Are Bloggers Deceitful? - Running with Miles
Credit Cards

Are Bloggers Deceitful?

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Written by Dustin

I received a comment on a previous article and it made me start to think more on the topic. Do you agree with my thoughts?

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On my last week article, Times are Changing, I had a comment from a reader that had me thinking. I’ve had the thought about time from time, but I think it’s time to (attempt to) tackle the issue. Readers flock to their favorite bloggers for information, but are bloggers deceitful?

Are Bloggers Deceitful?

Let me just set a few things straight. I fully see there is a (big) business side to blogging and have nothing against people making money. I haven’t met any of these bloggers in person, just my experiences either from a few tweets or reading their articles.

Background:

I feel I am pretty well versed in credit cards. There are definitely areas of my “travel hacking,” I could improve on, especially some of the smaller details of award programs. But, overall I think I am above average when it comes to credit cards and award programs.

When I entered the blogging and YouTube world, I wanted to help people see the world for less.

If I could make money doing this, great! That hasn’t ever been my primary goal, but if it somehow happened I am not sure I would complain. I couldn’t in good conscience push bad/misleading info to make money.

I really enjoy traveling and love hearing from people I have helped travel to a different part of the world for a fraction of the cost. Interacting with readers or the Youtube viewers is always great, and you all keep me in my place when you need too, which I appreciate. 🙂

Ok, Back to It

The comment I received was:

Once I read this, my mind started to wander and I started asking myself more questions (these have been on my mind for awhile). See thing thing is, bloggers do perform these calculations, but not all of them are completely forthcoming with their math. Not only that, since some make a living at this, they skew the numbers making it look better than it is.

These bloggers have to sell something and if they told you the complete truth, they would be at risk of missing out on sales.

Point Earning Rates/Redemptions:

Every person values their points differently and you need to figure out your own value, it does drive me crazy when I see someone say, well TPG values points at this so they must be that. Please figure out your own point values.

Points are a dynamic currency where the values change. This means you will need to re-evaluate them from time to time. Bloggers have their own value which they might share with you. Their values might be a higher or lower than you value your points.

The problem is when people break down their point redemptions. People want their point redemption sound fantastic and not mediocre or underwhelming. Bloggers definitely don’t help this part, as they give point value for redemptions that are skewed.

If you strictly fly business class, sure you will be receiving a higher cent per point value from your points. Your cent per point value will be lower if you fly coach, but it cost fewer points for that redemption. Value is relative, since some value more trips than fewer more luxurious ones.

What will sound better to the reader, the more realistic value or a higher value? Remember it is about clicks and conversions.

Also, these people need to sell you a dream. Many people want to see the swanky First Class/Business Class cabins. Speaking from a credit card perspective, First/Business Class requires more points, which requires more credit card sign ups, which means more money made.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against redeeming for business class. I have redeemed for them in the past and and depending on the length of flight, I would do it again.

Example:

I’m going to choose a coach ticket for this example.

Booking a ticket from San Fransisco to Rome, the point cost on United is 30k +$41.90.

The one way cost for this coach flight, is $3,324!

Which would mean my cent per point value is 10.9 cents per point. WHOA, that is a great value!

Now the roundtrip cost for the flight with the same departing flight is $1,862.

This drops my cent per point value to 6 cents per point, when looking at a one way ticket, an about 3 cents per point when booking a round trip ticket (60k in points). Which is still a great value, but not nearly as good as 10 cents per point! Now let’s take this one step more.

This was the lowest cost ticket for the same day from the example above. Which means you could say your “real” cent per point value is 1.6 cents per point, if booking as a one way, but 0.8 cents per point if booking a roundtrip ticket (60k in points). This does not seem nearly as exciting as the original 10 cents per point from the original one way.

Of course I realize this doesn’t always work out, but the point of the example is to show how you can manipulate the cent per point value to make your point values look really awesome. Also the fact one way’s tend to cost more than a roundtrip (for international travel).

Many bloggers only show you the first value so you can say, “WOW, I really need that new Chase credit card!”

Ok, Ok, let’s do one more example for the business class folks.

Example 2:

We have a Saver Business seat for 70k and $41.90, not bad.

That one way ticket would have cost you a crazy $9,507! Which breaks down to 13.5 cents per point. Talk about AMAZING!

There isn’t roundtrip availability for the ticket above, so we’ll pick one close the times for comparison sake.

While not exact flight, the price for a roundtrip business ticket dropped to $4,108. Giving us a new cent per point value of 5.8 cents per point for a one way ticket and about 2.9 cents per point when booking a roundtrip saver ticket in business class).

The cheapest paid roundtrip business class ticket is $3,119.

