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Busting Cashback Tiers with Mint’s $1 Coin Direct Ship Program

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My wife’s first credit card was Blue Cash by American Express because it offered 5% cashback on many of the things she bought. For those who went as far as to read the fine print, you’ll recognize that you can earn up to 5% cashback. The card works off the tier system where you don’t get the highest 5% cashback reward rate until you’ve reached a certain amount of spending each year. For some, the tiers are trivial. For others, the tiers are onerus. Here’s a great way to bust through them and make them almost irrelevant.

Buy money.

The Mint has been trying to get people to use dollar coins for decades because it’s cheaper. Coins can last up to thirty years in circulation, bills last only a few (one of the 50 Fun Facts about Cash). You can take advantage of the Mint’s marketing push by purchasing $1 Presidential coins directly from the Mint as part of their Direct Ship program. The packages come in sets of 250 coins per President and you can buy up to 2 packages per President.

With 5 Presidents currently available (3 unavailable), you can spend $2,500 at the Mint and deposit the coins into your bank. You get free shipping too. The five that are still available at Andrew Jackson, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and George Washington. There have been other $1 Presidential coins produced but they are not participating in the Direct Ship program.

The Blue Cash card’s tier is at $6,500, but by purchasing these coins you can are really looking at a tier of $4,000. As more coins become available and included into this program, you can drop that “real” tier down lower and lower. Not bad huh?

Here is a more detailed Presidential $1 Coin FAQ, for this sort of buying, from the experts at FlyerTalk, a fantastic frequent flyer mileage program experts site.

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70 Responses to “Busting Cashback Tiers with Mint’s $1 Coin Direct Ship Program”

  1. Brandon says:

    Oh that is neat. This also seems like a good tip to do a sneaky balance transfer to a card with a lower rate without incurring a balance transfer fee. Just use the lower rate card to buy $2500 in coins, deposit the coins, and pay off higher rate card with the money deposited.

    • Nergock says:

      Or you can buy a gift certificate at Nordstorm and then turn around and cash out the gift certificate.

  2. Interesting idea, I hadn’t heard of the coin buying program before. I don’t have the amex card because I don’t spend enough to reach the $6500 tier.

  3. SJ says:

    Doesn’t it kind of go against the spirit of the thing to buy and deposit? Also I guess I would just feel awkward lugging $2500 in coins (Speaking of which… how heavy would that be?)
    I don’t have a tier card (luckily, I would never hit it!) But the “free balance transfer” is a really clever idea…

    If it weren’t for the awkwardness of depositing the coins.. so tempting. Esp. w/ my normal 1% back haha…

    • Jim says:

      I don’t think it’s against the spirit, it may not be 100% in the spirit of “buying” and spending it but you are still introducing it to the money supply.

      • aua868s says:

        Mint is now aware of wats going on..it has clearly stated that the Direct Ship program should not be misused by depositing the coins immediately in the bank…the buying from Mint would imply that this condition is accepted!

    • CK says:

      They don’t take up as much space as you’d think. I’ve done it. I thought my bank would be pissed but they were actually excited to see the coins.

      • Jackson says:

        How did they count it? Or did they not because it was already in the rolled up packaging?

        • CK says:

          It comes boxed in rolls. I opened the boxes and handed them over. I guess the thought is they have my name since I’m an account holder if there was an issue.

      • SJ says:

        I wish they took up more space… there goes my plan to eventually swim in cash =)

        Also, where they excited b/c they thought you might be leaving the money there… for a while? As opposed to just funneling back the money to pay off a credit card?
        Or baller walking in w/ 2.5k in $$$

        It’s tempting… don’t think i’ve held that much cash before.

    • Glenn Lasher says:

      “Speaking of which… how heavy would that be?”

      The coins weigh 8.1g each, so $2500 would be 20.25kg or about 45 pounds.

  4. MICHELE says:

    I still do not understand why the Mint just does not stop making paper $1 bills. Every other country has converted to a coin version of the equivalent of their single note. Canada is very successful and when ever I am in other countries, vending machines will will take the coins. I know the vending machine lobby has ended any hope of dollar coins being anything more than a collectible. Our local bank does not distribute them.

    • Glenn Lasher says:

      “I still do not understand why the Mint just does not stop making paper $1 bills.”

      The mint doesn’t make bills; they’re issued by Bureau of Engraving and Printing, while the mint makes coins. This disassociation is probably part of the problem.

      Like you, I wish the $1 bill would just die.

      • Cheap Bastard says:

        Glenn, we can’t eliminate 1 dollar notes – we still need them for the strip clubs.

      • echidnina says:

        It probably would be a good idea to ditch dollar bills in favor of coins, but people are resistant to change. I spent some time in the UK on vacation and it took a lot of getting used to wrapping my head around the 1-pound coins.

        But then, at the end of the day when I’d empty my pocket change, I had a significant amount of money there! :) Nice from a money hacks perspective.

    • Wizard Prang says:

      Probably because of the public backlash. Given a choice between notes and coins, people want notes (lighter, easier to carry, don’t announce their presence by jangling), while governments prefer coins (last longer).

      The “other countries” forced the change (no pun intended) by ceasing production of the banknotes in question.

      Personally, I wish they would get rid of cents – particularly since it costs more than a cent to make a cent…

  5. danielk says:

    thanks!

  6. CK says:

    You can actually buy 5K of this particular coin. http://tinyurl.com/dljgdq

  7. Dave says:

    Too bad they have a cap on it – think of all the Credit Card points we could build up!!

