Free Vacations, Mr. Pickles and the U.S. Mint

People will do anything for free miles

By Chris Needham
|  Tuesday, Dec 8, 2009  |  Updated 10:16 AM EDT
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Free Vacations, Mr. Pickles and the U.S. Mint

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This could be yours, courtsey of the U.S. Mint.

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Online, there are people who will do anything for a bargain.  For "Mr. Pickles," a poster to the flyertalk.com forum, he figured out how to get the U.S. Mint to earn him hundreds of thousands of frequent flier miles, free trips, and platinum-elite status.  So says, the Wall Street Journal.

In an article on the lengths people will go to get free loot, the paper notes that hundreds of people, spurred on by that forum, discovered that purchasing commemorative $1 coins through the U.S. Mint with credit cards that pay out in mileage leads to a big bonanza of miles.

Since the Mint doesn't charge shipping for the Presidential or Native American Coin programs, a box of $500 worth of coins only costs $500.  People were buying cash with credit, depositing the cash in their bank accounts and paying off the cards, earning miles all the way.

"Mr. Pickles" claims to have cashed in over $800,000 worth of coins through the program, and that his single largest deposit was for $70,000 worth of coins.

A different person, Richard Baum of New Jersey, told the paper his strategy with the $15,000 worth of coins he bought:  "I never unrolled them.  The UPS guy put them directly in my trunk."

The Mint caught on to a few people who were abusing the program, which was intended to get the coins into circulation, not right back into the banks, unopened.  A spokesman said that they've blocked 400 people from the program.

But apparently not before "Mr. Pickles" could game the system, beating the credit card companies and the airlines.  If that's not a true American hero, nobody is.

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