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How Amex Purchases Got A Man Free Flights For Life

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Thanks to social media, it’s not uncommon to hear about extravagant and luxury art purchases made by global billionaires. What is slightly unusual is to hear that those billionaires use credit cards to rake in the rewards on multi-million dollar purchases.

Cash makes its own reality, though, and Chinese real estate and pharmaceuticals investor Liu Yiqian isn’t complaining about the $170.4 million pending charge on his American Express card, the Associated Press reported. Yiqian recently purchased Amedeo Modigliani’s “Nu Couché” (Reclining Nude) painting at an auction in New York and decided to pay for the latest addition to his collection with his credit card. While American Express spokeswoman Elizabeth Crosta would not confirm to the AP if Liu’s purchase was the highest single total charged to an Amex card, she did note that transactions of this amount are always handled in an intimate manner.

“In theory, it’s possible to put a ($170 million purchase) on an American Express card,” Crosta told the AP. “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.”

Interestingly, Liu’s American Express Centurion Card — the famed no-limit “Black Card” — allows him to accrue membership rewards points eligible for redemption on major airlines. Zach Honig, editor-in-chief of travel rewards site ThePointsGuy.com, told the AP that the $170.4 million purchase would be more than enough to let Liu’s family travel for the rest of their lives anywhere, anytime and in any class they choose, all for absolutely free on the cache of points.

However, a more pragmatic reason for using an American Express card for an unusually large international purchase may have to do with China’s policies on cross-border payments. The AP noted that Chinese nationals are allowed to move just $50,000 out of the country in a given calendar year, but putting the charge on a card allows Liu to purchase an item outside of China while still making his payment to the issuer in his home country.

Whether Liu uses his points for flights or not, the purchase of the painting makes it clear that it’s not an issue of deciding to pamper himself.

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