Judgment Week: Bloggers Who Write About Bloggers Who Push Credit Cards

One of the best things about being a non-religious person is that I am free to judge others unfavorably and unfairly, with zero fear that I will burn eternally for doing so.

That, and my Sundays are free.

Yet, I tend to refrain from expressing unfavorable judgments (And at the end of the day, it is only the unfavorable judgments anyone cares about squelching, right? I mean, you’ve never heard anyone say “Keep your accolades to yourself” have you?). Usually when I feel a judgmental urge coming on I talk myself out of the impulse to express myself. “Who am I to judge? What makes me think I know better? Maybe what I think I know is wrong.”

But as I was reading the forums and blogs the past several days, looking for interesting discussions to highlight, I found myself bookmarking several that for one reason or another elicited a judgmental reaction from me. Chalk it up to a rough week at the office; a bad meal; or maybe just a general sour mood – but for whatever reason I’m feeling particularly critical at the moment.

And I have decided not to fight it, but rather to embrace it. For one week at least.

It is, ironically enough, Judgment Week on ThreadTripping.

And the first discussion I’m going to draw your attention to during Judgment Week was inspired by a blog post written by a fellow BoardingArea blogger – Ric Garrido of Loyalty Points.

Ric wrote a scathing and deeply personal piece about his thoughts on:

Travel bloggers who operate their business as credit card marketers write about the world accessible to you with the right credit cards. They continually tell you to use credit cards responsibly as they earn thousands of dollars a month or even tens of thousands of dollars a year through credit card affiliate marketing. Airheads in the rewards credit cards bubble sell you a travel dream of endless luxurious travel, flying from place to place in the front of the plane, sipping champagne and sleeping in bed as you fly around the world.

As you can probably gather, Ric’s general premise is that credit cards are dangerous, can lead to great financial troubles, and bloggers who promote signing up for card after card to earn miles and points are naive at best, and heartless at worst.

The post has generated quite a few comments – most of whom praise Ric for writing a post that they felt needed to be written.

Some bloggers are so full of the BS that they have lost all connection to the vast majority of people living in this country! ~TravelBloggerBuzz

I’ve found that getting new rewards cards that have spending thresholds has actually encouraged me to spend far MORE than I would have otherwise. I’ve definitely thought, “Well, I don’t really need this [new pair of shoes/new outfit/new TV, etc.], but it’s okay, it’ll help me meet my spending threshold to get my sign-up bonus.” ~DWT

In the ideal world, there would be a mandatory introductory warning paragraph about the dangers of debt in every cc pumping post by an “airhead in the…bubble”. ~msmcmotown

But in reality, it’s all a load of bull.

If you read a blog that tells you to go out and signup for a bunch of credit cards so that you can travel in luxury for pennies on the dollar, and you signup for a bunch of mileage-earning CCs, spend a bunch on all of them, earn a bunch of miles and points, but can’t make the payments and find yourself in deep debt and financial trouble – well, that is absolutely 100% completely on you.

There’s a sucker born every minute, and if you fall for the CC travel dream without fully considering your own situation and finances and get into trouble, then you are the sucker of the minute.

Would it be more responsible of the bloggers who are pushing CCs and the associated travel dreams to fully disclaim the inherent risks? Perhaps. But then again, do you read disclaimers? And more to the point, have you ever read a disclaimer that actually changed your behavior?

I can’t honestly say that I have.

It’s beyond ridiculous to blame the bloggers who are promoting affiliate links for CC signups. Just as it is beyond ridiculous to blame McDonalds when customers become obese from purchasing and eating its high-caloric food items – none of which are labeled as healthy alternatives.

Let’s get something straight. Bloggers are not parents, priests or public officials. They hold no special authority over you and cannot make you do anything you don’t want to do.

Now, you might grow to respect a particular blogger’s opinions, but if that respect morphs into an implicit trust of everything the blogger writes and the blogger leads you astray – again, that is on you.

And Ric, it sounds like you went through a very difficult time with your wife’s health problem. No one would wish that on anybody and I’m thrilled to hear she is doing well now. But it wasn’t credit cards that got you into debt, it was your own decision to use them as you did.

We charged the gas on our credit cards, we charged the hospital visit copayments on our credit cards. We paid for food and any bill we could on credit cards so we had money each month to allow us to remain in our home and not have to add a move to the already hectic travel schedule of hospital visits. We went from being able to handle our bills to being in debt. ~Ric Garrido

In other words, you made a choice – you chose the hassle of debt later vs the hassle of selling your home and moving to a less expensive home during the crisis (not to imply these were your only two options – but these were the only two you discussed in the post). Despite this being Judgment Week, I’m not judging your choice. We all face difficult choices between two or more not-so-great options sometimes in life. And from the sounds of it, you are working your way through this choice and coming out stronger on the other end.

