Updates

Responding to allegations made by the ipaymy CEO

Setting the record straight.

When you write a blog, it’s inevitable you’re going to meet people you disagree with. That’s good, even desirable, insofar as it encourages healthy debate.

Some people, however, go a step further and make accusations of bias and impropriety. It’s one thing when these allegations are made by nameless faces behind a keyboard. It is another entirely when they’re made by the CEO of a company. This is why I’ve decided to address the false allegations made by Ethan Dobson, ipaymy’s CEO.

Here’s the context: On 8 August, a reader spotted that Citibank had modified the terms and conditions of its credit cards rewards program. I published an article on 9 August discussing these changes. You can read the original article below:

Citibank’s new rewards exclusion categories: what you need to know

Several changes were made to the rewards program’s T&Cs, but the key point of interest was the exclusion of certain spending categories from earning points.

Somewhere towards the bottom of the article, there are two sentences where I discuss the implications of these new exclusion categories.

MCC 6513 is also excluded, which means iPayMy payments will no longer earn any points with Citibank cards. I have confirmed with Cardup that they are unaffected by the changes, however.

On the morning of 10 August, Ethan Dobson, the CEO of ipaymy, left the following comment on the article.

ipaymy payments will not be impacted by this change. As usual, the author of the post did not contact us for clarification on this matter. It should be known that Aaron has a personal relationship with the founder of CardUp is (sic) is unable to write unbiased content on this subject.

Going forward, we would be happy to provide any relevant information prior to publication.

Ethan
CEO of ipaymy

These are serious allegations. Ethan is saying two things:

(1) I have a personal relationship with the founder of CardUp

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(2) That personal relationship precludes me from writing unbiased content on this subject

Let’s deal with the first allegation. Here are the relevant facts:

  • I have met Nicki Ramsey, the founder of CardUp, once and only once at a Seedly panel discussion back in December 2017. Some of you may have attended the event or watched it on Facebook Live- there were five panelists in total and we had a great debate about miles versus cashback
  • That was the first and only time I met Nicki, and indeed I’ve not spoken with her since. My communications with CardUp are done through a different representative

Therefore, Ethan’s allegation that there is a “personal relationship” is completely inaccurate. I’m not exactly sure where he got this idea, or what degree of a “personal relationship” he is implying, but based on what he says it’s a relationship close enough to cause me to be biased on the topic at hand.

The funny thing is, apart from the Seedly debate, I’ve never actually met anyone from CardUp in person. On the other hand, I’ve met folks from ipaymy in person a few times before. During the webinar I worked with Chrystie and Sue, who were amazing (they made sure to signal to me when I started talking too fast, so I think they were pretty tired by the end of the evening!). If you’re looking for a personal relationship, you’d certainly have a stronger case to make there.

So let’s deal with that second part- the alleged bias.

Again, here are the relevant facts:

  • The Milelion has worked with ipaymy before and received financial compensation. On 5 and 8 December 2016, we ran two webinars covering the basics of travel hacking. The entirety of the compensation received was donated to World Vision Singapore, the site’s supported charity at the time
  • The Milelion has not received any out of pocket compensation from CardUp, apart from member-refer-member credits

In light of that, I’m actually pretty surprised at the allegation of bias. I mean, I could understand someone saying we’re biased in favor of ipaymy due to the historical financial relationship that exists. I’ve actually gone through pains to remind people of this in the past so I don’t get accused of being unfair in their favor. For example, in my post on the DBS Woman’s World Card excluding CardUp and ipaymy from 10X points, I made mention of this:

Therefore it’s quite ironic that the allegation now is that I’m biased against ipaymy.

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I’m sure people’s definition of bias will differ, so I’m going to let our track record speak for itself and let everyone come to their own conclusion. Here’s a list of every article I’ve written about ipaymy. Go through them, and you won’t find anything negative or disparaging. At the same time, here’s a list of every article I’ve written about CardUp. 

It may be difficult for Ethan to accept, but when I sit down to write an article, there isn’t a pre-existing bias that informs what I write. The only question I have is: will readers find it relevant?  There is no bias, because at the end of the day, I’m not loyal to either CardUp or ipaymy. What drives my decision about which one to use? Whichever one charges lower fees and offers more miles. My loyalty lies with miles.

It seems almost silly to have to point this out, but when UOB blocked CardUp from earning 10X points on the Preferred Platinum Visa, I covered that. When CardUp made it harder to redeem referral credits, I covered that too. Why? Not to “even the score” (because who’s keeping count?), but because it’s relevant to our readers.

Ethan says that:

As usual, the author of the post did not contact us for clarification on this matter

That’s correct, I did not contact ipaymy in this instance. But his “as usual” comment strikes me as a bit strange, given that I’ve actually had some back and forth with the ipaymy team in the past regarding rewards categories. For example, I’ve been in contact with Sue and Chrystie to get updates on which cards earn 10X rewards with ipaymy. I’ve always been glad to update posts with this info when I get it, because it’s useful to our readers.

