The Daily Mail writes about (a HFP reader?) buying Royal Mint coins for Avios and trying to cash them in!

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Well, I never expected this story to reach the hallowed pages of the Daily Mail, but there you go!  I’m a bit annoyed that I didn’t get a mention 🙂

I have, a couple of times, mentioned that it is possible to buy face value commemorative coins from the Royal Mint using a credit card.  I have never made a big deal of this because:

the Royal Mint doesn’t take American Express, so it was only really worthwhile if you had a ‘no longer available to new customers’ Visa or MasterCard such as the BMI Diamond Club one which pays 2.5 Avios per £1

you were 100% dependant on finding a willing bank if you wanted to pay in the coins.  It was never totally clear what the legal position was.

We now know, thanks to the Daily Mail, what the legal position is!

Royal Mint

You should read the article in full, but here are some extracts:

The reader, who wishes to be known simply has James, would buy high value commemorative coins from the Royal Mint in bulk to gain air miles on his credit card before cashing them in at the bank.

However, the Royal Mint appears to have cottoned onto his system by writing to banks and telling them not to accept the coins, which are deemed ‘legal tender’.


James said: ‘I am someone who has a bit of an addiction to frequent flier miles. I’ve done various things over the years to generate more miles – and the only way to generate such things is by spending on a credit card.


The coins, such as the £100 ‘face value’ Buckingham Palace coin issued last year are limited edition and are described by Royal Mint as legal tender. They also have a 14 day returns policy. 

But its terms and conditions section on the website describes legal tender as having ‘a very narrow and technical meaning in the settlement of debts.’

It adds: ‘In practice this means that although the face-value UK coins in denominations of £5, £20, £50 and £100 are approved as legal tender, they have been designed as limited edition collectables or gifts and will not be entering general circulation.

‘As such, UK shops and banks are not obliged to accept them in return for goods and services.’


A recent letter sent to a bank branch from the Royal Mint, published below, has told staff to no longer accept coins over the counter and that customers should be referred to them instead.


James adds that when he entered his local HSBC branch, as he usually would to cash them in, the bank accepted the deposit. This is Money has seen the deposit slip.

The branch manager then chased after him as he was leaving the branch and advised that it could no longer accept them.

It is a great story but, to avoid copyright issues, I recommend you head over to the Daily Mail site and read it in full for yourself.

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  1. jonboy73 says:

    they sell for more than face on ebay..

  2. If people exercise a little self restraint and just buy small numbers of the coins they’re likely to remain under the radar for longer. Paying in thousands of pounds of commemorative coins at once is likely to start raising alarm bells.

    Before 3V became well known I just used to buy £100 worth anytime I was in Tesco, it worked quite nicely.

    I can understand why people go crazy when they find something where they can effectively generate free points. There’s also the thought that you need to maximise your earnings before this is pulled.

  3. James67 says:

    Not me if anybody is wondering, perhaps just James or James Ward who are also regular contributors?

    I don’t see the point of a £100 coin if it cannot be tendered at will for face value or exchanged for alternate form of currency. Are they simply supposed to be the penny blacks of tomorrow?

    Nice to see standard of journalism at DM improving but then that shouldn’t be hard considering where they are at.

    • That’s what RM would like you to believe. In reality these commemorative coins are just money-spinners for RM, where the base metals & production process cost far less than the money raised by selling them to the gullible public.

      The nastier schemes tap into some kind of public conscience such as those ceramic poppies issued ‘to commemorate the outbreak of WWI’ but in reality a commercial money-making operation.

      • Well in that sense all coins are money-spinners for Royal Mint / the government, with the exception of the 1p and 2p

        But you don’t get this problem with the $20 for $20 Canadian coins, and for one thing they look much nicer. (Last time I checked the silver content was worth about $5 CAD)

    • Not guilty 😛

    • The This is Money page on the mail is actually a very good informative read

    • ‘The reader, who wishes to be known simply has James, would buy high value commemorative coins from the Royal Mint in bulk to gain air miles on his credit card before cashing them in at the bank’.

      Are we sure it’s James who is the culprit? It could be simply?

    • Not guilty m’lud!

  4. Didn’t receive this email.
    Usually only get 2 emails a day now, been happening on and off for the last week.

    • AmandaB says:

      I had this problem a while back. The HFP emails were suddenly being directed to my SPAM box, for no apparent reason.

    • Try adding [email protected] to your safe senders list.

      Also – at the bottom of each email it says ‘click to update profile’. Add your real name. This is invisibly added to your emails and makes them less likely to be rejected.