  8. Dedicated says:

    Simply Fascinating – I love this. How long does it take for the shipment to get to you? Within a month? Can you accomplish this without paying interest at all or using your current savings?

  9. Chris says:

    What about the shipping costs?

  10. Praveen says:

    What’s preventing me from repeating this every month?

    Order from MINT, deposit in Bank and pay off AMEX and repeat this whole thing again and again…

    The catch is no matter how many times you purchase, you only get 1.5% cash back and not the 5%(Earn up to 5% cash back at supermarkets, gas stations, and drugstores only)

  11. Daniel says:

    Cool! This is like legal money laundering!

  12. Eric N. says:

    Timely post! I’ve always wanted the Blue Cash card but could never reach the highest tier quick enough. This is a great alternative (although I hope Amex won’t change the terms soon).

    Amex seems to have already changed their fine print to prevent earning cash rewards for buying “cash equivalents.” I read that here at: http://tinyurl.com/b4udke

    • Jim says:

      Hmmm… I wonder if they are aware of this option. The rule is generally there to prevent you from making a purchase in which they can’t earn their full transaction fee, as long as they earn the full fee I don’t see why they would care.

      • CK says:

        Can’t speak to AMEX but I know it works for my National City Visa.

      • Fred says:

        Jim,

        They may also care because their earnings predictions are based on the percentage of people who will be able to take advantage of the offer. For instance, if everyone did as you suggest, Amex would be paying 5% for a much larger percentage of the charges.

        100 people who charge $3000 per year cost amex a far different amount than 1 person who charges 300,000. The latter gets nearly $15,000 back.

        I realize there are other factors (e.g., as long as they get their fee, as you mentioned)… it would be interesting to see the spreadsheets that helped them come up with the $6500 bottom.

  13. slightly unethical says:

    this is legal but somewhat unethical on several levels, consider the below –

    - the mint is trying to save tax dollars by promoting coins instead of dollars. We taxpayers will have to pay for shipping, and credit retailer charge fees.

    - it creates unnecessary labor costs for struggling retail banks

    - the environmental impact (shipping materials, carbon footprint, etc)

    Also what is your time worth?

    Maybe your wife give up the status symbol of a blue card, and focus on legitimate ways to limit spending or get a credit card with a better rebate.

    • slightly unethical says:

      PS – also consider the risk you are taking on for no reason – what if the coins are lost or stolen? You get mugged? Cant pay the fee in time…

    • CK says:

      I have a clear conscience and 2500 more frequent flyer miles!

  14. Philip White says:

    Brilliant! I just bought $2,500 worth of coins on my one of my reward-yielding credit cards. Thanks a lot.

  15. Donna says:

    Lots of fun! I would like to just give “slightly unethical” a vote of confidence for speaking up in a room of woohooers and for bringing a little sense of thinking on a higher level. It is fun to make money but it’s even more fun to do things that make us feel proud in a good way. Sort of building, one action at a time, a life we can look back on a long time from now and be proud of?

    • Jim says:

      I totally agree, but I think this is 100% ethical because the government not only lets you buy coins with a credit card but they want you to buy these coins with a credit card! I don’t think the reasoning as to “why” you’re buying it is something they care about. They’ve been spending millions on marketing these coins.

      • Andrew says:

        “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.”

  16. Donna says:

    ethical or legal? there is a difference.

    • Jim says:

      I recognize there’s a difference but the government wants you to buy these coins, whether you buy and deposit them or buy and spend them isn’t important to the Mint. The coins are still introduced into the money supply. The government’s intent is still achieved, that’s why I think it’s ethical, you aren’t circumventing any rules, not going through a loophole, or doing anything like that.

  17. Donna says:

    you’re not really getting the spirit of the idea behind ethical versus legal… one is something you can be proud of and look back on as building a good life on sound principals, the other is how you got around using a great loophole!

  18. Donna says:

    I guess what I’m trying to say is – there are lots of things one can do that are legal, but when someone else is losing because of our legal actions and not getting a payment or benefit – then they are losing even if it’s because they allowed it to happen through their own trust, hopes or just poor planning. One is either a person who takes advantage of the person who is in the losing position, or, conversely, one is the kind of person who thinks – hey there’s lots for all of us – I can make money without someone else “losing” – I’ll let that one go!

    • bb says:

      So, you’re worried because you think that the credit card companies are “losing”? I am pretty sure they don’t worry too much about you “losing”…

  19. Flexo says:

    Just don’t keep bringing boxes of coins to the same bank branch to deposit. They will not be happy with you.

  20. Donna says:

    worry? interesting that you mention worry. I’ve found that by having a high level of integrity, I rarely have anything to worry or stress about…

  21. monstergolf says:

    I ordered $1500 in coins. The UPS driver left them on my porch when I wasn’t home. This is a little risky. However, I had no trouble taking them to the bank. Much cheaper than a balance transfer!

  22. momo says:

    I also look for errors in the coins. You might find a $1 coin worth $1000.

    http://coins.about.com/od/errorcoinsdievarieties/a/edge_lettering.htm

  23. James says:

    Does anybody know if the 2-box cap for each coin type is per order, or per person forever?

  24. You, sir, are a very smart man. I’m going to go look into buying some right now. Although my credit card doesn’t have tiers, it still gives cash back, so this is a good idea for anyone who has a cash back card.

  25. Monkey Monk says:

    I don’t see any ethical or legal reasons for doing this. How is this different from making any big-ticket purchase at the beginning of the year to help max out your tiers (e.g., planning a vacation after the start of the year)?

    My only problem with doing this myself would be problems with shipping. Are the coins shipped insured?


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