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Keep the change! TSA gets cash bonus at airports

Harriet Baskas, Special to CNBC
Jeffrey Coolidge | Iconica | Getty Images

Although you may not intend it—and whether it's been earned or not—there's a good chance you're leaving cash tips for the Transportation Security Administration at the airport.

In their rush to get to their destinations, travelers left $638,142.64 in coins and currency in the bins and bowls at airport checkpoints in 2013, according to TSA data. That was almost $107,000 more than what passengers left behind in 2012, and more than $150,000 than 2011.

Read MoreSaving time and money at the airport

A spokesman said it appears that the growth in left behind spare change will continue, a suspicion borne out by 2014's figures: left behind change surged to nearly $675,000 last year, new TSA figures show.

So what exactly happens to all that money? According to federal law, TSA gets to keep it and spend it on anything the agency determines will help civil aviation security.

However, if you're not interested in inadvertently tipping Uncle Sam, you can empty your pockets of small change before you get to the checkpoint. The best place for it is in a pocket or pouch that fits inside a purse or carry-on.