Nearly anyone who’s been involved in the award points and miles hobby for any measurable length of time has heard about manufactured spending perfection, aka the US Mint Deal. As a brief recap, the US Mint, the government agency responsible for printing hard currency, wanted to get dollar coins back into circulation. So in 2005, the U.S. government issued the The Presidential $1 Coin Act of which:
- sold dollar coins on its website at face value without extra charges
- offered free shipping on all coin purchases
- accepted credit cards as an option for payment
With this setup the federal government had unwittingly created the perfect scenario for travel hackers. People could (and did) order thousands of coins at a time, pay with a rewards credit card, get them shipped to their front door for free, then drive them down to the bank and deposit them (and NOT actually use them).
Once the coin purchase posted on their credit card account, they paid off that charge with the coin money that they just deposited. People who had used credit cards linked with frequent flyer accounts accrued massive amounts of miles, in some cases millions, during this promotion. What’s also interesting is that returned coins piled up in bank vaults and storage warehouses around the country, and the Mint couldn’t stop printing. A 2005 law required reserve banks to keep ordering coins regardless of stockpiles, so coin inventories could not be drawn down. The U.S. Mint deal lasted from 2005 to 2011 which seemed to be the end of this amazing deal, until….
Government can be a strange place. I’ve often heard the definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Even if that definition isn’t suitable, it’s applicable here. The U.S. government created the Mint deal and it was a gong show. They didn’t get more dollar coins into circulation and ended up losing money from all of the storage costs for the returned coins. And what does Canada do? Copy the U.S. Mint deal. Amazing.
Canada’s Mint program promotion ran from 2011 to 2017, even longer than the US deal. Travel hackers had a larger advantage because many of them had heard about the US Mint offer before their own country tried essentially the same thing.
In the U.S. we have more opportunity for generating frequent flyer miles and other award points than anywhere else in the world, so it’s nice to see opportunities in other countries present themselves. The fact that the Canadian government replicated the U.S. Mint deal so soon after it collapsed is in itself priceless.
You can read more about the Canada Mint deal here.