Man Earns 2 Billion American Express Points. Yes, That’s Billion.

The same Chinese man who bought a ceramic cup at auction last year and paid with his American Express card earning 422 million points is back at it again.

Via both Alan H. and Mark P., billionaire art collector and founder of the Long Museum in China Liu Yiqian paid $170.4 million for Amedeo Modigliani’s “Nu Couche” at auction on Monday.

The man paid with his American Express card. Coverage of the ceramic cup auction suggested that he uses a Hong Kong-based card than earns 1.5 points per Hong Kong dollar spent.

    Sadly, he’s spending way more than the cap for earning 2 points per Hong Kong dollar on a Membership Rewards Turbo-earning card. That program caps double points to the first HKG$160,000 in spend, but only earns 1 point per dollar thereafter.

US$170.4 million is slightly more than HKG$1.32 billion… meaning he would have earned ~ 1,980,951,120 Membership Rewards points for the purchase at 1.5 points per Hong Kong dollar.

Ignore mainstream media coverage on his mileage haul, what I’ve seen so far fails to account for his earning in a non-US Membership Rewards program.

And before you get excited by the concept of billions of points (my own cumulative balances are merely in the 8 figures), Hong Kong Membership Rewards points generally convert at a rate of 15 points per mile. So he only has enough points for 132 million frequent flyer miles.

Transfer partners include:

  • Cathay Pacific AsiaMiles
  • Singapore Airlines Krisflyer
  • Emirates Skywards
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • China Airlines Dynasty Flyer
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Finnair Plus

That’s impressive of course. And roughly ties the number one Membership Rewards account balance. But believe it or not, Mr. Yiqian’s haul doesn’t blow the record out of the water.

And unless he’s going to turn around and sell the painting (at a price covering the auction fees no less!), it’s not a very efficient means of earning the points.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Somewhat off topic (but you brought it up); you mention that you have in excess of 10 million points and miles right now. Yet, you advise people to earn and burn. Will you really use those 10 million plus miles and points within the next year? I have 2.5 million and have to book for six people most times and consider myself somewhat of a hoarder, however, 10 million for one and occasionally two people sounds like you should be on an episode of Hoarders. It also sounds like you don’t really follow your own advice and may not even believe your own advice.

  2. So the auction house is willing to let him pay by credit card – do they charge an extra 3% (or whatever the Amex fee is) to cover their costs? Because 3% of $170 million is a significant chunk of change. ($5.1 million, roughly).

  3. @farnorthtrader – maybe Gary is planning to follow FM’s lead and take a trip to Necker Island (1,200,000 miles per week).

  4. @farnorthtrader — I burn points as quickly as I can. I am definitely not hoarding them. For instance I have awards booked for the coming months, for two passengers:
    Etihad First Apartment roundtrip (Maldives, Sri Lanka, UAE)
    Etihad, Qatar, Emirates A380 First
    Qantas A380 First roundtrip

    Definitely not saving them!

    I do diversify with big balances in 5 different airline programs, and big balances in more than one credit card rewards program.

    – I continue to accumulate a lot of points. I am not spending tons of money to do so.
    – I accumualated a ton of points in the past at a very low cost basis, so while the points will be worth less in the future than they will be today I at least definitely won’t get hurt 🙂

  5. Since he obviously doesn’t need the 132 million miles, wouldn’t it be nice if he donated them to some group that flies a lot to help people, like Doctors Without Borders?

  6. Had this guy used Chase United Club card 1.5 mile per $, he would have 250M miles, enough to fly first class for life on United and star-A.

  7. This guy spent a over a buck a point. I get hundreds of points a dollar. I think I’m doing better than him.

  8. Interested that you are reporting that he paid with an amex. In an interview with a major publication he was specifically asked if he paid with amex. He was quoted as saying he paid in accordance with the auction policy. So there is no indication he paid with his amex and this article is nice made up fabrication.

  9. @Still feign..

    so…. you get hundred of points a dollar, he gets 1 point a buck…

    you earn 50k a year, he earns billions….

    i still think he is doing better then you.

  10. Although a lot of cards have more generous terms, when you need to pay 170 million US$, I’m not sure any card other then AMEX centurion is capable…

  11. I’d imagine that he made a call to AMEX and asked for a deal. It’s good publicity for them – lots of free press, obviously. People with less money than this go to Vegas and negotiate special payouts for card games. The rules are different when you can spend 9 figures on a single purchase (or 6-7 on a single card hand.)

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