The allure of frequent flier miles, or perhaps just the game of chasing them, has resulted in many inspired schemes taking advantage of thoughtless merchants.

According to the Wall Street Journal (subscription required), the latest deal comes courtesy of the U.S. Mint, and at a slight cost to the taxpayers.

A number of frequent flier fans took the Mint up on its offer of free shipping for bulk orders of coins. The fliers paid for their coins with charge cards that offered frequent flier mile rewards.

When the coins arrived, the fliers took them directly to the bank to pay off that credit card debt. The end cost to the fliers? A little time and a trip to the bank. The reward? For one of them, two million miles.

The WSJ reports that it costs the mint around $3 to ship 250 coins, and estimates that more than $1 million in dollar coins were churned by these fliers. The cost to the U.S. Mint (and, of course, you and me) would be in excess of $12,000 in shipping, as well as the credit card processing fees it incurred.

While many travelers have discounted the value of frequent flier miles after finding slots scarce during peak travel times, devotees, many of whom participate in the online site flyertalk, are able to spin them into low-cost vacations and access to special services from airlines and hotels that lighten the burden of travel. One flier interviewed by the WSJ took a free vacation to Tahiti with his wife in part courtesy of the U.S. Mint free shipping program.

A frequent flier mile is usually valued at 2 cents or less. Using a card paying a reward two miles for every dollar spent, $1 million would turn into 2 million frequent flier miles, worth around $40,000.

For another view of the value of frequent flier miles, read how Chris Guillebeau raked in 300,000 miles by applying for and receiving a bunch of new credit cards that offer frequent flier mile bonuses.While he claims that this hasn't impacted his credit score much, I'd be very leery of taking his approach.

Nonetheless, the coin scheme points out that from time to time opportunities for the diligent arise to grab miles at little expense.

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