He was wrong, these cards don’t suck


Drew must have been having a bad day.  On Sunday, Drew (author of Travel is Free) published “Please, Stop Listening to Bloggers and Getting Crappy Rewards Cards!”  There were two major threads to this post: 1) Bloggers who receive affiliate commissions from credit card companies often give bad advice; and 2) Most of the credit card offers that bloggers have been raving about recently are crap. I agree with the first premise, but disagree with the second.

Bloggers often give bad advice

The biggest source of revenue for many bloggers is the use of affiliate links.  The general idea is this: 1) Blogger puts product links on website; 2) Readers click through links and buy things; and 3) Blogger earns affiliate commission from the sale.  In other words, many bloggers are at once salespeople and news/entertainment/advice writers.  This often causes a conflict of interest in which bloggers promote products or offers not because they believe them to be the best but because they want to earn money.  This is particularly true with credit cards.  Bloggers with credit card affiliate links earn commissions when people click through their links to a credit card offer and are approved for a new card.  This can lead to blogger bias in at least two ways: 1) a blogger may promote one card over another for the commission rather than their belief in the quality of the card; and 2) a blogger may promote an inferior signup offer when the offer that earns a commission is not as good as another public offer.

The irony of me writing about this situation is that I too earn money from credit card affiliate commissions.  Unlike most other affiliates, though, I strive to keep this blog unbiased.  Here’s how:

  1. On my “Best credit card offers” page I always list the best offers I know of regardless of whether or not I’ll earn a commission.
  2. Within my daily blog posts, I never post affiliate links. Instead, affiliate links are relegated to a few permanent pages on my site.  I believe that this effectively separates my daily blog from the business of blogging.
  3. When banks offer incentives to sell more, I usually write less.  Occasionally a bank will offer limited time increased payouts for a certain card or will offer a bonus if I make a certain number of “sales” (they think of them as sales – I do not).  During these times I tend to avoid writing about these cards as much as I might have otherwise.  Why?  If I’m tempted to write a post for the money, I don’t think I can be as unbiased as I want to be.

Why do I do this?  The biggest reason is that I hate reading other blogs in which the content is clearly influenced by affiliate commissions.  I want to be proud of my content rather than ashamed.  The other reason for this approach is that I believe it to be a good long term business strategy.  Sure, in the short term, I often lose out on commissions, but in the long term my hope is that readers will respect my approach enough to come back often and to recommend my site to friends.  To-date, this approach has worked out well.

The not so crappy rewards cards

Drew listed five sets of cards that have recently been promoted heavily and yet, in his non-biased opinion, they suck.  He wrote:

Let me sum this up:

  • There are 3 Delta cards with a 50,000 mile offer… and they all suck, but I’ll steer you straight.
  • The Marriott card at 70k is still not the best hotel card no matter which way you slice it.
  • The Virgin 90k offer, is not actually 90k, that’s deceitful and it certainly sucks.
  • The new Citi 2% cash back card… sucks really bad.
  • New Everyday Amex cards suck

Below I will explain why I believe Drew to be wrong.  In the interest of full disclosure, within this list of so-called sucky cards, I have affiliate links for two of them: the Marriott 70K offer, and the Citi Double Cash card.  With the Marriott card, though, I have long promoted a better non-affiliate link on my best offers page.  So, that leaves only one card on the list for which I could reasonably be accused of being biased.  I think you’ll see, though, that I give all of the cards a fair evaluation.

The Delta 50K offers don’t suck at all

There are currently four Delta credit cards with 50K signup offers:

  • Gold Delta SkyMiles card: 50K miles after $1K spend in 3 months, plus $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase in 3 months.  $95 annual fee waived the first year.
  • Gold Delta SkyMiles businss card: 50K miles after $1K spend in 3 months, plus $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase in 3 months.  $95 annual fee waived the first year.
  • (Update: These offers have temporarily expired.)
  • Platinum Delta SkyMiles card: 15,000 Medalion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) and 50K miles after $1K spend in 3 months, plus $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase in 3 months.  $195 annual fee not waived.
  • Platinum Delta SkyMiles business card: 15,000 Medalion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) and 50K miles after $1K spend in 3 months, plus $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase in 3 months.  $195 annual fee not waived.

