How Much Cash Should I Have In My Wallet

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Last Updated on October 23, 2022 by Chris Panteli

How Much Cash Should I Have In My Wallet

These days you can make payments using a variety of methods. You can use a debit or credit card, an app, or even use your cell phone!

Cash is still an important method of paying for stuff. In fact, using cash as a payment method is the 3rd most popular payment method. Only credit and debit cards were used more than cash in 2020.

Carrying cash is still necessary even in the 21st century! This begs the question – how much cash should I have in my wallet? Let’s find out.

How Much Cash Should I Have in My Wallet

Growing up my dad shared many pearls of wisdom. One of them was that you should always carry some cash on you. You never know when you might need it!

How much cash should I have in my wallet?

There is no set amount you should carry. Everyone has different needs which means the amount of cash you should carry will vary from someone else.

It also largely depends on what you are doing that day.

First, carrying at least $20 is smart. If you need to pay a toll or you go to a cash-only store, then you at least have enough cash on you to pay for small stuff.

If you can afford it, carrying between $100 – $300 is recommended. That’s because this amount of cash should cover most expenses on a typical day.

Food, gas, and other items for a normal day wouldn’t usually be more than this. Having enough cash to cover an entire day’s expenses is a great idea. Especially if vendors can’t use cards that day due to technical reasons!

Is There a Perfect Amount of Cash To Carry?

Is There a Perfect Amount of Cash To Carry?

Work out how much you spend on an average day and that’s roughly the amount of cash you should carry. That way if your cards aren’t accepted or you lose them you can still cover your daily expenses.

However much cash you carry, there is no point carrying a big stack of dollar bills. You won’t be buying much for a dollar these days!

Instead carry a mix of 1s, 5s, 10s, and 20s. That way you don’t have to break big bills or count out lots of singles!

What About Your Cards?

Paying with a credit or debit card is the most common method of payment used in the US. That means apart from the cash you always need to carry cards as well.

You should always carry your main debit card and one credit card. If you have multiple accounts you could rotate which cards you carry and leave the others at home.

How To Carry Cash and Cards the Right Way

Carrying big bundles of cash and multiple cards can be bulky in your wallet or pockets. Try to make sure cash is kept to a minimum by using 20s and 10s more than 1s.

Don’t carry every card you have at once if you don’t need to. Just take the cards with you that you expect to use.

Another tip is to get a money clip for your cash. That way you don’t have to worry about an overflowing wallet!

The Difference Between Minimalist and Regular Wallets

Minimalist wallets are specially designed to fit snugly in front or back pockets. Regular wallets are usually too bulky to fit comfortably in the front pocket of a pair of jeans.

How Much Cash Should I Have In My WalletHow Much Cash Should I Have In My Wallet

If you use a mobile wallet app like Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Samsung Pay, then carrying a physical card isn’t a necessity. This means you could use a minimalist wallet carrying one plastic card at a time and a small amount of cash.

Not everyone is comfortable using a digital wallet. That means you might need to carry numerous items. Perhaps you’ve got an American Express card, Capital One credit card, business card, social security card, gift cards, and numerous loyalty cards.

You may also carry more cash than just a single dollar bill. Using a regular wallet will be required if you do need to carry this much!

Why You Should Always Have at Least $20 Dollars on You

Why You Should Always Have at Least $20 Dollars on You

$20 is not a large amount of money. Yet always having at least $20 on you could save you in an emergency.

During the day you may want to buy lunch, a coffee, or a snack. You run to the local store, but they can’t accept cards right now! The machine may not be working or they are a cash-only business.

Thankfully as you’ve got your trusty $20 ready for just such an emergency you can still make your purchase.

After finishing work you can hop in the car and be home in no time. What if your car needs gas? Possibly your car breaks down and you need to use public transit to get home.

These are both situations where cash can save you. Even as little as $20 can be enough to get you home or buy a can of gas.

Another reason to carry $20 is for tipping. Receiving excellent service when eating out is usually rewarded with a tip for the wait staff. You may want to pay the bill on a card but leave a cash tip. 

That’s because servers often prefer cash as they get the money that night. Some restaurants also keep a portion of tips paid by card. Paying a cash tip means your server gets the full amount.

These aren’t the only situations when cash may come in handy. Hopefully, you get the idea as to why carrying even as little as $20 is recommended.

How Much Cash Do Most People Carry?

Recent surveys show almost 50% of people carry about $40 or less in cash. That’s enough to cover small emergencies like lunch or gas.

Consider carrying more if you are worried about needing to make a bigger purchase.

How Much Cash Can You Carry Legally?

There are no laws dictating how much cash you can legally carry when in the United States. You could carry around $1,000,000 if you wanted to!

Like all things though you do need to be aware of something else. Civil forfeiture laws allow law enforcement agencies to seize your stuff including cash. 

Even if you can prove the cash is legit, it can still be seized!

You would then need to fight to get the money back. This will incur legal fees and there is no guarantee of success.

For this reason, it’s best to never carry large amounts of cash. Even if you’ve got a good reason you could lose the money forever!

When traveling from or to the US, you can carry any amount of money. However, if it’s over $10,000 you must complete the right customs forms. Failure to do so could result in the money being seized!

How Much Cash Should You Carry When Traveling?

How Much Cash Should You Carry When Traveling?

Most places accept credit or debit cards. This means no matter where you go you should be able to pay.

When you are away from home if you lose your cards or they stop working for any reason, then the cash will come to the rescue!

Carrying at least $100 a day should be enough to cover expenses. Make sure you hide that cash! If you are in a tourist spot, you could be a target for thieves. Use a decoy wallet or split your cash between pockets. That way if you are pickpocketed, they won’t get everything!

