Use Dollar Coins to Get Free Airline Tickets!

Use Dollar Coins to Get Free Airline Tickets!

Written by Mark

Topics: Uncategorized

I wrote this post because this past week an incredible number of people have asked how this works.

Getting Plane Tickets for Free?!!!

Yep, that’s right plane tickets for free.  Here is how.  The US Mint runs a dollar coin circulation program.  A single dollar bill will remain in circulation for months, while a dollar coin can remain in circulation for decades.  You can order boxes in denominations of $250 with free shipping.  How can the US Mint afford to ship these heavy coins for free?!!  According to coinflation, Dollar coins have a metal melt value of 6.59 cents.  And they “sell” them for $1!  They are not losing money.

Below (in simplest form), are the steps to get free airline tickets:

Before attempting any of this, you need to choose a credit card that offers airline rewards miles.  I use the Chase Visa United Mileage Plus Credit Card.  Two major factors are which credit card and which airline carrier.  Why United?  I am from Chicago.  United Airlines is headquartered in Chicago and has it’s largest hub there.  You can use miles to purchase flights on airlines in the Star Alliance network which includes US Airways and Continental.  The hub for a particular airline is a large factor in deciding which airline to go with because this will in large part determine the availability of flights with your airline miles. 

Research which airline best serves your city.  A few are listed below.

United Airlines Hubs: (Star Alliance)

  • Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Tokyo, & Denver

American Airlines Hubs: (OneWorld Alliance)

  • Dallas/Fort Worth, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago

Delta Airlines: (Sky Team Alliance)

  • Atlanta, New York, Detroit, Amsterdam, Paris, Memphis, Tokyo, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Cincinnati

Each airline will have numerous credit card rewards programs.  There are many websites dedicated specifically to the differences between each card.  Pick an airline, and then research the card options.

For United I went with the Chase Visa United Mileage Plus Credit Card.  Just for signing up for the card you will receive 30,000 miles once you spend $250 on the card. (One box of dollar coins!)  25,000 miles is equivalent to one free flight, so you will get a free airline ticket just for signing up for the card, and still have 5,000 miles leftover.  Additionally you get 15,000 miles for each friend you refer (up to two).  I have referred two of my friends already and received 30,000 more miles.  This is worth another free flight!  Note, I have already maxed out my referrals, but I know people who have the card and would love to get the referral miles.  If you are interested in this card and willing to let them “refer” you, please contact me. 

Now, on to the dollar coins

When you purchase $250 (or any quantity of coins) it will show a $4.95 shipping fee.  This will disappear once you checkout.   Once you receive the dollar coins, deposit them and pay off your credit card.

***Note: If you have a chase credit card, and have a chase bank account where you deposit your dollar coins, you will not get credit for the miles.  I suggest opening up a “dump account” at another banking institution and use that to pay off your credit card.  There has also been trouble reported with people who have bank accounts at US Bank with them not receiving airline mileage credit.  Also, Bank of America has a policy where they do not count coins at bank branches anymore.  They send out coins once a week to an offsite facility to be counted.  This can be incredibly annoying for a few reasons.  First, they make you unwrap each roll of dollar coins!  If you do this in quantity this can take a while.  Since they ship them out once a week, they can take a long time to actually clear and show up as a deposit in your account.

Once your miles show up, you can now start planning your vacation J Woo hoo! Free airline flights make a vacation that much sweeter!

Disclaimer:  The coins are HEAVY.  $2500 is 42 pounds.  Assuming you referred two friends and got the 30,000 mile signup bonus, you’ll have 60,000 miles.  To get 3 free flights you’ll need 15,000 more miles.  This would weigh 252 pounds.  If you don’t refer anyone, you’ll have 30,000 miles.  Still good for a free flight with some change leftover.  However, to get 3 free flights you’ll need 45,000 miles.  $45,000 in dollar coins weighs 756 pounds.  (This assumes zero expenditures on anything else). 

You can still use your card for everyday purchases like food and gas.  If you can pay your rent by credit card this is also an added plus.  Is this worth it?  That is up to you.  There were times when it was so unbelievably annoying that I thought I’d vomit at the sight of another dollar coin!  However, being able to fly to Vancouver,   Los Angeles, Akron/Canton (small airport and expensive flight), and Austin for FREE has made it worthwhile. 

