GOOD DEALS FOR SINGAPORE AIRLINES MILES: You may have heard at some point in the OMG CHASE INK 60K!!! extravaganza that Ultimate Rewards has added Singapore Airlines as a partner. The Points Guy has a good rundown of possible uses for these miles. [Read more…]
In the comments on his latest post, George writes,
Some time ago I started a draft blog post titled “Best blogging practices”. Well, I never got around to finishing that post! This has come up before actually. I just do not have the resources/capacity to pull this off.
The credit card shills do not know or care if their practices cross any boundaries. In order to make money they need to pump. Pumping works SADLY! So, it is a phucking treadmill once you get on it…you need to keep pumping to keep them. Bloggers are not wholly at fault, it is the whole phucking system involved! I mean, look at what Amex did. Basically kept around ONLY the MEGA pumpers…It’s just rotten.
If I did not have a day job I would certainly look to get something like this done. I think it is worth the effort!
What the heck, let’s give this a try. It’s been almost a week since I mined the TBB comments for a post idea anyway.
I don’t know exactly what George had in mind, but I’m going to list certain blogger behaviors in order from more ethical to less ethical.
Note that some practices don’t have much of an ethical dimension to them, but they do degrade the quality of the blog. For example, if a single blogger ran 10 posts a day for a solid month about the Chase Ink 60,000 point offer–well, bravo for informing the world about a pretty good deal, but I wouldn’t think there would be too many non-SEO readers left after such a cavalcade of pimpin’.
This list isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative, it’s just my two cents. (Can I say “Starwood point” instead of “two cents”?) So here we go:
- Taking the time to answer reader emails and comments to assist them with problems / questions. Going above and beyond your usual blogging duties to share expertise, what’s not to like? Unless you kill a deal or lead folks astray of course (see below).
- Promoting non-affiliate offers/products/deals for which you receive no compensation. Great practice for the most part, just don’t kill the deal for a product that can’t support it. Case in point: This FWF thread documents a deal where an obscure credit union was letting people fund deposit accounts with credit cards. It died pretty quickly.
- Promoting affiliate links that represent the best publicly available offer for a credit card. By all means, spread the news! Just don’t overdo it.
- Promoting the same credit card link over and over again with nothing new to say about it. As discussed above, this isn’t really an ethical issue, it’s more of a blog quality issue. At some point, the noise overwhelms the signal. Lately it feels like I’ve been reading about one hundred OMG CHASE INK 60,000 POINTS!!! posts per day. Is there anything else in the world besides Ink 60K that I should be aware of right now?
- Making a post that contributes to deal killing. There’s an intersection of “Helpful”,”Drives Traffic to Blog”, and “Kills Deals”, and it’s not often obvious where the lines are. Case in point: Travel Summary’s guide to manufactured spending, which drew some opposition from Marathon Man. I don’t know who’s right or wrong in this argument. There’s a political adage that says “All procedural arguments are insincere, including this one.” I’d repackage that as “All deal-killing arguments are insincere, including this one”. People–and I don’t exempt myself from this–tend to come down on whatever side of the fence benefits them. But, it’s a murky area.
- Pretending an affiliate link is new even though the only new thing about it is that the blogger is getting compensated for it. Wow, the Southwest 50K offer is BACK, BABY!
- Promoting affiliate links while failing to promote non-affiliate links. If you do this, you are for all intents and purposes an employee of the credit card industry, and there’s nothing wrong with that except most credit card company employees don’t pretend to be helpful bloggers.
- Knowingly promoting an affiliate credit card link that’s inferior to other publicly available offers for the same card. Shame on you!
- Promoting affiliate credit card links that are inferior to other publicly available offers and then deleting comments that point out what you’re doing. Fortunately nobody does this, right? Right?
- Making a post that could get readers in trouble of sort sort. Frequent Miler had a good write-up on the recent Evolve Money glitch/trick, blogged about by others, that could get bank accounts closed.
