The End of Buying $1 Coins from the Mint to Earn Miles

Via Million Mile Secrets, the US mint deal is officially dead.

They’re no longer accepting credit or debit cards for the purchase of $1 coins, and they say it’s precisely because people were buying the coins to earn frequent flyer miles and depositing the coins in the bank to pay off those credit cards.

But they’ve known for a long time that this was going on. I first wrote about it in June 2008. In the summer of 2009, the deal exploded as the Mint lifted the per-person cap on purchases. Scott McCartney learned all about it on the first Star Mega DO and wrote a Wall Street Journal column about it. That was nearly two years ago.

After attention in the press, the Mint took some heat for letting the practice continue. And they started to scold some people for doing it in some pretty extreme ways.

By the summer of 2010, they had placed a limit of $1000 in purchases every 10 days.

But, of course, people continue to purchase what they mint continued offering to sell. Some credit card programs, like US Bank Flexperks, stopped awarding points for the purchases. And Chase closed down accounts from some very high volume purchasers. But on the whole, things were still chugging along fine, thank you very much, even a couple of years after the deal had gotten public scrutiny.

Most people I spoke to assumed the deal was long dead. After all, it has been talked about in the media and they hadn’t heard about it again! Then a week ago NPR ran a story explaining that the deal was still alive and well. And the Mint continued to get a little too much spotlight for their comfort. So they have finally ended the opportunity.

May she rest in peace.

This wasn’t the first time you could charge money to your credit card and pay if off with that money. There were savings bonds, and Visa debit cards (that you’d turn into money orders), and funding Citibank (and other) online checking accounts by credit card…. those charges counting as purchases rather than cash advances… I opened many a Citi checking account, Citi didn’t limit the amount of initial deposit, and I had a particular Visa with an $80,000 credit line.

So one more in a long string of deals has ended, but none of the other ones in the past was the last one, this probably won’t be either. And in fact it isn’t, there remain other things you can do though in general the scale is too limited to be a bonanza and broadly useful.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Yep, it was bound to happen. I want to know how they are going to promote these things in the future. I admit I took most of my coins to the bank, but I did spend a lot of them as well since it was convenient. Now it is too much of a hassle do a wire transfer or send a check. I am all for switching to the dollar coin, but don’t see it happening.

  2. Like Robert I would like to switch to dollar coin, I am sad to see this program go away as I find carrying coins to be easier then paper dollars. While I did not purchase alot of coins from he mint I did not deposit a single coin in any bank account. I guess I will depend on MBTA machines to get dollar coins.

  3. I sure hope Gary will share these other ideas as the coin idea was shared. I hope people dont start hoarding “their” good ideas especially after pimping ones like the mint.

  4. I feel like I’m the only person who is happy to see the government reduce a wasteful program. Kind of strange.

    I’ve bought coins but I never deposited any. They are useful for tips.

  5. This is the problem with inviting main stream journalists to parties. They open the can to the whole world.

  6. The Mint gone, now with the new downgrades at UA, and spimpy credit card offers, soon the US frequent flyer market is going to start looking more like europe where a 2 to 5,000 mile sign up bonus AND a huge annual fee the first year, despite huge bank profits is the norm. Welcome to the age of the consumer America.

  7. Soon enough all of these FF blogers will be out of a job, and they may have contributed to their own downfall

  8. I hate to bring the scorn that these comments might, but I think this was long overdue. It was a great way to rack up miles, but — like everything else — people couldn’t leave well enough alone. The vast majority of people over bought, then just took the coins right to their bank and deposited them, clearly abusing the intent of the program. When I see people boasting of the buying thousands and thousands of coins (without putting any into circulation), I just shake my head. That kind of unabashed greed and abuse of the system ruined it for everyone else, NOT the journalists who brought that conduct to light.
    While I never purchased coins, I definitely considered it. I intended to try to get them into circulation, per the goal of the program, though I am sure I would have deposited some, as well. Just never got around to it.
    I am VERY curious to watch how the orders for coins suddenly dry up!

  9. There will always be another deal or loophole… I just expect that big ones won’t be very widely discussed in public forums. I never did the Mint deal but the soap opera that was the (often locked) FT thread was fun to watch!

  10. I don’t see why the US Government just doesn’t allow everyone to buy $100.00 bills the same way—-it would have saved a ton of trouble. LOL

    Actually, I think, the mint shutdown this program not for the FF Miles at all because the shutdown included all CC usage, including the majority that do not earn any points, miles, cash-back, etc. People can still cart cash from the mint and use CC’s, but pay a premium for the coins (like a roll of $25.00 for $40.00, which is ridiculous).

    This shutdown obviously was for another reason. But what I find really funny is the US MINT asking for cash to send you cash 1 for 1? They are seriously joking, of course.

  11. Maybe our enlightened gov’t. will now take a page out of the Canadian playbook and stop making paper bills under $5.

  12. I don’t get how everyone is calling this the end of a “wasteful”, “taxpayer-funded” program. The US Mint will continue to make these dollar coins and try to sell them to the US public. They are mandated to continue minting them for years to come.
    All that the mint did was kill their greatest ability to sell these coins. While it is sad for those of us who were earning miles and points, it doesn’t solve the perceived wastefulness of this program.

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