The New Trend In Loyalty Programs: Radio Silence

by joeheg

If you’ve been in the points and miles arena for a while, you’re no stranger to cyberattacks. Hotel systems or loyalty programs are often the targets but airlines and credit card companies are also in the bullseye of hackers. In fact, my personal information has “possibly” been accessed so many times that I think I’ll have free credit monitoring for the rest of my life.

I was accustomed to learning that someone gained access to an internal server with some personal information and downloaded it before being discovered days, weeks or months after the hack happened. Most often caused by a phishing scheme when a bumbling employee clicks on an email link they should have deleted.

While it used to be standard procedure to let all parties know when a problem happens, it now seems that companies are trying to sweep problems under the rug.

For instance, IHG suffered a major hack in September 2022. At first, the company stayed quiet but it was hard to ignore that customers were unable to book rooms online. IHG initially chalked it up to “system maintenance” but it eventually affected the ability for hotels around the world to access systems preventing guests from checking in to hotels.

It took a day until IHG admitted they were hacked, saying that “Booking channels and other applications have been significantly disrupted since yesterday.”

Guests from the affected period still complain that stays have not been credited to their IHG One Rewards accounts. For a while, no one knew what had happened.

According to reporting from the BBC, the hacking attempt was from a couple in Vietnam who were trying a ransomware attack but when IHG blocked their efforts, they resorted to wiping files from the system in frustration. They also revealed that they gained access to IHG’s systems because a password was set to “Qwerty1234.”

While that may seem strange enough, it’s nothing compared to the problems at Capital One.

It’s been less than a year since Capital One launched its premier Venture X card which features the ability to transfer points to any of Capital One’s partners.

On September 23rd, many customers reported that they could not transfer points to any of Capital One’s partners. That’s still the case as I write this post.

a screenshot of a list of airline miles

Here at YMMY, we’re a moderately popular travel blog. We don’t have access to contacts at the banks or loyalty programs. But other bloggers at Boarding Area do, and even they can’t get a statement from Capital One regarding what’s happening.

In fact, View From the Wing has said this about the Capital One outage:

 It struck me that the issue had to be technical or security-related. Something happened that the bank hasn’t shared. And it’s not related to the capability to actually transfer points to programs, since Capital One uses a vendor (Ascenda Loyalty) for that and other companies continue to use Ascenda’s platform successfully in the meantime.

I asked Capital One when to expect miles transfer to return, and they tell me the functionality “to be restored online within a week” after they’ve completed “mak[ing] system improvements.”

And while I was considering dropping my Chase Sapphire Reserve card in favor of the Capital One Venture X, I’m having second thoughts if the bank is being so mysterious about giving a reason for a major disruption to the core functionality of its flagship card.

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