I previously discussed certain things that I felt were wrong with how bloggers currently “push” credit card links all the time. I discussed how, in a perfect world, the readers/consumers would have more complete information. Alas, we don’t live in a perfect world (and far from it if you’ve read Travel Blogger Buzz!).
So should you even use one at all? If yes, how do you pick which affiliate link to apply to? And does it even make a difference?
Before I start, I need to make one thing clear: the ideal situation is for everyone to know how much money is paid for the commission. Disclosing the dollar relationship between the affiliate and the bank will help people decide, or at the very least wont hurt. But as I noted in my previous article on the subject, it seems many are contractually barred from providing that information. Still…we’re in the business of finding and exploiting loopholes. I’m sure there’s a way if they tried!
SHOULD YOU EVEN USE AN AFFILIATE LINK?
Many times we read posts about new credit cards or new offers and the writer says something to the effect of “I can guarantee that clicking through this link will get you the best available offer.” What they don’t mention, and it should be obvious to everyone, is that the same offer is also available directly from the bank’s website (i.e. chase.com, etc.). Of course it’s in the writer’s best interest to have you click through his or her link, because they’ll earn the commission. But you, the consumer and the person signing up for the credit card, get nothing different from one link or the other.
Why would anyone choose an affiliate link? You can probably come up with a lot of reasons, but in my opinion it boils down to whether or not you like the idea of affiliate links and commissions. Do you think that the commission was rightfully earned, and that the writer deserves compensation for “selling” you something? Or do you feel the opposite way – that the writer didn’t really provide enough value to you? Maybe you hate salespeople and don’t like the idea that you’re being sold something. Or maybe you feel like you need to pay someone back from the information you’ve learned.
Either way, it doesn’t make a difference to you the consumer. You’ll get your credit card and the points, regardless of whether a commission is paid out or not.
Which brings me to the second question…
IF YOU DECIDE TO USE AN AFFILIATE LINK, HOW DO YOU PICK WHICH ONE?
If you’ve decided that a commission is due to someone, how are you supposed to pick which one? After all, everyone and their mom seems to have an affiliate link for every credit card. If you’re a points addict and read The Points Guy, you probably also read View from the Wing and One Mile at a Time, among many more. Each WILL post the same credit card deal. How do you decide? I personally would pick after considering these items first:
- Which blog do I feel truly helped/taught me the most?
- Which blog provides the most original content?
- Which blog does not “push” links and make it obvious they want commission?
Number one is by far the most important. If you truly feel that one particular blogger helped you, why not reward them with a commission? They earned it! By all means, help them out by clicking on their link. Number two is related to the first point, but slightly different. The credit card post from The Points Guy will look very similar to the one from View from the Wing or One Mile at a Time or the rest of them. I think someone that provides original content, something new and different and useful, provides more value. Again, that person worked for the sale.
The third point might just be a personal preference for me. While I don’t hate affiliate links, I also don’t like that nearly all bloggers’ posts contain at least one affiliate link and sometimes even have a dozen of them. I feel that they really do push these links. We know why they do…we know they get paid. Sometimes it feels that thy’re almost asking for their commission outright. If you’re walking down the street and stop to listen to a guy playing the guitar, but then at the end of the song he nudges the guitar case full of coins towards you and says “donations are welcome,” I’d personally be less inclined to donate. If I feel like donating, I will; I know you want a donation and I’ll give you one if I feel you earned it. Likewise, I don’t need to see the affiliate links all the time (twelve times in an article is ridiculous). One is fine. Or keep it on a different page and just say it’s there.
DOES IT EVEN MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
I mentioned this before, but you the consumer will get the points and credit card regardless of what link you clicked on. Your payout is the same. The only difference is whether a blogger gets paid.
I will say this: it does seem like a shame to deny someone free money. It’s not like you’re the one that pays the commission. The banks are rich and get paid tons of money from credit card usage (and appreciate the sale), so them paying a few hundred dollars as commission probably isn’t a huge deal to them. In a way, we all have the ability to create income…for someone else. I guarantee you that it makes a difference to them.
While disclosing the dollar amount for the commission is very important, it’s also important to note one other expectation we all have: only the best offers should be promoted. I don’t want to hear about the Frontier or Spirit Airlines cards, and a blogger would be kidding themselves if they told us it’s a valuable card to have in our wallet. Put simply, I expect that all bloggers will promote the offer that is the best offer in their estimation, and not put ANY WEIGHT on how much they get paid for it. It’s important, and I hope it’s as obvious to them as it is to us.