The credit card networks have broken an unusual barrier in merchant acceptance: The Christie's Inc. auction house has begun accepting the cards in the United States.

Fern Thomas, a senior vice president and the finance director of Christie's Americas, said in an interview Wednesday that the London-based auction company now accepts cards branded by American Express Co., Visa Inc., and MasterCard Inc. at its U.S. sites.

"Our clients were requesting it," she said. "It was a policy decision that the company made" on a "global" level due to rising international demand for and acceptance of card payments, she said.

Christie's had already accepted cards at sites including London and Hong Kong, but this is the first time that cards will be routinely accepted in the United States.

Before the policy change, customers paid for their art and other auction purchases with checks or wire transfers, Ms. Thomas said.

(According to the Christie's Web site, some of its sales rooms charge a fee for accepting credit cards. Ms. Thomas said, "Different sale locations have different policies" but in New York and Los Angeles "we will not be charging a surcharge.")

Tom Pojero, the general manager of merchant acquisition for American Express' merchant services business, said in a press release Wednesday that the new Christie's policy will benefit cardholders looking to earn rewards on purchases of art or antiques.

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