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Airport checkpoints collected half a million dollars in loose change in one year

| Friday, April 12, 2013, 6:15 p.m.

WASHINGTON -- Travelers left more than $500,000 —almost all of it in loose change — at airport checkpoints last year, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Miami International Airport and O'Hare International Airport in Chicago collected the largest amounts. But even airports in smaller cities such as Pensacola, Fla., Des Moines, Iowa, and Reno, Nev., each emptied at least $1,000 from the plastic tubs passengers use prior to walking through metal detectors.

TSA's Unclaimed Money at Airports survey tracks federal fiscal years, which start Oct. 1 and end Sept. 30. The agency issued its annual survey this month amid debate over what to do with the abandoned loot.

The take for fiscal 2012 (including foreign coins) was $531,392.22, an increase of about 9 percent over fiscal 2011 ($487,869.50) and about 30 percent over fiscal 2010 ($409,085.56). The total collected over the three fiscal years was $1.43 million.

Travel experts say people leave money behind for a variety of reasons.

They might be rushing through a checkpoint or heading to a country where they may have little use for U.S. currency.

The abandoned change is spent on civil aviation security, as prescribed by Congress.

As of March 31, TSA had spent $6,539.94 of the change collected in fiscal 2012 on translating airport checkpoint signage into foreign languages and “other administrative overhead,” according to the report.

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