding spots.

Other adept thieves might consider a plan A, plan B, plan C…etc when planning out their break-in. There is no particular hiding place that will cut it for a professional thief so your best bet would be to invest in a safe for your home.

No matter what place you store your money, it’s always better to disperse it in several locations.


Where should you avoid storing cash?


I read many accounts of people advising against some spots that are quick targets for thieves. Some of those places are the following:

  • In an attic. In case of a fire, the attic will be one of the first places to burn or get scorched.
  • In a mattress. Way too many people do this.
  • In the freezer. I don't know why, but thieves seem to target the fridge and not just for food.
  • Inside or behind picture frames.
  • Inside books as bookmarks.
  • Under the tile or inside walls. In order to access this money quickly, you’d have to tear parts of your house apart.

It’s terrifying to think that someone could break-in to the place you call home and rummage through your things. Make it difficult for a burglar to find your most important valuables.

When determining what the best places are to hide your money, use your best judgement and listen to your gut feelings. Don’t put all your money in the same location. It’s wise to save some money in the bank, some in a safe at home, invest some the way you prefer to invest (in real estate, shares, stocks), and keep the rest hidden throughout your house.

There is no certain future for any of us, no matter what country we live in. I’d like to believe that the economy will remain stable in our future but that’s not realistic.

As preppers, we should consider all the possible scenarios that can occur during and after disasters. Let’s hope for the best but plan for the worst.


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