How much pocket money do you need to bring to the US? The reason why I am asking this question is that I am traveling again this Christmas and the immigration official’s favorite question when I enter the US is “how much money (or cash) are you bringing?” “How much cash do you have?” Or variations of that same question.
I heard people saying that they only had $100 pocket money when they first entered the US years ago.
I knew of many people then who didn’t have any money but were sponsored by their relatives so they could taste the American life for a few weeks or months. It was common to borrow a few hundred bucks to show the immigration officer. One of our staff borrowed $400 from me when she traveled to the US twenty years ago. Her sister in New York would provide for her expenses but she only needed the $400 as show money.
Filipinos can travel to the US with no money because they stay with their friends and relatives. Sometimes, their siblings even provide them with pocket money.
I first visited the United States when Oyen was one year old. That was three decades ago. That time, for all intents and purposes, I could vacation in the US without the need to bring wads of cash. My father would pick me up from the airport. I was going to stay at my brother’s house. My father would provide for my food. It was understood that my brother would bring me around. Freeboard and lodging, free sightseeing. I think I had $250 pocket money intended for some pasalubong and souvenirs.
My papa was expecting that I would stay for at least one month but I got so bored that I wanted to go home after just one week. My father just said I traveled so far away and yet I would only stay for a week. I think I stayed for another week.
I was able to buy quite a lot with my $250. A refrigerator magnet, 3 for $10 t-shirts, some plastic toys for my daughter, cotton diapers, Oyen’s clothes, children’s books, milk bottles, disposable diapers Huggies, etc. Not to forget the $.99 towels, bath mats, kisses chocolates, M&Ms, baby’s hoodie bath blankets, $7.99 Queen bed sheet set, and a comforter — $9.99. I also bought Max Factor lipstick, mascara, blush-on, lash curlers, Goody hair clips, hair curlers, — all for $15 from the neighborhood supermarket. Of course, I didn’t forget the toothpaste, Revlon shampoo, corned beef, Dove soaps, Tone soaps, and fresh grapes. $250, thirty years ago, could go a long way.
Then came the $500 standard pocket money to buy more towels, more chocolates, bigger toys, more make-up. My fascination with toilet papers also started. A visit to Disneyland pulled expenses up.
Still the same setup—- Every time we visited, we stayed with my parents and sibling/s, freeboard, and lodging. Complimentary use of their vehicles with free gas.
As the years went by, the amount of money I brought increased. More shopping— more children’s clothes because I now have two, black leather shoes from Payless for my two students, socks, bigger comforters, bed sheets, blankets, more shampoos, etc.
$1,000 pocket money soon became the norm. Then $1,500, then $2,000. When Oyen started college, visiting her would need at least $2,000 cash. New York is New York. More things to buy, more things to see, more restaurants to eat in. No more diapers and plastic toys but they were replaced with school stuff. Even with credit cards, I still needed some cash.
Technically, if you have $9,999.95 in your belongings when you enter the US, you don’t have to declare it and it should be fine. But NO. If you have a third of that, they interrogate you and suspect that you are keeping some cash somewhere in your bag, shoes, luggage, balikbayan box.
With a big family in the US, a family reunion to host, $2,000 only brings me to Costco. How about the make-up, perfumes, toiletries, dresses, shoes, bags? Inflation has overtaken my budget. A trip to the premium outlet makes my pocket money disappear sooner than my husband finds the parking.
If you have very little cash with you, the US might ask how you can afford to have a one month vacation with a thousand dollars in your wallet? If you bring $3,500 they ask why you are bringing so much cash, what are you going to do with your money, how long are you staying in the US? If you have $5,000 they will suspect you have more somewhere in your pockets.
I think the US government should adjust its threshold in keeping up with inflation and change of people’s spending habits and travel lifestyles.