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How Much Cash Can You Withdraw From the Bank?

Published June 25, 2024
Dana George
Ben Gran

Our Banking Experts

Eric McWhinnie
Many or all of the products here are from our partners that compensate us. It’s how we make money. But our editorial integrity ensures our experts’ opinions aren’t influenced by compensation. Terms may apply to offers listed on this page. APY = Annual Percentage Yield. APYs are subject to change at any time without notice.

Generally, bank customers can take as much money out of their bank accounts as they want -- it's their money.

But there's one big rule you need to know: according to the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), bank customers are limited to a certain amount of cash withdrawals per day. And in case you try to take out more than that daily limit of cash, the bank will report your transaction to the federal government.

How much cash can you withdraw from the bank?

Under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), you are limited to $10,000 of cash withdrawals from your bank account per day. And if you want to withdraw more than that $10,000 daily cash limit, the bank will report your transaction to the federal government.

This cash withdrawal limit might sound unfair, and "mandatory federal reporting" might sound scary. But the truth is less ominous. Banks are required to keep track of suspicious cash transactions that reach (or go near) that $10,000 limit, as part of the federal government's efforts to fight money laundering, terrorism financing, and other financial crimes.

There are many legitimate, non-criminal reasons why you might need to withdraw a large amount of cash. Even if you trigger a federal report, that doesn't mean you're doing anything wrong or getting in trouble with the law.

But just to be safe, and to avoid misunderstandings with bankers or federal authorities, it's good to understand the Bank Secrecy Act, and know the rules and limits.

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What is the Bank Secrecy Act?

The Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) is intended to prevent people from using U.S. banks to launder money, finance terrorist activities, hide money from the IRS, or conduct other illegal activities. The BSA has been around since the Nixon administration, and was amended following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

The Bank Secrecy Act requires banks to file a few types of reports in special situations, called Currency Transaction Reports (CTRs) and Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs). These reports get triggered in the banking compliance process when bank customers try to withdraw large amounts of cash of $10,000 or more, or use their accounts for other actions that can be linked with money laundering and financial crime.

If you try to withdraw $10,000 of cash in one day, or if you use a course of action called "structuring" -- making multiple smaller withdrawals to stay just below that $10,000 limit -- you could get reported to the federal government.

What happens when you withdraw a lot from your bank account

Let's look at what might happen if you go over (or anywhere near) that crucial daily limit.

How a big cash withdrawal can get you reported to the federal government

Let's say you want to buy a classic car that needs work, and it costs $20,000. You don't know about the BSA, and so naively, you decide to pay cash for the car. Here's what happens next:

  1. You withdraw $20,000 of cash from your savings account to buy the car.
  2. This $20,000 cash withdrawal is above the $10,000 daily limit, so your bank automatically files a report under the BSA.
  3. Information about your large cash transaction is sent to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Unit (FinCEN) within the U.S. Treasury Department.
  4. Once the report makes its way to FinCEN, it becomes part of a centralized database.

Is it bad news to have your name and transaction data in a federal database at FinCEN? Not necessarily. If you have a legitimate purpose for the cash withdrawal, the bank (and the government) do not necessarily believe that you're doing anything illegal.

The majority of reports received from banks as part of the BSA represent legitimate bank withdrawals. What really gets attention from federal investigators -- and what can lead to criminal charges -- are suspicious patterns of withdrawals.

Don't push the limits on daily cash withdrawals

Banks are trained to not just look for one-time withdrawals of $10,000 of cash, but to look for suspicious groupings of multiple smaller withdrawals that add up to $10,000 (or near it). This is called "structuring" -- it's a sign of criminal activity, because people use it to try to get around the $10,000 daily limit for federal reporting.

For example, a person might withdraw $7,000 from one bank branch, then drive to another branch to withdraw $3,000 the same day -- for a total of $10,000 in one day. Because a total of $10,000 of cash was taken out within the same day, the bank is required to file a report.

The BSA requires banks to report any suspicious activity, and banks have seen every trick in the book. Let's say someone withdraws $9,999 of cash to stay just slightly below the $10,000 threshold -- banks will report that as suspicious activity.

If a bank customer comes into the bank branch every day or two to withdraw $2,000 of cash at a time, that could also be identified as suspicious -- and reported to the government.

How to withdraw a large amount of cash without getting in trouble

If you have a legitimate purpose for the cash withdrawal that you're able to explain to the bank, then you don't have to worry about your transactions getting reported to FinCEN. Your transaction details will end up in a federal database, but you likely won't be investigated by law enforcement.

But many people would prefer to just not be listed in a federal database at all, if possible. If you would rather avoid triggering a Bank Secrecy Act report, you should avoid withdrawing large amounts of cash. Look for other ways to move money and pay for purchases.

Here are a few options for how to avoid entanglements with Bank Secrecy Act reporting for large cash withdrawals:

  • Write an old-fashioned check for purchases over $10,000.
  • Use a credit card to charge a purchase, then pay the card off before the end of the billing cycle.
  • Arrange for a bank transfer with ACH or online bill pay. Want to buy a used car from a private party? Make arrangements to have the money transferred from your bank account to the seller.

How to handle questions from your bank

If you specifically need cash, and you have no other option but to withdraw $10,000 (or more) of cash in one day, be prepared to explain to your bank (or to investigators) how that money was used.

The easiest way to cover yourself is to document how the money is spent and save receipts when possible. The odds of being asked are negligible; as long as you're not part of a criminal gang or involved in money laundering, you're not likely to hear from federal investigators about your cash withdrawal. But being prepared can give you peace of mind.

Remember: a transaction report sent to FinCEN does not mean anyone thinks you did anything wrong. But until the government can devise a foolproof way to catch financial criminals and other bad guys, anyone who withdraws large amounts of cash should be prepared to have their transactions added to anti-money laundering databases.

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