TSA Makes $400K Off Loose Change

San Diego fliers leave behind $5,128

Turns out those airport security checkpoints aren't just for your safety, they are also a source of funds for the Transportation Security Administration.

Travelers left behind $409,085.56 in loose change in 2010. Not only did they ditch their pennies, dimes and quarters at the checkpoints, but they also left behind foreign currency.

Nico Melendez, spokesperson for TSA, said when people go through security checkpoints they typically leave behind the change from their pockets in the plastic bins.

“TSA puts (the leftover money)in a jar at security checkpoint, at the end of each shift they take it, count it, put it in an envelope and send it to the finance office," he said.

So it's not a free-for-all for TSA officers?

Nope, said Melendez, it all goes into the general operating budget for TSA. The money typically goes toward technology, lightbulbs or just overall general expenses.

But it's not money they expect each year.

“The TSA can’t depend on that amount because we never know what it’s going to be," said Melendez.

The total numbers have been pretty consistent, although trend slightly upward. In 2008 the total was $364,000 and 2009 was $399,000 Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} .

“It is amazing,” Melendez said, “All that change, it all adds up.”

The TSA said it does everything it can to get items back to passengers, but if no one claims the money, it is used to finance operations.

Melendez said larger airports typically have more money simply because there are more people traveling through.

Here are some of the numbers for the U.S.'s biggest airports:

  1. John F. Kennedy International in New York - $46,918.06
  2. Los Angeles International - $19,110.83
  3. Hartsfield Atlanta International - $16,523.83
  4. San Francisco International - $15,908.02
  5. Miami International - $15,844.83 

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