It’s not uncommon for loose change to fall out of a passenger’s pocket or wallet when going through airport security. Nobody likely gives much thought to what happens to any spilled change that gets left behind in airports, but the TSA knows what happens: they get to keep all of it.
“Yes, the TSA keeps all the loose change collected at security checkpoints,” confirms Kate Sullivan, Head of Experience at Secret Fares. “They can use this in any way they choose, without having to go through standard government appropriation procedures.”
This is not to say that individual TSA agents keep whatever change they find. The money instead goes to the TSA as a whole.
“In practice, this means that most change is bundled up and remitted to the central TSA finance office and used to fund various programs,” Sullivan says. Hopefully, the financial office uses this money to upgrade airport security systems, “but because there’s no appropriations procedure on left-behind cash, there’s no way to check on that.”
Some TSA groups will also occasionally put aside some of the money in a pool to use it to do something nice for the TSA agents working there, like coffee or an office party.”
The amount of loose change collected can total to nearly $1 million a year. In fact, $978,000 in loose change was gathered in 2018 alone. According to Sullivan, the yearly amount has been increasing every year since 2011, though nobody quite understands why.
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