The importance of doing your own research before determining the best credit card offer

The importance of doing your own research before determining the best credit card offer

I just got approved for a credit card with a $600 airfare credit, $85 annual fee (which you can offset by redeeming 5,000 points)  $25 in-flight credit per airline ticket, a Global Entry credit, triple points on restaurants, double points on gas stations and airfare, and a free rental car day every year. Best of all, I only have to spend $2,000 in four months to get all of these perks (while I’m not saying this is insignificant, it’s much better than the $3,000-$4,000 in three months required by other great credit cards).

While some of you at first may have thought I was referring to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you probably realized later that it was a different card.

But unless you follow credit card offers very closely, you probably don’t know about it, even though it’s issued by a major financial institution. It’s the US Bank FlexPerks Gold American Express card (it’s processed on the American Express network, but issued by US Bank).

Why doesn’t this get more attention? Well, in short, unlike other cards (such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred), blogs don’t make any money if they get people to sign up for it. Next time you read a major blog with a link to signup for a credit card, look carefully at the URL it immediately redirects to. Most of the time, it contains the site name in it, and clicking on it will eventually redirect you to the signup page for the credit card, but not without first notifying the bank which page they came there from. This is known as an affiliate link, which banks will give (either directly or indirectly) to sites with a certain amount of monthly traffic.

While the amount that a blog makes every time someone signs up through their link is a tightly guarded secret, it’s generally rumored to be in the low hundreds of dollars, with the Chase Sapphire Preferred yielding a payout rumored as high as $350 per signup.

Not surprisingly, despite claims of impartiality by bloggers, anyone who knows the industry can easily find examples where a particular card (which pays a commission) is being promoted over a better card that does not pay a commission. On top of that, it also does not always lead to the best signup bonus for the card (for example the publicly available link to the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card will lead you to an offer for 25,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $2,000 in three months, whereas doing a little bit of research can get you to an offer that will give you 50,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $1,000 in three months).

Full disclosure: Given how infrequently I update my blog, I don’t generate enough traffic to receive affiliate links, but even if I did, I still wouldn’t accept them, unless I one day get corrupted by money and power).

On top of that, accepting affiliate links also gives the financial institution the power to threaten to remove your links if you post content they don’t like. (As it is, I already have received a letter from Barclaycard threatening legal action against this blog if I spell Barclaycard any other way, such as removing the “-card” suffix and replacing it with an “s”).

So where am I going with this? First, I don’t dislike the Chase Sapphire Preferred. I think it’s an excellent card (and for most people, even better than the US Bank FlexPerks Gold Card), though not as good as the Citi Prestige or American Express Preferred Rewards Gold. One card it certainly is better than is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, which essentially gives you a bonus of $420 with few of the other perks. But due to the commission that Barclaycard pays bloggers who get people to sign up for this card, you’ll see this card promoted much more heavily, as US Bank does not pay commissions (and for what it’s worth, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus card is roughly on par with the Capital One Venture, which also does not get promoted nearly as much for the same reason).

So what’s the solution? First, try not to use affiliate links to sign up for cards unless you can’t find the offer anywhere else (which does happen from time to time), and instead try to find a friend who can refer you for the card, so s/he earns money. Second, try to follow blogs (the amazing Doctor of Credit blog is my personal favorite) which don’t accept affiliate links and only focus on the absolute best offers out there. The excellent r/churning thread is also a great resource, especially their frequently updated database of best card offers.

And may you earn many great future signup bonuses in the future!

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3 thoughts on “The importance of doing your own research before determining the best credit card offer

  1. Hey Mark. Great read. Care to elaborate a bit more on why you think the Chase Sapphire Preferred isn’t quite as good as the Citi Prestige or American Express Preferred Rewards Gold? I was also wondering if you knew how the points for this US Bank FlexPerks Gold card transferred? I’m a current Chase Sapphire Preferred card holder and would want to make sure i could add points together if need be. I’m new to this “churning” business, so sorry if the questions are a bit elementary.

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    1. The FlexPerks Gold Card is not a transferrable points card (which is why it’s more similar to the Barclaycard Arrival Plus), and which is why I feel the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a better overall card.

      That being said, I think the Premier Rewards Gold has much better transfer partners (though the addition of FlyingBlue to Chase Ultimate Rewards dilutes this a little), especially for US flyers. Aeroplan is almost as good as United for Star Alliance bookings (other than a few carriers which add significant surcharges), and now that Delta has introduced short-haul award tickets (like West Coast roundtrips for 11,000 total which would cost 25,000 if booked through another SkyTeam partner), there is value in having Delta as a transfer partner, not to mention JetBlue and Virgin America are very useful. That being said, if you need Hyatt points or Southwest points, it’s hard to beat the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

      The Citi Prestige is great for its Priority Pass access that allows two guests, and essentially has an annual fee of $100/year after you factor in the $250 airfare credit and $100 Citigold credit, and while the transfer partners aren’t as good, the points can be redeemed for 1.6 cents per point on American Airlines, which in some ways is even better than transferring points since you can earn miles.

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