There are many reasons why these offers don’t suck.  First of all, when you have a Delta credit card, you can use Delta’s “Pay with Miles” feature to pay for flights.  So, these 50,000 bonus miles are worth $500 towards Delta flights when used in that way.  There’s no denying that’s valuable.  And, believe it or not, there are times where Delta miles are quite valuable for award redemptions.  See, for example: “Delta SkyMiles: Value from domestic flights.”  And, beginning January 1, I expect Delta miles to become more valuable, not less, when Delta introduces true one-way awards.

For those seeking Delta elite status, the offers for the Platinum card are the best I can remember.  Not only do you get 50,000 redeemable miles, but also 15,000 MQMs.  A person could sign up for both the personal and business Platinum cards to get 30,000 MQMs which is enough for 25K Silver status (if you can meet the MQD requirements) and more than half way to 50K Gold status.  While circumstances vary greatly from person to person as to whether elite status is really worth seeking, there’s no doubt that if you’ve already thrown your hat in the ring towards Delta status, this is a great way to go to get there quickly.

For details about the Gold card, see my existing write-up: “An Analysis of the Gold Delta SkyMiles credit card.”   And for details about the Platinum card, see: “An Analysis of the Platinum Delta SkyMiles credit card”.  Note too that the above offers expire on September 8th.

(Update: This offer has temporarily expired.)

The Marriott 70K offer still doesn’t suck

The weird thing about the new Marriott 70K offer is that it’s not as good as the offer I’ve had on my best offers page for years.  That old offer is 70,000 points after $1K spend.  The new affiliate offer is 70,000 points after $2K spend.  There are specific situations where the $2K spend offer may be better (details here) so I added this offer below the other one, but for the most part $1K spend is better than $2K.

Anyway, Drew’s argument about why this offer sucks is just that there are other hotel cards with better offers.  I agree with Drew that the Fairmont, Hyatt, Hilton Reserve, and Club Carlson offers are better for many people (and I would add IHG), but that doesn’t make this a sucky offer.  70K is enough for two nights in a mid tier hotel or more than enough for 1 night in a top tier hotel.  Plus, you get a free category 4 night certificate.  That’s not top of class, but it certainly doesn’t suck.

The new Citi Double Cash card doesn’t suck

Very recently, Citi unveiled a new no-fee cash back card that earns 1% cash back when you make a purchase and another 1% cash back when you pay for those purchases (i.e. when you pay your credit card bill).  Added together, these rewards make the Citi card competitive with the best cards for everyday spend.  With no annual fee, I don’t think there’s any doubt that people looking for simplicity (e.g. one primary card in their wallet, cash back instead of points, etc.), this card ought to be considered, along with the similar Fidelity Investment Rewards 2% card.

Drew’s explanation for why this card sucks is that people can do better than 2% through category bonuses, manufactured spend, and signup offers.  There’s no doubt about that at all, but that’s also not the target market for this card.  This card is a good choice for those looking to get excellent rewards simply.

Same goes for the new Amex EveryDay cards… They’re actually pretty great

I don’t agree with Drew here at all.  I think the EveryDay cards are pretty terrific for people who know how to maximize value from Amex airline transfer partners.  The irony is that I learned a lot of what I know about that subject from… Drew.

Anyway, at the very least, the EveryDay card is a fantastic no-fee option to keep your Membership Rewards points alive in case you cancel your other Membership Rewards cards.  At best, the cards are pretty compelling.  If you make 20 purchases per month on the EveryDay card or 30 purchases per month on the EveryDay Preferred card, you earn spend bonuses.  When combined with category bonuses, you get:

Amex EveryDay: 2.4X at U.S. Supermarkets, up to $6K spend per year (then the rate drops to 1.2X); and 1.2X everywhere else.

Amex EveryDay Preferred: 4.5X at U.S. grocery stores, up to $6K spend per year (then the rate drops to 1.5X); 3X at US standalone gas stations; and 1.5X everywhere else.

Again, if your goal is to earn points for airline mile transfers and you don’t mind working the cards to ensure the minimum purchases per month, the point earnings are excellent.  If your goal is to earn other types of rewards (e.g. cash back, merchandise, hotel nights, etc.), you’re better off looking elsewhere.  See my full review of these cards here: “Amex’s powerful new EveryDay cards.”

The not 90k Virgin offer doesn’t suck

OK, maybe Drew got it right here.  For many people, this offer actually does suck.  At least, it’s not nearly as good as it sounds, and for many the old not 65K offer is actually better.  More here: “Will the real Virgin Atlantic offer please stand up?


