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Billionaire Earns Millions of Miles With $170M Art Purchase

A Chinese business magnate has spent his way to millions-upon-millions in airline miles by using reward credit cards to build a world-renowned art collection.

Billionaire art collector Liu Yiqian doesn’t flinch at the prospect of spending $36 million to purchase an ancient Chinese teacup at auction or outbidding the competition with a $170 million bid to take home a Modigliani nude. That isn’t to say that the former cab driver turned Chinese business mogul doesn’t have a keen appreciation for the value of a dollar. Liu Yigian confirms that he has made a habit of using reward credit cards to make record-setting art purchases as a means to amass a staggering reserve of airline miles.

In July of 2014, he verified to Bloomberg that he earned nearly 422 million American Express points from the $36 million purchase of the Chenghua-era teacup. His daughter told the magazine that he would convert those points towards approximately 28 million frequent flyer miles. Liu Yigian’s wife, Wang Wei says that the more recent acquisition of the Amedeo Modigliani painting “Reclining Nude” at auction for $170 million will mean more free air travel for the family. She told the New York Times that the large ticket transaction would again be completed using an American Express rewards card.

While free travel is one major bonus that comes with using an American Express Card to pay for a record-breaking art purchase, there is another more practical consideration as well. “We are on a one-year payment plan for the painting,” Wang Wei told the newspaper. “If we had to pay cash upfront, that would be a little difficult for us. I mean, who has the money for that?”

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payam81 December 11, 2015

A Chinese billionaire who flies commercial! I like this guy!

ueutyi November 25, 2015

@freqflyer39 AE operates in China under "China Merchants Bank" that offers point under the ratio 1rmb=1 point, and exchange rate to mileage is also different.

freqflyer39 November 25, 2015

The first paragraph appears to be bogus unless a Chinese Amex credit card earns miles differently than US Amex cards. Having had multiple US Amex cards over the last 30 years, I earn 1 mile for each $ spent. so for $37 million I would get 37 million miles!

strickerj November 25, 2015

Hope he's still under the 0% intro APR, because if he's paying interest on that purchase, then he's more than negated the value of those miles.

blue_diamond November 25, 2015

Oh jeez, who would be able to pay $170M up front, right? But with a 1-year payment plan, it becomes very affordable! LOL That cracked me up!