Frequent Miler’s COVID-19 business survival update

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Business is picking up!  The business of this blog was hit hard by the pandemic.  Revenue started dropping in March and by June it hit an all-time low.  Through the summer, though, revenue crept upwards and now conditions appear to be in place for the business to be profitable once again!

This post is the third in a series where I’ve opened up to readers to discuss the business of the blog during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Previous posts in this series:

How Frequent Miler (the business) will survive COVID-19 (published April 1, 2020): This post included a brief history of this blog, including how it turned from a hobby into my career; and I shared an email I had sent to the Frequent Miler team (Nick, Stephen, and Carrie) where I predicted that revenue would drop precipitously, but I pledged to use my savings to keep the team going for “at least the next 6 months.”

How Frequent Miler (the business) is surviving COVID-19 (published June 26, 2020): In this update, I showed that business had tumbled… as predicted.  There was still some revenue coming in, however.  That, combined with a Paycheck Protection Program loan meant that we’d be able to keep going at current staffing levels several months into 2021.  I further gave an update as to projects we were undertaking to make the business stronger than ever once the recession eased.

How We Make Money

Some of our revenue comes from ads, but the majority comes from credit card affiliate links.  When we have these links and when a reader clicks through and is approved for a credit card, we get paid.  Long time readers know, however, that we often don’t show affiliate links on our site for the following reasons:

  • We never publish our affiliate links when we know of better public offers.
  • Many credit cards aren’t marketed through affiliate channels.
  • Some issuers strictly limit which publishers they work with and haven’t chosen to work with us.

Despite the fact that we often do not publish affiliate links for popular cards, and despite the fact that we don’t push cards in order to earn revenue, the Frequent Miler business has been successful enough over the past several years to provide income for me, a full time employee (Nick), and two part-time employees (Stephen and Carrie).

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, almost all advertising and affiliate revenue dried up by late spring.  Advertisers stopped bidding for ads, and credit card issuers mostly pulled out of affiliate marketing.  This combination caused our revenue to plummet to 10% of pre-pandemic levels.

Business Recovery

On April 1st I published my prediction:

How long will this last?

No one knows, of course. My gut tells me that we have to be prepared for 6 months of record low revenue.

Now, six months later, things are looking up!  As of mid-September, nearly all of our pre-pandemic affiliate options were back in place!  Even better, Chase has led the way with best ever offers (which encourage people to sign up for new cards).  The Sapphire Preferred 80K offer was huge (see my analysis here), but I expect the 5 night Marriott Bonvoy offer to do even better (see my analysis here).  Plus, I’ll be surprised if we don’t see huge new offers for Amex Marriott cards, the World of Hyatt card, and others.

In September, Frequent Miler revenue reached 37% of pre-pandemic levels.  If you look at the chart and project a line forward, you might expect to see us reach around 50% in October.  I’m expecting better.  Since some of our most profitable affiliate options resumed mid-September, I don’t think the September numbers reflect how well business has recovered.  In fact, 73% of our September affiliate revenue came in the second half of the month.  My guess is that our October revenue will hit maybe 60% of pre-pandemic levels and hopefully November will be even better than that.  60% might not sound all that great, but the 100% mark is a high-target: business was doing better than usual at the beginning of the year.  Frequent Miler can survive long-term at the 60% level.

Thank You!

Frequent Miler owes its success to youEveryone who reads our blog regularly, recommends our blog to others, and/or signs up for credit cards through our links is a big part of our success.  Thank you!

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[…] cases. Indeed, I can be glad that Greg took that chance 9 years ago and that he had the confidence to push through tougher times. I don’t know as though any of the businesses in my household will be nearly as successful, […]

[…] Frequent Miler’s COVID-19 business survival update by FM […]

Sam

I’m very happy for you. I’m also in this business and I know exactly how you feel :). Keep up your great work!

GregR

Glad to hear FM is recovering well. I am happy to use your application links when not using an intra-family referral. Thank you all for the great analysis and articles, Greg, Nick, Stephen, & Carrie!

Bob

Thank you for a great blog (and podcast, and YouTube Live). Do you have any merchandize to buy? T-shirts? Coffee mugs? I would buy one. Perhaps, an extra source of revenue….

AlexL

It is great to see the blog is doing better now. Thank you Greg, Nick, Stephen, and Carrie for all the work and the community you created.

