credit cards

BAcon Bits about credit card affiliate marketing

Miles & Points blogs and conferences often revolve around strategies for credit card churning to earn vast amounts of points and miles to fuel your travel without the need to travel.

BAcon provided a seminar on credit card affiliate marketing for the blogger as a revenue stream. The presentations were about as vague as bloggers are about their relationships with credit card affiliates.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.


DISCLAIMER: Some links to credit cards and other products on this web site will earn an affiliate commission, and this web site has a financial relationship with several credit card-issuing banks. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the card issuer.


Basically any travel blog site with a disclaimer like this on the bottom of their page is participating in the credit card affiliate marketing program with some intermediary corporation who is the conduit between the banks and the bloggers.

The whole thing looks like a pyramid scheme to me, but several bloggers are making enough money to quit their day jobs and write about points and miles credit cards as the greatest innovation for (U.S.) travelers since the invention of air travel.

And maybe it is.

But I have a problem with award travel inflation rapidly increasing the cost of flights and nights within global frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs. Billions of miles and points are issued and sold through credit card loyalty program relationships with the banks and these hotel and airline credit cards overwhelmingly cater to U.S. residents as the only travelers eligible for most of these credit cards.

So what does an approved credit card referral pay?

Apparently, the card payment to an affiliate marketer (i.e. travel blogger) is in the range of $80 to $200 per card. $80 being so low that part of the credit card referral payment probably went to another blogger higher up the food chain. $200 being the payout for a premium credit card.

Since I do not belong to any of these affiliate marketing programs, I have no contractual agreement to keep secrets from my readers on credit card payout rates.

However, I can’t tell you which bloggers let the fee out of the bag or they might have to silence me permanently. No telling what T&C are in those contracts about disclosure. They must be iron clad since it has taken a long time for me to get the details.

Coyote Jokes

I have been sitting on the fence for the past couple of years about credit cards. That is a lot of money to turn down for mostly passive work. Cranking out a credit card post and telling how great the bonus is for your travel and where you can go with those points and miles sounds like easy writing to me.

The one thing that bothered me about the whole credit card affiliate marketing scheme is the representative stated that your referral sign-up rate must be maintained and grow through your blog to be retained as an affiliate marketer of credit cards. That kind of explains to me why the posts on credit cards come so rapid fire whenever there is a new card bonus out there. To keep on keeping on the blogger has to pimp enough cards to keep the affiliate marketer paying for credit card sign-ups happy or risk losing the generous revenue stream.

The aspect of the affiliate marketing I learned is that I can’t simply put up some credit card links on a back page of Loyalty traveler for the major hotel loyalty programs and passively sit around receiving payments for approved credit card member applications. The affiliate marketing company wants to see growth in approved credit card referrals to be happy with the blogger partner.

In whose interest?

I also loved the comment made by the credit card affiliate marketing representative that blog posts about churning credit cards are frowned upon and may result in the blogger’s affiliate contract being terminated.


I guess I read more blog posts than the typical credit card affiliate marketing representative.

The Devil’s Tool

I don’t think credit cards are the devil’s tool. Credit cards are necessary for most travelers planning to fly on an airplane or stay at a hotel.

My prior impressions though were confirmed by a major bank credit card representative when he stated something to the effect that the bank will use travel bloggers to market their products as long as it is in the bank’s interest to do so. Once bloggers become a liability that relationship will be severed.

I firmly believe the central issue is the bank’s interest.

That interest serves you as the consumer as long as you can pay off your bill every month and rack up free travel points and miles. Avoid illness, divorce, unemployment and unanticipated major expenses and life will be fine with you and the bank issuer of your credit card. That relationship changes quickly once your less-than-full balance payments start accruing 18% interest or even higher.

Bottom line is credit card affiliate marketing has turned into a major revenue stream for travel bloggers.

That explains the frequent flash floods of credit card signup bonus posts every time a new credit card bonus offer appears.

