Those who blog about travel hacking (myself included) get a lot of flack for writing about and making public techniques that people "in the know" would prefer to keep to themselves. I think View from the Wing best summarized my position here:
I will continue my approach of sharing most things, things that seem like they’ll have a long shelf life or that seem like very short term opportunities regardless of whether they’re shared, and not sharing things that I believe will be killed once published.
That's why I don't have any second thoughts about sharing the technique of Walmart Bill Pay: it's a legal service offered by a huge corporation that knows exactly what it's doing – and is even being paid for its trouble. The fact that it allows us to liquidate PIN-based debit cards by paying off our credit cards is a happy coincidence. Red in tooth and claw and so on.
On the other hand, there's another technique I know of that involves exploiting a bug in the website of a travel provider. I'll never blog about that bug, since it'll be fixed within hours. People who discover it on their own can enjoy it, and hopefully they'll keep their mouths shut too.
But that's not the point of this post. My feeling is that people who buy and read my book or regularly read my blog basically know what they're doing, so I'm comfortable sharing potentially risky techniques and trusting my readers not to take excessive risks.
What I've been thinking about is whether it's ethical to tell people who aren't already interested in travel hacking about the techniques we use to manufacture huge volumes of spend every month. After all, travel hacking requires a certain personality type: some mathematical aptitude, relentless attention to detail, and an ability to methodically evaluate the costs and benefits of each technique. A person without that personality shouldn't be buying $30,000 in prepaid instruments every month.
I'm not trying to be condescending to the "little people who don't understand" how great this hobby is. I'm trying to be realistic, and the fact is the frequent flyer forums are full of posts by people who shouldn't be playing this game: people who buy the wrong gift cards, who lose their prepaid cards on the way to the car, who let store employees swap out their activated cards for duds. You can give all the "advice" in the world, but good advice will never be a substitute for the required personality type.
That's why I've been wondering: is it ethical to tell people about travel hacking in the first place?