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The Strange World of Credit Card Affiliate Relationships

The credit card affiliate world is a difficult one to navigate for points and miles bloggers. On one hand, the purpose of travel hacking is to “game” the banks to a certain extent. Both credit card churning and manufactured spending are big parts of travel hacking. It’s basically all there is to it, which makes the affiliate relationship between bloggers and credit card companies uncomfortable at times. Why? Because the banks don’t like it when bloggers talk about credit card churning, gift card churning, and manufactured spending. Yet, these are subjects travel hackers concern themselves with. I get it: The banks want to run a profitable business and they have certain legal obligations in regard to the content that affiliates use to promote their products.

Personally, I don’t have an issue with banks making money and always preached that this hobby should be profitable for everyone. I don’t see how manufactured spending can be a bad thing for the banks, but they certainly see it that way.

The banks have become quite adamant about bloggers following strict rules. So far, Barclay has been easygoing. I have never received an email asking me to take down content or revise a post. That is, until yesterday when I got an email from Barclay asking me to take down content or revise a post.

I’ve been asked to remove the email text I originally pasted into this post and have agreed to abide by that request. The gist of it is that they were “not pleased” with my manufactured spending challenge post or the one outlining the cheapest way to earn Hyatt stays via manufactured spendingThey also requested that I purge the site of all manufactured spending content, which is basically all of it.

I wasn’t promoting Barclay cards much, but did manage to earn about $500-$1,000 in affiliate commission each month. Having the ads on the site alone helped. However, I never aimed for this to be a main income source and I certainly didn’t start this thing so it could become a platform for affiliates to dictate content. I don’t have a problem following compliance rules as a freelance writer, but I need to be able to decide what does and doesn’t get published on my own blog – especially, when it’s just a creative outlet and not my main career objective/income source.

My decision was pretty much a no-brainer and I proceeded to remove the Barclay affiliate links and ads on this site. It’s not a travesty and I certainly don’t mean this to be a “stick it to the man” type post, nor am I seeking a pat on the back. With credit card companies (and not just their products) aiming to play a bigger part in this hobby, it may be time to scour other sources for information about manufactured spending since not all bloggers will want to end their affiliate relationships over content issues. I certainly don’t blame bloggers for going along with these restrictions, but for me it just wasn’t practical to delete two years of content and effectively hand over editorial control to an entity that aims to reign in our practices with restrictive (albeit lucrative) affiliate relationships.

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Ariana Arghandewal

44 Comments

  1. Difficult decision. Good choice. When the occasion arises, I will route my business through your (remaining) links.–Tom Foster

  2. I always wondered why some bloggers don’t have complete links to all credit card companies. Reason I use links is where I can see all offers. You are not in the game. Mistake

    • The way I see it is Ariana is right not to let Barclay’s dictate her blog content. Personally, I have all the Barclay cards I want, in fact, it’s an open question wether ANY Barclay card is worth keeping past the 1st year! If, on renewal I don’t get annual fee waivers or statement credits, I’ll probably downgrade or close some of my Barclay,(3) cards I have now. Keep up the great work, Ariana!

      • Thanks John! Personally, I’m a big fan of the Arrival card and will keep it/continue to promote it. But you’re right, past that the other cards aren’t worth keeping past the first year.

        • The Arrival Plus is a good card, however, to make back the $89 annual fee you’d have to charge alot before breaking even. I think that,past the 1st year the no annual fee Fidelity Investments 2% cash back AMEX is a better choice. It certainly is worth a look.

          • I have more than made up the $89 in the past few months alone. I treat it like my travel piggy bank and along with the large amount of ms I do, it’s paid off. The Fidelity Amex is definitely a good card, but the added 10% bonus pushes the Arrival card ahead IMO.

    • Sigh. You really think a blogger deserves hundreds of dollars just because they have (often inferior) links than what you can find on FT or a quick Google search? Pathetic. With that attitude, no wonder this hobby has devolved into a credit card pimping business.

  3. Ariana: Your site has been, and will continue to be one of the most informative vehicles for understanding the points and miles game. Keep up the good work!

  4. My respect for your site just went up 1000% & I will be sure to put you on my list of affliate links to click during my next AOR.

    As a reader of travel blogs, I too am examining “my” relationships of whose affliate links I click, based upon how I value their writing & value of info provided.
    I am now actively avoiding the “salesmen” in this game!

    • What affiliate links? They’re gone. That was the whole point. She’s deciding to not be a saleswoman and not have to deal with the bologna associated with being an affiliate. She’ll have 100% control of her contact without any overlooking but is now out the revenue associated with that loss of control.

      I won’t praise or shun the move. It was a decision to make and I’ll continue to read as I have been.

  5. Good decision; you gained a lot of respect with this move. I’ll use your remaining links in my apps.

    When will ThePointsGuy (the website) be removing his Barclay links? His minions post about MS all the time, and he has Barclay links. Where do we write to report him? He should be treated equally with you.

    • @Carter I believe he has close relationship with Barclay and likely is a huge producer so he probably doesn’t have to play by the same book as smaller blogs.

    • Thanks, Carter. I don’t have any links but appreciate the offer. The other bloggers are dealing with the same restrictions and are dealing with it. I respect and understand their decision to continue those relationships.

  6. Yeah, it really is a hard line to walk. On one hand, you want to sell credit cards on make money, but on the other, you want to talk about “chasing points.” That is the whole idea behind this website, right?