I guess I should look over my email closely from the past week and see if I received any emails from the credit card affiliate managers who took my business cards last week.

Let’s chat.

I like the idea of making some money for nothing and taking my trips for free.

And I won’t be able to write anything about the business of credit card affiliate marketing once I ink that contract.


  • JettyBoy May 20, 2013


    I think you have a sufficiently loyal following that will be willing to use your CC links to help support your site (and career). I personally think an approach like Frequent Miler’s is very classy, and would in no way dilute the excellent content that you come up with on a regular basis. Seeing how big this is getting, I, for one, would love to see one of my favorite travel bloggers (i.e. you) getting some of the credit card ka-ching love.

  • Adam May 20, 2013

    Thank you for this post. Others have made statements on affiliate payouts, rules, and so forth. Your post is one of the most comprehensive.

    “In whose interest?” After watching the deluge of posts on any new affiliate link from the tarts and courtesans, I know the blogger’s interest. And I know the bank’s interest. Neither have my interest in mind. They don’t much care, and it’s not their responsibility to care. In the end, only I am accountable for my interest, nobody else.

    I value the advice of bloggers without links, like you, much more highly, but that’s doesn’t mean I won’t read the others. I just know where the interest lies.

  • Jeff May 20, 2013

    Good post. You definitely don’t have to push credit cards, and as long as your content is good, it’s okay to have links.

  • hobo13 May 20, 2013


    You have perhaps the highest personal integrity of any travel blogger I read. If I was in your position of having a huge and loyal following of a popular travel blog, I’m not sure I could resist the lure of the devil’s money.

    You are a class act — the kind of teacher I would want my children to experience.

    Thanks for the informative post — one might conclude that a bunch of guys are getting fat off the pork that you can find at BAcon.

  • Travel Summary May 20, 2013

    Great post! This kind of info is hard to come by. FWIW, I think you’d get plenty of support if you decided to add some affiliate links.

  • Elaine F May 20, 2013

    Nice post! Hope George sees it! Actually I am sure he will.

    I tend to use links I find on Flyertalk most of the time. On occasions when I’ve gone through a blogger’s link, usually via a tab on the blog, not the screaming “you must get this card” blog post, I have not always found it led to a working link. And this had happened with some of the most prominent of bloggers.

    So sometimes my best intentions of giving a blogger the affiliate credit evaporate during the churn when I find myself just trying to use the best offer that has a working link and/or landing page during the few hours I have allotted to complete the churn.

  • Dan May 20, 2013

    As much as I dislike bloggers pushing credit cards and the conflict of interest it can cause, I fully understand you are spending time to produce content which I consume for free. I would much rather have affiliate links than pop up ads or a pay wall.

    After this informative post I think it would be fair for you to put up some affiliate links and reap the fruits of your labor.

  • hobo13 May 20, 2013

    To those saying Ric should put up affiliate links….

    I think you are missing part of the point. According to this very post, it seems you can’t just throw up links and watch the money trickle in — you have to continually expand the number of people clicking on them, or else they’ll cut you off. So what starts out as a some benign CC links eventually turns into pimping at every opportunity. Seems like you can get caught on the treadmill all to easily.

  • Ryan May 20, 2013

    Very informative post. Personally, I think your blog is fantastic as-is and I’d stay away from the affiliate-link “crack” if I were you. Would I patronize your links if you had them? Yes, but I’d hate to see the great post content you have become diluted with “AMAZING DEAL ALERT!!!” and shallow posts that are just an excuse to list your current affiliate links. Keep on rockin!

  • JettyBoy May 20, 2013

    Hi hobo13,

    I agree with your point, and I did pick up on that from Ric’s post. I just feel there may be a way to include affiliate income without compromising the quality of the blog itself, similar to what FM does. Although, given FM’s focus on gift cards/manufactured spending, it is probably easier for him to write about credit cards (even though he doesnt pepper his posts with links) and have that be at the top of readers’ minds (thus diverting them to click his links in the tabs), as opposed to Ric who does more of an “industry/loyalty program analysis” blog which might not lend itself well to that model.

