Huffpost Money

TSA Keeps The Spare Change You Leave Behind At Airport Security

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A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) official scans travelers at Terminal Five of John F. Kennedy Airport on December 23, 2011 in New York City.
A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) official scans travelers at Terminal Five of John F. Kennedy Airport on December 23, 2011 in New York City.

Between the strip searches and pat-downs, it's easy to lose track of your stuff when going through airport security--especially your spare change. In fact, hurried travelers left behind a total of $409,085.56 at American airports in 2010, according to Transportation Security Administration data cited by USA Today.

Where does all this money go? In most cases, the TSA keeps it and uses it to buy everything from lightbulbs to X-ray machines, according to NBC San Diego.

The most spare change was left behind at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York in 2010, where travelers lost $46,918.06, according to TSA data cited by the Dallas Morning-News.

Travelers also left behind $14,048.71 in spare change at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport: enough to buy a compact car, according to the Dallas Morning-News.

Eight percent of all spare change left behind at airports was in a foreign currency.

The amount of loose change left behind at airports has been rising. Travelers left behind $399,000 in 2009 and $364,000 in 2008, according to NBC San Diego.

Travelers at Los Angeles International Airport, Hartsfield Atlanta Airport, San Francisco International Airport, and Miami International Airport all left behind more than $15,000 in spare change in 2010, according to NBC San Diego.

TSA officials do try to give the change back to travelers when they can. A TSA official returned an envelope containing $9,500 to Carlos Palma at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport last week after Palma had dropped the envelope at airport security, according to several news outlets.

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