Is the mint “game” worthwhile?

As many of you probably know, the US Mint lets you buy dollar coins at face value with free overnight shipping with your credit card. In other words, $1,000 in coins earns you 1,000 (or more) points on your favorite loyalty credit card. Now, the Mint used to have virtually no restrictions, so people often ordered tens of thousands of dollars worth of coins in a month. For whatever reason, I didn’t consider the offer worthwhile at the time.

Then a while back the Mint tightened the rules a bit, only allowing you to purchase $1,000 worth of coins every 10 days, unless you apply for an “exception” (which I haven’t). The funny thing is, I’ve actually gotten back into “the game” since they tightened the rules. At the same time, many would argue it’s not worthwhile anymore because of the small amounts, but I argued it wasn’t worthwhile back then (simply because dragging $5,000 worth of coins to the bank at once will “kill” the deal for many of us pretty quickly, since many banks will stop taking them after a while).

Anyway, with $1,000 worth of coins every 10 days, we’re looking at about 36 orders every year, or 36,000 miles. If you’re using the Hilton Surpass card, that’s almost Hilton Diamond status (which is earned for $40,000 in spend). If you’re using an SPG card, I would value those points at over two cents each, so you’re basically looking at an extra $800+/year in rewards. Well worth it, especially if, ahem, “spending” the coins doesn’t take you any extra time. I go to the place that I, ahem, “spend coins” anyway once or twice a week, and I’ve never had a problem bringing in a relatively small number of coins ($500-1,000) each time.

So an extra $800+/year for basically nothing is quite nice, in my book!

Comments

  1. Jon says

    I don’t really see the value in this. If you go to the bank ~75 times a year, each trip to the bank is only getting you $10.67 in free money ($800/75 = $10.67). This doesn’t include your time, gas, tolls, parking, etc.

    I would say either go big, or don’t bother.

  2. Benj says

    People who don’t see the mint game as unethical and reprobate have a seriously twisted morals.

  3. rich (arizona) says

    Reading the posts on flyer talk I often wonder about people and ethical behavior. I saw someone talking about doing a $1500 spend to get “x” miles and then canceling the card. I don’t have a problem with that but the person was going to spend it on a refundable ticket or other item and then once the miles posted and the card was canceled he (or I guess possibly she) was going to refund the product.

    Doing something like that I don’t think it proper and I would be glad to see the credit card company and airline ban the person and take away any/all FF status and miles.

    I’m curious what opinion you have on that?

    I coins kind of fall into another category since you are buying something although I haven’t done it and doubt I would.

    I guess I just see too many people thinking they deserve things for doing little or nothing in return. The whole entitlement mentality here in the US gets to me.

  4. Jordan says

    Simple answer: NO! People need to live their lives!! If you have the time to buy these coins and you visit the bank twice a week, then go for it! Going out of your way?….absolutely not!

  5. worldtraveller2 says

    “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” -T.S Eliot

  6. mrpickles says

    This is how I see it:
    People who see the mint game as unethical and reprobate have a seriously twisted morals.

  7. self-righteous-jerk says

    I churn credit cards every few years; I’m no angel. But It’s depressing that a program established to save taxpayers money (coins last longer than bills) is being exploited in this way. Taxpayers pay more for smart guys like Lucky to earn status/miles/etc. But Lucky’s not doing anything to increase the use of coins over bills.

    I know, you didn’t make the rules, it’s not your fault, if you didn’t do it, someone else would, etc. Alll true. But if there were 300 people in the U.S. rather than 300 million, we would never do this to ourselves. The guy who runs the treasury would just slap you upside the head next time he saw you, and you’d cut it out.

    And speaking of communities, would you run the same play against your local school/hospital if they offered miles for purchased cookies at some unsustainable rate?

  8. Gene says

    This scheme exceeds my pain threshold. It is much easier to churn credit cards. Of course, the Mint can help with that endeavor, so maybe ordering a very limited amount of coins is worth the trouble.

  9. Derek says

    I am with Gene, this is just too much. I got enough else going on….credit cards are easier…

  10. Lance says

    @Jason For your 3 “Authorized Users”, are you using 1 CC 3x or 3 different CCs? Also don’t all your CC’s have the same name and billing address? But you’re finding success with it?

  11. jgoldbe says

    I was about to get into this game after reading Lucky’s post. I figure with a DL AMEX I could at least get some more MQMs for hitting the next spend threshold, which would make the coins worth a whole lot in my book. However, when I read the following at the US Mint site I decided not to go for it:

    “The immediate bank deposit of $1 coins ordered through this program does not result in their introduction into circulation and, therefore, does not comply with the intended purpose of the program.”

    “By clicking “Add to Cart” I agree that I understand, and will comply with, the intended purpose of the program.”

    I really do not want to cross the US Government by agreeing to their terms and then violating them. That crosses my pain threshold right there.

  12. hobo13 says

    Back when the game was unlimited, you still could have been a modest player — no one ever said you had to order $10k per month! You could have just done smaller amounts like you do now. So it’s interesting that it took the Mint regulating the game for you to get into it. Almost like you didn’t trust yourself. Haha.