  • jason May 20, 2013

    Very honest and hats off to you.

    Some bloggers love to push products that a regular consumer ( Ink Cards as an example) would not consider. They tell you not to lie, but implicitly tell you to make up a business to get those cards and manufacture spend. I dont know how Chase and Amex allow this to go on, knowing that buying Vanilla Reloads and paying your cable bills have nothing to do with a business.

    But hey the blogger gets 200.00 for each card and Flyertalk then has to answer all the questions!

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  • JetAway May 20, 2013

    I’m old enough to remember my Mom’s obsession with collecting and redeeming S&H Green Stamps. Recently, I came across old boxes of her S&H booklets filled with stamps but never redeemed because the program suddenly collapsed and I thought of my huge stash of miles and points sitting in accounts. I’m afraid things are heading in the same direction.

  • Romsdeals May 20, 2013

    The main point is to post quality content and not focus on affiliate marketing. It seems like you do a great job

  • Bobo May 20, 2013

    Great post, the fewer the credit card links, the better the content

  • I’ve never understood why the banks don’t just let existing card members get something for referring friends and family. I know Amex sometimes does this, they give you MR or SPG points if someone uses your referral link. I hate the way the affiliate companies operate (meaning Flex Offers, Link Synergy, etc). And it seems the bloggers who go hard with the pimping are only getting customers who spend the minimum, then put the card in a sock drawer and cancel it at 11 months out so the banks aren’t really getting quality customers. Are the banks really that dumb they don’t see it? Aren’t there reports they can run to see what percentage of cards obtained via an affiliate link are cancelled within a year? The cards I personally keep are the ones that give an anniversary bonus like the Priority Club Visa and US Airways MC, neither of which were affiliate links. I avoid clicking on affiliate links because I don’t want Flex Offers and similar to profit.

  • […] BAcon provided a seminar on credit card affiliate marketing for the blogger as a revenue stream. The presentations were about as vague as bloggers are about …Read more here. […]

  • Bobo May 20, 2013

    What ticked me off about BAcon was that some of the bloggers (Delta Points) were bragging about how Delta sponsored a wonderful barbeque and concert at BAcon, this is the same airline who continues to dismantle their Sky Miles program and Sky Clubs…Randy should be ashamed, always thought he was one of us

  • TravelBloggerBuzz May 20, 2013

    Yes of course I read this and will make it MVP Post of the Day. I hear you Ric…been struggling with the same issues. It appears there is very little you can do to avoid the devil. I always thought doing it FM’s way is the classiest and apparently it is working for him. So, since you are already in the BA umbrella perhaps you can do it and see what happens. Personally, I would rather have me (my friends and family too lol) get some cards from you rather than most pimping bloggers who, you know, pimp non stop! But once you start going that route you automatically take time away from producing quality content! This is your full time job, I have no doubt you can do it AND keep the content quality up. I just can’t do it…no BA umbrella and no time to devote to deciphering all the non transparent salespump talk!

    I think what this space needs is a new niche “Monetization specialist”: A person who will take over keeping up all the cc offers in a separate tab for a cut of all income coming (yeah, another layer lol) so the blogger can only keep up (as he/she should) with producing quality content! And them offers better be at our discretion…no AARP or Discover or Disney or inferior affiliate offers.

    Just thinking out loud…

  • Jason May 21, 2013

    Just remember that most bloggers are dishonest. For example: when the Ink Bold/Plus reduced its minimum spend from $10K to $5K late last year, not a single mainstream blogger (except MMS) reported this UNTIL their affiliate links were updated with the new offer SIX days later. So, for that week, unsuspecting visitors were applying for the $10K application with the bloggers’ links when the $5K was available at This includes the “classy” (@JettyBoy) Frequent Miler. So, don’t let these car salesmen fool you…

  • Alan May 21, 2013

    As a non-US based reader I wholeheartedly support this! It’s a real turnoff to see credit card posts appearing over and over!

