In the past few weeks, 3 events have piled up in my mind: a series of e-mail and voicemail messages I received from representatives of bankratecreditcards.com; a post by PointsChaser about being censored by Barclaycard; and this ridiculous hack job by Gary Leff this afternoon.
This post is my reflection on those three events, and a plea to readers – but especially bloggers – to just say no to credit card affiliate links.
Bankrate doesn't realize I don't work for them
Back in June, I signed up for an account on cardsynergy.com, one of the many web fronts of the same company that generates most online credit card affiliate links. Since I wasn't interested in cluttering up my website with banners, advertising text, and the other bullshit that company produces, I just pulled out the underlying links and linked directly to the cards I was writing about. I wrote about the two decent signup bonuses offered by that company, and forgot about it.
A couple months later, after not having made any money, they fired me, which I also wrote about here.
Here's the e-mail I received:
"A review of www.freequentflyerbook.com has revealed that you are still displaying links that have been scraped from creditcards.com. Unfortunately, at this time, we must remove you from our Affiliate program. Please remove all links that direct readers to application pages from creditcard.com immediately. Failure to remove this content in a timely manner may prohibit you from marketing cards through our program in the future."
If that seems like a mutually satisfactory resolution, you'd only be half right. After firing me, they then have continued to pester me up until the present day with obnoxious e-mails like this one from Camille Thomas, dated August 7, over a year after being removed from their affiliate program:
"I hope all is well. For your site , Freequentflyerbook, can you please remove the Chase affiliate links. Please notify when issue has been resolved."
and with voicemails threatening legal action by Chase (if someone can tell me how to download voicemails from an iPhone I'll post that crap as well).
Needless to say, I've told them to fuck completely and totally off, when I've replied to them at all. But the only reason these morons thought they had the right to e-mail me in the first place is that I decided to sign up for an account with them in the first place – a mistake I made because I thought that's how bloggers made money.
PointsChaser made a shocking amount of money from Barclaycard
A few days ago I read this post by Ariana Arghandewal at her personal blog, PointsChaser. It's structured as her rejection of Barclaycard's demands for her to take down content, but I naturally honed in on the most interesting part of her post:
"I wasn’t promoting Barclay cards much, but did manage to earn about $500-$1,000 in affiliate commission each month."
I understand, and have always understood, that travel hacking is a hobby engaged in, by and large, by those who are already well-off. Most folks only realize travel hacking exists once they're already in sales, management, or ownership positions that have them flying enough to naturally earn the miles, points, and elite status that have them asking what they can do with all these rewards currencies.
That's not me, but I understand.
But consider Ariana's statement, not from the perspective of someone who came into travel hacking from the sales, management, or ownership side, but from the perspective of those who don't work for a "living," but work to survive. The sums of money involved for a blogger who "wasn't promoting Barclay cards much" are already more than lots of folks take home from their minimum wage jobs.
Ariana claims to have been able to resist the temptation to cleanse her site of material Barclaycard didn't want to pay her for; every blogger who still has Barclaycard affiliate links, by definition, couldn't resist.
Gary Leff appears to be unable to write about the mechanics of Citi credit cards
I've written before that I have all 4 of the major 5% cash back credit cards, and have written extensively about the mechanics of all four: US Bank Cash+ allows you to redeem small amounts of cash back, Discover it requires a minimum of $50 to redeem for a direct deposit, Citi Dividend Platinum Select only allows you to earn $300 in cash back per year, etc.
But today I was shocked, jaded as I am, that Gary Leff wrote about a new 2% cash back card offered by Citi without providing any details whatsoever on the details on the mechanics of the card's rewards currency.
Just like the example from Ariana above, that's a situation that can only possibly come about because the people at Citi who pay Gary Leff (much more than $1,000 per month) don't want him to write about the mechanics of redeeming the card's rewards. They don't want him to write about anything except the talking points they've passed along to him.
Now, Gary makes enough money that he could tell them to fuck off if he wanted to. He hasn't, and until he does, I consider it the work of everyone in the community is to make sure he, and bloggers like him, aren't rewarded for taking advantage of their high-profile positions.
Blogger, and reader: just say no to credit card affiliate links.