Gaming the frequent flier mile system via the U.S. Mint.

I love this story about collectors of frequent flier miles gaming the system. The US Mint was selling dollar coins (at face value, of course) with free shipping. So these mile collectors realized that they could charge these on their cards, get them shipped, and use the money to pay their credit card. Free miles! But this guy is the best. He claims to have bought $800,000 in frequent flier miles, and he’s got photographs of himself taking delivery of enormous sums of these coins.

Every so often these sort of incentive programs develop a loophole, and I just can’t get enough of stories of people who consequently buy hundreds of cases of yogurt or pay for nights in hotels that they don’t stay in.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

6 replies on “Gaming the frequent flier mile system via the U.S. Mint.”

  1. I got pretty geeky this past year with my frequent flier miles and visited Flier Talk a couple of times a week to stay on top of things. The result is that I now have elite status on Delta with unlimited free upgrades to first class and enough miles to take a free round trip to almost anywhere in the world. I’m a bit short for most of Asia, but I’m thinking about a trip to Africa in 2010.

    My skills with Priority Club points are still lagging, but I figure I should be able to snag at least a couple of free nights in a proper hotel with a shower before flying back from a week of camping and fishing in South Africa. I figure I could probably manage the whole trip on less than $400 of actual money.

  2. Reminds me of the time I beat Blockbuster with their holiday special to win over Netflix subscribers. For every tear off from a netflix rental, they let you rent a blackbuster movie from the store free, problem was, there was no limit. So after finals I kicked back with a stack of something like 30 rentals. They never counted on someone happening to not really throw those things away… ever. Sometimes, bad habits do pay off. :)

  3. There are lots of wealthy folks who put things on credit cards that they could just as easily write a check for b/c of frequent flier miles. I knew a guy who put his kids’ college tuition payments on his American Express card just for the miles.

  4. I’ve been hanging around FlyerTalk on and off since 2003. Definitely helpful in catching useful promos, esp. when I need just XXXX more miles to get to the next level. Folks can get a little, uh, intense, but I guess we all have our hobbies (plus, as someone who has made a mileage run, I can’t really point fingers).

    And swing for the fences, Jack, before mile inflation takes it away from you (an ugly fact in the Delta program of late, I’m afraid). A few years ago I did a trip to South Africa via India, all in business class, with mostly miles. Only regret is that I didn’t take a bigger hit at work to stay longer.

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