Is it Best Not to Discuss Credit Card Bonuses With Family and Friends?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen quite a few blog discussions on the dangers of this hobby, most recently on Hack My Trip. And it is a very important topic. As I’ve  said many times in my blog: Don’t ever underestimate the lure of plastic and potential disaster it can bring to your  life.

I really debated on whether I should write this post because it does involve a friend, even though that particular person doesn’t  read my blog. In no way do I want it to sound like a rant, but rather something that can potentially benefit my readers.  I think this is a very realistic situation for many of you, and I hope for my experience to become a cautionary tale.

Last February I had a discussion on credit card bonuses. That person asked me to recommend a card, and I suggested Chase British Airways Visa. At the time, it had a bonus of 100,000 miles after spending $20,000  in one year.  You would get the first 50,000 miles after spending $2,000, then additional 25,000 after $10,000 and the rest of the miles after $20,000 in spending.

I mentioned, as I always do, that one needs to be careful with that sort of amount and spend only what you would normally spend. She said that she would have no problem charging at least $10,000 in one year and had a specific use for Avios miles.

Everything was great, till a few months later  I heard from that individual that she found herself occasionally buying stuff just so she could get the bonus sooner. Of course, I gave my usual talk cautioning against such behavior. Then at the end of 2013, that person said that she was close to spending the whole $20,000, so now she could get the entire bonus. Yay!

Well, it all went downhill from there. Yes, that person did get the full bonus. But she also got in debt and ended up paying interest to Chase for 12 months after her “free” miles posted. And the worst part is, that individual was blaming me for the fiasco. At first, it started with some jabs. Then it escalated into claiming that I encouraged her to spend $20,000 and that is why she got in debt.

Obviously, if you have been reading my blog for a week, you know that I would never suggest someone runs up debt to get miles. In fact, it’s completely contrary to my philosophy. But there is no way to prove it, since I obviously didn’t record the conversation. Thankfully, I wasn’t making commission on the card.  Otherwise, it would be even more awkward.

What can you learn from this? First, be careful when discussing or suggesting certain bonuses to your family and friends. Things can backfire in a way you would never expect. Second, be cautious when it comes to taking on cards with very large minimum spending requirements. We are all suckers for instant gratification, so you may find yourself spending more than you normally would.

Some may say that in a way I am partially to blame for this incident. And I can see that. However, I was acting in good faith and knew this person to be very responsible with finances. I had every reason to believe that this disaster wouldn’t occur and had no financial incentive in making my recommendation.

Others may say that it was irresponsible for me to start this blog where I make commission on credit card referrals. After all, if this happened to a good friend whom I personally know, how much worse is it to  market bonuses to total strangers?

The truth is, we are all responsible for our own decisions. I do consider it a predatory practice when someone aggressively markets credit cards to college students who have very little grasp on finances. However, that’s not my target audience. I write for families presumably in their late 20’s or  older. That goes for all other “family” niche bloggers in the industry.

I assume that by now you have enough common sense to determine risks for yourself. I can provide warnings, and do so frequently. But, ultimately, it is up to you to decide how far you are willing to take this hobby.

Life is full of risks. It’s dangerous to drive  a car. In fact, just last week, we narrowly avoided potentially horrible collision while vacationing with our kids. Does it mean that they should stop producing automobiles? Your plane may crash. Should you not fly anywhere? One day you may lose your secure well-paid job. Does it mean you shouldn’t take out a mortgage?

Many families in America can’t afford any vacation, period. They work hard and pay their bills on time, but they simply don’t have anything left at the end of the day. Or they only have enough to pay for gas to go visit  in-laws and stay in their house.

They would love to vacation at the beach, but it’s simply not an option. Or that’s what they think. This hobby can provide  a solution with very minimal effort. As I wrote in my Monday’s post, you don’t even need to churn cards if you don’t want to. You just need the right credit cards.

Of course, bloggers (especially affiliates) have a duty to act responsibly and disclose the risks. That’s why I have a link to an article on pifalls of this hobby at the top of my bonuses list page. That’s why I don’t focus on manufactured spending, which IMO is far more dangerous that switching cards.

