Here's What Happens When You Withdraw a Lot of Money From Your Bank Account (2024)

Reports ultimately end up in a large database that looks for suspicious patterns.

Unless your bank has set a withdrawal limit of its own, you are free to take as much out of your bank account as you would like. It is, after all, your money. Here's the catch: If you withdraw $10,000 or more, it will trigger federal reporting requirements.

Bank Secrecy Act

The Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) establishes how banks must conduct record keeping and when financial institutions must make a report to the federal government. Although BSA was amended following the attacks of 9/11, it's been around since the Nixon administration.

The BSA is intended to make it tougher for people to use banks to launder money, finance terrorist activities, hide money from the IRS, or use funds to conduct other illegal activities.

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How it works

Let's say you have your eye on a classic car that needs work, and you withdraw $20,000 from your savings account to buy it. Your bank automatically files a report under the BSA, and that information is sent to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Unit (FinCen) within the U.S. Treasury Department.

Once the report makes its way to FinCen, it becomes part of a centralized database. No one believes you're doing anything illegal. They know that the majority of reports received represent legitimate bank withdrawals. What they're looking for are suspicious patterns of withdrawals.

Tough to get around

It's the total withdrawal that banks look at. For example, a person might withdraw $7,000 from one bank branch, then drive to another branch to withdraw $3,000 the same day. Because the funds were taken the same day, a report is triggered.

Banks have dealt with the BSA long enough to know every trick in the books. The BSA requires banks to report any suspicious activity. Let's say someone withdraws $9,999 to stay below the $10,000 threshold. Banks may report that. If someone were to come into the bank every day or two to withdraw $2,000, that could also be identified as suspicious.

How to withdraw a large sum

If you're not doing anything wrong, there's no reason to worry about a standard report winding its way to FinCen. However, if you prefer to avoid such a report, there are plenty of other ways to access your funds. Because the trigger applies to cash withdrawals, you can always:

  • 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. In the case of buying a classic car, you could have money transferred from your bank account to the seller.

Just in case

If you specifically need cash, be prepared to explain how it 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, but there's no harm in being prepared.

As mentioned, a report sent to FinCent 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, we'll all have our names added to databases.

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Here's What Happens When You Withdraw a Lot of Money From Your Bank Account (2024)
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