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How new 'Show us your cards' rule would work at the border

US Customs would require you to declare prepaid cards' value

By Martin Merzer

The U.S. Treasury and U.S. Customs officers are still fine-tuning their new financial reporting system for U.S. and foreign travelers arriving at U.S. airports, seaport and Border Patrol stations, but here are the outlines of how it might work:

Travelers to U.S. can expect new intrusion: prepaid card check

New border-crossing rules would impose a new intrusion on those entering the U.S.: declaring the value of their prepaid cards.

  • As you prepare to enter the U.S., you will be asked, as in the past, to declare on the familiar blue-and-white Customs Declaration Form whether you are carrying more than $10,000 in "currency or monetary instruments" into the country. But now, as you make that calculation, you will have to include the value of any gift cards or other prepaid payment cards in your possession.
  • If your financial declaration arouses suspicions -- or if anything else about you arouses suspicions -- you may be asked to step aside for additional questioning.
  • As part of that additional inspection, you may be asked to present all of your credit, debit and gift/prepaid payment cards to the inspector. That inspector then will run those cards through a special scanner that can determine if the card is prepaid and may be able to determine the value originally placed on that prepaid card or still accessible with that prepaid card.
  • Federal officials say they have no interest in your credit cards or debit cards, and that you will not be asked to provide PIN codes or other access codes related to any of your cards.

If you are found to be bringing more than $10,000 in cash, checks, money orders, travelers checks and -- when the new regulations take effect -- gift or other prepaid cards, you may have some explaining to do.

Earlier story: Proposed Treasury rules take hard line against prepaid card fraud

Published: November 13, 2012

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