But I am going to be critical of the implication that you had no choice, and the only option available to any reasonable person was to rely on the CCs.

Phew. This judging thing feels sorta cathartic. Go ahead, give it a try in the comments section below.

Judge me. Judge Ric. Judge other commenters. I particularly invite all of you who, like me, tend to withhold judgment normally to give it a go. Feel free to let it all out this week in the ThreadTripping comments. And I think the key to this is not to censor yourself. Go ahead and judge even if you aren’t entirely sure your criticism is valid, or even rational.

Doing anything less would be completely stupid and wrong.

Ruffle some feathers. And try not to let your own feathers get ruffled too much. In fact, a good rule of thumb might be to write your own judgmental comments, and read none of the others. Valid and rational or not, no matter what you write is probably going to be judged harshly regardless 🙂

Read the post and thread that inspired this judgmental rant in its entirety: Airheads in the Rewards Credit Cards Bubble

Image: “Giant Gavel” by Sam Howzit. CC BY 2.0.

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Comments

  1. Then by all means let’s have tobacco advertising outside schools, legalize heroin etc… because after all, it is a personal choice if you want to succumb to that right? It isn’t the vendor’s fault, ever, right?

  2. You are completely wrong. According to your logic, the housing bubble is 100% the fault of the borrowers and the mortgage brokers who created unfair ARMs and then pushed homeowners into houses they couldn’t afford did absolutely nothing wrong.

    Constantly pushing credit cards and giving financial advice when you clearly are not an expert and have a massive conflict of interest is unethical. Period.

  3. The whole credit card criticism has gotten way out of hand. For me, the folks who complain that bloggers are the problem is akin to saying the car dealer is your enabler if they approve you for a new car loan at 0% even if you can’t make the payments.

    Full disclosure. I’m a blogger and I do have referral links. I don’t write about credit cards as much as some bloggers nor can I say I agree with every post I’ve ever seen written about credit cards.

    But, I figured out this interesting thing. I can choose not to read a blogger if I don’t like what they write. For some folks, that means not reading bloggers who talk largely about credit cards.

    I don’t really follow Delta’s program, so I tend to gloss over many posts written by them. But, there are other things a blogger like Delta Points writes that I enjoy. I don’t like traveling in coach overseas or staying at cheaper hotels, so when Deal Mommy writes about that stuff I usually take a pass. But, she has other posts I thoroughly enjoy.

    And, there are certainly bloggers who I just don’t read at all because I don’t like their style or content.

    I respect Ric’s right to rant about credit card bloggers. For me, life’s too short. There’s plenty of good stuff to read and plenty of folks for me to help educate/entertain.

  4. I really enjoy all the Boarding Area bloggers, and I love reading Rick’s posts. But I was beyond disappointed and disturbed to read his post about certain bloggers. It seemed like a very personal attack. While I understand what he was trying to say, I didn’t like the way he went about it.

    He twist on “air heads” was still insulting. Just really disappointed in him.

  5. I would argue that the bloggers pimping affiliate links sound like broken records. I also think you’re missing the point. The main problem is that these CC pushing bloggers offer “advice” or “recommendations” about products that they are being paid to promote. These days most posts from some bloggers seem like they are only made to sell a credit card. First Friday’s with Chase Sapphire anyone? That’s my problem, the financial relationship between bloggers and banks is driving content.

  6. I agree completely. I think that the majority of those who write a lot about the cards don’t push them in an irresponsible way. I’m glad that people are out there writing about every new credit card offer. They provide a valuable service to those of us who can and do use our credit responsibility. Yes, they do benefit financially from the cards, but it’s a symbiotic relationship. I’ll be sure to have a sip in their honor next time I am sipping champagne in the front of the plane.

  7. My sense is the reason he had to resort to credit cards is that his crisis happened during 2008 – 2010, when there were very few lenders doing unsecured loans with reasonable rates at that time.

    Today, very different story. Lots of low rate loans and 0% card deals he could have gamed and avoided paying interest for a long while.

    But yes, his story feels more about some envy at the seemingly ‘easy’ money some have made in a space he has expertise. And less about others getting in trouble with cards.

    Those people would get in trouble with credit whether or not there are points.

    The better argument would be to add up the cash costs of taking an award trip. The cab fares you pay, the meals you eat, the other things you spend money on a ‘free’ trip that can put someone in debt who is not careful.