HoKo

Glad to hear it Greg. When applying for credit cards I make a point of using your guys affiliate links (alongside a small number of other blogs that I believe in)

Dr. McFrugal

Great news! As a long time regular reader, I always appreciate the honesty, transparency, and tremendous value that you all share with your readers. Thanks again for everything!

MalMel

So, so glad to hear this. I tell my friends if you want to learn about cards and points, all you need is FM. Onward and upward!

Dr. Nick

I am really excited to hear this news! You guys have been a beacon of light during these difficult times. Your weekly videos have been the only “TV show” I have had to look forward to each week! Your honest, positive, creative and genuine excitement and interest for your readers is evident in the care you have shown us during this time when we are all stuck at home. The humor only you and Nick can give has been a welcome respite from the normal negative news reports of recent times. May all of you be well and congratulations on the beginning of the return to normal. I hope this is the beginning of even more great success to come! You all deserve it! Thank you all so very much!

quietfreedom

37%…kind of mirrors Las Vegas tourism stats….and TSA checkpoint travel #s.

https://www.tsa.gov/coronavirus/passenger-throughput = 35% last date.

https://www.lvcva.com/research/visitor-statistics/

boom…there it is!

Mike

“We never publish our affiliate links when we know of better public offers.” <– I Know you guys practice this, but seeing it writing makes me feel good.

Hey points guy. Take note here. If you guys don’t know what I mean, Google ” points guy reddit AMA”

Buzz

Great news. This has become my go to blog for information.

I don’t have any card application plans in the near future but I’ll use a link from here when I do.

I’m not in earning mode right now. I’m in burning mode.

Jan W

Thanks, Greg. You guys da best!!

Sheryl

Glad to hear, you are my favorite travel blog. I appreciate your straight-forward, non-pretentious approach, and always click through your credit card links when I am getting a new card.

Tami

Excellent news. This kind of transparency certainly makes FM stand out, and is the reason I keep recommending it to beginners. So many otherwise excellent blogs are a minefield of bad advice about CC sign-ups. I have always appreciated the kind of integrity that FM has, which is truly rare (sure, there is DOC, but that’s obviously a very different platform, and also not a business). You lot prove that you don’t have to mislead people to make a living at this (looking at you, TPG).

@Greg, where can we see a list of FM’s affiliate links? When I am not signing-up through a P2 referral, I’d like to use/recommend your links to others. Are the links in the “best offers” page affiliate links (assuming those links are the best offer, of course)?

Last edited 2 years ago by Tami
Jeff

I’ve always appreciated the straightforward and especially open perspective you share on this blog – thanks for giving us a peek behind the curtain and allowing us to be part of this journey with you.

Susanne

So happy you guys are seeing an upswing! Love this blog and your approach! BTW, I like the idea of consulting services! Hang in there!

Trevor

Great stuff, Greg and team! Have been and continue to pull for you guys! Love the transparency too.

Steve

Great news Greg!
Also, guys should consider using the cover photo from this article as the picture for the podcast logo. I have a feeling it’s actually candid, but it certainly looks like it is staged for some hotel promotional ad

Last edited 2 years ago by Steve
Andrew Clark

I really appreciate how transparent and straightforward you guys are about everything. This is the best blog in my opinion. Thanks very much!

THEsocalledfan

Greg,

Just curious at how you attempt and generating revenue through YouTube is going. I thought that was a very wise idea at the time.

THEsocalledfan

LOL……best laugh I’ve had in a while! Hope it does pan out.

CaveDweller

Since u have down time u should start a adviser service .Charge them $100? for 2 responses Total. I would gladly pay $100+ for input on a $3k to $5K trip.New ideas save the traveler $$ plus make the trip better Cheap doesn’t work here.
#Cave

Nick Reyes

Don’t confuse “revenue is down” with “down time” lol. Work itself hasn’t changed at all, just the revenue coming in. But the newly-expanded Reyes family is glad to see the upward trend! 😀

Dee

I’m so happy for you…. and for us. Thank you for sticking it out.

JoeSchmo

It’s a great team. I’m happy to hear that business is recovering!

Steven

unbiased, great content, great resources. A great blog.

Joey

This is great news! Very happy for you guys and thank you for engaging us through the past few months through blog posts such as this and your YouTube livestream q&a!

CaveDweller

Great nice to hear and Flip a card .Like I said everything should open up Nov. 4 and I wonder why HaHa.

#stayoutofSUV’s