You can go months these days without using cash, thanks to the ease of credit and debit cards. But there are occasions where you’ll still need old-fashioned bills in hand to pay for items. You likely already know that you can’t just pull up to the ATM and take out a large sum of money at once, but what about walking into the bank and interacting with a human teller? Although you can certainly take out more money inside the bank than you could at a machine, there are limits.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Although there is no specific limit to the amount of cash you can withdrawal when visiting a bank teller, the bank only has so much money in its vault. Additionally, any transactions over $10,000 are reported to the government.
If you walk into the bank and ask to withdraw a few thousand dollars from your account, you likely won’t have an issue. The teller may ask to see identification to ensure you’re the person listed on the account, but that is a simple security measure. If you ask for $10,000 or more, though, you’ll see enhanced precautions. The teller may call a bank manager over and ask for information such as the reason you’re withdrawing such funds.
The $10,000 limit has nothing to do with the bank’s own regulations. The Bank Secrecy Act requires financial institutions to report daily transactions on any account involving $10,000 or more. This applies whether you walk into the bank with $10,000 or you hand over a withdrawal slip requesting it. The bank will fill out a form to report the transaction to the government.
Some people assume that banks keep millions of dollars in cash in their vaults. Unfortunately, this is not the case. If you try to take out a million dollars at once, for instance, your bank will likely need to have the money shipped to its branch, which means filling out a request and waiting. If you plan to take out more than $10,000 in cash, you should contact your branch in advance to find out how much notice they’ll need.
Of course, there’s also the issue of the ATM limits. These limits can vary from one bank to another but generally, you’ll be limited to only a few hundred dollars per day at a machine. These limits go as high as $2,000 at some Citibank machines and as low as $300 with Wells Fargo. You’ll also see limits on your debit card in the low thousands of dollars, so it might be worth getting a credit card before you go on that pricy vacation.
The biggest issue with withdrawing large sums of cash is safety. Even walking from the branch to your car can be risky, since someone could be waiting in the parking lot. If the branch has a security guard, ask for an escort to your car. At the very least, tuck your cash discreetly into your purse or an inside coat pocket before walking away from the counter.
If you’re paying cash for a high-dollar item to a stranger, consider meeting the seller at your own branch. You can have the funds withdrawn and handed directly to the seller. You may also be able to find a notary who can sign off on any documents you’re signing. This is especially beneficial if you’re buying a car since you can check it out and verify that everything is OK before handing the cash over.