After news broke about Blippy.com leaking a handful of its users' credit card numbers to the Web, we thought of a question. Are the site's users simply oversharing their purchases of iTunes apps and Netflix rentals, or can their real-time purchasing feeds hold a candle to some of the wildest credit card purchases of all time? We uncovered five of the wildest things ever bought with plastic:
#5: A steak dinner, for $50.
Picking up the check at a business dinner doesn't sound so unusual, unless it's the first time anyone ever left a tip on a credit card. In 1949, corporate credit executive Frank McNamara enjoyed a working dinner with his friends Ralph Schneider and Alfred Bloomingdale. (You may have heard of Alfred's family and a few of the shops they used to run.) When Frank realized his wallet was still at home, he vowed to help other executives avoid that evening's embarrassment. A year later, the trio returned to the same restaurant. This time, Frank used his latest invention to cover the cost---the Diners' Club card. Today, paying for a meal with a credit card has become commonplace, with over 700 Blippy users admitting they've bought a burrito from Chipotle in the last few months.
#4: "Something amazing for my wife," for $5,515.
Eric Ryan Harrison alerted his friends on Blippy, along with the whole world, about a swipe of his credit card at Augusta Plastic Surgery. And while most of us would prefer to be more discreet about paying for our plastic with plastic, Harrison's not the only user of the service to have admitted to a nip or a tuck, even if it's the kind of thing you'd normally keep a secret. Surgeons with merchant accounts helped one British woman rack up over $130,000 in credit card debt to help her feel glamorous after her second childbirth. All that work couldn't help Hollie Henderson find happiness, though. She told tabloid reporters she looked forward to a more low-maintenance look.
#3: A new car, for about $25,000.
In today's credit card market, having enough of your credit limit available to afford more than a fifteen-year old junker sounds like a luxury. However, a wave of enterprising "credit hackers" in the late 2000s realized that high credit lines, low interest rates, and cash back rewards could add up to big savings on new cars. When bloggers Marc and Angel decided to buy a new Honda in 2007, they earned a $500 rebate from their cash back credit card.
#2: An entire wedding, for $98.
It's common knowledge that today's brides and grooms often dive deep into debt right before their special day. A recent survey by The Knot revealed that American couples typically spend $27,800 on their way down the aisle. That's why the frugalistas on our team applaud Blippy user Nils Johnson for sharing his $98 payment for a marriage ceremony at San Francisco's City Hall. Not long after, purchases from Gilt Groupe and Sephora started showing up in his feed. Welcome to married life, Nils!
#1: An original Roy Lichtenstein painting, for $2.5 million.
Art collector Eli Broad may have ruined credit card reward programs for the rest of us, but he's proud to have sent them out in style. During a 1995 visit to a Sotheby's auction, Broad realized that he could turn perks from his American Express card into a way to help his favorite charities. After placing the winning bid for Lichtenstein's classic, "I...I'm Sorry," Broad swiped his AmEx--and the transaction went through. He donated most of the 2.5 million frequent flyer miles he earned from the sale, which inspired countless caps on later reward transactions.
Of course, large credit card transactions have become far less unusual as merchants of all kinds realize the benefits of accepting plastic. Car dealers, real estate brokers, and hospitals all encourage credit card payments to simplify billing and to eliminate the wait for checks to clear. Even though services like Blippy, Swipely, and Mint might reveal more than your preferred amount of personal information to third parties, credit card companies' own online services can reward you for consolidating your purchases by automatically organizing your expense reports or qualifying you for bonus rewards.
Joe Taylor Jr. is an internal business consultant for a Fortune 500 company, who recently spent $7.95 at Chipotle, $41.98 at the Apple Store, and $129 at New Balance.