This would bring the make our cent per point calculation 4.4 cents per point, for a one way ticket and only 2.2 cents per point when looking at a roundtrip ticket saver ticket in business class.

Again, these examples are just here to show you how you can manipulate the value of your points and skew them to give the idea you are really getting a great value.

The Annual Fees:

I am not against paying an annual fee if the benefits or earning rate is worth it. These do add to our overall cost, because there are cards with no fees. You will need to calculate a break point for your annual fee cards either through spend or the ancillary benefits you receive.

Telling the Half Truth:

One of my biggest complaints with the bigger bloggers in this niche is the fact they like to tell you partial truth information when it comes to credit card bonuses.

Remember my comments at the top, I don’t mind people making money, just not at the expense of their readers and the people new to the game.

The readers look to you to help them, and lead them in the right direction. While they should also do their own homework, they can’t get a proper answer if you are misleading them.

When there is a “special offer,” or increased offer, you’ll see the articles really push those cards. Right, before the offer is over, again you see the non-stop “LAST CHANCE” headlines.

These same bloggers are also the same ones who won’t tell you about better offers. They only tell you about the affiliate links that pay them money. This one really gets under my skin.

Can’t Say You Didn’t Know:

I find it very funny when someone calls out a person and they seem surprised about the better offers out there. If you spend even a little bit of time in the points and mile world, you’ll find out ways to find better credit card offers. It’s not very difficult, just Google: American Express Incognito offers and you’ll see the “How To.”

You can’t tell me the larger mainstream blogs don’t know about the American Express Incognito offers. I would have to assume that their affiliates won’t allow them to talk about it.

Here are a few pictures of credit card offers from a few larger bloggers:

 

But, head on over to Chase:

Or consider the fact there is a 100k in branch offer for the Chase Ink Preferred, but yet no mention of these cards on their sites. As the banks really tighten down, you should be making sure you get the best bonus possible. You can clearly see who they are looking after.

At the same time, these blogs push so many American Express cards and as their affiliate links expire they give half truth info. You can’t say they don’t know about the incognito method, or “Refer with Friends” links that could help their readers. Instead they push the links hard to make you think you will miss out if you do not apply for the credit card at that moment in time.

I had tweeted a response about a “Hours Remaining” offer on the Delta credit cards from a blogger with a much larger social media following (I mean I just went over 300, so I am now big time). The headline was false as the offer was still around for another 5 weeks! But, what the headline should have said was “Hours Remain on my Affiliate Link.” Surprisingly the blogger responded, asking me for my source. I guess my own refer a friend links weren’t sufficient enough. I would beg to differ.

While the affiliate link may have been until April 11th, there wasn’t even a peep that readers would still be able to find the increased offer. Playing ignorant don’t really fly with me. If I can find them and know how to locate them, I’m sure your “favorite” bloggers do too.

They even push bad offers consistently and since American Express has a once in a lifetime bonus, you apply for a bad offer well that’s it. You won’t get another bonus (unless you get a targeted one and that’s not guaranteed).

American Express Affiliate Links:

Charlie gave me some insight on the American Express affiliate system. If you have affiliate links from American Express, you can’t talk about or link to other American Express link not within the affiliate network. This is the business side of things.

The issue is the trade off made when this occurs. This is a conflict in what is in the readers best interest vs the authors best interest.

Some readers don’t mind forgoing extra points or statement credit to support their favorite blogger, which seems fine. If offers are similar, sure I can see readers forgoing $50 here and there. I can’t see a reader willing to give up 25k or more to support that blogger though. That is a lot of travel.

While it is great that readers are willing to take a lesser offer to support the blogger, it would be great if that blogger would, you know, be honest with their readers and give them the full picture. Rather than the side that benefits themselves.

One piece that I still can’t seem to wrap my mind around (feel free to disagree with me here), is how Million Mile Secret is able to mention American Express cards that are better than their affiliate links? Yet other sites can’t? Or is it they won’t?

Regardless of how you feel about Million Mile Secrets, they at least mention an option that could be better for their readers. This is something not seen from other bloggers with direct affiliate links.

Are All Bloggers This Way?

Absolutely not! There are many blogs that actually look out for their readers and give information in the best interest of the reader.

They don’t give their readers a one sided recommendation to only benefit themselves. While there are more mainstream bloggers that get most of the attention, there are bloggers who actually consider their readers.

So, are bloggers deceitful? No not all of us, but there are plenty of deceitful ones out there.

If you see someone giving you information that only benefits themselves, maybe you need to find a new source of information.

Tell me, do you think bloggers are deceitful?

