Saturday, July 26, 2014

What to do with 422 million AmEx points?

A Chinese collector who bought an ancient Chinese ceramic cup for a record HK$281 million (US$36 million) at auction in April got an unexpected bonus when he paid for it today: almost 422 million American Express points.

Liu Yiqian, who used his Centurion Card to pay for the cup from Sotheby’s Hong Kong, hadn’t even thought about the rewards until he was contacted by Bloomberg News. ...

Liu’s daughter said he used his credit card, which is denominated in yuan, because currency restrictions won’t allow him to transfer that much money directly from China to Hong Kong. Individuals are limited to moving $50,000 per year outside the country because of capital controls.

So what can 421,860,000 AmEx points get? According to the American Express Co.’s website, they can be converted to more than 28 million frequent flyer miles or about $180,000 worth of vouchers at Hong Kong retailer ParknShop.

Liu, who drank Chinese tea from the cup shortly before he paid for it, had to sign 24 separate AmEx receipts because the system can only swipe transactions of up to HK$12 million at a time, said Nicolas Chow, head of Chinese ceramics and works of art and deputy chairman of Sotheby’s Asia.
--Frederik Balfour, Bloomberg, on membership having its privileges