Monday, February 7, 2011

Top Mile Earning Opportunity Yet

Ready for the greatest mile earning opportunity EVER?  Of course you are! This costs you absolutely nothing and the only requirement is a mile-earning credit card. 

Flyertalk, remember that glorious website with all things miles related we talked about, posted a thread that once again changed how we earn miles.  Tonight we finally pulled the trigger on this so I'll report how it turned out in about a week or so. 

I know, I know, get to it already Frances!  Here goes:  did you know that there was a place where you can order money, using a credit card, that requires no credit card "fee" and the money ships for free?  And did you know that this was a government agency of all things?  Yeah, me either.  Well apparently the US Mint falls under these points!  For the past few years now, extreme mile-ists (I made up that word) discovered a program that allowed you to order coins from the US Mint, "pay" for them with a credit card (that AAdvantage card) and then turn around and deposit the coins you just bought at your bank.  The perks?  For starters, you have miles for money you never really spent.  You didn't have to pay a penny more since there are no credit card fees for buying the coins and shipping is free.  You're helping circulate the coins that the US Mint desperately wants in the public's hands. 

Seems like it's cheating the system, huh?  It is and it isn't.  The US Mint is very aware that over $1 million each year are purchased from mile-ists and yet they don't seem to mind.  (it's been going on since 2008)  I think that's because they really want the coins in circulation so they'll take that risk, hoping you only deposit half of it and then go out and spend the rest. 

Here's the full post from Flyertalk that answers just about any question you may have, including which cards consider these "cash advances" and therefore do not allow miles to be earned.  Any other questions I can hopefully answer in about a week or so once we've deposited the cash. 

What is the URL I should use to buy the coins with free shipping?

Is it possible that my order from the US Mint might be treated as a cash advance?
Absolutely not. The only way for something to be treated as a cash advance is by using a PIN code, by using a card issuer's "credit card checks", or by going to a bank and asking for a cash advance.

But the mint says (or said): "The purchase of $1 coins under the Circulating $1 Coin Direct Ship Program is a cash equivalent or cash-like transaction. Ordinarily, such purchases are not eligible for credit card rewards, cash-back, cash rebate, and similar programs."
Note that this says "cash equivalent" or "cash-like". Neither of these things are anything like a cash-advance (which incurs special interest treatment and goes against your cash advance limit).

So, will my purchase from the US Mint be treated as a cash equivalent? What would that mean?
As of now, only one card has treated the purchase as a cash equivalent. If a purchase is treated as a cash equivalent, it is the same as any other purchase (costs the same, no special interest treatment), but you would not earn miles/points. See the last question below, which will contain a list of cards currently reported to be treating the purchases in this way.

How many boxes can I order?
The Mint's limits are currently 4 boxes ($1000) every 10 days. The 4 boxes do not need to be of the same type of coin. The 10 days starts when you order the coins, not when they are shipped.

The Mint has not explained how they enforce the limit.

Is the limit per person/address/email address/account/credit card/etc?
The Mint has recently changed their terms and now the limits are per household.

What’s the process after I submit my order?
If the coins are not backordered, the order will usually hit your credit card as an authorization (but not a charge) within a day or two. Also, usually within 3 days, the Order Status will go from “Your order request is on hold” to “In process” at The Mint’s website. When the Order Status goes to “In Process”, you no longer have the option to cancel the order. At this point, it usually takes 2 or 3 days for the coins to ship but can take much longer. All orders ≥ $500 are shipped UPS next day air, unless you are shipping to a Post Office box, with the shipping charges waived.

When will my card be charged?
Your card is usually charged within a day of the coins shipping, however it can take a few days or more.

What if I’m not home to receive the package?
The coins are shipped with a signature required. In most instances, they’re shipped UPS. If you’re not home, UPS will attempt 3 deliveries before holding them at their local distribution center for 5 business days. After 5 days, they will ship them back to The Mint. After 1 delivery attempt, you can reschedule the delivery for another date or location, but UPS charges a fee for this.

What kind of package are these shipped in? How much do they weigh? It doesn’t say “The Mint” on the package does it?
$250 coins are shipped as 10 rolls of 25 coins/ea in a brick-sized box. Up to 4 of these boxes are shipped in a larger shipping box. A shipment of 1000 coins weights ~19 lbs (approx 53 coins/lb when you include the shipping materials). The shipment has a 4 character name on the return label, which is the government contractor in charge of shipping the coins. There is no indication on the outside of the box that cash is inside (tell the UPS guy you’re ordering batteries if he asks…)

As I go through the order process, it still shows a shipping charge even though I’m buying $500 or more. How can I get this waived?
On the last page of the process, the shipping charge should be $0.00, even if it shows as $4.95 on the first page. If they do charge you the $4.95, a quick call to The Mint will get it waived.