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About the author

Dustin

After completing 6 years of pharmacy school, I finally had the time to travel. I started investigating ways to travel for less and when I redeemed my first award flight for my honeymoon, I knew I was hooked! Fast forward a couple of years and places I had never dreamed of visiting like Budapest, Honolulu, Bermuda and many other places where all within my reach, and for little to no money out of my pocket. Now, I have collected well over a million points and miles, and try to help people travel for less on their wallet.

34 Comments

  • Whenever I see “Eight great reasons to get X card,” I always figure that it’s really 9 great reasons — the ninth being that the blogger gets paid.

  • Good article. Didn’t know about this issue but now I’ll be more careful about the financial information some provide.

  • All very good points you raise. I think it is important as a consumer to understand how companies we interact with (and their employees) make money. This isn’t limited to blogs, but for all interactions consumers have with providers of goods and services. Employees and the companies they work for are both largely motivated based on how they make money. People generally understand this when dealing with car salesmen (on one end of the spectrum) but many don’t think of how that influences other things (like the news they read, etc.). In my mind, understanding this is half the battle.

    In the case of bloggers and credit card deals, I understand and am fine with the fact they are compensated for approved credit card referrals. I’m not opposed to someone making money off my credit card application as I get value out of the coverage blogs provide. But at the same time, I don’t have blind faith that they are promoting credit cards for my benefit. I’ll take the information they provide as step 1 in determining whether an offer is interesting to me. I’ll look for better offers and will apply elsewhere if better for me. If I am neutral and can let a blogger make some money off of me, then that’s great too.

    That being said, I think most bloggers intentions/trustworthiness become pretty transparent after a while. if i get the impression that certain bloggers are complete sell-outs and give two shits less about their audience and are solely in it for personal gain (ah-hem TPG), then I just stop reading them altogether. Agree with DJ that DoC is the best in my eyes – and perhaps that is because of his stance on affiliate links which doesn’t create the conflict of interest inherent with most mainstream bloggers.

  • Thank You for talking about this! I appreciate your candor to talk about a topic that’s often avoided by travel bloggers.

    I’ve been commenting on a TPG posts recently when they kept touting the Amex Plat 60k offer links. The Amex Plat incognito mode offer for 75k is always available. When I got into the miles/points game, I started with TPG and would submit that I got a relevant info initially. I think the blog has gone downhill in the last 2 years, in terms of content and in terms of putting the “best offer available”. Agree with DJ that DoC is really good, as DoC doesn’t have any affiliate links and I’ve often ended up getting the best deals and offers there.

    Another blogger recently had a post headlined: “5 reasons to get the Barclays Arrival Card.” Given all the better offers around, what possibly could’ve been the reason to tout the value of the card other than the fact that there’s a big affiliate payout? The new Arrival card doesn’t even have a sign-up bonus.

    Your assessment is dead right. Nobody despises other people making money, but it often comes at the cost of editorial honesty. With a lot of the travel blogs, the old adage still applies – follow the money! The more independent the blog, the less compromised the opinions.

    • Hey SRT,

      I’m willing to ruffle some feathers. 🙂

      DoC is very transparent which I respect and like. The new Barclay Arrival Premier a garbage card too, don’t let someone tell you otherwise 🙂

      There are so many good independent blogs, but people love to look at the mainstream ones as the most reliable ones. So far from the truth.

      Thanks for reading! I appreciate it!
      Dustin

    • +1. The titans certainly seem less interested in integrity than referral links. I noted on one titan’s blog recently that pushing a new Chase card could cause shutdown of all accounts, and giving a warning would be the ethical thing to do. I wasn’t even offered a response.

      • Hey Christian,

        Unfortunately, that doesn’t shock me. It is easier to avoid the questions, rather than answer the question.

        Thanks for reading! I appreciate it!
        Dustin

  • This is a sore topic among bloggers and kudos to you for addressing it.
    Many of us can’t really complain,because bloggers have thought us many of the tricks that would take years of mining on ft to find,now in return they want us using their links and I’m totally fine with that, what I’m not fine with is bloggers hiding the truth when there are many times better offers than their affiliate links.
    While I do understand the predicament of bloggers thinking “without me this guy would’ve gotten a citi double cash, I’m teaching him opportunity so why do I have to tell him about a sapphire preferred 80k link ?”
    It still gets me upset ….but I understand where that are coming from and I can’t judge them

    • Hey Abe,

      Thanks!

      I agree, if people want to support the blogger for the info, I understand. I’ll judge them for you :-).

      Thanks for reading! I appreciate it!
      Dustin

  • What are some of your favorite blogs, Dustin?

