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We’re Tipping the TSA One Million Dollars Per Year

We’re Tipping the TSA One Million Dollars Per Year
Jennifer Billock

Flying soon? Make sure that after you empty your pockets, you keep track of your belongings. Recent reports show that the Transportation Security Administration found nearly $1 million in loose change last year after passengers left it in the bins and bowls that run through the security machines.

Do your pockets feel a little lighter after going through security at the airport? It’s possible you left some change behind in the bins and buckets endlessly running through the machines. In 2018, the Transportation Security Administration collected nearly $1 million in loose change from security lines.

The amount collected annually has steadily been rising. In 2014, it was about $675,000; in 2015, it was $766,000; and last year, it was $ $960,105, Vox reported.

“There is no real way for TSA to know why this happens,” TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein told CNBC. “It makes sense to point to an increase in the number of travelers as one likely reason, but other than that, we have no theories.”

All that extra money people have left over the years has a destination, though. Congress passed a law in 2005 saying the TSA can spend it on a civil aviation security project of its choosing—so it all gets logged and put into a bank account. In the past, the money has been used to expand TSA Pre-Check services and to translate security signs into other languages.

The largest airports aptly tend to collect the most money each year. In 2017, JFK in New York collected $72,392. LAX pulled in $71,748, and Miami bankrolled $50,504.


[Image Source: Shutterstock]

View Comments (12)


  1. passy777


    May 30, 2019 at 2:38 am

    I think charities would benefit more from the ‘windfall’.

  2. JAGorham

    May 30, 2019 at 7:29 am

    I’ve been guilty of this, so I started bringing along a spare zip-loc bag. Before getting in the TSA line, anything that is in my pockets that needs to go out — wallet, change, cell phone — goes into the bag and into the bin or goes into my backpack. That way I don’t get absent-minded and forget something. Once on the other side, I put things back into my pockets.

  3. DCAFly

    May 30, 2019 at 8:53 am

    Passy777 has a good idea. I was thinking maybe they could use this for TSA employee morale projects/events. It’s a miserable place to work and maybe making it just a little less miserable for the TSOs would make it less miserable for the passengers (pipe dream?)

  4. Boggie Dog

    May 30, 2019 at 10:54 am

    @DCAFly TSA employee morale projects is getting a paycheck.

  5. CCB01

    June 7, 2019 at 5:07 am

    Very interesting! Thanks for posting.

  6. pmiranda

    June 7, 2019 at 6:10 am

    Anything to make TSA employees more cheerful is fine in my book. Or it could go into their federal shutdown survival fund.

  7. KaseyCoff


    June 7, 2019 at 6:20 am

    It would be a big help if the bowls and bins were not that light-gray color. Coins don’t contrast well. (As one with impaired vision, I’d go so far as to say few things contrast well with that blend-all gray color.) If the containers had white bottoms it would give people a chance to see the coins / keys at least…

  8. Grog

    June 7, 2019 at 6:27 am

    No, giving it to charities is NOT a good idea. Most of the charities that it would end up with are already choosing to pay their CEOs and senior staff hefty 6-figure sums as it is.

  9. georgiaguy08

    June 7, 2019 at 8:51 am

    For at least 15 years, I’ve used ziplock bags. Before I get to the security line, I put coins, glasses, phone, pens, etc. in the baggie. I can do that when I’m not rushed and might forget something. When I get the plastic bin, I simply drop the baggie in with the other stuff. I’m not holding up the line trying to empty my pockets. And because the baggies are clear, if an agent wants to check something, he can see everything without emptying it. On the airside I pick up the bin and go to a table or bench and retrieve everything. Again, not unnecessarily holding up the line trying to retrieve $1.37 in coins from the bin. If I’m pushed for time I can put the baggie in a pocket to sort out later at the gate or after boarding.

    If the left coins are given to charity/ies, who decides which charity? Let TSA keep it. Use it to keep expanding precheck!

  10. chiavetta

    June 7, 2019 at 9:02 am

    The TSA “screeners” are only concerned with the “security theater” of checking what’s in your bag. That’s why whenever they pull a bag, they ask, “whose bag is this?” I’ve never seen them make sure that customers retrieve their own things when they are standing around doing nothing.. pmiranda, that is a great comment!

  11. Gilthoniel4

    June 7, 2019 at 5:10 pm

    Before I even get to the security line, I take all the things from my pockets including credit cards, cash, etc and put it in an envelope in the outer pocket of my carry-on bag. Then I can easily re-assemble myself on the other side without losing anything. And I don’t have any trouble with the metal detectors. I enjoy giving to charities, but TSA isn’t one of them.

  12. Aidan

    June 16, 2019 at 5:19 pm

    I have no concerns if it all gets recorded then goes towards a staff function / coffee run. These workers could use any moral booster possible.

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