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The fact that you don’t pimp credit cards all day is one of the main reasons you’re my favorite miles & points blogger!

I am hoping to start using affiliate links on my own blog and this is definitely food for thought about sincerity and keeping it limited.

[…] some overhyped cards, Matt and Doctor of Credit dove into Citi’s latest cashback offering, Greg responded to some of the criticism and George did his best to call the […]


It you were to go after one of the Delta cards but know you won’t get status this year which one you you choose? Assuming you can roll over the MQM?
Maybe the phrase should have read “whose readers have no clue how to mximize frequent flyer”. Readers are busy and the comments reflect a small percent of the total…….what is the “average” time on a post?

[…] He was wrong, these cards don’t suck by Frequent Miler […]


There is a basic, fundamental conflict of interest here.
Bloggers make their living by convincing clueless (or lazy) users to sign up for credit cards. Without a steady stream of new sign-ups, you would have to get a real job. There is no way you can separate yourself from this basic fact.

If you want to pretend you’re somehow different from the *other* sleaze-bag bloggers, that’s fine, go right ahead and clap harder. But if you actually want to have some integrity, get rid of the conflict of interest, and remove all the affiliate links. Until you do that (which you will never do, of course), you are no different from any of the others.

Show me a blogger who has credit card referral links, and I’ll show you someone who is dishonest. Period.


Show me a blogger who has no credit card links and I’ll show you a blogger who has NO CLUE how to acquire FF miles……………

Gary Steiger - FreeFrequentFlyerMiles.com

How cynical. There are quite a few blogs and websites that always post the best offers for credit cards. (Modesty prevents my mentioning any…)

In my experience (which started before the word “blog” existed), bloggers either learn that long term trust from readers is more valuable that short term profits, or their blogs die. Readers are not stupid. They can distinguish between valuable posts and sales pitches.


Man, I’m honored. Thanks Greg.

First, I’m glad Greg and other people disagree with me, and I hope no one is offended when I disagree with them. And I’m happy being the contrarian in an atmosphere where every card is great for everyone.

Second, I’m in no way shaper or form offended at all. So for the record, Greg and I are practically friends. I say practically because he’s like a real adult and stuff and he tried explaining it to me, but apparently that means you don’t have friends. But if he did, I’d like to think we’d be friends. So I definitely am not offended.

Third, you do make some good points about the value of Delta miles. Obviously you’re wrong but you make good points. Probably the best pro delta points I’ve seen. But my major point is that if I were steering someone to a few good cards, I’d first say “where do you want to go” and then my response would never include Delta cards. Domestic flights, sure, that’s the best use. But Southwest is way better. Avios could be better.

I expect you conceding reply shortly. 😀 JK. But anyways. Who knew that post would be so controversial? If I could get that much attention for my top 10 credit card posts, then I’d be set!


Flying out of SFO I find it impossible to use AA for Europe…..I find it very difficult to use UA and certainly not their partners post devaluation…….so who else might have availability out of SFO to Europe? Delta/Air France duh…..and according to one of your heroes Lucky he claims it has the best availability “at the moment” for summer 2015? So why are Delta miles no good out of SFO?


Just to be clear, I was joking. Also, I’m thinking it will be a very long time before anyone classifies us as adults. So I’m not worried. :-p

But you’re telling me that now you have kids that you’re not interested in routing your ticket back to Ohio: DFW-BOS-DFW-SFO-DFW-LGA-CMH?

Hey if there’s availability out of SFO, use it.

Very well said, Drew. I applaud the way you take a strong stance on affiliate links, and reward you by using your links whenever I sign up for a card. No better way to say thanks 🙂

hahah wow. this may be hard to believe, but somehow autocorrect changed Greg to Drew. can’t make this stuff up!

(to clarify: yes, that was meant for you!)


I also always seek out your affiliate links when I apply for a card. I really appreciate your honest approach and especially the amount of hard work you put in to break down various deals, MS, etc. I just applied for a Delta Amex a few days ago even. Being hub captive, the miles are VERY useful to me for expensive, short trips back home.


