How to get Unlimited Frequent Flier Miles

No, this blog has not been hacked by spammers.

As recently as July 1, 2011, an unknown number of travel hackers were ordering thousands of Presidential dollar coins from the U.S. Mint on their frequent flyer credit cards. When the coins arrived, with shipping paid for by the government, the clever travelers returned them to the bank, paid off their credit card, and took a free trip to Hawaii.

“We’ve used them to go on trips around the world,” says Jane Liaw, a 35-year-old public health researcher and science writer in San Francisco. Liaw says she and her husband, who use a variety of tricks for earning miles, are planning trips to Greece and Turkey, “all on miles and points.”

As Planet Money reports, it all started with a failed effort to get Americans to use dollar coins:

In 2005, Congress decided that a new series of dollar coins should be minted to engage the public. These coins would bear the likeness of every former president, starting with George Washington. There would be a new one every quarter. So, far, the Mint has produced coins through the 18th president, Ulysses S. Grant.

The Presidential coins will cost the U.S. Government 16 million dollars by the time it ends in 2016. There are already 1 billion dollar coins locked up in government vaults.

The dollar coin loophole has since been closed; the coins can still be ordered from the Mint website, but the only acceptable form of payment is a debit card or wire transfer.

Pittsburgh, PA

pittsburgh skyline 2010

I spent the past few days in Pittsburgh, visiting the fam and checking in on the city.

We went to the Warhol, my favorite gallery period. They had a two-floor Marilyn Monroe exhibit, and a bigger video room than I remember seeing there on my last visit. My favorite was Fight, which was a hilarious dramatization of bickering punctuated by a blind man looking for a quarter on the floor. I also watched Andy talk on the phone to a friend for a few minutes. (The personal camcorder had just been released, which sparked his taping of the mundane.) It struck me as a poignant parody of today’s smart phone craze – a device that enables us to record photos and videos wherever we are. I’m not insinuating that his generation was void of narcism and unaware of technology’s evolving ability to document the innane, but I do think it’s fascinating that the observations and commentary of Warhol’s work thirty years ago only gets more reflective as time passes.

We tried to go to Conflict Kitchen, the restaurant concept I heard about on NPR a few months ago, but they were closed for the holidays.

We always joke that the city is stuck in the 90s, but our visit to the  American Apparel and Apple stores forced me to up it to 2003.