That all I have, additions / corrections in the comments below, please.
I’d like for you to contrast and compare two things. The first is an excerpt from Freequent Flyer’s review of the Charlotte mile madness festivities:
You are not playing against any other member of the community when you manufacture spend, book tickets, or sign up for credit cards. You are only playing against yourself (and the referees).
When people hear about the levels of manufactured spend being reached by others, their first, natural reaction is envy: why aren’t I earning as much as they are?
And the answer is simple: they have a different credit history, different credit limits, different risk tolerance, different geographical restrictions, different ethical boundaries, and different knowledge.
And that’s totally fine. It would be deeply weird (and not a little suspicious) if we all had exactly the same spend patterns, at the same merchants, all year every year. Instead, we’re all different, and that’s one of the things that makes it hard to pin any one of us down (our relatively small numbers help, too).
Pop quiz, hotshot! I’m going to give you two mystery credit cards, and you’re going to tell me what credit card I’m talking about, what airline I’m talking about, and which card is better. Ready?
CREDIT CARD A: Earns 1.25 miles with Airline X per dollar spent on all purchases. $95 annual fee.
CREDIT CARD B: Earns 1.30 miles with Airline X per dollar spent on all purchases. $0 annual fee.
You can probably guess what card A is, since not too many airline cards give you 1.25 miles per dollar. It’s the Chase British Airways card, of course! (Note: this is not an affiliate link, and I get no money if you click through.)
And credit card B? It’s the American Express Blue for Business (Note: this is not an affiliate link either):
The card earns 1 Membership Reward point per dollar spent. MR points can be exchanged for Avios at a 1:1 ratio, plus you get a 30% bonus on all purchase-related points earned each year. Voilà, 1.3 points per dollar spent. (Though before you rush out to get this card, please note that you do need to have a more premium Amex card, e.g. a Gold card, in order to be able to transfer points from this card to one of the MR partners.)
So which card is better? That’s a trick question. The answer, as always with these things, is it depends. The Chase card comes with 50,000-point sign-up bonus, vs 10,000 for the Amex Blue, so clearly if you’re looking for a big one-time gain, the BA card wins.
But the Amex Blue for Business belongs in the conversation. You can actually earn more Avios with it than you can with the branded card, and there’s no annual fee. There are many cases where you can get two cents of value or more per Avios, so you’re talking about a 2.5%+ card with no annual fee. I could get a CLT-LGA roundtrip ticket with seven months of Amazon payments.
Another pop quiz: why don’t other bloggers in the points and miles community talk about this card? It’s not an amazing card, but like I said, it belongs in the conversation since there are some people and some situations for which it would be useful.
Frequent Miler, to his credit, is the only major points-n-miles blogger I know of who has mentioned this card (he even has it on his best credit card deals page). I wasn’t able to find any mentions of this card by the rest of the boardingarea.com crew, or by Points Guy or Frugal Travel Guy. If I’m missing one, by all means let me know and I’ll gladly correct the record.
This goes back to what Matt wrote about the other day regarding the economics of blogging. The incentives of big league bloggers are not aligned with the incentives of their readers. This doesn’t mean that they’re bad people, or that there’s anything wrong with getting paid to sell, just that most of them are sacrificing the quality of their product in exchange for card-whoring. They get paid to push certain cards, and they don’t write about other potentially useful cards since they’re not getting paid to do so.
I don’t mind if a blog has advertisements, or if they promote a really good deal, or if they subtly work a relevant link into an article, or if they ask me to use their links to help support the blog. Bloggers have to eat, right? Just be honest about it and don’t punish your readers with irrelevant and/or subpar affiliate links.
There are some who still produce a good blog despite the temptation to do otherwise, and hats off to them, because it’s got to be awfully tough to resist the temptation to cash in for a substantial short-term gain. Those of you who merely read and don’t blog should be aware of the incentives underlying some of the content you’re reading.