    I think you made the right decision for you and that is all that matters.

    • True. It really was just about making the right decision for my blog and it may be different for others.

    • @Holly – no, it’s the right decision, period. If you think pimping cards to make a few dollars is worth losing editorial control of your own blog is OK, I suggest your judgment is severely warped. But then I’ve looked at your crummy site and knew that already…

  7. i applaud your decision whole heartedly. will be glad to support your site in any way going forward.i have always enjoyed your blog content, of the many that i read on a regular basis that i can’t say the same.

  8. Thumbs up to you. Your blog is one of my favorites and just jumped even higher. I find it strange that they are just now suddenly deciding to drop the hammer. I mean, did they not read this site before offering an affiliate link?

    Thanks for all of the content posted here. It’s been very valuable.

    • It is pretty strange. It seems they’re taking a cue from other banks and trying to cover their bases so “shady” practices aren’t used to promote their products.

    • I see reading isn’t a priority for everyone who comments. Barclays, not Amex, asked me to remove all ms content on this blog or they would axe me from the program. I decided against doing that and removed the links instead.

  9. Sorry, I may be a bit slow. Barclay wanted you to take down content. Was that only because you are an affiliate of theirs? Or because they didn’t like the site promoting certain techniques? As I was reading above, I was thinking the latter? And that if you didn’t do what they asked they’d bully you with lawyers / complain to your webhost,etc? Being an affiliate of theirs would be a minor part of the equation for them? Yeah, we’re giving her $x as an affiliate, but worse, her blog is costing us much more by her giving out info to many people on how to maximize points?

    I would think they would still be annoyed at you for giving out the info regardless of them paying / not paying you as affiliate? Not that I would like them trying to bully you!! Just trying to understand the situation.

    • Yes, I was a Barclay affiliate and they felt the topics I was blogging about (ms in particular) violated their terms. If I did not comply, they would drop me from the program. It’s true that they don’t want anyone to blog about ms, but with their affiliates they have more control over the way their products are being marketed. A lot of times bloggers don’t want to give up these lucrative relationships, so they’ll go along with the bank’s rules, which I think is something they were counting on when they asked me to take that content down. A lot of bloggers do remove content to stay compliant, while others somehow get a free pass to do what they want. It’s a very strange world filled with double standards.

    • Hey Mike Renna, pointchaser doesn’t have to explain the situation to you. You are not her boss, and stop acting like you write her checks. ,so STFU. If you don’t like this blog, don’t read. She is not forcing you to read and pointing a gun at you to give her money. Have some dignity of yourself and leave.

      • Hey collector – I’m just asking questions about Ariana’s post, trying to learn. And she was nice enough to explain. I love the blog and read each post as soon as it comes out! It would seem you come here to berate people 10 days after the last comment on this post and 15 days after I posted my questions. Again, I just wanted to understand the situation. You just come here to attempt to put people down? You might want to lighten up : ) Have a nice weekend! You might want to lighten up : ) if not, there’s other MS forums I don’t bother with because any questions are met with abusive comments. You might want to hang with those guys and spend your and their days butting heads trying to top each other’s flatulence.

  10. So is Barclays finally starting to practice what Chase and Amex have been doing?

    So this was done by an affiliate marketing company because some bozo in Barclay’s saw your site and didn’t like the content for, cough, “compliance’ reasons?

    You can do a lot of good educating bloggers about this “strange world”. Who are the players, what are the arrangements, what are the requirements/quotas to keep the links, etc etc. You can do a guest blog on this topic alone in my blog and escape their wrath lol.

    You call it strange…I call it murky 🙂

    • Apparently they are. From what I understand, Barclays saw the post and asked the affiliate marketing company to mediate the issue. I don’t know what the quota requirements are for Barclays – apparently not very high if they let me stay onboard.

  11. Ariana, I hope that anonymous people recognizing you for doing the right thing will help ease the loss of income. You should be proud of yourself, we are proud of you!

    Since you have no more affiliate links, best I can do is click on you a couple times a day. Hope everyone else will endeavor to do this as well.

    For you youngsters reading this, doing the right thing is usually harder than doing the opposite. But doing so makes you incrementally stronger for the next decision. And, in the end, you’ll be prouder and happier for these decisions than you will about making a bit more money. So you got that going for you….

    • That’s very nice of you, anonymous. Thanks for the support! I don’t really consider this my income (or a career), which is why it was such an easy decision to make. I want this to be a hobby and having to follow all these rules would just take the fun out of it.

  12. Ariana – good for you! But I am disappointed you are seemingly OK with other bloggers who don’t make the same choice. Those others are just scumbags in my eyes. I dearly wish more people would castigate those who kowtow to card companies just for the sake of a few shekels. Way too many “travel experts” are nothing but credit card shills.

    • Some would argue blogging about ms is irresponsible, which is why some bloggers avoid the topic altogether and keep their links. I don’t judge the decisions other bloggers make. I understand why they would go one way or the other.

    • Isn’t this the same dude that was a dick to Ariana when she wrote about ms’ing at Walmart? You, sir, are the real scumbag here. Go sail off to Cuba if you have a problem with capitalism.

  13. I admire you for making the best decision for yourself based on your principles-you chose the high road and I bet this road will lead to good things for you! Keep writing about what interests you and I’m sure your audience will follow.

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