And finally let’s deal with the issue that Ethan finds contentious- what happens to ipaymy after 4 October when Citibank makes these changes. Here’s what Ethan has told me through email:

We process payments over several MCCs depending on a number of factors including card bin range. We have the ability to programmatically move payments to a specific MCC as needed via various backend MID setups. While we do put many transactions through 6513 today, that is a choice, not a requirement. To prepare for the Citi changes, we will flip all Citi bins to a different MCC to make sure our customers are not impacted.

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Ethan doesn’t dispute that ipaymy uses MCC 6513 (among others) today, which will soon be blocked from earning rewards.

His point is that going forward, ipaymy will change its MCC so customers can still earn rewards. That’s great! As someone in the miles and points hobby, I’m glad to know there will still be ways to get the miles I want.

If Ethan had simply reached out to me with this clarification, the post would be updated quickly (indeed, it already has been to reflect the new information) and the matter would be settled. Unfortunately, he has chosen to go beyond that and make untrue allegations about me, and that’s something I’m not going to let go unanswered.

I emailed Ethan on Friday night asking him to retract his comments and issue a public apology. He has yet to do so. I hope he will, but in the meantime I’m taking this step to address the allegations directly. For those of you who had any doubts about the allegations Ethan raised, I hope this addresses your questions. I’m proud of what we write on The Milelion, and will defend our objectivity and impartiality when the need arises.

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pat
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pat

good. please continue to be loyal to points/miles and your readers, who as you know can turn their backs on your blog with one click. i get a lot of useful information from your posts and hope to continue reading them

Ken
Guest
Ken

????

Anya
Guest
Anya

Keep it up Aaron! Thank you for all your hard work thus far

YYH
Guest
YYH

I was planning to start using ipaymy for some of my payments next month But after the CEO’s accusation, rest assured I’ll make sure all that all my friend’s, and my future payments will go to cardup.

Powell
Guest
Powell

Lol same.

Nene
Guest
Nene

Life is boring without some drama

Carol Sellers
Guest
Carol Sellers

This Ethan Dobson is such a major dick.

Esther Tan
Guest
Esther Tan

Well I think Aaron writing can be sometime Overly critical(KF Acc product manager left UOB after your article) and very narrow point of view from miles hacker only. This don’t make u real Friend in the industry but
It’s also your right to write what ever you want and how ever u like. Most blockchain startup now think they are Elon Musk and should rightfully be put in their place.

Ken
Guest
Ken

“Overly critical”, would be a matter of opinion, no?

I personally don’t think Aaron was “overly critical” and in fact, I concur 100% that the product’s a dud.. but that’s also a matter of opinion..

TooEasy
Guest
TooEasy

Pedo Musk will be fined or jailed soon. Let it be revealed where the secured funding is.

milou3633
Member
milou3633

The good thing is, milelion doesn’t window dress when comes to opinion and the mission for Milelion is miles hacks

Don
Guest
Don

That product manager. Leaving.
If it’s directly related to Aaron’s writing, that it means the product is ill conceived and all of the so called influencers utilized are…

Aaron focus on miles is why I am following him on milelion. Definitely not because he is a kpop idol.

Raymond
Guest
Raymond

Aaron points out the facts that is relevant to mile chasers and I think it should be applauded. If product managers leave simple because of what Aaron had said, it’s simply because the products were inferior ones, designed to trick customers with their convoluted T&Cs, and the UOB Krisflyer Account is one excellent example of that.

Rajiv
Guest
Rajiv

Please focus on your product & customers. Make the product better & keep customers satisfied. Don’t worry about Aaron & team.

Michelle Teh
Guest
Michelle Teh

I agree.. this article makes me feel the author did not use a better way to obtain information from the company. Matter will not turn ugly if he had express his real intention (writing an article) when questioning the company. I believe the company would have use a more professional reply, not just an end user support answer .. its just my opinion cause i am also in business application line.

Ned
Guest
Ned

Someone messed with the wrong milelion

TooEasy
Guest
TooEasy

Well it is obvious where my business goes from now on!

It really reveals how iPayMy operates. They are petty and it really makes me wonder if there is a dispute with them, what will happen to my miles? Logic will not work with them I am sure. They are not rational thinkers and will prefer to be defensive instead of constructive and understanding.

CardUp all the way!

Jason
Guest
Jason

“MCC 6513 is also excluded, which means iPayMy payments will no longer earn any points with Citibank cards. I have confirmed with Cardup that they are unaffected by the changes, however”
I suppose he’s angry that you checked with Cardup but not with iPayMy. Why didn’t you MileLion?

Jack
Guest
Jack

I don’t think he owes us a duty in asking iPayMy…..besides… the Milelion made an assumption based on his current knowledge which proves to be correct. I quote “While we do put many transactions through 6513 today…”

Anyway thumbs up to the Milelion for providing great information about miles. Your articles are well written and provide great clarity!