  5. Tilly71 says:

    I read a few months ago over on FT the posts covering this churn, many tried to cash in at various banks but we’re not allowed and it appeared HSBC were one of only a few who accepted.
    Seems strange for a coin to be produced with a denomination on them but not able to cash them in.

    • HSBC still accepts old (big) 5p/10p/50p… I buy them on ebay for less than face

      Recently each branch received a list and photos of coins that they can accept… farthings aren’t on it!

      • “I buy them on eBay”

        Are you serious?

        • Why not? Buy them at less than face value, generate CC spend, earn Nectar points, deposit at bank. Seems like a good wheeze to me!

          I sold a bunch of foreign coins and notes on eBay last year and oddly the buyers paid more than face value for some of them – between 80% and 105%. I assume they must have been laundering money in some way…

  6. Felix Flyer says:

    Similar query. I am just short of the AMEX GOLD anniversary bonus with 2 days to go. Was thinking of buying euros via Amex then selling them back to get the 7500 MR points. Any readers have experience of the best buy back routes for euros?

    • If you’re just short, you could just buy a couple of things from (say) Argos then hand them back but get the refund credited to your debit card instead.

      Beats losing the spread, twice.

      • Felix Flyer says:

        Thanks Harry. Short by £700 so perhaps pushing it a bit at argos.

        • Get gift cards for your local supermarket, book a refundable flight etc.

        • If you need more time then just book a refundable hotel for a few months down the line on Expedia (they’re pretty good at charging the card instantly and also prompt to refund) – this will get you over your trigger, then you can have a bit more time to spend the required amount before cancelling the hotel booking.

          If you shop regularly at a supermarket then you could also buy their giftcards as a way of ‘timeshifting’ your spend forward to just now, allowing you to cancel the PRG Amex as soon as the bonus posts 🙂

        • Or buy gift cards at Tesco and earn extra club card points?

          • Purple Parking? Book a couple of different month-long car park slots, they offer 100% g’tee of full refund provided not within 24 hrs of start date. Reliable refunders.

            You’d cancel the card, presumably, banking the points. Then when you cancel the parking, the refund MR points would not actually get deducted from your a/c as it would be closed but you’d still get the refund cash.

          • Waribai says:

            I tried this a few years ago with MBNA and for the next year or so whenever I applied for an MBNA credit card it would get approved only to be rejected at the final check stage.
            Consequently, I’d be vary wary now of ending up on some unofficial blacklist.

        • How about buying Stirling traveller’s cheques? Though you would need to check your bank will take them first.

      • You can do that? If that’s an option you can generate free miles that way in most stores. I would have always assumed returns are only acceptable if you present the original purchase credit card.

        • They say that you need the original card. In practice, it’s not required. If your card has expired, or you’ve cancelled it, you wouldn’t have it anyway.

          • Or if you have “lost it”. Don’t try this in Marks and Spencer though; they are very vigilant and very difficult.

          • Had problems with this in Currys too. Asked to see card listed on receipt and checked it matched.

          • Companies shouldn’t do this. If there’s not a corresponding purchase with the card that is refunded then the processing company should red flag it as potentially something dodgy going on. Somewhere like a big chain may get away with it simply as you will have probably purchased something in the past from them.

            It’s the same as why they can’t refund you in cash for a card purchase.

    • Buy cards for your grocery store. Spend them over the next couple of months. If you use club card and don’t mind waiting until November for your vouchers read about Clubcard Christmas saver.

  7. They are legal tender which means they must be accepted for settling a debt, I imagine most HFP readers don’t have overdrafts and loans, but you could try using them to pay down your mortgage or make a part payment on a credit card bill as I think the bank will be breaking the law if they refuse to accept the payment.

    • not advisable – only legal tender when sued in court to repay a debt, NOT for repaying ordinary debts such as credit card bill

    • Legal tender only applies to court-imposed debts.

      Doesn’t apply to loans, overdrafts or mortgages.

  8. Sandgrounder says:

    A LOT of detail has been removed from the Wilipedia ‘Legal Tender’ page and replaced with a link to this release from the Royal Mint. If you are lumbered you could probably force your local authority to accept them for council tax…. but it might end up in court first. Good luck! 🙂

  9. I did this with £2k of £5 coins back in the late 90s and generated £40 on an Alliance & Leicester cash back card. They paid 2% in those days!

  10. The Real James says:

    Just kidding, I’m not the James in question.

    Just wanted to to say that after reading this article I’ve never laughed so much on a Sunday Morning before.
    Rob, you are a legend 🙂

  11. Post Office told me a couple of weeks ago that they had written to all Posties telling them not to accept these coins any more.

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