Eleven days ago the Planet Money podcast, hosted by National Public Radio, ran a story about rewards enthusiasts buying $1 coins from the U.S. Mint on their credit card in order to collect frequent flier miles.
Within a day, the story was a top trending topic on Alexa.com. The following day, I wrote a post explaining the U.S. Mint loophole on this blog. My story ran as a guest post on MSN Money, where it was shared 2,377 times and sparked nearly 100 comments.
Exactly one week later, the U.S. Mint acted: it announced it is ending credit card payments for it’s $1 coin program. Here’s a statement the U.S. Mint posted on its website on Friday:
The Mint has determined that this policy change is prudent due to ongoing activity by individuals purchasing $1 coins with credit cards, accumulating frequent flyer miles, and then returning coins to local banks. Local banks, in turn, returned coins to the Federal Reserve. While not illegal, this activity was a clear abuse and misuse of the program.
Don’t get me wrong: This isn’t the first time the U.S. Mint’s $1 coin program made headlines. The Wall Street Journal ran a story in December 2009 titled Miles for Nothing, featuring interviews with several people who used the program to purchase $10,000 or more. The Los Angeles Times picked up the story a few days later.
But did its recent resurgence in the news — coming on the heels of an entire Planet Money series about the U.S.’s efforts to promote the $1 coin (which they titled, fittingly, $1 Billion That Nobody Wants) — hasten the closing of the program?
I say yes, and I believe Planet Money takes the credit (or blame, depending on your point of view). The day after the Planet Money story ran, California Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier sent a letter to her fellow Capitol Hill lawmakers, announcing her intention to push a law through Congress that would halt the making of these coins.
“My bill directs the Secretary of the Treasury to stop minting the $1 coins, immediately halting production of these unnecessary coins,” Speier wrote. “Taxpayer dollars that will be saved from this legislation will go towards the deficit.”
Perhaps journalism can still change the world.
If your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon.
TOM STOPPARD, London Guardian, Mar. 18, 1988
Whenever people are well-informed they can be trusted with their own government.
Read the original post: How to Fly First-Class Around the World For Free
Speaking of MSN Money …
Donna Freedman, a writer for MSN Money’s Smart Spending blog, is my friendly “challenger” for the championship round of voting in the “Parisian Champs-Élysées” of Personal Finance, an annual blog competition. My post about what I’d do with a million dollars is squaring off against her post about the Great Depression. Please visit the site and cast your vote — the polls close on Thursday. (To vote for me, just go to this link and write the word “DEBT” in the comments.)
To CityFlips, the winner of the book Moneylicious by Ornella Grosz! Thanks to everyone who participated in our giveaway!
I’d Like to Thank the Academy …
Thanks to the Carnival of Wealth for featuring my original post about the U.S. Mint loophole.