TSA Keeps The Change – $675,000 In (Your) Coinage Last Year Alone

The TSA collects money you leave behind at airports – and can legally spend it.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration pocketed nearly $675,000 in spare change left behind at airports during the fiscal year 2014, CNBC reports.

The federal agency seems to have increasingly benefited from forgetful or lazy travelers in recent years.

The 2014 figure is up about $37,000 from the prior year – and up about $107,000 and $150,000 from 2012 and 2011, respectively.

Since 2008, unclaimed loose change has amounted to more than $3.5 million for TSA, CBS News reports.

Last year, the largest portion, $42,550, was collected at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, and the second-biggest donor was Los Angeles International Airport.

Federal law allows TSA to spend it on anything that the agency determines will help civil aviation security.

Travelers who’d rather not tip Uncle Sam, however, can stash their change in a carry-on or even a shoe before sending their belongings through security scanners. At some airports, they can also donate it to charity before reaching security checkpoints.

As Harriet Baskas reported for CNBC:

Denver International Airport started the trend in early 2013 with change collection containers placed before several checkpoints. In two years, the airport has collected over $170,000 in spare change to support homeless programs through Denver’s Road Home charity.

Last spring, Fifth Third Bank set up three “Empty Pockets, Full Plates” collection stations near checkpoint entrances at Ohio’s Port Columbus International Airport. In the first six months, the spare change raised about $1,000 to support the Mid-Ohio Food Bank.

Some international travelers have even better choices, Baskas reports:

In Sweden, travelers with spare change can donate to the Sweden Red Cross by playing video games at the airport. Custom-made consoles recently installed at Stockholm Arlanda Airport and Göteborg Landvetter Airport offer travelers the opportunity to pay classic arcade games Ms. Pac-Man, Space Invaders and Galaga, in exchange for coins in any currency.

What do you do with your spare change at airport security checkpoints? Let us know in a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More

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