Is the backorder date accurate?
Not always. It’s usually a good indication, but the coins have a tendency to ship a few days before the original backorder date.

Why is The Mint still doing this? They have to know people are buying the coins for credit card rewards and not putting them into circulation, don't they?
The Coin Act of 2005 states that The Mint must produce a specific number of coins per year. The intent is that these will get into circulation and reduce the number of $1 bills required. Coins are much cheaper for the government because they last much longer than a bill.

What’s the best way to deposit the coins at the bank?
That’s for you to decide. Some banks will take no $1 coin deposits, while others will take deposits upwards of $50,000. Some banks require you to break open the rolls, others take them rolled, etc. There are varying policies even within different branches of the same bank. It seems like lots of people take in a few thousand at a time to avoid becoming high on the radar of any bank, but others make special arrangements with branch managers to bring in a dolly full of coins at once.

Do I have to unroll the coins to take them to the bank?
It all depends on your bank. Some banks take the brick-sized boxes of $250 as they are shipped from The Mint, some like the packaging material removed and $500 (20 rolls) packed in a box, others want X rolls in a bag while others require you to open each roll and have X coins per bag. It is recommended that you take a small deposit (500 or 1,000) into your bank and talk with the head teller or manager to see what they’ll require or desire. The consensus has been NOT to use coin machines to count them because they have a tendency to be off and mis-count some coins. It’s much better if the bank takes The Mint’s word that there is truly 25 coins per roll.

What’s the best rate of return for buying these coins?
Again, that’s up to you. It depends on how much value you put on an airline mile, hotel point, Thank You point, etc, and how many points/dollar your card gives.

Are my rewards taxable?
You’re best getting this answer from a reputable tax professional. It’s been stated on FT that non-cash rewards (airline/hotel points, etc) are not taxable, but cash-back rewards might be because you’re buying cash (dollar coins) at a discount for resale (deposit to your account). None of the answers here are legal advice, just reiterating what’s been discussed in the thread previously.

My coins aren’t shipping after a week or two, even though they’re in-stock. What can I do?
If your Order Status still shows as "Your order request is on hold" after 10 days there is a problem with your order, you can either cancel and re-order or call the Mint and ask. Orders that are "on hold" long enough will eventually be automatically canceled by the US Mint. Reasons an order can get stuck in "on hold" for long periods include failure to process the credit card you gave them, ordering more than 1000 coins and ordering more often than every 10 days.
    If your Order Status shows as "Processing" be patient, there are no reports that orders that reached the Processing stage didn't eventually ship.
How long will this coin thing go on?
That’s a major unknown of this program because The Mint could end the dollar coin sales or free shipping at any time. The Coin Act of 2005 states that 4 presidents are to be produced per year through Reagan. This allows for the coins to be produced through 2016 (the President must be deceased for 2 years before a coin can be produced… so there could be a few more before 2016 to extend the program a bit). However, because the coins are scheduled to be produced for another 7 years, this program of obtaining them at face value might not last that long, or Congress could pass another act to repeal the 2005 act.

My bank won’t take my coin deposit. Aren’t they legally obligated to?
Banks are private institutions and aren’t required to take any deposit that they don’t want. Even though coins are legal tender for the
repayment of debt, most banks organize their credit card divisions as a separate company and your local branch is not who you owe a debt to.

What’s the trail that the coins take once I give them to my bank?
The Mint produces them and ships them to you. If you deposit them at a branch, they can try to distribute them to other customers, but this is rare in my experience. If the branches don’t distribute them, they go to the Federal Reserve (maybe at stop at the bank’s central vault first). The Federal Reserve stores them in reserves until a bank orders them. They do not go back to The Mint from The Federal Reserve.

What else can I do/buy with the coins that I cannot use my miles earning credit card for?
Use your imagination. Some things discussed are paying your local taxes (again, they're a debt and the coins are legal tender), buying money orders at the USPS or Wal-Mart (they aren't required to take them, though), tips, gifts, street vendors, and more!

Which cards do not accumulate miles/points for the dollar coin purchases?
Both US Bank’s Flexperks card and Comerican Bank (Elan Credit) have been reported as not earning points for Mint purchases. If you encounter others, please send a private message to iahtraveler so that this list can be updated. Please DO NOT post which cards still accumulate points/miles in the open coin thread.

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