Identity theft is not a joke and can happen anywhere. Tourists are especially vulnerable to unscrupulous people attempting to steal their data. Paying with cash reduces the risk of someone stealing your credit or debit card information.

You may have identity theft protection to recover any losses, but it can still be a traumatic experience dealing with financial loss. Fraudsters don’t need much personal information to hack into your savings account, checking account, or bank account.

If they get access to your social security number as well, then you could be in serious trouble. All your savings accounts could be drained before you even realize it.

Paying with cash is one way to keep those card details safe!

Should You Keep Money in Your Home?

Keeping money at home may not seem necessary. However, a lot depends on where you live. If you live in an area prone to severe storms, hurricanes, or other natural disasters, cash could be vital.

When serious emergencies strike like a hurricane or flood. It means no electricity, no electricity means no card payments. If you have cash, then you can still buy essentials like food or water until aid arrives.

No matter where you live, keep some cash at home just in case. Make sure not to tell anyone and don’t leave it in the open. Keeping the cash in a hidden lockbox or safe is advisable.

How Much Cash Can You Keep at Home Legally in the US?

How Much Cash Can You Keep at Home Legally in the US?

At home, you can keep as much cash as you like. There are no limits!

You need to remember if you received the cash for goods or services that it’s declared to the IRS. Taxes must be paid.

Another consideration when deciding how much cash to keep at home is the risk of civil forfeiture, a robbery, or a fire.

If for any reason law enforcement officials search your home and find cash, it can be seized. You can try to recover the cash, but even if you prove it was legally obtained the cash may not be returned to you.

A fire or robbery could strike at any moment too. Keeping your cash in a fireproof safe or lockbox can save it from becoming a pile of ashes. A determined robber will likely find a way to steal the money though.

These are all things you should think about when deciding how much cash to keep at home. Putting $100,000 under the mattress is probably not a good idea! However, keeping $1000 in a safe place for emergencies is ideal.

What Are Your Daily Cash Expenses?

If you’re unsure how much cash you spend in a day, then track your spending for a month. Keep all your receipts for every purchase. At the end of the month, you can look through this to add up how much you spend.

Once you know how much cash you spend daily, you can include this in your budget and make sure you always have that amount in your wallet.

Is It Safe To Carry Cash?

Safety concerns often mean choosing to carry as little cash as possible. Carrying large amounts of cash could attract unwanted attention if people notice. You are especially at risk in areas where thieves commonly operate such as tourist areas or shopping malls.

When carrying cash make sure not to count it publicly or otherwise show the cash when you don’t have to.

If you are carrying a couple hundred dollars or more, then spread the cash around different pockets. That way if you are robbed less of the cash will be stolen.

One trick is to carry a decoy wallet containing a small amount. If challenged you could hand this over and protect the rest of your cash.

Is It Better To Pay With Cash or Credit Card?

Is It Better To Pay With Cash or Credit Card?

Paying with a credit card comes with many benefits. They are quick and convenient to use. A credit card is easy to carry. Plus, many credit cards give rewards when used. 

Many offer introductory offers such as a balance transfer. You can use this to put the debt from one credit card onto another reducing the interest rate applicable.

Using a credit card also helps build a credit score. Keep in mind though that going over your limit or not paying on time can lead to a bad credit score. If you get a bad credit score your ability to get future credit is reduced.

Cash can be great for small purchases or when you are trying to limit spending. If you are trying to reduce debt, then paying with cash is preferable to a credit card.

Ultimately, convenience means that paying with a credit card is better. If you can pay your bill in full every month and avoid interest fees even better!

4 Tips For Carrying a Large Amount of Cash

Carrying a large amount of cash may be necessary for lots of reasons. Here are some top tips on what to do when carrying large amounts of cash.

Hide Your Wallet

Keep your wallet or money clip as hidden as possible. Depending on what you are wearing, use an inside pocket if possible. That way it’s harder for pickpockets to steal or other thieves to find.

Carry a Decoy Wallet

Carrying a decoy wallet containing a small amount of cash and fake cards can save your real wallet from getting stolen.

Decoy Wallet - What it Is, How to Make One, and How to Use It

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Divide Your Cash

Split your cash between pockets, bags, or even shoes! That way if one bundle is taken the rest should be safe.

Trim Your Wallet

If your wallet is packed with cash, cards, and other items, then there will be a noticeable bulge! 

Pickpockets and other professional thieves will notice and you are now a target. Keep your wallet light by only carrying what is necessary. If you need to carry large amounts of cash, then spreading it between pockets means it shouldn’t be noticeable!


Should I carry at least $100?

Carrying $100 in cash is about right if you want to be sure of having enough in an emergency. Most people wouldn’t spend this amount of cash a day unless an emergency happens. 

Needing to get home or an unexpected expense means having $100 in cash on hand can be a lifesaver!

How much cash should I carry?

The choice is yours as everyone has different situations. Carrying at least $20 is best to cover small spending. Ideally $100 up to $300 is ideal to be prepared for all possible emergencies.

Track your spending for a month to get a better idea of how much cash you need to carry.

Is carrying cash a good idea?

There are some stores that are cash only. Other times cash may be needed is when tipping, if severe weather has knocked the power out, or when trying to reduce credit card debt.

In these situations and others, cash is still king.

How do digital wallets work?

Making a payment using a digital wallet such as Apple Wallet is increasingly popular. It works as a wire transfer and funds are transferred from your account to the retailer. The cardholder can add a card to the wallet. The best credit cards, rewards cards, and debit cards can be added.

At the payment terminal, you can use your device to make a contactless payment. Just use Touch ID on your device to authorize the transaction and it’s done in a few seconds! Paying this way is a great way of saving time at checkout. No need to count cash or enter PIN numbers!

How Much Cash Should I Have In My Wallet

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