Frequent Flier Miles and Dollar Coins: NPR Discovers How Many Fly Free

It’s so inevitable that when a story like this pops up, people get all peeved because they didn’t think of it first.

But you have to admit, the not-illegal although now somewhat frowned upon practice of purchasing dollar coins to earn frequent flier miles and never pay for a plane trip again is ingenious. Clever borrowers with frequent flier miles earning cards have been racking up the points buy purchasing the not-super-common $1 coins from the government, then depositing them (after Uncle Sam picks up the shipping charges) into the bank to pay the credit card bill.

While the scheme is certainly beneficial to those who engage in it- like 35-year-old Jane Liaw, who said she and her husband are traveling to Greece and Turkey this year on frequent flier miles- it has one hitch. The coins are not being put into circulation as much as the government would like due to the practice, and it’s pinged the US Mint’s radar. Mint spokesman Tom Jurkowsky complained:

“Do we feel a little bit violated? Yes, and that’s why we aggressively sought measures to eliminate what we called an abuse… It’s not illegal,” he said, “But it’s an abuse of the system. That’s not what the system was set up to do. The system was set up to promote the use of dollar coins and we are simply trying to do the right thing here.”

So… is the dollar coins for frequent flier miles scheme a clever travel hack or exploitation of the system?