Frequent fliers turn dollar coins into easy miles

In the why-didn’t-I-think-of-this department, The Wall Street Journal wrote earlier this week about a brilliant scam plan that hundreds of frequent fliers undertook to essentially get thousands of frequent flier miles for free. According to the article, people were using credit cards with mileage awards to purchase thousands of Native American and presidential $1 coins for face value from the U.S. Mint, then depositing the coins directly into their banks when they were delivered.

A San Diego traveler named Patricia Hansen purchased $10,000 in coins from the Mint to earn 10,000 frequent flier miles. A New Jersey man bought $15,000 dollar coins and says that he had the UPS man load them directly into his trunk. The mileage trick was made even more profitable because the Mint paid the shipping charges on the coins.

A commentor who calls himself “Mr. Pickles” over at FlyerTalk, a forum where a community of travelers share tips and tricks for racking up miles, claims to have purchased $800,000 in dollar coins before depositing them into a number of different banks. He even posted photos of the coins when they arrived.

According to the Journal article, U.S. Mint officials were alerted to the miles-for-nothing program in late August of this year when they “noticed a sharp uptick in ‘large repetitive orders’ from a group of individuals… At about the same time, the Mint received reports from banks around the country that coins were being deposited that were still in their U.S. Mint boxes,” according to Mint spokesman Tom Jurkowsky.

Said Mr. Jurkowsky, “Is this illegal? No. Is it the right thing to do? No, it’s not what the program is intended to do.”

By the way, the scheme is still being tried by a few hardy folks over at FlyerTalk. Check out FlyerTalk’s FAQ about the program– including whether you can still take advantage of it– here.

For a more conventional way to rack up miles, check out Gadling’s Guide to Mileage Running.