There is an inherent conflict of interest because the more cards you get, the more we get paid. You should always be cognizant of that fact. The biggest problem for many  blogs is the overreliance on affiliate commission, something I am all too well familiar with myself. About 95% of my very modest profit comes from credit card sales. Yes, I used the word “sales.” The difference is: I have low overhead, some don’t.

The banks could dump you at a moment’s notice, and they have done so in the past. So when you see bloggers push (affiliate) offers like there is no tomorrow, it’s because there may not be a tomorrow.

This isn’t me being a Devil’s Advocate or a weasel. I am simply trying to address this issue in a civil and vitriol-free manner. Another reason: A well-informed reader is very hard to manipulate.

All in all, I can honestly say that I’m able to sleep soundly at night, based on the advice I have provided in my posts so far.

Readers and bloggers, what do you think about this whole issue? Hit me with your best shot. Don’t hold back, I can take it.


16 thoughts on “Is it Best Not to Discuss Credit Card Bonuses With Family and Friends?

  1. There seems to be a tendency nowadays for individuals to blame others for their mistakes. However, the truth is you are in no way to blame for this person’s actions. We are each responsible for our own decisions and choices. You were kind enough to share your honest opinion about a way to help her achieve her goals. It was up to this individual to use that information responsibly. If she chose to use that information to act in a fiscally irresponsible manner, the blame for that decision is squarely on her shoulders- not on yours.


    • @Skywardsbd Thank you for your comment! I agree with you, we are all responsible for our decisions. I’m an adult and write for other adults. Of course, bloggers do have to act in a responsible manner too. I’m sure many readers buy into fantasy that this industry sells to them, and end up getting into a huge mess as a result. I try to paint a more realistic picture with my blog.
      As far as this person and me are concerned, we are on good terms now and this whole thing is behind us. At least, I hope so.


  2. I’m afraid to discuss credit card bonuses with my friends and family too much (or even much on my blog) because I think most people are not responsible or organized enough to do it without getting hit by interest charges. I bet this happens a lot. 😦


  3. As long as you provided the necessary caveats, it’s up to the individual to take responsibility for their own actions. They are no longer kids that need to be spoon fed so I’m with you, no need to feel guilty. I recommended a few cards to my friends before and will continue to do so. It’s no different than recommending a restaurant or place to visit or a car. I have my own choice to choose too in terms of bloggers to support. You have been recommending cards that are good and not just cards that earn you a commission and that’s why I like you and continue to support you.


    • @Kenny I really appreciate your comment and your continued support of this blog! It means a lot to me. Bloggers in this industry are in a very tricky spot, especially those who have a quota. Fortunately, I wasn’t informed of the number, and hope it stays that way.
      I really do try to cover cards (and material in general) that I believe are beneficial for a regular family.

      Sometimes the stars align, like in the case of Amex Everyday Preferred. Plus, nobody can say that I suddenly “discovered” it, because I wrote about it extensively for 5 months before it started paying me anything.
      Thanks and keep commenting even if you disagree with something.


  4. Great post. Your friend is responsible for her own actions, so I’m sorry she is blaming you. I certainly tread carefully and only mention my hobby or recommend cards to friends and family I think are very financially responsible already. But sounds like she was and then just went off on the wrong track due to a big spending requirement. Another good cautionary tale.


    • @Tripswithtykes This person and I are OK now. We just don’t talk about it. Don’t ask, don’t tell! 🙂
      This hobby is a world of its own, almost a parallel universe of sorts. Stuff we do seems nuts to a normal person. Maybe they are right!


  5. She is an adult and she can’t blame her spending habits on you! I don’t talk to my sister about credit card bonus either. She is the type who would forget little things like setting up auto payments, or cancelling cards before annual fees are due…so I know she wouldn’t be suited for this hobby. When I discuss it with friends, I would caution that “if you are spending more than you normally would, it’s not worth the bonus”. Sounds like you said something similar to the said individual.


    • @Katye Thanks for stopping by! Credit cards are a tricky subject, that’s for sure. On one hand, this hobby can be insanely lucrative. It’s also super dangerous, and we shouldn’t forget that either. I do agree, it’s better to tread lightly when it comes to close family members and friends. I always warn about the dangers, and that’s all I can really do. I pretty much try to avoid bringing up the subject, and if someone asks, I direct them to my website.


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