Thank you so much for your thoughts on credit card referrals and for filling out the survey last week! I never expected to get hundreds of responses, but I finally finished reading them over the weekend. Thanks again for taking the time to fill it out and for your honest feedback, which wasn’t limited to only credit card affiliate links. I greatly appreciate it!
As a reminder, the survey was completely anonymous. So unless you left your name or email in the comment, I can’t identify the commenters who wrote “As I’ve told you before…”
- 90% of readers indicated that you know that banks sometimes pay referral fees to bloggers and website owners on certain credit cards.
- 51% of you indicated that you were comfortable with both credit card affiliate links and advertising on the blog.
- 5% of readers said that I shouldn’t accept either credit card referrals or advertising on the blog.
- The rest of you were split 1:2, between having either credit card referral links or advertising, but not both.
When I started writing the blog, I expected to come home from work at around 7 in the evening, have dinner with Emily, crank out a blog post after that and be done by 9 at night.
I had no idea that writing a blog would take so much time, and that I would be up past midnight on most work days and for most of the weekend answering blog email (I know it still takes me long to reply to some email) and researching blog posts. I’m not going to say that I deserve to get paid for writing the blog, because I really do like writing the blog and interacting with everyone who reads it!
But it would be nice to be able to generate a little income from what I’m already doing, which is writing the blog.
So I’ve decided to accept credit card referrals and banner ads on the blog. You’ll see those changes in approximately the next 1 to 2 weeks, and I’ll let everyone know before the 1st affiliate link goes live on the blog.
Most of you were very supportive, and I am very grateful for having such a terrific bunch of readers!
What You Said
Here are some common questions and themes in the comments and survey.
1. You’re selling out.
Yes. And no.
Yes, because the blog is moving from being a 100% hobby blog to a blog which will also earn revenue.
No, because there are different ways of earning revenue. The Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger way or the Bernie Madoff way. I’ve been following Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger since I was a teenager, and I’ll try darn hard to make sure that I lean as far towards the Warren Buffet side as I can.
2. It doesn’t matter because readers should do their own research.
I actually disagree with the notion that just because buyers should do their own research it is okay to do whatever is necessary to make a sale. That’s also a terrible long-term business strategy, though it does make money in the short term.
Yes, readers should do their own research, but I also have a duty to present the best deals which I can find and to let you know how I evaluate them. I would argue that this duty actually increases once I start earning money from the blog.
This doesn’t mean that I will always have the best deals listed (I’ll try though!), but that I will update the offers on the Credit Cards and Hot Deals tab within a reasonable amount of time (24 to 48 hours) once I hear about a better offer even if it doesn’t make me any money.
3. Disclosure. I want (or don’t want) to read about it all the time.
Some of you want every blog post to mention that I may be paid by clicking on certain links, while some of you felt that there should be disclosure in only 1 location on the blog and that the repetition drives you crazy!
I strongly believe that there should be disclosure on EVERY page which has a referral link on it in addition to another link in either the footer, header, or sidebar.
As a marketer, I know that this will interrupt the “selling” process or conversion ratio of credit card applications, but I will follow the example set by Gary, Lucky, and Mommy Points, that you should know when I get paid by clicking a link and will always disclose it in my post.
At the very least, it will remind you to read my post more critically, as you should.
4. Will this turn into a daily post about credit cards?
I’ll try not to, but you will see an increase in posts mentioning credit cards. But it won’t be credit cards 365 days of the year.
I’m always thinking about credit cards, be it targeted offers which don’t pay anyone a referral, or ways to get more credit card sign up bonuses, or ways to use credit card points.
I’m absolutely fascinated that without flying or staying in hotels, I’ve earned (that’s only me, not Emily) ~900,000 miles and points this year through credit cards alone. I’ll never go on a mileage run, so credit cards and other promotions are the only way someone like me can have Big Travel with Small Money.
I’m also fascinated by the credit card industry and at one point was considering making it my career. I turned down an offer from American Express and declined further interviews with Citi, not because I didn’t like the industry, but because I wanted more traditional marketing experience. I still love talking with my grad school classmates who work at the banks which issue miles and points credit cards about test cells, risk pools, and underwriting models.
I’ve also taken the lazy way out sometimes, when I don’t link to a credit card review or credit card when writing about it in another post. For example, I could mention how I earned the Southwest Companion pass in a post, but not link to the credit card offer. I’ll now have an incentive to do that. But I’ll do that only if it is the best deal, though.
