Even Billionaires Love Points!

Filed Under: Media

Last July I wrote about the Chinese art collector, Liu Yiqian, who used his American Express Centurion Card to pay for a HK$281 million (US$36 million) ancient Chinese ceramic cup.

Well, Liu Yiqian is back in the news again today, this time for his purchase of a US$45 million 15th century Tibetan embroidered silk thangka.

The best part? The focus of the story isn’t even the purchase, but rather the points he’s earning… and that he used points to fly to Hong Kong to make the purchase!

Via Bloomberg, it looks like he’s paying more attention to points since the last story was written about him:

“Since you wrote the story, I started to pay attention to the points,” said Liu, who flashed the plastic again today at Christie’s for the thangka, requiring him to sign 31 separate AmEx receipts because the system can only swipe transactions up to a maximum amount.

So, what else has he been using his tens of millions of points for?

Liu is using points from his previous purchase to fly his wife Wang Wei and their daughter, whose English name is Betty, to Hong Kong and back from Shanghai. He’s also flying the family to New York tomorrow on points.

Betty said on previous trips to New York her father has used points to stay at the St. Regis, though they didn’t qualify for a suite.

Tisk, tisk, tisk! It sounds like they were just booking on SPG’s website, which doesn’t show the option of redeeming for a suite. However, if they called SPG they could have booked a suite at the St. Regis New York for double points.

St. Regis New York suite

Or maybe since he has so many points he should just book 50 nights at a Category 1 Starwood property so he can get SPG 50 night Platinum status, and then he’ll have 10 suite night awards he can redeem for his stays. 😉

As far as flights go, I wonder which frequent flyer program they redeemed through for the ticket. If they transferred their Membership Rewards points to Cathay Pacific AsiaMiles and managed to snag business class, I hope they checked first class award availability within a couple of days of departure, given how frequently Cathay Pacific opens up first class space just before departure.

And for the ticket between Shanghai and Hong Kong, I sure hope he transferred those points to British Airways Executive Club rather than Cathay Pacific AsiaMiles. For roundtrip business class the former charges 30,000 miles, while the latter charges 40,000 miles. Points are too valuable to waste!

Cathay Pacific regional business class

Though I guess either of those programs are better than redeeming through the “pay with points” option.

I’m not overthinking this, am I?

(Tip of the hat to @phil_muller)

  1. If he is a billionaire, I’m not sure whether it’s cool or silly for him not to just charter a private plane whenever he needs to fly…

  2. @ Lucky — perhaps you can write to the Bloomberg writer, ask him to get you in touch with Liu, and volunteer to be his Chief Points Officer? 😉

  3. Do you have a review/trip report of the (new J) seats in the picture? I don’t think I see it in the trip report index.


  4. What commission Amex charges to seller on a US$45 million purchase? I just wonder. Is there a cap on commission?

  5. You became billionaire by not chartering planes, but using free /cheapest tickets.. than you spend your money on china.

  6. @wwk5d it’s compliacted. First, Chinese government has one of the world’s most demanding rule toward private jets because military is in charge of air traffic. Thus there aren’t too many private jets in China compare to US. Second, Chinese General publics has a negative attitude towards private jets, because of environment concerns and Chinese saving culture.

  7. That Chinese ceramic cup wasn’t worth so much. It was just a mock auction and ‘legal‘ money laundering. He did this for a couple reasons. Very smart.

  8. Couldn’t he have negotiated the price down by 2% and paid with a check?

    Do you think he does his points bookings or does his assistant?

    Or maybe his daughter does the bookings? (Speaking as the son/Chief Points Officer for two high-net-worth parents…)

    Also CPO is now a term. Get used to it.

  9. Sounds good and all but agreed ….as a business owner I can tell you that his credit card use at minimum cost him 720k to 1MM Usd in merchant fees which he likely absorbed (unless that auction house ate it ). Could’ve bought a lot of revenue tickets or chartered private jets multiple times with that !

  10. @ Ben — As opposed to what, paying for economy? When you’re buying art worth tens of millions of dollars…

  11. most people assume “rich people = can afford a private jet so why fly normal”… or “rich people = dont care about prices”.. so wrong…

    in fact, how do they become rich? by paying close attention to prices.. you dont get rich by wasting money!

    even at the million dollars price tags, is the item worth it? these art pieces are worth it to him… he buys them now for own use / rents to museums, and later on sells them for a hefty profit, just like property (outside china even.. nice play..).

    now, do you really think he did not know about his AMEX points? yup, he knew about it. so why did the press report him as not knowing, etc? well, obviously he wants to be seen as successful, generous, flamboyant and not some calculative, shrewd freak. it is all an act for him to act coy… rich people ARE SMART AND SHREWD, especially the Chinese… do remeber that….

  12. It’s gotta be a marketing stunt for Amex. When he is that rich, who cares about millions of petty points. You think he has time to worry about the lack of award space?

  13. @wowwee

    That may have been how they started out, ie, penny pinching, but 1) not all billionaires are like that even when they were starting out and 2) you eventually reach the point where money is no object. When your net worth is over one billion dollars, I think you can start to fly private without it breaking the bank, so to speak.

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