Even if you use plastic for most purchases, keeping a little cash around can pay off when your wallet’s empty and you need to fork over money for an unexpected cab fare or the babysitter. It can be especially handy if a major calamity (think hurricane, earthquake or flood) brings down credit-card terminals and ATMs, rendering your cards useless.

At the same time, you probably don’t want to keep too much money at home. It could be stolen or destroyed in a fire, and most homeowners or renters policies cover no more than $200 of lost cash. What’s more, you’ll be missing out on any interest the money could earn.

Once you’ve decided how much to hide, the next question is where? Here are four good places to stash your cash, plus four to avoid.

Best hiding places

There’s no one perfect place to hide money. Given enough time and a crowbar, an experienced thief could probably find it. Fortunately, most burglars want to get in and out quickly, so time is on your side. That’s why the most sensible hiding places make the bad guys really work for it. For example:

1. Up high. A hiding place that’s out of reach could be your best bet, according to Chris McGoey, a Los Angeles-based security expert. “Put your money in an envelope and find a place for it that requires a ladder,” McGoey says. “Burglars don’t usually show up with ladders.” That’s why some people opt for a high bookshelf or even behind a ceiling tile.

woman hiding in ceiling (Photo: Volt Collection/Shutterstock)

2. Down low. Just as burglars aren’t inclined to scale your walls, they probably won’t get on all fours and crawl across your floors, especially if there’s plenty of loot for them at eye level. So a low shelf or drawer could be practical, or if you’re really serious, McGoey suggests under a floorboard or behind a baseboard.

3. In a book. Yes, it’s the oldest trick in the, uh, book. But stowing a few bills in an inconspicuous book can be effective, and all the more so if you have a large library, says McGoey. If you want to tuck away a thick stack of bills, or would just enjoy a crafts project, you can hollow out an unwanted book to accommodate them.

hiding money on bookcase (Photo: Africa Studio/Shutterstock)

4. A home safe. You probably wouldn’t want to buy a home safe just for this purpose, but if you have other valuables or important papers you’d like to store in one, it could be a good place for your cash too. To prevent a thief from simply carting it off and opening it at his leisure, make sure your safe is well concealed and perhaps bolted down.

Worst hiding places

While there may not be an ideal hiding place for your money, there are some you should cross off the list right away. Those include:

1. In plain sight. The catch-all mug on your kitchen counter or pencil cup on your desk could be a convenient place to keep some cash — and that’s just the problem.It’s convenient for thieves, even amateur ones, and possibly too much of a temptation for you and any sticky-fingered friends or family members.

2. In your bedroom. That’s where most people keep their cash, jewelry, and other easily grabbed valuables, McGoey says, and it’s the first place many burglars head.So forget about your dresser, nightstand, bedroom closets or even under the mattress. “Burglars will flip the bed over almost every time,” he says. They may also overturn other furniture, knowing that people sometimes tape an envelope of cash underneath.

hiding cash in sock drawer (Photo: Ken Tannenbaum/Shutterstock)

3. In the fridge. Hiding cash in arefrigerator or freezer might have been cool at one time, but it’s a familiar trick to burglars. Expect them to ransack your fridge and probably dump out your cereal boxes, McGoey says. Looking on the bright side, if you’ve successfully hidden cash somewhere, you’ll have money to dine out until you restock.

4. Anywhere you’ll forget about. Crime isn’t the only thing that can separate us from our money. Our own faulty memories can do the job as well. So wherever you decide to bury your treasure, make sure you’ll remember the spot later. Consider writing a note to yourself, one that you’ll understand but a thief wouldn’t. Or tell a trusted friend or relative. Otherwise you could find yourself flipping your own mattress or dumping out all the cornflakes, wondering just where you stashed those greenbacks.

hiding money under mattress (Photo: Africa Studio/Shutterstock)

Greg Daugherty is a longtime personal-finance writer and a former senior editor of Money magazine.