Millions of frequent flier miles awarded, courtesy of the U.S. Mint

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Through a "coins for miles" scheme that is apparently perfectly legal, several hundred travelers have been snagging free flights and hotels.

The Wall Street Journal's Scott McCartney reports on the scheme in "Miles for Nothing: How the Government Helped Frequent Fliers Make a Mint." Basically, the Mint was selling special $1 coins at face value, and included free shipping as well. At some point, the frequent flier mile junkies out there began buying the coins with credit cards that gave rewards in the form of miles for every dollar spent. Some of the folks interviewed in the story admit to bringing the still-rolled coins directly to their bank for deposit. One anonymous poster at FlyerTalk said he'd bought $800,000 worth of the coins, making deposits in amounts as big as $70,000 at a time, and piling up millions of miles in the process. All it cost the anonymous traveler was a few trips to the bank to deposit the coins.

The story warns that the Mint has since begun blocking certain customers from buying coins, and that credit-card companies can decide that the coin purchases are not eligible for miles. The coins are still for sale, however, and, as it still says on the Mint website:

"You can buy up to 500 $1 coins at face value and receive free standard shipping and handling."


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