We could (and probably will) argue endlessly about whether or not these cards suck. That I know of, you, PFDigest, and Drew have all written follow up posts to his original post. Whether or not a card actually sucks depends on the user and whether or not the card is a good fit for the individual. For example, Frequent Miler will obviously value the Delta cards higher than some because he lives in a Delta hub and has Delta status. Delta points are more valuable to him. I have neither so I value Delta quite low and likely won’t waste a pull on any of those cards. I have a family member that works for Marriott so I can regularly get a room for under $40. So I wouldn’t waste a pull on the Marriott card either. I believe the travel hacking community needs to get away from the idea of whether a card or offer is completely bad or good, and instead, focus on the individual. What type of person/ traveler/ MSer would the card be appropriate for? Cards provide different value for different people. A card that sucks to one person may not suck to another.

That all being said, whenever I use affiliate links I always use Frequent Miler’s or Drew’s. They are far-and-away two of the most trustworthy and dependable bloggers around. This post and Drew’s exemplify exactly that.


I’m enjoying this discussion. I just like how this has gotten people talking about the relative merits of different cards (and a reminder of how affiliate marketing works). It’s tough deciding which card to get, and frankly, reading about a card over and over probably makes me more likely to get it, subconsciously.


I despise Delta since I am not near one of the primary hubs , but…….you have to remember their points are usable with other carriers. Also, of the bloggers I read daily , there are only 3 or so that I use their links. FM , is one of them..due to the tact , minimum pimping and maximum research. Greg shows respect for his readers and that goes along way with me

Trevor W.

I’m surprised no one is talking about how the AMEX Delta cards allow one to take a break from Chase applications (to reset the 24 month rule if you’ve had all the best offers) or even let Barclay’s unofficial 6-month-between-apps rule also reset. I’ll be getting the Delta Gold for my mom to keep harmony in her credit card app schedule. It’s as simple as: get all the cards, at the appropriate time. A free $500 or eventual international one-way (which is very possible with flexible scheduling, even on Delta) are always good things.


Drew was right. The cards DO suck. They are WAY down on the list of cards anyone should have (after exhausting all the decent cards).

This new Citi 2% card has lots of potential gotchas which cards like the Fido, Arrival (and Spark) don’t have. The big “advantage” is no annual fee. But with no signup bonus, it’s a silly card to get for it’s own sake. Why wouldn’t you get the Arrival with 40K ($444 value)? Even IF Barclays wasn’t so amenable to waiving the AF (just call, they do it all the time), you have 5 years of AF paid to you up front. Plus you get the additional 10% rebate.

As for the Everyday card, it “sounds” good – even I have one. But in reality, having to make 30 swipes a month is a royal PITA even for guys like me who do a ton of swiping. It’s all I can do to buy $6K at grocery and do the 30 swipes to get the 4.5x – sure glad when that chore was out of the way! The rest of the year it gathers dust in my drawer.

As for all the supposed good things about the rest of the cards you hyped (yes, hyped), they are only “good” in very limited circumstances, which means only a very few will take advantage. The rest of the time people will be holding miles/points they don’t know what to do with.

As for not shoving affiliate links down your reader’s throats, bully for you. But that hasn’t stopped your blog from turning into a card pimping sales machine. Go look at the “quality” of your posts in the last year – majority are pimping one card or another – simply putting your card links in a different tab doesn’t mean you’re not a card pimp, it just means you’re not AS BIG OF A CARD PIMP as the other card salesmen masquerading as travel “experts”.


This post just shows, that no matter how hard you try you can’t please everyone. I personally can’t believe how much FM does NOT pimp cards. The temptation can be huge to make more money on the short term.

If you want to help you can, but you are definitely not being sold to.

Hats off to FM!


I consider the credit card signup bonus to be one of the 4 pillars of great mileage acquisition so having links from someone I trust is always a good thing……and I’d give you the referral than elsewhere but I can’t say I will dig and search to make sure I find your link…….so in that case I believe the righteous are doing both you and I harm in this endeavor…….and I would actually like to see posts on rotational churn as that is a skill that should naturally evolve from chasing the signup offers………Bashing links is like complaining about autos and wanting to rerurn to riding horses to work……


IMHO, and using the vernacular of my sons (who are of the same generation as Drew) it \sucks\ when bloggers pump inferior cc offers to newbies. I’ll concede that for a newbie in SE MI who wants to fly nonstop domestically, the DL cc with the option of using the signup bonus for $500 in paid tickets on DL does not suck, as the non-DL nonstop options out of DTW are limited. But that’s a very narrow niche, and certainly not the one that BA bloggers are pumping to.

If you concede–as I think you do–that with the other 4 cards there are superior options for newbies, then why is it OK for BA bloggers to pump the inferior options, but its not OK for Drew to say that those inferior options \suck?\