The Truth About BILT Rewards & Affiliate Compensation – Miles to Memories

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The Truth About BILT Rewards & Affiliate Compensation

Yesterday Bethany Walsh posted an article on her site Bougie Miles titled Bilt Rewards Review (Be Careful Who You Trust). Initially we were going to wait till next week’s podcast to discuss it but after giving it some thought and hearing from readers etc. I figured I should clear the air before the podcast next week.

Bethany’s Article

A quick summary on Bethany’s article is that she took umbrage with the coverage BILT Rewards has gotten and how compensation was not fully disclosed by some of the people doing the coverage. That was what the overarching theme of the article was shooting for. There is also a breakdown of the program and why she didn’t think it was a good fit for most.

The focus of the compensation received was the P.R. trip to Moskito Island that some bloggers and social media influencers were invited to near the launch of the program. This trip was mostly funded by BILT Rewards, invited people just needed to get down to the area. Shawn was one of the people invited.

Bethany goes on to say some of the people on this trip never fully disclosed that they received it as compensation during their coverage. She named some names in the article, also said some that did it right and then left others out all together. That leaves an implication that anyone not named did it wrong by association. Something I know wasn’t Bethany’s intent but that is how it was taken by some readers none-the-less.

She also goes on to point out that Richard Kerr, their loyalty program point man, has been less than forthright on Twitter about this compensation. Tweets that essentially said we didn’t pay anyone for this great coverage etc. Her feeling was that the trip was payment, which I do agree with.  So I get what Richard was trying to say, they didn’t have direct affiliate payments to bloggers, and I get what Bethany was saying, you did by hosting them at the island etc. To be fair it wasn’t like only the people on the island covered the card though.

There are some other issues brought up about skip the line codes and affiliate disclosures added to coverage later on. I will discuss all of these things.

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My Response To The Article

I wanted to take a moment to respond to this and to clear the air. Shawn was invited to the island and the purpose of the trip was to learn more about the BILT program and for everyone there to share ideas on how it could be better etc.

When Shawn got back from the trip he discussed his time on the island and about the program. He fully disclosed that this was a trip hosted and and paid for by BILT Rewards and how much it would cost someone to book it.

After the trip our deals editor, Danny, covered any news that came out about the program after that. Like when they added United as a travel partner etc. Danny wrote up the posts and shared his thoughts on it, if any at all. Because it was a news type post, and Shawn didn’t share any opinions, we didn’t have a disclosure on those articles. To be honest we didn’t think it was necessary. Much like when we write about Chase or Amex etc. when there isn’t an affiliate link there isn’t a disclosure. If Shawn had shared his thoughts on the program in a post he would have disclosed it then.

When we had a skip the line code, as many people did who were on and not on the island, that was nothing more than a way for people to get the card. We did not receive any commission for that. I would have to imagine the codes were meant to keep applications lower for a soft launch and also to track which areas were most effective at reaching applicants. This is pretty common procedure for any fin tech startup (see the Curve card as an example). We have no knowledge of who applied via those codes or if anyone actually did. Some still got waitlisted even with the codes.

Once BILT worked out the kinks and switched banks to Wells Fargo they were ready to open up applications far and wide. This is when they offered an affiliate program to sites and that is when we added a disclosure discussing that on any article where the links were used.

We have pretty much treated BILT the same as we do any other issuer. We cover necessary news / info so that you are informed of everything that is going on. Whether that be new partners, new promotions or a banking partnership change etc.

I will also say that in no way has BILT, or anyone else for that matter, ever had a say in the content we create. There are rules on disclosure and legal terms you need to follow for affiliate partnerships but they do not have a say in editorial content. We have always shared our honest opinion with our readers, a fact that had Citi pull their affiliate links from us. Even though I said they don’t have control, a partner can always cancel a partnership if they feel the need to. That is their right. But, if you need any more proof that we will share our honest opinion that is all you need right there. Plus, our coverage of Citi hasn’t changed one bit since that happened either.

