The TSA Has $531,000 in Our Loose Change It Doesn’t Know What to Do With

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People leave tens of thousands of dollars in change at major airports every year. The TSA collects it, but hasn't spent much.

Now we know the real reason for those trays you put your stuff in at the security checkpoint at the airport: They’re coin traps.

The Transportation Security Administration says it collected $531,000 in loose change left behind at security checkpoints in the 2012 fiscal year, Travel and Leisure says. It’s sitting mostly untapped in an aviation security fund, but one proposal in Congress could put it to use.

The TSA Loose Change Act, proposed by Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., would rewrite federal law so that change left behind would automatically be transferred to nonprofits such as the USO, Bloomberg Businessweek says. They would use the money to install airport lounges for traveling military service members, their families and veterans.

Sounds great in theory. In practice, though, it may end up costing more money than is taken in. When Miller tried to pass a similar bill in 2011, the Congressional Budget Office estimated it would cost $1.2 million to collect, account for and transfer all those coins, The Washington Post says.

Regardless, this time the bill is getting support — it already passed the House and is headed to the Senate.

By the way, curious about which airports had the most money left behind? Businessweek has a list. Here are the cities where people were most forgetful:

  • Miami — $39,613.
  • Las Vegas — $26,900.
  • Chicago — $22,115.
  • Los Angeles — $21,916.
  • New York City — $21,201.
  • Dallas — $21,090.
  • San Francisco — $19,873.
  • Boston — $16,405.
  • Houston — $16,000.
  • Washington, D.C. — $16,000.

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