The Credit Card Affiliate Links Controversy
T here has been a fierce debate pertaining to credit card affiliate links amongst those who “blog” about travel, miles and points — and that debate has been heated up recently by Ric Garrido of Loyalty Travel.
Although I would not label anyone an “airhead”, I thought it was a well-written article which was frank, honest and personal.
Unbeknownst to me, I received a live preview of that article as I walked with Ric down a crowded sidewalk on the east side of Las Vegas Boulevard one evening not long before he posted that article; and we were pretty much in agreement on this issue pertaining to affiliate credit card links.
In a rare display of passing judgment, Mikel Bowman of ThreadTripping suggests in this article that any irresponsibility on the part of people who abuse the use of their credit cards have nowhere else to look but in the mirror at themselves.
While I agree with the basic tenet of that assessment by Mikel, there are those people who do not agree. Can “bloggers” who actively promote credit card affiliate links really be responsible and blamed for influencing their supposed selling tactics on unsuspecting readers who take their word and play dangerously with their credit in order to attempt to maximize frequent travel loyalty program points and miles as well as elite status? Is it similar to the bar which can be held liable for whatever happens if one of its bartenders gives a patron too much to drink and allowing him or her to drive home?
I poked fun at affiliate credit card links in this satirical piece of fiction titled Sapphire, Ink and Other Cards: My First Posting, which was originally written on May 23, 2013…
…but even though that article was meant to be purely a piece of levity, this is what I wrote in conclusion:
My point is that the constant proliferation of referral links at certain weblogs can be ridiculous — despite how lucrative they may be to the “bloggers.” This is probably the farthest extent you will read with regard to anything written by me about those credit cards. I have never had a referral link to any credit card — ever — and I probably never will.
For now, I intend to stick with my credit cards which give me a percentage of cash back every time I use them, as I would much rather have cash than frequent travel loyalty program points or miles, which seem to lose value and have more restrictions placed on them every day.
However, I can use cash any way I want. I like that.
The idea of getting tens of thousands of frequent travel loyalty program miles and points simply for using a credit card — as well as earning elite level status — is certainly enticing; but then you are at the mercy of the frequent travel loyalty program and its policies and rules. You got your 50,000 miles — only to find that the travel award you want has increased to a required redemption of 60,000 miles. You achieve elite level status — only to have benefits removed from it unexpectedly.
It can be enough to convince someone to support frequent flier loyalty programs to be regulated by the United States government.
Although I did write a basic article about credit card “churning” and how you can benefit from it on April 15, 2012 — and yes, I did warn about the potential risks of engaging in that activity — this article posted on November 23, 2012 also expresses my thoughts pertaining to credit cards.
I have probably left a lot of money on the table — a lot of money — by not taking part in what I consider the “feeding frenzy” over credit card affiliate links. However, there are several things I never liked about the idea of posting articles with affiliate credit card links:
- I do not want to be a salesperson for big credit cards companies
- I do not like the idea of pushing something incessantly upon you — especially if I do not completely believe in it myself
- I do not want some outside entity dictating what I should and should not write in my articles; nor telling me how I should edit them
- Although I do commit my fair share of errors, I do not want to mislead readers of The Gate or What’s Your Point? in any way, shape or form, as I want you to trust what I write
Just to be clear, I am not saying in any way that those “bloggers” who do promote credit card affiliate links are doing anything wrong. In fact, the reason why they keep doing it is because there is a market for it; and as long as that market exists, it will continue. If no one patronized them or their links, you had better believe that it would come to a grinding halt — quickly. Supply and demand, you know.
I have no interest in reading articles which promote credit card links — let alone have any interest at this time to promote them myself; and I most likely never will do so for the aforementioned listed reasons. Credit card affiliate links and extreme “manufactured spending” are simply not for me.
George of TravelBloggerBuzz has long been adamantly opposed to the proliferation of credit card affiliate links, which is at least part of the reason why that weblog was founded by George in the first place; but he constantly highlights those articles to the point of ad nauseum — here is the latest list of articles for your consideration. One can argue that many of the weblogs on his list of Blogs I Ignore are some of the most successful weblogs of miles, points and travel in terms of revenue and income.
Personally, I believe that we as “bloggers” need to be held accountable to keep what we write in check to ensure that we deliver content to you which you find useful, valuable, informative, interesting, insightful and entertaining — and you can help towards that goal with constructive criticism on your part. I personally welcome it.
In the meantime, I will keep using credit cards which offer me as much as five percent cash back — more during promotional periods. I will keep paying off those credit cards in full every month, as that is the fiscally responsible thing to do. You see, to me credit cards are like a free loan for up to a month, using the money of credit card companies interest-free. I get a statement from each credit card company of my expenses listed nice and neatly; I pay with one payment electronically; and my cash back balance adds up slowly.
I am a customer credit card companies love to hate and plan to keep it that way…
…and if you do not like articles with credit card affiliate links, there is one simple solution:
Do not read them.