The Truth About Affiliate Marketing And Disclosures

Having said all that I wanted to take a second to talk about affiliate marketing. I think Bethany was trying to make the point that it can be a dirty place to live in when people do it wrong. This is true, especially with the rise of social media influencers and the lack of disclosures required there. It is a topic Shawn and I have discussed at length on the podcast and MtM Vegas show.

That is also true in the miles and points world. Sometimes sites will promote offers that are not the best available or not disclose when something was comped. Affiliate links are not always the best offers you can get but they are the only ones you can get a commission for. That is why some will promote a 60,000 point Sapphire Preferred offer without alerting you to the fact that there is a better 80,000 point offer with no annual fee in branch.  We have always prided ourselves on sharing the best deal possible with you, even going as far as to say DO NOT USE OUR OR ANYONE’S AFFILIATE LINKS for certain offers.

As far as the BILT coverage goes I am not sure who or who did not disclose or talk about the trip. I didn’t read or watch other people’s coverage much. But, you should always pay attention to which sites and influencers show you that they have your best interest in mind and share the best offers with you, even at a cost to themselves.

Why Has There been So Much Positive Press?

Do I think the island trip caused others to cover BILT Rewards in a more positive light than it deserves? I am sure it plays a role some. But, probably not in the way you think. People work with people, so when someone asks for your input and treats you with respect then I think that leads to people looking at you in a better light. That is true in all business. If a vendor treats you terrible are you going to mention their product as often? Probably not.

Do I think it greatly influenced people’s take on the program. Not likely in my opinion. What it may have done is had them cover news they might have skipped over from another issuer. Some may have written up a story about a change or update that they would have glossed over elsewhere. That could lead to more coverage for sure.

I think it could have led to people giving the program more of a benefit of the doubt too. That plus the fact that many of the people have a personal relationship with Richard Kerr, which probably plays more of a role than anything honestly.

I think people were honestly excited about a new shiny object. And while the program isn’t revolutionary, people have been able to pay rent at places for no fee before, I do think the program is unique. They were able to get loyalty programs on board that are normally on other sides of the aisle. Think United and Hyatt with Chase and American Airlines with Citi etc. Heck even Citi can’t get AA as a full time transfer partner. I think that was an interesting move they made and something only Marriott’s program was able to really accomplish. The difference is Marriott have the transfer partners at way less than a 1 to 1 rate, or even 2 to 1 rate. So that made it unique and you had people that nerd out about this stuff covering it.

My Thoughts On BILT’s Program

I’ll give you a quick overview on my thoughts on the program since I have never really discussed it. I think it is aimed at the young city dweller. Someone with high rent payments and lots of dining spend. A NYC, LA, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago etc. dweller in their 20’s or 30’s. That all assumes they can’t already pay their rent for free where they are at too. If you can you may be better offer with a 2X earning card like Blue Business Plus or Citi Doublecash etc.

That doesn’t really match up to many in the miles and points community though. I would guess most of our readers own a home and have plenty of dining bonus cards. It doesn’t mean the program doesn’t have a place though, as Ryan says in the article. If you pay rent and could earn points where you couldn’t before plus are above Chase 5/24 then I say have at it. Even someone paying $2000 a month in rent is looking at 24,000 points a year they may not have had otherwise.

Am I getting the card? Not at its current design. If they added gas or grocery etc. then I may consider it a bit more. That would be solely for the American Airlines avenue since I can’t get a Citi or Barclay American Airlines card to save my life!

Final Thoughts

Hopefully this sheds some light on our approach to BILT coverage, and all our credit card coverage, whether they are an affiliate or not. We are always going to try to do what is best for you, the reader. If we have a sponsored post or affiliate relationship we are always going to disclose that to you. And we are going to share our personal opinions on what we think about it regardless. Sometimes (all of the time?) that will be differing opinions shared by the people that work here. Since this isn’t a one size fits all game and we encourage people to share their individual thoughts.

Actually, hopefully you read this and thought…he didn’t even need to write it since we already know what they are all about.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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