I am vaguely aware of laws regarding cash withdrawals for Depository Institutions (think regular consumer banks) in the U.S., namely that banks can place hold on transactions over $10k for up to two weeks, and that "structuring" isn't allowed.

So a two-part question:

  1. I currently keep ~$1k in my checking account at all times and withdrawal what the IRS considers a large amount in cash (the full amount of one of my direct deposits plus distributions from investment accounts) every two weeks. I have tried both a local bank and F500 bank, but both have given me grief over this and I recently got flagged for structuring. I expect the problem to compound (bah-dum tss) in a few months as my paychecks will increase beyond the $10k number. What are tools I can use/things I can do to ensure I receive my funds in cash in a timely manner?

  2. The concept of structuring seems subjective ("the limit is 10,000...but if it's less than 10,000 it's still suspicious"). What are the actual numeric limits, if any, to transactions? Is $5k every three weeks okay? $1.5k every week? $500 everyday? Who decides what is considered structuring and what is the criteria they use? Who are the people/department/consumer protection services to contact in order to help me actually access my money?

  • 14
    why do you need cash? if you are trying to put the money into multiple banks/credit unions there can be ways to automatically move the funds. You can also have the direct deposits from your employer and your investment accounts go to virtually any financial institution. Oct 28, 2022 at 12:29
  • 54
    This feels like an XY problem - there's probably a better way to accomplish your end goal than withdrawing 10+ grand every other week. If you say what that end goal (what you want that enormous amount of cash for) is, you'll get much better help. Oct 28, 2022 at 13:28
  • 22
    I understand preferring to have physical cash on hand. What I don't understand is how you're spending $5k each week. The only thing I can think of is that you're stockpiling that cash hidden in your house.
    – Teepeemm
    Oct 28, 2022 at 15:07
  • 16
    I think this actually gets back to the XY problem. If your goal is to avoid surveillance by credit card companies, you can use cash for most transactions and write a check for larger transactions. If your goal is to move your account from one bank to another and avoid transfer fees, you need to talk to your bank about better ways to do that. If your goal is the government not tracking your illegal activity (and I doubt that's OP's goal), then this site doesn't help you do that. What it comes back to is that I can only think of one legal, valid reason to want to do this: stockpiling cash.
    – Teepeemm
    Oct 28, 2022 at 18:21
  • 21
    I agree, this is a flaming XY problem, since OP is trying to do something that is going to be problematic for other reasons, and given the cost of a blunder here, this conversation should really be had. A note that stockpiling cash is insane, due to Civil Forfeiture laws. Your biggest theft risk is actually from the police. They will just take it, not give it back, and suddenly the department will have a new police car. You will hit a wall trying to get it back because you'll need to prove a negative - that you were not using it for crime. Oct 28, 2022 at 21:26

3 Answers 3


First, clear any what just ain't so from your knowledge.

As Mark Twain was ascribed to say, "It's not what you don't know that gets you. It's what you know that just ain't so!"

Beliefs about money are formed from childhood and are very strong. This defines entire socioeconomic classes. As such, humans are at high risk for holding beliefs about money "that just ain't so".

So test every belief using standard scientific/skeptical tools, with care to avoid confirmation bias. This might inform a different approach, in which case, there you go. Make sure to include Civil Asset Forfeiture.

Then, lean in to those CTRs

Don't even give the banker time to become alarmed. Go to the banker upfront and say "hey, I'm going to be making a lot of cash moves, for reasons. I'd like to go ahead and handle any Federal paperwork now so that it's out of the way."

That is going to put you on the best footing possible to do what you're aiming to do. Presuming it is legal, of course.

