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Charge that condo!


Luxury condo buyers in New York City may use their AmEx cards to make down payments.

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At a time when an increasing number of landlords are letting tenants pay their rent with credit cards, American Express is expected to announce a plan to allow some customers to use their AmEx plastic for condominium down payments.

Currently, the service looks to be restricted to luxury-condo buyers in New York City.  American Express is introducing the program with New York real-estate firm Moinian Group for its currently-under-construction Atelier condominium in Midtown Manhattan, although both companies indicate that they plan to expand the service to other properties and partners.

The deal will enable condo buyers to earn one point for each dollar charged, allowing them to rack up reward points or frequent-flier miles on major transactions.  Additionally, the ability to pay with an American Express credit card lengthens the amount of time buyers have to meet the down-payment requirements and removes the difficulty of getting certified checks.

According to Chief Executive Joseph Moinian, his company is offering the service as an amenity to draw high-end condo purchasers.

Meanwhile, American Express reports that the service is part of its move to expand the ways its clients can use the company’s cards.  While AmEx and Moinian did not disclose the terms of their deal, Moinian will pay American Express a fee for every transaction.  The condo buyers will not be charged an extra fee.

The program is available across all of the American Express cards, including AmEx bank-issued cards.  Since American Express Green, Gold, Platinum and Centurion charge cards do not have preset spending limits, cardholders will be able to charge the sizable amounts needed for down payments.

However, snags could occur when using AmEx cards for condo down payments.  A company spokeswoman explained that if the amount the customer charges is “wildly out-of-pattern” with their spending habits, the transaction could get flagged until American Express gets further information.  Also, buyers who use American Express credit cards, like Blue, may be restricted by the card’s credit limit, which is based on spending patterns and credit worth.  However, AmEx may, in some cases, extend the card’s line of credit for a down payment, according to a spokeswoman.

This latest move expands AmEx’s partnerships with real-estate merchants.  At present, American Express works with more than a dozen property-management firms in 34 states to enable their tenants to pay rent with one of the company’s cards.


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