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$675,000 in spare change left behind by passengers proves penny-wise for airports

A file photo shows travelers preparing to go

A file photo shows travelers preparing to go through a security check point at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, U.S., on Friday, Nov. 20, 2009. Credit: Bloomberg / Daniel Acker

The pennies, nickels and other coins travelers left behind at airport security checkpoints in the New York City area and nationwide last year added up to more than spare change -- nearly $675,000.

Kennedy Airport, one of the nation's busiest, wound up with $42,550, the largest sum of spare change, according to the latest figures released by the Transportation Security Administration, which collected and counted the loose change.

Travelers leaving from LaGuardia Airport left behind $16,786.05 worth of coins, while those departing from Newark Liberty abandoned a total of $16,669.72, according to the annual report TSA issued to Congress on March 27.

In the past five years, passengers have abandoned a total of $2.74 million, according to the TSA. "That's a lot of money," Lisa Farbstein, a TSA spokeswoman, said Tuesday.

Where does this windfall go?

TSA gets to keep the change and spends it on security-related operations since 2005 when Congress authorized it. Before that, the unclaimed money went to Uncle Sam.

As passengers go through security checkpoints, they are asked to remove certain items -- including coats, shoes and coins -- and dump them into bins, which are passed through X-ray machines.

The No. 1 reason fliers forget to pick up their change, Farbstein said, is some containers have advertisements at the bottom. "Often times, the loose change blends in with the ads. They glance and see the advertisements," Farbstein said. "My tip is to give the bin a shake."

TSA agents make an effort to "reunite" passengers with items left at the checkpoint, she said, but aren't always successful.

The amount of spare change left behind has been growing every year since at least 2010, when the TSA collected $409,085.56.

Top 10 airports where change was left at checkpoints in fiscal year 2014

1. Kennedy Airport: $42,550.00

2. Los Angeles Airport: $41,506.64

3. San Francisco Airport: $34,889.63

4. Miami Airport: $32,590.43

5. Dallas/Fort Worth Airport: $29,684.03

6. McCarran Airport (Las Vegas): $27,676.71

7. George Bush Airport (Houston): $26,839.01

8. Washington Dulles Airport: $22,037.55

9. O'Hare Airport (Chicago): $21,068.69

10. Orlando Airport: $20,757.81

The last five fiscal years* of loose change at airport checkpoints

FY 2010: $409,085.56

FY 2011: $487,869.50

FY 2012: $531,395.22

FY 2013: $638,142.64

FY 2014: $674,841.06

*Oct. 1 to Sept. 1 of each year


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