TSA collects $1K-plus in loose change annually at Mitchell International

loose change at airport, keep your stuff safe, keep your belongings safeHave you left change behind while going through screening at General Mitchell International Airport (MKE)? If so, you helped the airport’s TSA staff collect an average of more than $1,760 in each of the three past years–nearly $5,300 during that time. (The biggest “contributor” nationwide was Miami International Airport, MIA). Loose change amounted to $32,590.43 in 2014.) Travelers using (Dane County’s (Wis.) Regional Airport (MSN)) left behind $368.25 in 2014.

Federal law requires the Transportation Safety Administration to report annually on the amount of money collected. Earlier this year, the TSA reported it had collected $674,841.06 nationwide during fiscal year 2014 (which ended Sept. 30, 2014).

While collections at Mitchell International haven’t followed a clear pattern–up one year, down another–nationally TSA has seen an increase in its collections. During FY 2008, TSA collected more than $383,000. The amount surpassed $600,000 in 2013. We can assume some of that is due to an increase in flying as the country came out of the Great Recession. But clearly people are leaving more change and currency at the screening stations. What’s happening here?

Contacted by email, a TSA spokesperson provided a very plausible explanation.

“Many passengers forget to take loose change out of their pockets before going through a walk-through metal detector or Advanced Imaging Technology,” she said. “To resolve an alarm at the walk-through metal detector, the passenger must empty his or her pockets before going through again. Since other items have already gone through x-ray in a bin, these small items are often placed in a bowl and screened separately. Passengers then retrieve items in the bin, but forget to check the bowl for change.”

Keep your belongings with you, and safe

How often have you used the bowls for your change, keys and other items? I have, many times. You don’t need to do that, according to the spokesperson: “To avoid leaving any personal property at the checkpoint, we recommend that passengers place as many items as possible in their carry-on bag before entering the checkpoint.” For more information, review TSA’s Dress Smart web page.

Federal law requires that any unclaimed–and, therefore, collected–money be used for “civil aviation security” at that airport. TSA’s report to Congress states that funds are also used for TSA’s Pre✓® program. The TSA spokesperson did not elaborate on what products or services have been purchased at Mitchell International.

Watches, jewelry, electronic devices, and clothing are among the many items left behind at screening stations, the spokesperson said. Those typically are held at the checkpoint in case passengers discover their loss, and return. “Remaining items are then logged and transferred to the lost and found, where passengers can retrieve them.” The most unusual item left at Mitchell International? “Dentures,” she said. More on Mitchell International’s lost and found procedures can be found here.

She recommends that travelers label their laptops and other electronic devices. Simply taping a business card to the device can help. “If we have a phone number, we will go the extra mile to call the passenger and arrange to return their property,” she said, adding that passengers should return to the checkpoint or call as soon as they realize an item is missing. Of course, always take an extra few seconds to make sure you have all your belongings before leaving security.

“A penny saved is a penny earned,” a wise person once said. As you can see, all those pennies, dimes, quarters and other currency left behind at checkpoint screening really add up. Place your change and other small items in the carry-on for screening, then ensure that you’ve grabbed all your items before leaving the area.

Have you left items or money behind at an airport? What became of it? Feel free to share your story below. And if you found value in this post, please share it with others. You may use any of the buttons below.
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Tom Fuszard
New Berlin, Wisconsin
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