  • Woggledog May 21, 2013

    Agree with both Jason and Alan.

    Seeing this pseudo promoted reviews for credit cards is NOT classy, and if you end up being able to make a living on affiliate links alone, there’s no way that you can be impartial, regardless of your protestations.

    There are many readers outside of north america. This blog SHOULD be about maximising your earning potential / reducing the cost of your flights / using your miles well, not trying to see how many credit cards you get people to sign up to.

    Furthermore, in the age of austerity (well, outside of north america anyway), surely these blogs should NOT be encouraging people to spend $5000 just to get a few miles…?

    I applaud this blog post.

  • Elenor May 21, 2013

    Jason: “They tell you not to lie, but implicitly tell you to make up a business”

    hmmm. OR, they provide information for a business owner (manufacturing company) who is new to the miles-and-points game, has to get to an ‘other-coast’ wedding in just four months, and hasn’t the discretionary income to allow it. My best friend decided in Feb to marry in June (sheesh. {eye roll}) and I HAVE to be there, and I can’t afford to buy tickets. However, the Ink Bold with its 50k miles in 3 months served me perfectly! (And yes, I ignorantly got a Delta AMEX at the same time — because all I KNEW of points was Delta AMEX — and no way (I know now, alas) could Delta or AMEX provide!)

    Now, I cannot get more cards (I have previous debt to pay off, from my husband’s death two years ago) and so I will continue to read and learn — and just ignore the ‘card pimping’ as y’all call it. In a few years, when I’m once again solvent, I will do more.

  • FrequentMiler May 21, 2013

    Jason, feel free to criticize me, but please stop lying about my supposed lack of coverage of the Ink $5K offer. I published right away:

  • dhammer53 May 21, 2013

    Here’s the question of the day, are the bloggers keeping the full amount, or is BoardingArea taking a cut. Can anyone explain.

  • TravelBloggerBuzz May 21, 2013

    I believe BA does not interfere with the deals bloggers make individually with the affiliates. BA does take a cut for the banner ads and other advertising all over BA of course as they should.

    But maybe BA does and we will never know…you know, it is in the contracts, can not disclose any of these practices.

    Transparency at the fullest…NOT!

    You know someone is paying. It is the poor newbie who got excited and signed up for five credit cards in his firs app party and then furnace/airconditioner/car broke and lost job and will be paying an arm and 1.5 legs to Jamie Dimon for a decade at least. And that’s how my story goes:-)

  • […] BAcon provided a seminar on credit card affiliate marketing for the blogger as a revenue stream. The presentations were about as vague as bloggers are about ……/bacon-bits-about-credit-card-affiliate-ma… […]

  • Matt May 22, 2013

    The problem with Affiliate links lies with the banks, not the blogger. They have broken faith in the relationship which causes the massive conflict we see today:

    1. Banks demand a certain number of signups per month else threaten to cut links – blogger is incentivized to push links.

    2. Banks offer better links than they offer the blogger – blogger still needs to push links so if they share the better offer they risk losing links altogether.

    The banks need to support the blogger by allowing them to focus on their readers, but they aren’t working like that, and to make matters worse they are competing with them, the only way some bloggers can navigate this relationship is to ‘push links’ some of them not being the best.

    In other words, banks are telling bloggers to whore themselves out, at the risk of losing readership, in the hope that they won’t get cut before they become too ugly to bring in cash anymore.

    I hope someone addressed that at BAcon

  • James May 22, 2013

    “I like the idea of making some money for nothing and taking my trips for free”

    As long as you don’t start moving refigerators & color TV’s…

  • Jamie May 27, 2013

    @James – lol!

  • Ric Garrido May 29, 2013

    @james – you got the musical reference :).

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