Jason
Guest
Jason

But the point was that MileLion checked with CardUp, but didn’t do that with iPayMy. That may be why he’s angry and overreacted.

Ben
Guest
Ben

Angry is one thing. To make defamatory statements impugning a person’s reputation is another. Especially when it is a CEO of the said company. Behaviour just like Musk. Success of the company, perhaps not like Tesla?

Saxo
Guest
Saxo

I do agree with Jason, perhaps someone should have checked with ipaymy as well, or the article should have been phrased to suggest uncertainty e.g. IPM use MC6513 so their payments MAY be affected, though this is yet to be confirmed.

I don’t agree with Ethan’s personal attack but he was understandably upset because thousands take MileLion to be gospel.

I don’t think there’s any bias but to be objective, both vendors should have been contacted. I’m sure they would have willingly provided the information very quickly.

SQtraveler
Guest
SQtraveler

Unbias literally means the balance doesn’t tilt. If one’s actions open up an opportunity for others to arbitrage then it’s for the blogger to close it.

Raycus
Guest
Raycus

Boycott ipaymy

Smudger
Guest
Smudger

It makes me not wanna do any payments via iPayMy anymore now that their CEO is such a petty d***. You have triggered the wraft of the miles community. You’re not gonna earn a penny from me, my friends and family.

Alex
Guest
Alex

Definitely won’t be using iPaymy anymore. What a petty CEO

Marcus
Guest
Marcus

No wonder people say that CEOs have psychopathic tendencies. What an unprofessional and childish message from Ethan. Keep up the good work Aaron.

curious
Guest
curious

How do we know that comment was left by the real CEO? Someone could have used his name, just wondering

Don
Guest
Don

Great article Aaron.
Was looking at using either of the companies, looks like the choice is clear now.

Thanks
Don

Jo
Guest
Jo

Love your blog, love the impartial advice, news and tips. It’s the only blog I subscribe to because of that!

bitcoin
Guest
bitcoin

[comment deleted]

aaron: I appreciate the support, but let’s not resort to personal insults. play the ball, not the man.

:)
Guest
:)

can’t deny the fact that you and the team have helped so many of us to travel better for less. 🙂

Magarita
Guest
Magarita

After readingyour story I will switch to ipaymy. Yes ipaymy. Regarding the ipaymy and cardup bias, I just want to say that as a reader of this blog I am a neutral party and that I both use ipaymy and cardup. There is no preference for me except for who offers the cheaper commission rate. The Mile Lion is influentially enough to sway me in the initial sign up. For example if the Mile Lion says use Cardup I will go try Cardup although previously I was using ipaymy. That’s what happened the last time I asked a question on… Read more »

Ken
Guest
Ken

In all my years, no female has made me feel the way you have made me feel… by just reading what you wrote, it’s made my head spin… I’m going to need to sit down now…

Bogus
Guest
Bogus

True… i read the first few lines and i feel abit giddy. Magarita please learn to organize your sentence or dance magarita

Nicholas
Guest
Nicholas

NDP is over, but parachute exercises continue. Suddenly from the skies, “commandos” jump in. They don’t talk in Milespeak. It’s making my head spin. I’m going to need to sit down too…

June
Guest
June

Your comment read like a bot comment if I am honest but If I read your comment correctly, you are switching to ipaymy, even though their interface is not as good, and their process not as assured and efficient?

Daniel
Guest
Daniel

My head aches so much. I’m gonna throw myself off my balcony now

Jen
Guest
Jen

Netizens…I come in peace! ✌? If you aren’t living under a rock the past couple years “Fake News” has become a pretty popular term, let’s not embrace it here 🙂 If it is important to the author to provide relevant content, he should make sure its correct, otherwise it’s not really relevant. Fact checking and presenting both sides of stories are what real journalists do. It does paint an odd picture to only check with iPayMy’s competitor. Nevermind lah. Has anyone thought about the implications of making such a conclusive statement: “iPayMy payments will no longer earn any points with… Read more »

Ben
Guest
Ben

Hi Jen. Your post reads and sounds a little too much like you’re one of iPayMy’s staff. Or are you Ethan? Let’s go through the salient points you raise in your post. 1. Fake news? Huh? This isn’t the USA and you’re not Donald Trump. Don’t call everything you don’t like fake news. Even in Ethan’s email correspondence which Aaron disclosed, Ethan clearly admitted that MCC6513 was the predominantly used MCC for iPayMy transactions. So that FACT on which Aaron made such a comment is TRUE. If we were to go by your logic, then let’s say, purely for illustration:… Read more »

Nicholas
Guest
Nicholas

Hi! You don’t talk in Milespeak. Which planet do you come from? Peace!

Lah
Guest
Lah

lol. Lah. Red Herring.
Just apologise already Ethan, you’re not fooling anybody.