    My favorite blogs are of course yours, Doctor of Credit, Hustlermoneyblog, Miles To Memories, Million Mile Secrets, and Danny Deal Guru.. I feel like these blogs are great. What is your take on all of these?

    I appreciate this post. Now I can be more cautious when I’m looking at their math.. since I did catch some that were not correct. +1 to you

    • Hey Scott,

      Thank you! Numbers can be skewed to look good 🙂

      I read many blogs, but some of my personal favorites are:

      – Doctor of Credit- Probably the most transparent and great info
      – Danny Deal Guru- Solid info
      – Frequent Miler- articles that make you think,

      There are a few FB groups I’m in that have great info:
      – Award Travel 101- Richard writes for TPG and honestly is the only one I’ll read on that site. He is very smart with point redemptions
      – Travel Hacking Study Hall- Great group of people sharing knowledge and really a welcoming group.

      The FB groups give great info.

      Thanks for reading! I appreciate it!
      Dustin

      • Thanks for the quick response! Good to know!

        I’ll give frequent milier a look as well as those facebook groups! thank you. Have you heard of the other bloggers by chance? I want to know if I’m actually getting quality content. I’m sort of new to all of this churning, travel, and stuff of this nature. espeically from the blogs i listed. those were just a few i constantly visit

        • Hey Scott,

          I haven’t checked out Hustlermoneyblog, so I don’t want to give bad info on a blog I am not familiar with. Doesn’t mean they aren’t good. Miles to Memory and Danny Deal Guru are good to read. MMS can have good info, but they can be heavy on the CC pushing. Although they do mention better offers from time to time.

          Another good way to find new bloggers, is check the H/T (hat tips) bloggers give to others. It is a good way to find new bloggers who might give you quality content.

          Thanks for reading! I appreciate it!
          Dustin

          • thank you for your sincere answer! would you care to elaborate on what H/T (hat tips) mean? and how to check it?

          • Hey Scott,

            Much in the blog world has been written about, but when someone sees an article they want to give to their audience, they’ll write up the article with their tone/point of view. They give credit to the blogger they got the idea from. It usually is at the end of the article, or the author will give credit in the article.

            Dustin

      • I’ve read a few posts by Danny the Deal Guru in the MilesToMemories blog, and my only gripe is that he never responds to questions. After a while it can get really frustrating. Is that the case on his own blog as well?

        • Hey Christian,

          I don’t think I have left on DDG site, but he is pretty active on Twitter, so it might be worth reaching out there.

          Dustin

  • Dustin,
    Question for you I have a CSP with AF due next month which i am planning to cancel…
    I am thinking of getting AMEX Platinum but just wondering if its worth it with 60K bonus and 550$ AF..
    I don’t use Uber by the way.

    • Hey NFD,

      I’d first say before canceling, consider downgrading if you don’t have the freedom or freedom unlimited. This keeps the option open to upgrade at a later time. This is quite helpful, if you are over 5/24.

      At 60k, I would say no to the Amex Platinum. There are links for 100k in private browser and occasionally public. I’d hold off.

      Thanks for reading! I appreciate it!
      Dustin

  • Dustin, the idea behind your post is why I started my blog. I don’t think a blogger can be impartial with credit cards when they are profiting from readers that sign up. I only trust credit card advice from people that stand to make a penny off of me.

  • Is the sky blue? The answer to are bloggers deceitful is are you really asking that? Boarding Area, MMS, TPG are deceitful. Duh.

    • Hey John,

      I don’t believe all the bloggers on BA are deceitful. There are ones that do produce quality info and keep their readers in mind.

      Thanks for reading! I appreciate it!
      Dustin

  • What scares me is that most of the blogs sell the dream of international first class trips. Suites in the air and on the ground! Unfortunately unless you at a big time MSr or just churn cards, it is practically impossible to get the required points – even at 3x for the once in a lifetime dream trip. A free 2% cash back card IMHO is the best card for 99% of the population. Leave the high annual fees and depreciating points for the other 1%.

    • Hey Frequent Flyer,

      I agree! Unless you have a crazy amount of spend or MS a lot, most would benefit from a 2% CB cards. Maybe with a few 5% cards sprinkled in.

      Thanks for reading! I appreciate it!
      Dustin

    • I think tpg and one mile at a time by lucky are the worst in terms of pushing inferior products (insert chase preferred and Citi AAdvantage article here.) but to your point about 2% cash back vs reward cards, I agree with your thought process but disagree with your conclusion. Most of us don’t spend enough to redeem for international business class trips. That means to maximize or credit cards, most of us need to churn and burn. The reward rates themselves don’t matter too much since we’re not spending tens of thousands of dollars a year. But by carefully applying for 2-3 credit card offers a year, we can live that lifestyle.

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