  • 17
    This answer indicates op has erroneous beliefs, but then fails to spell out what those erroneous beliefs are. For a Q&A site, it would be better to spell out the erroneous beliefs, preferably with citation, even if the other answer already does.
    – Clumsy cat
    Oct 29, 2022 at 9:02
  • 1
    It makes no such indication. My advice is to question and validate every belief. It is purposefully neutral on whether any errors might exist; that's not in evidence nor is it for me to speculate. My advice is simply to be a good scientist. Edited ... slightly since 16 people seem to think I am making some sort of too-subtle insinuation. Oct 31, 2022 at 22:07

What are tools I can use/things I can do to ensure I receive my funds in cash in a timely manner?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau notes "Each bank or credit union has its own rules as to when it will let you access money after you deposit a check, but federal law establishes the maximum length of time a bank or credit union can make you wait." It seems that this maximum is actually 5 business days, rather than 14 as stated in the question, see here.

So there are no tools to ensure that one receives or otherwise has access to their money stored in U.S. consumer banks beyond the aforementioned maximum waiting period. Of course, even that is subject to normal caveats about active investigations and the like.

Who decides what is considered structuring and what is the criteria they use?

Ultimately a judge, but to not be pedantic, the Treasury Secretary at the direction of Congress. See here.

There is no objective criteria that banks must use to report structuring. For a concrete example, Bank A can file a SAR report on a customer who opens their first bank account and withdraws just $1 one time, but Bank B is under no obligation to do the same. It is a completely subjective consideration of individual banks themselves what they deem suspicious, and the criteria that banks choose to use to determine suspicion can change however they want.

Who are the people/department/consumer protection services to contact in order to help me actually access my money?

There are normal consumer protection groups, but by using consumer banks you are not lawfully entitled to have access to your money on a whim. So contacting these groups likely won't help one actually access their money, since timely access to large sums of money is antithetical to the aims and reporting requirements set forth with the Banking Security Act.

  • 3
    I've been trying to give you the benefit of the doubt. But between the wording of the original question, the comments on the now-deleted answer, and now this self-answer, it seems more and more likely that this is just a disguised rant.
    – Doug Deden
    Oct 31, 2022 at 18:43
  • @Doug Deder if you or anyone else wants to write up a better answer or give improvements to this one, I will gladly accept it. A good answer will be free from opinion and clearly and concisely answer the question with links to sources. As is, a perfectly good answer was edited to make it unusable/incorrect and then subsequently deleted. I would have preferred to use that, but the remaining two questions don't really answer the questions, whereas this one does.
    – EDS
    Oct 31, 2022 at 20:31
  • 2
    Your answer about structuring (actually, your answer generally) overlooks case law. Which is a weird and poorly documented part of law, granted, at least for those who don't have the LEXIS-NEXIS search engine. Oct 31, 2022 at 22:12
  • 1
    And keep in mind, answers which do not directly answer the question are perfectly legitimate here; an example is a Frame Challenge (search that). When someone is asking how to do something highly irregular, frame challenges are both expected and probably valid. Remember the 1st Amendment: Free press means the host makes the rules. Oct 31, 2022 at 22:17
  • @Harper-ReinstateMonica nice, can you link any examples that will help bolster or challenge the points in this answer?
    – EDS
    Oct 31, 2022 at 22:17

The weird part about structuring is if you just use deposit or withdraw the full amount you are way better of than smurfing. In a country of over 300 million people how many times do you think deposits of over 10K get made in a year? Millions upon millions of times.

So even if the US government could create a national database where they house all of these millions upon million of records how are they going to process this vast amounts of data into information that they can somehow use? They can't. It is not feasible for the US government to spend that immense amount of man power into a project like that.

What the obligation to report actually aims to do is to give the impression that the report to the government is going to incriminate you in some way. This then convinces some to do smurfing, which is the actuall suspicious way people get caught.

So deposit 20K, 50K or 70K. Sure a report will get made, but that report is nothing more than meaningless red tape.

  • 8
    Have you ever heard of computers? Millions and millions of records are trivial and have been for decades, and either you can do human-driven queries looking for suspect entries or you can train an AI to pick up on fraud. (And no, it doesn't matter if the AI is correctly trained...)
    – prosfilaes
    Oct 30, 2022 at 17:55

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