Amex expands once in a lifetime family language, MGM gets hacked and airline jilts Star Alliance for SkyTeam (Saturday Selection)


Amex continues to expand once in a lifetime family language, massive data breaches at MGM and an airline jumps ship from Star Alliance to SkyTeam. All that and more in this week’s Saturday Selection, our weekly round-up of interesting tidbits from around the interwebs (links to each article are embedded in the titles).

Amex adds once-in-a-lifetime family language to cash back cards

a screenshot of a credit card
The dreaded Amex pop-up is getting more and more common these days.

Amex is turning “family” into a very scary word. The bank has long had a rule that only allows customers to get a credit card welcome offer “once in a lifetime,” which in practice has meant once every 5-7 years. Then, last month, things started getting crazy. First, Amex rolled out a “family rule for consumer and Schwab Platinum cards which states that previous or current cardholders of any of the three Platinum cards (vanilla, Schwab and Morgan Stanley) are ineligible for a new cardmember bonus. Next, it turned its familial spite towards the portfolio of Delta cards, creating a sequential rule that prohibits cardholders of the “premium” cards from receiving welcome offers on less expensive cards (the opposite path, from cheaper to more expensive, is still open). Finally, this week, Amex tossed its popular Gold card into the mix, prohibiting folks who’ve had any flavor of Platinum card from being eligible for a welcome offer on a Gold, regardless of whether or not they’d ever had the card before. In the midst of all that ruckus, I complete missed that Amex had also added a family rule to its Blue Cash Everyday and Blue Cash Preferred cards, which Award Wallet pointed out earlier this week. Yuck, yuck and more yuck!

Massive data breach part of ransomware fallout at MGM (and Caesar’s)

a man sitting at a desk with several computer screens
A recent look-in at MGM’s IT department

MGM has had a tough month. On September 11th, the casino giant was targeted with a ransomware attack, a ransom which they declined to pay. In the process, it had to shutdown and flush its entire IT system, resulting in chaos at the various properties (manual check-ins, no new reservations, no slot machines, etc). MGM estimated that the attack cost the company somewhere around $100 million…not exactly chump change, even for one of the busiest casino resort conglomerates around. In the meantime, there had been conjecture about whether or not guest’s personal information had been breached and also whether the contagion spread to the BetMGM online sportsbook after some folks suddenly found themselves unable to access their account balance (this turned out to be a technical glitch). In an e-mail to customers this week, MGM confirmed that the hackers gained access to the names, addresses, e-mails, driver’s license and passport numbers of guests who had “interacted” with it before March, 2019 (a group which includes yours truly). Supposedly, the one piece of info that the hackers evidently didn’t get into was credit card numbers. We’ll see. Caesar’s, which was the victim of a similarly-timed attack and paid the ransom, took MGM’s letter as an opportunity to send its own letter to consumers, saying that they didn’t “think” anyone’s personal info was exposed, but couldn’t say for sure. As a compensation to folks who might have had their info stolen, Caesar’s offered a two-year membership to an identity protection service. I guess #LikeACaesar means different things to different people.

Star Alliance airline jumps ship plane to SkyTeam

a man in a grey hoodie looking at a group of people
“Wait, do they know each other?”

Sometimes it’s hard to tell when someone’s eye might be wandering. Star Alliance found out just how difficult when Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) announced this week that it was ready for a more invigorating partnership…with SkyTeam (home of Delta, Air France/KLM, etc). In all fairness, there was some indication that SAS was looking to sow oats elsewhere. The airline declared bankruptcy last year and then was sold to a group of investors that included Air France/KLM, leading some to wonder if an eventual change might be on the way. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone that’s flown SAS over the Atlantic, as the business class awards are about as common as a Delta SkyClub without a line. However, maybe now that they’re joining SkyTeam all that will change and we’ll have access to its well-reviewed business cabin for 1.2 million SkyMiles.

You can finally walk airside between all the terminals at LAX

a map of a city
Map of LAX, with the new airside passageways in green.

LAX has never been my favorite airport. Like several older, large US hubs, it’s seen better day and the layout leaves much to be desired (see above). My primary experience in the airport over the last several years has been transferring to or from an international flight. And. What. A. Pain. Until recently, the Tom Bradley International Terminal didn’t have airside linkages to the neighboring terminals, meaning that you’d have to take all your stuff, clear security and then go back through security in the adjacent terminal to get to your connecting flight. Invariably, one of the two flights would be delayed, creating a mad dash to make the next one, usually ending with a silent prayer of thanks for TSA Precheck. Well, all that fun has come to an end, as now LAX has joined the 21st century with airside connections between all of its terminals. Want an invigorating 2-mile walk without having to go through TSA? Start in Terminal 1 and go all the way to Terminal 8. I can’t wait until I get to tell my grandkids all about how in my day we had to walk four miles and clear security four times just to take a flight to Japan.

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I’m gonna miss having SAS in Star Alliance. Svalbard and the Faroe Islands were some pretty fun uses of UA’s excursionist perk. I’m also in CPH fairly often and as a Star Gold I’ve always enjoyed the SAS lounge there.