My mileage history not including miles earned from card purchases:

Hope this answers all the questions regarding the process.  If there’s anything else send me an email or ask in the comment section below.  Enjoy the free flights!!!! :)

Photo from flickr

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24 Comments Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. T-roy says:

    I read about this last year and heard the credit-card companies and the US Mint were making rules to not allow people to do this. From what I read if you do this with any large amount it gets reported and you get flagged. So trying to rack up 50,000 miles was going to red flag you BIG time. I was wanting to try it myself but from all that i read those days are over as they have implemented tags for purchases (food, travel exc) and purchasing money will flag you as not being able to redeem for miles on your credit card, as in “they know what you are trying to do.”

    So I guess my question is this: How much did you actually purchase in coins, deposit in the bank and get back on actual miles? Your list above only shows referrals and opening new FF cards but nothing about the coins. I have a Chase card through Continental Airlines… so would be down with trying it, if it actually still works. I am 30,000 miles short for an Around-the-World ticket and even though I can buy the last 30k miles for $1,000 USD or fly that many to get it, I’m down if i get it for a lot less.

    Let us know please!

    • Mark says:

      Troy, the purpose of the US Mint program is circulation. The Presidential $1 Coin Program was an act of congress directing the US Mint to produce dollar coins with each president’s portrait. The Native American $1 Coin Act states that 20% of all dollar coins minted during the presidential dollar coin run needs to be the new 2010 Sacagawea design. The dollar coin has gained little acceptance in circulation leaving a huge surplus of dollar coins on the mints hands. Besides a surplus of dollar coins, the benefits of dollar coins over dollar bills still make the circulation program attractive to the US Mint.

      I suggest starting with a small amount. Get one box ($250), or more (whatever you feel comfortable with) and go from there. See how your bank reacts with the small amount. You can even go to a branch you normally don’t go to. The credit card you have is Chase, so if your regular bank account is Chase, I would suggest openening up a an account at a different bank if you want this to work. Also, you can use the dollar coins for transactions you would regularly make with cash. Since you “purchased” the cash with a credit card, you are now getting airline miles for cash transactions. Since you already have a mileage card, worst comes to worst you do not get the miles. You’ll be even on your cash transcation. It’s worth it to try.

    • J says:

      T-roy is correct. Something like this appeared last year and once the Card companies caught on they put a stop to it. In fact, I’d be very careful, especially if you haven’t read the entire terms and conditions with your credit card, as they could treat these “purchases” as cash advances which usually incur an automatic fee and no grace period on interest.

      • J says:

        I forgot to add, many card companies treat “purchases” form online gambling sites as cash advances too.

      • Mark says:

        “Card companies” is an extreme generalization. There are many of them and there hasn’t been a blanket stop of the program because this US Mint program still accomplishes its goal. That is the circulation of dollar coins. As for terms and conditions, I am unaware of any card that mentions purchases of dollar coins from the US Mint. You are right however in that most terms and conditions state they are subject to change.

  2. Joel Runyon says:

    Sweet. Gonna have to think about this one.

    Question: where do you find the referral bonus?

    • Mark says:

      Joel, the phone number I used for the referral does not seem to be working. I will research that for you. Also note when you call the referral number the person referring you must have your mileage plus number.

  3. Alvin says:

    Or you could just work a little and just buy the tickets.

    • Mark says:

      Alvin, many of us work a little (or a lot) and still are unable to afford airline tickets or with their current income levels feel it would be irresponsible to spend their money on airline tickets. This system offers a way to get free airline tickets to those that feel this is worth it. And this is definitely a little work. Besides the reasearch involved this requires some heavy lifting.

      • Brad says:

        Haha, “heavy lifting”! You are TI, Mark! Seriously, though, this is a very interesting post. Are you aware of any other types of no-lose transactions that can rack up credit card miles like this?

        I remember awhile ago I read that deposits made on online gambling accounts with a credit card would earn you miles, even if you withdraw the money back into your bank account immediately without placing any wagers. Definitely an interesting topic to research.

  4. Paul Anderson says:

    I get coins from the US Mint’s Direct Ship program, but I (gasp) spend them! This is the purpose of the program–to get dollar coins to circulate since not all banks stock them. Using them to get airline miles on your credit card is not really fair.

    From the Mint’s web site:

    The intended purpose of the Circulating $1 Coin Direct Ship program is to make $1 coins readily available to the public, at no additional cost, so they can be easily introduced into circulation—particularly by using them for retail transactions, vending, and mass transit. Increased circulation of $1 coins saves the Nation money. 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.

    There is a 4-box $1 coin limit for every 10-day period on any and all $1 coin orders.