I also want to devote time to posts about cards which don’t pay me a referral, but are great deals. For example, I’m very proud of the original 2-browser trick post which earned many folks 225,000 miles and had over 500 comments! I still want to write about deals like the 50,000 mile Virgin Atlantic American Express card which can be transferred to 100,000 Hilton points.
I’ve also got a ton of suggestions from readers on posts to write. Many of them have to do with applying for credit cards or using miles and points to travel.
What I will NOT do is recommend deals which are lousy offers just for the referral fee. But you will see an increase in mention of credit cards, particularly the ones which I have or will get for myself or Emily.
But I will also try to balance it out with other content.
5. So you’ll
pimp push every credit card now?
I will still give you my candid opinion on cards and whether I will apply or not. And whether I would wait for a better offer or not.
I’ll still tell you if I think a Delta 30,000 mile offer on a credit card is nothing to get excited over or that you might get a better deal by checking your targeted offer for the same card.
Or that the Mercedes – Benz American Express Platinum card (which doesn’t pay a commission) card will give you 50,000 Membership Rewards points (vs. 25,000 on the regular Platinum card) for only an extra $25 annual fee, even if that means you won’t apply for the regular Platinum card which pays me a commission.
6. I’ll be more skeptical of your posts.
This is perhaps the hardest fallout of accepting credit card referrals. One reader actually unsubscribed from receiving daily emails after I told him that I would be accepting credit card referrals.
Many of you said that you will be more suspicious of my posts and that taking a taking commission makes the level of trust drop.
And you’re right.
I’m very familiar with the social science research (which readers mentioned) which shows numerous evidence of unintended biases from folks who profess otherwise. You could have reached the same conclusions on human nature by reading Dickens or Shakespeare, but nice to know that we have peer reviewed proof of it now!
I’d like to tell you that I won’t be affected by taking credit card referrals, but I unconsciously will.
But I will put into place a system which will steer more towards the Warren Buffet side than the Bernie Madoff side.
7. What I won’t do.
Some of the items on this list were suggested by Gary in an email exchange which Gary, Mommy Points, and I were having on credit card referrals. Gary said it was important to set limits, and here are some of my limits.
- I will not accept money to change the order of my “Hot Deals” or “Credit Card” tabs.
- I will not accept free products from companies just to write reviews for. For example, if I write a review on, say, Expert Flyer or the KVS Tool, I insist on paying my own subscription fee (which I have in this case for the last few years). I don’t blog for free swag, and if I am offered swag, I will follow Gary’s example and give it away to readers.
- I will not accept money to write a post, which I hadn’t planned to write, on a certain credit card or product.
- Knowingly promote an inferior offer which pays me a commission, when there is a better one available which doesn’t pay me a commission.
8. This is a travel blog, not a finance/credit card blog.
This is a toughie, because I do see my blog as both a finance blog and a travel blog.
In fact, according to Technorati (as of last night), Million Mile Secrets is one of the few miles and points blog which is BOTH a Top 100 Travel AND Top 100 Finance blog.
You use the sames principles which you use to evaluate investments to value mile and points offers and to decide whether to pursue an opportunity to earn miles and points or not.
And since credit cards are the easiest way to earn miles and points, and I like going deep into credit card reviews, it seems appropriate to be also considered a finance blog.
This will never be a blog about the joys of mileage runs or agonizing over upgrades not clearing.
9. Why is your blog so badly designed?
I’m not a techie and I set the blog up after reading WordPress for Dummies using a free theme. I know the blog needs a redesign, but that will have to wait for some time.
Heck, I can’t even figure out how to add a banner advertisement on the blog’s home page!
10. Why do you write so much fluff?
If I don’t, who will? 🙂
And my favorite question:
11. Do you get paid when you refer folks to other blogs in your posts or emails?
No, I don’t get paid when I post links to other blogs or when I reply to your email with links to other blogs.
I link to other blogs because I’m lazy and because the other blogger has either answered your question or explained a deal much better than I could!
Bottom Line: Thanks again for your terrific feedback! I am extremely lucky to have such wonderful readers who tell it to me like they see it.
This post was longer than I expected, but I wanted to address all your concerns. You will see changes to the blog in the next few weeks starting with credit card referral links and advertisements in the blog and in posts. I’m very open to feedback, so I hope you’ll email me your thoughts as these changes roll out.
I will still write only about what I feel are the best credit cards, though you should be warned that a review on the “new” Chase Ink Bold will come soon to a blog near you!
Disclosure: None of the links to credit cards in this post pay me a commission.