    That said, I mostly agree with Jon — ‘Go Big, or Go Home’

  13. Ybjfk says

    Imo, I find this ethically bankrupt. I cannot do this. It robs from all of us as taxpayers. It also allows cc companies to keep upping the spend to achieve bonuses.

  14. Howie says

    no the mint game is not worth it. everyone should stop.

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    then I’ll never see anything back-ordered!

  15. MS says

    This is not meant for Lucky, but for those doing massive redemptions.

    I would just feel like a douche standing in line at the bank, and lugging these bags/boxes of coins around. Do you think the teller enjoys seeing you walk in again and again?

    Isn’t it parasitic and selfish behavior to do this on the backs of taxpayers when it’s surely not the intended use of the program?

  16. Carl says

    I don’t know about unethical or rebrobate, but churning of coins for immediate bank deposit violates the terms of the program and costs the government the shipping cost of the coins, not to mention the cost of shipping the coin deposits from the banks. Let’s just call it cheating the taxpayer instead. I just love the mental gymnastics of the churners trying to justify their actions.

  17. AJ says

    I agree; I would feel highly unethical forcing the government to ship the coins (and swallow the 3% credit card fee) at taxpayer expense, violating the terms of the sale, and then making the teller count the coins one by one a few times a week just to get a few extra thousand points.

    While it’s not illegal and not objectively immoral (not every man believes that screwing over the government is a direct attack on his fellow citizens, and to a degree it is their own fault for forcing these coins to be “circulated” irrespective of demand), it just doesn’t suit my palate. I would strongly discourage you, lucky, from engaging in such opportunistic practices.

  18. Steve K says

    I was about $800 short of the minimum spend on a BA card I got just for the 75K points. I bought mint coins to make the minimum..

    It was a good plan until my wife saw the coins and decided to take $100 for stocking-stuffers.

    Still, it preserved a lot of points that I’ll probably use this year.

  19. I do not understand says

    How are you getting something for “nothing”? Do you really value your time and effort at nothing, Lucky? I thought you had a thriving business. Shouldn’t you be making money through blogging instead of this nonsense? Won’t you make more than $800 a year focusing on your blog posts?

  20. says

    @Lance – three different card numbers under three different names on the same card account all to the same billing address. No issues at all for the past 6 months.

  21. Ron says

    @self-righteous & friends: The more people take advantage, the quicker this silly program will close (assuming the government has some sense, which is questionable). The real culprit here is Congress: if only they got rid of the $1 bill, there would be demand for coins and no need for this nonsense. Now, what are the reelection prospects of a member of Congress who votes to eliminate the $1 bill?

  22. Lonetree says

    To everyone complaining about how this is hurting the taxpayer: This costs the taxpayer nothing and actually makes the U.S. Government money. Each coin costs less then a dollar to make so each one sold brings in a profit for the government. Everyone buying these is just doing their best to solve the deficit!

  23. hobo13 says

    @Lonetree — So you’re saying that this is a money making machine? Awesome!\

    Then it seems like our government should mint billions and billions of coins and sell them to the Chinese……

    oh wait.

  24. GoAmtrak says

    I think it’s completely ethical and worthwhile to take advantage of the coins ONLY IF you’re actually going to make a good-faith effort into putting them into circulation and the miles are a side benefit. I long for the day when dollar coins are more socially accepted and the dollar bill becomes history. But I don’t make enough cash purchases to even consider going through the trouble of ordering them for the miles. Most of my purchasing is on mileage-earning credit cards anyway. And I definitely will not order coins just to deposit them.

  25. Paul says

    I don’t play the “coin game” for ethical and practical reasons. I do buy coins and use them for purchases and tips under $10. Just think if every Flyertalker bought the coins and used them as I do. There would be millions of FF miles gained and millions of coins put into circulation. Many of the younger cashiers think they are cool and don’t know about the fact that the smallest euro bill is a 5 with coins used for the 1 and 2 euro.

  26. Carl says

    I’ve bought quite a few boxes of the coins. I had an offer from a credit card that I hadn’t used for a while to receive a meaningful reward if I charged $2000/month for several months. But I haven’t deposited any of them at the bank, instead I spend them.

    I hadn’t been exposed to the dollar coins before, and I have found them quite useful when traveling and also at home. They work great for tips to bellmen, valets, housekeeping staff, and at breakfast. Because they are still unusual they are somewhat memorable and as long as you are a decent tipper, you will get better service and recognition using them. They also work great for transit fares and small purchases. We’ve used them for birthday presents and stocking stuffers for nieces and nephews and our daughter – and the kids love them. And in rolls of $25 they even work for certain purchases where cash is preferred, like when my wife gets a manicure or the dog groomer.

    So I feel we contribute to the intent of the program of getting these coins into circulation, and it’s a nice little bonus to get some incentive from the credit card, and convenient to order them.

  27. yousavvy says

    I ordered a few coins from time to time, but now I only order when I can really spend some of the coins in places other than the bank. Sending the coins right back to the mint is not a fun game, for the taxpayers… I recentlety had a problem on my 1k order. It was shipped to me over the holidays and I was not home. When I went through to check on the credit on my account, the agent mentioned there was a ups charge of $41…. This must include next day shipping and insuranse… If you can’t actually circulate at least some of the order,,,, then in my book…. Maybe not worth the cost to the government…

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