A billionaire charged a $170 million painting to get frequent-flyer miles. (Photo: Clemsen/Flickr)
Now that’s a smart traveler.
Chinese billionaire and art collector Liu Yiqian found a savvy way to accumulate frequent-flier miles. He put his record-breaking purchase of Modigliani’s Reclining Nude painting — which he bought at auction for $170 million — on his American Express card.
Liu, a former taxi driver, told the New York Times that he charged the painting so that he, his wife, and their extended family of four children and two grandchildren can accumulate Membership Miles and fly around the world for free.
The billionaire is a passionate traveler: Before he started collecting art, he contemplated buying a plane. But who needs a plane when you have millions upon millions of miles?
According to Forbes, Liu Yiqian has a personal wealth of $1.38 billion. (Photo: Philippe Lopez/AFP)
This isn’t the first time Liu has racked up points with a credit card. In 2014, he paid for a $36 million ancient ceramic cup with his Amex Centurion card. In that case, Bloomberg News reported that he got a whopping 422 million points (based on the Hong Kong dollar), which translated to more than 28 million frequent flyer miles.
According to American Express, Liu isn’t the first card member to take this route. “We see a huge range in redemptions using Membership Rewards points,” spokeswoman Kimberly Litt told Bloomberg News. “Everything from engagement rings to fine art and, of course, for travel all over the world.”
American Express encourages charging high-ticket items. The company has the Auto Purchasing Program, which will allow you to buy a car with the card, and there’s even a service that makes it possible to charge mortgage payments.
In fact, there’s a whole community of frequent-flyer nerds called “Hobbyists” who have figured out how to game the system to fly for free.
Liu certainly has.
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