Countries have checks in place to control the amount of cash that travellers can bring in, and take out, in order to prevent money being used for illegal or terrorist activities, and to stop money laundering.
That means that pretty much anywhere in the world, if you’re carrying a large amount of money, you’ll probably find that you have to declare it. You’ll be asked to explain where the cash has come from and where it's going, so border police can make sure there’s nothing to worry about.
So, whether you call it Spain, or you prefer to say España, if you’re headed there soon it’s a good idea to understand the restrictions that are in place about how much cash you can take in or out. Use this guide to help you figure out how the rules might affect you.
You can bring up to €10,000 - or the equivalent in another currency - into Spain, without needing to take any specific action. Carry in excess of that, and you have to complete a declaration when you arrive - more on that later. It doesn’t matter where you’re coming from, if you have over €10,000 with you, you’re likely to have to submit a declaration when you cross the border.
If you fail to complete the form, or give false information, you might have your money confiscated. You’ll be fined a minimum of €600, and possibly much more, depending on the circumstances. If border guards believe that there’s any criminal case to answer, you could have all the money taken from you, and face a potential criminal charge. It’s not worth the risk.
The word ‘cash’ covers more than just notes and coins. It’s used to refer to any convertible monetary instrument - that is anything you could easily turn into cash if you wanted, like a travellers cheque.
Under EU regulations, cash is usually defined for this purpose as:
- notes and coins which are in circulation currently
- bankers’ drafts or money orders
- cheques of any kind (including travellers’ cheques)
If you have any doubt about any valuable items you’re carrying, such as gold and precious metals, ask at the border for confirmation about what you should do. Although gold for example, isn’t usually covered under this legislation, it could well come under other customs rules. Check out all the relevant guidelines before you go, and ask if you’re unsure.
If you’re travelling to Spain carrying more than the equivalent of €10,000, you’ll have to complete a declaration, and hand it in upon arrival. You can do this at the port or airport you first get to, or find all the forms needed to declare the movement of cash in and out of Spain here.
All the paperwork - and the guidelines for completion - is available in Spanish only, so you might need a helpful Spanish speaking friend to help if you’re not up to translating yourself. Otherwise, ask a customs officer for advice when you arrive.
If you’re taking more than the equivalent of €10,000 out of Spain, you’ll have to fill in a declaration.
Depending on where you’re going, you might also find that there’s further paperwork to complete once you arrive at your destination, too. Under EU rules, you can take an unlimited amount of money from Spain to some other European countries, such as the UK. However, because individual member states can set their own rules, it’s important to check the details for the EU country you’re travelling to, before you set off.
Travelling with large amounts of cash is a hassle - even if you don’t hit the €10,000 limit and need to submit a declaration. It’s also simply not necessary for most travellers, because ATM coverage is so high. If you’re just taking a simple trip abroad, you can avoid unnecessary stress if you use ATMs to withdraw money when you need it in Spain.
If you’re carrying a lot of cash, security can also be an issue as you could make yourself a target for thieves. It’s especially important to be careful when you’re in a new country, and might be distracted or disoriented.
And it doesn’t stop there. If you’re carrying money to pay for your trip and need to exchange it once you get to Spain, you might struggle to find a good deal. The most convenient exchange bureaus and offices - those at the airport or your hotel, for example - offer poor exchange rates. That means that if you don’t want to waste your precious holiday time searching for a better deal, you might get ripped off when you exchange your cash to euros.
If you decide to use ATMs for your cash while you’re in Spain, a smart idea is to use TransferWise to change your money to EUR at a fair rate. If you, or someone you know, has a Spanish bank account, you could transfer your cash using the same exchange rate that banks use among themselves. It’s fast and secure - and you’ll get the best available exchange rate, no matter what currency you’re planning on exchanging. Once your cash is converted to euros, you can withdraw it from ATMs when you need it, and avoid the fees charged by exchange offices.
If you’re a regular traveller, then you could save yourself even more time and money with the TransferWise borderless multi-currency account. You can hold your cash in multiple different currencies all at once, view your account balance at a glance, and move money between currencies using TransferWise. There are no hidden fees, and you get the best available exchange rate, every time. Consumer debit cards will be available for borderless accounts from early 2018, too. Finally, your money can be as flexible as you are.
Know before you go is the mantra of savvy travellers. It’s never more important than if you’re planning on taking a large amount of cash with you. If you accidentally break the law, your cash could be confiscated, and you might be fined. That’s a pretty quick route to a ruined holiday. Luckily, there are better ways to get your money where you need it. Using TransferWise is simple, secure and could leave you better off. So all you have to do is enjoy your trip to Spain.
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