    • Mark says:

      Paul, I have spent countless dollar coins. I would be interested to hear your experience with spending them. Some people love them and some people HATE them. I felt they were a good judge of character. You could tell how happy someone was in life (or how unhappy), and how high strung, stressed, mean/nice, etc. someone was. Most of the time people aren’t used to seeing them used in everyday transactions. I have countless stories that stemmed from using dollar coins in cash transactions. I’d really be interested to hear some of yours. Thanks for dropping by.

  5. Hackman says:

    Man, you have opened the box and are sitting on it.

  6. Mark,

    Good to see this whole thing. Okay I read this last week and have been researching and thinking about this. Here is the thing. I wanted to respond to a few other comments and then ask a few questions.

    Response – the coins are getting into circulation faster through me handing them to the bank then they are the regular way aren’t they. They are still in circulation just in a round about way. I am not sure that the argument holds much weight but appreciate the interaction to assure we are staying ethical.

    Question – I am currently not holding any crazy benefit cards. Which is the best to go with? can you provide the link. You can email it to me if you like.

    I like the idea. I am definitely someone who would benefit from this because I am not able to save money for flights on a regular basis. Thanks for this. Not sure if I will do it or not but still looking into it. Thanks for the post. Well Done!

    • Mark says:

      Tim, agree with your circulation theory. Plus, since they’ll be around your house, you’ll naturally spend them on cash transactions.

      Do to your geographical location, the United card that I use would be good. You rack up and can use miles for United, US Airways, Continental, and Star Alliance members. There are a million diffent rewards cards out there. I cannot say which is the best, but I can tell you what’s worked for me.

      Here a link to the United Airlines Mileage Plus Visa,6867,3865,00.html?jumpLink=%2FMP%2Fmileageplusvisa

      I have the Mileage Plus Signature Visa. It seems some things have changed since I signed up. You get 25,000 miles for signing up (which is good for one free flight), and 5,000 miles for each referral. Not sure if there is a limit to the referrals. There is a $60 annual fee for this card. At worst you are getting a free airline ticket for $60, if you only keep the card for a year.

      The Mileage Plus Select Visa looks attractive because you get 30,000 miles, 5,000 anniversary miles every year, $50 united travel voucher, triple miles on united purchases, and double miles on eligible purchases. However, this has a $95 annual fee.

      Also, the US Mint has recently implemented curbs on how many dollar coins you can purchase at one time.

      “There is a 4-box $1 coin limit for every 10-day period on any and all $1 coin orders.”

      You can only order $1000 every 10 days. However, this will lighten the load on your lower back from carrying them.

      Hope this helps Tim!

  7. Thanks so much. I think this is cool. Either way it is a huge advantage to have a miles card. I do have a question though.

    I have noticed that all over the place they say “Earn one mile for every eligible $1 spent” – My question is this, what do they mean by eligible dollar?

    Thanks for you interaction on all this. Is this all stuff covered in Chris Guillebeau’s Frequent Flyer Guide?

    • Mark says:

      Tim, I have not read Chris Guillebeau’s frequent travel guide. His free content is so invaluable that I cannot imagine how awesome the information is in that ebook. Here is the link for that here:×5/travel-ninja/

      As for eligible dollars spent with the card, this is what is described verbatim:


      You will earn 1 mile for each $1 of net purchases. There is no maximum number of miles that you can accumulate in the program. You do not earn miles on balance transfers, cash advances, cash-like charges such as travelers checks, foreign currency, and money orders, any checks that are used to access your account, overdraft advances, interest, unauthorized or fraudulent charges, or fees of any kind, including fees for products that protect or insure the balances of your account.”

      However, dollar coin purchases are good for airline miles :)

  8. Matt says:

    Hey Mark! Just started enjoying your site. It’s cool to hear about your experience doing this. I first heard about this in Chris Guillebeau’s Frequent Flyer Master guide and then read about Tyler Tervooren of Advanced Riskology getting $15K in coins and doing this very thing. Definitely one way to get your card membership fees back.

    • Mark says:

      Hey Matt! Just started enjoying your site also! Good connection from Srini. There are many taking advantage of this awesome opportunity. Tyler Tervooren, Chris Guillabeau, and many others that havent been mentioned. Thanks for dropping by Matt!

  9. Adsl geek says:

    Mate that is the funniest thing I have ever heard of! I could imagine all these well meaning people from the Mint being so confused about their sudden popularity..

    Surely it would have been easier to distribute to random banks?
    America, you sure do some funny things!

    • Mark says:

      It would definitely be easier and more efficient if they legislated the single dollar bill away and replaced them with dollar coins. Australian dollar, New Zealand dollar, Canadian dollar, and the Euro all have 1 dollar or 1 Euro coins and even 2 dollar and 2 Euro coins.

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