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.
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.
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.
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.