Americans Leave Millions at Airport Security Checkpoints: The Hidden Treasure of Unclaimed Cash

Monica Jackson
Published Jun 14, 2024

Americans Leave Millions at Airport Security Checkpoints: The Hidden Treasure of Unclaimed Cash

Every year, travelers inadvertently leave behind millions of dollars in loose change at airport security checkpoints across the United States.

In 2023 alone, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported collecting over $1 million in unclaimed money.

This accumulation of abandoned coins highlights not just a quirk of modern travel but also a growing conversation about the relevance and utility of pennies in our economy.

Don't miss: The State By State Guide To Unclaimed Assets

TSA Collections and Public Awareness

When passengers pass through security, they often forget to retrieve the small change left in bins. Pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters pile up, indicating that many travelers view these coins as negligible.

The TSA collects this money and deposits it into a special fund that contributes to aviation security initiatives, ensuring the unclaimed cash serves a beneficial purpose.

The Financial Burden of Pennies

The cost of producing pennies has been a topic of debate for years.

According to the U.S. Mint, it costs approximately 2.1 cents to produce a single penny, making it a financially inefficient coin.

This discrepancy between production cost and face value has fueled arguments for eliminating the penny.

Advocates for this change suggest that discontinuing the penny could save the government millions of dollars annually, funds that could be redirected to other public services or government benefits.

Government Benefits and Financial Implications

Eliminating the penny could have broader financial implications, including potential benefits for government budgets.

By phasing out the penny, the U.S. government could reallocate resources to essential services and benefits. For example, funds saved from penny production could enhance programs like:

The TSA's collection of unclaimed change has grown significantly over the years.

According to recent statistics, the U.S. Mint produced over 7 billion pennies in 2022.

With the production cost exceeding the coin's value, the financial loss is substantial. Furthermore, a survey by the National Association of Convenience Stores found that 55% of consumers do not use pennies regularly, and many support the idea of rounding transactions to the nearest nickel.

The Hidden Value of Unclaimed Cash

The accumulation of unclaimed change at airport security checkpoints reveals a hidden treasure trove of value.

This phenomenon underscores how small, seemingly insignificant amounts of money can add up to substantial sums over time. It also suggests that many Americans view low-denomination coins as disposable, further supporting the argument for discontinuing the penny.

The Penny Debate: Pros and Cons

Proponents of eliminating the penny argue that it would streamline cash transactions and reduce the burden on the U.S. Mint. Retailers would no longer need to handle large quantities of pennies, potentially speeding up transactions and reducing cash handling costs.

Read: 7 Places to Look for Unclaimed Cash

Additionally, rounding prices to the nearest nickel is unlikely to have a significant impact on overall pricing, given that rounding would balance out over multiple transactions.

Opponents, however, cite sentimental value and concerns about price rounding disadvantaging consumers.

They argue that eliminating the penny could lead to minor but cumulative price increases, affecting consumers, particularly those who rely on cash transactions.


The substantial amount of unclaimed change left at airport security checkpoints highlights the diminishing role of pennies in daily life.

Check this out: The Unclaimed Cash Waiting for You: How States Track Down Rightful Owners of Forgotten Funds

As the debate over the penny's future continues, the financial and practical implications become increasingly clear. Phasing out the penny could result in significant cost savings for the government and streamline currency use for consumers and businesses.

The funds saved could be redirected to enhance crucial government benefits, contributing to a more efficient and effective public service infrastructure.

As Americans increasingly leave behind small change, it prompts a reevaluation of the penny's place in modern currency.

The discussion continues, balancing tradition with practicality and financial efficiency.

The hidden treasure of unclaimed cash at airports might just be the catalyst needed to drive meaningful change in our currency system.

Related article: The Cash You Didn't Know You Had: Finding Unclaimed Assets In New Jersey

Related Articles

The State By State Guide to Unclaimed Assets...

Unclaimed assets can be a hidden treasure waiting for you. The challenge is each state in the United States operates an Unclaimed Property Program to safeguard these assets until they can be returned to their owners. ...

Do You Have Unclaimed Funds? Here's How To Find Out...

Everyone can relate to having a never-ending list of unfinished tasks. Finding out if you have unclaimed funds might be one of those things. It's a relief to learn that finding out if you have unclaimed fu...

Unclaimed Money: Here's How to Find and Reclaim What's Been Lost...

  When you think of lost money, the first thing that probably comes to mind is a treasure map and X marking the spot. Unfortunately, finding unclaimed money in real life is a bit more complicated ...

Ways You Can Use Unclaimed Funds for Personal Financial Wellness or Business Development...

Millions of dollars in unclaimed funds are held in government coffers across the US. Yet, some people remain unaware that they have money waiting for them, while others simply don...

FAQs About Unclaimed Assets and Money...

Being a savvy consumer means being in the know about unclaimed assets and money. You might have questions about how to find and access this money – but don’t worry; we’ve got you covered! Here are some FAQs about ...

The Government Urges Americans to Claim Their Money...

A couple of weeks ago, news broke about the federal government releasing information about millions of Americans who have yet to claim their stimulus checks. Most people just believed that this was a sitting adminis...