net worth is USD 1.37 billion, you’re not
exactly struggling to afford a plane ticket. But for Chinese billionaire Liu
Yiqian, that’s not enough. He wants his whole family to fly free, in first
class, anywhere in the world, for the rest of his life. And he’s done that by
buying a painting.
Liu was the winning bidder for Amedeo Modigliani’s
“Reclining Nude” at a Christie’s auction this month — offering $170.4 million —
and when the sale closes he’ll be putting it on his American Express card. But
it’s not just any Amex card. Liu has an American Express Centurion Card, aka
the “black card”. Amex issues it by invitation only and it has no official
credit limit. It also earns points.
In theory, it's possible to put a ($170 million
purchase) on an American Express card," said American Express spokeswoman
Elizabeth Crosta. "It is based on our relationship with that individual
card member and these decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, based on our
knowledge of their spending patterns."
It's a common tactic, says Bill Majcher, a former
financial crimes investigator for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who is now
based in Hong Kong working as an investment banker. "One simple little
black AmEx card or one credit card, you never know what somebody's limits
are," he said. "And some people have unlimited amounts based on their
wealth and ability to pay."
Using a baseline of one point per dollar, Liu will
earn 170,400,000 Membership Reward points for buying the painting. There’s also
the matter of taxes and Christie’s fees adding to the final transaction.
According to Zach Honig, editor-in-chief of travel rewards site The PointsGuy.com, flying free for Liu and
his family for the rest of his life should not be a problem.
One conversion calculates that he could fly 3,000
times between the U.S. and Europe in the first class suites offered by SQ (estimated cost: $17,800 round trip), if he
converted his points to SQ's FFP.
Gives a whole new meaning to Never Leave Home Without