On Monday afternoon of this week I posted links to the Amex SPG 30k deal. Later that afternoon I received an email from Amex (or, more specifically, from a 3rd party that manages the affiliate relationship with Amex) saying that I was violating the terms of the affiliate agreement I have with Amex (via the 3rd party).
I wrote that I didn’t post affiliate links, I posted direct links to the signup pages. They wrote back saying that those were not official links, which I took to mean that those who signed up earlier than the Tuesday “official” release day may not receive the 30k bonus. I took down the links because I didn’t want to be responsible for people not getting the bonus they thought they would receive.
The next day I received an email from the third party saying they were dropping me from the affiliate relationship because I had posted content that was unauthorized. Specifically, they wrote I made a “non-compliant posting of this promotion.” That’s when it occurred to me that I made an error – they didn’t ask me to take down the links to protect the readers, they were just trying to control the content on the site.
I will speak only for myself here, but I have had other run-ins with the credit card issuer police in the past – they have asked to have a few things removed, primarily taking issue with posting links to landing pages that were not “official” offers (this used to drive Chase nuts), and around encouraging people to call the credit card company to match bonuses received by others. Generally I pushed back and that was the end of it; on a couple of occasions I removed the content because I felt I had made my point.
Those days are over.
I’m not suggesting that there is some vast conspiracy (as some have suggested) to get bloggers to shill for credit cards. For the most part, the bloggers you’re reading are writing about credit cards because they believe they offer a great way to earn points (myself included). But part of the arrangement of having a direct affiliate relationship with the banks is that they can tell us to take down content they don’t like. And because there are really only 3-4 issuers with credit cards of much value, it’s hard to say no to them when they ask. I’m not saying bloggers don’t say no to them (and I know several instances where bloggers have told the credit card companies that they specifically will not take down content the bank didn’t like), but I am saying that, especially with bloggers doing this full-time, it’s become more difficult to say no to those requests when the majority of your income comes from a couple of companies.
I am lucky that I can (and will continue to) make a little income off the OTR, and I’m even more lucky that I have a regular job. With that flexibility comes the ability to make my own decisions. And the decision I’ve made is that I will be upfront about what is being asked of me by banks. I’m regretful that I wasn’t clearer about the Amex SPG situation earlier this week, and I’m really pissed at myself for taking the content down. It won’t happen again.
To the end, you may have noticed that the Chase Reconsideration Line phone numbers have disappeared off a number of blogs because Chase asked them to be taken down. As my first bit of penance, I will publish them here:
Application Status: 800-432-3117 or 800-436-7927
Reconsideration (personal cards) 888-871-4649 or 888-245-0625 or 888-609-7805
Reconsideration (business cards) 800-453-9719
I feel better now.