  8. Bloggers who write about bloggers who write about bloggers who push credit cards are the worst of the lot. The logic you use above is probably the same logic drug dealers use…hey look at this amazing drug, some people can handle it responsibly, but if you can’t, it’s all “on you” and none of my responsibility. It’s incumbent upon us to have some human decency and warn of the devastating effects of the debt spiral. Don’t be a callous jerk and criticize those who try to help others avoid that spiral.

  9. “….. well, that is absolutely 100% completely on you.There’s a sucker born every minute….”
    This point reminds me of a broken…….record.
    And then there’s the simple fact that humans are frequently NOT rational. Read up about behavioral economics. A few Nobel prizes have been awarded in that space.
    You can make exactly the same argument about eating “right”. You’re responsible for what you shove in your pie hole and shaking that ass to keep all that fat from building up. This has been known for 50+ years and everybody knows this. Still we’re facing a first world pandemic and according to your arguments, with 50% of the population being overweight (or worse), every other child born in the US is likely to be a sucker. Let’s continue to be part of the problem, not the solution!

  10. The premise of his post as I read it was: the authors of the posts he was referencing are living in a ‘bubble’ that does not include the ‘average user’ of credit cards (especially since they couldn’t recall a single peer/friend/person in the whole world who had taken on expensive card debt). The second half of that thought is that, implicitly, these authors have perverse incentives to perpetuate a “fantasy” where credit card use never causes harm.

    Pretty simple argument — Americans generally have a lot of credit card debt (several thousand per household), and it certainly often causes financial harm, whether acute or chronic. I didn’t see it as strongly objecting to anyone who earns referral incentives, but rather objecting to the second half of the point (perpetuating the fantasy of ‘no harm ever’).

  11. @Pizzaman,
    Apparently life is not too short to sell CCs to your readers. (I don’t waste my time on your blog, but your disclosure here indicates that you sell CCs.).

  12. “A good rule of thumb might be to write your own judgmental comments, and read none of the others.”

    “Go ahead and judge even if you aren’t entirely sure your criticism is valid, or even rational.”

    Sure, that’s a wonderful model for debate and discussion. Scream out your own half-baked opinions, and ignore what anyone else has to say. Especially if they hit close to home. I know you’re just trying to have fun here, but give me a break. You are maneuvering to create a lot of noise in order to deflect a serious criticism of the community that another blogger has put forward.

    Ric has brought up an issue whose ugly tentacles crawl far beyond his own concerns. There is something very corrupt in the path that many of the credit card travel bloggers have taken and it’s high time people call them out for it.

  13. Sure, maybe you’re a “sucker” if you get a card for the bonus and run it up and find yourself in insurmountable debt, but the affiliate marketer bloggers preys on the suckers or encourages behavior that could transform readers into suckers (and the marketer gets their referral bonus anyhow.) As long as they get a conversion, then the rest is up to the reader.

    It has gotten to the point where BA is largely noise, and sponsored noise at that so I find myself primarily reading travelbloggerbuzz.com and Saverocity, with a few side trips to smaller blogs and forums. But seriously, the pump pump pumping is seriously out of control.

  14. I don’t worry too much about the CC hawking; that’s just people trying to make a buck.
    .
    What gets me is the CC hawking and the articles on MS (which to me seems to be just on the legit side of fraud). And how you can score elite status without ever stepping on a plane.
    .
    Trust me, the airlines know who their customers are, and who pays what. They also treat them slightly better. Because they generate real dollars for the bottom line.
    .
    About two years ago, there were some stories about “secret” elite benefits at DL and other airlines. Threads here and elsewhere were full of the MSers who wanted to know how they could get in on the action, which they couldn’t, because they did not actually spend money with the airlines (except for the deeply discounted fares).
    .
    Fun to watch.

  15. Each to his own. But, I don’t believe my disclosure here indicates I sell CCs. I’ve had exactly one post this month with an affiliate link in it. I’ve spoken about other cards I think are valuable from time to time, but I receive no compensation for them. And, the only cards I spoke about are ones that I carry in my wallet.

    Let me know if you want to waste some time on my blog. Always love another reader!

  16. How could you get this so wrong? The reason a “credit card salesperson” aka travel blogger hatred is growing is simple. The jig is up. These people are not giving advice aspirational travel dreams. They are selling credit cards under the auspices of travel blogging. Clearly, you can see how there is a serious conflict when the primary motive is to convert on credit card signups! The content has nearly completely disappeared. All I see is ridiculous posts peppered with credit card links day after day. I gag these days when I hear about the travel experts “MMS, TPG and MOMMY POINTS” speaking at FTU or whatever. If that’s not bull then by all means click away.

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