Blogging the line

I’ve written before about the line we draw when playing the points & miles game.  Everyone draws a different line separating the things they’ll do from those they won’t.  Is it OK to sign up for 4 credit cards at once?  How about 10?  Is it OK to buy and return items just to get points?  The line may be based on ethical concerns, financial concerns, etc.  Regardless, we all have things we will do and won’t do for the sake of acquiring points & miles.

A similar construct is the line drawn by bloggers.  What is OK to publish and what is not? For me, this line is much harder to define than my personal line.  When deciding whether to pursue a new approach to acquiring points & miles for myself I have a pretty easy algorithm: 1) Do I feel OK with it?  And, 2) Do I feel OK telling my wife about it?  If both answers are Yes, then I’ll proceed.  Blogging is different.  When I write a post about a new deal or technique it often means that many people learn new ways to earn points & miles (or cash) for free (or cheaply).  But, it can also mean doing harm: with many (most?) deals, there is a loser.  Someone is paying for those points or discounts.  My posts could harm the companies who pay.  Another negative side effect is when my posts cause a deal to die sooner than it would have otherwise (Yes, it has happened).  When this happens it reduces the opportunities for those of us playing the game, and it often angers those who have been taking advantage of it.

While my blogging line is ill-defined, I do have a number of rules I try to follow:

1. If it crosses my personal line, don’t blog it

There are many opportunities out there for earning points and miles that I’m not comfortable with.  When that’s the case, I avoid blogging about it. 

2. Don’t disclose info given in confidence

Often, someone will tell me about a great new deal but ask me to keep it out of the blog.  When that happens, I do my best to respect that request.  While I don’t think I’ve ever published despite a request like this, I generally do assert that if the deal is something I’ve already known about, was already researching, and/or has been already published (by myself or others) then I reserve the right to make my own decision about whether it can or should be published.

3. Follow my passion, not the money

Often, bloggers have opportunities to use their platform to earn extra money, points, free trips, etc. and all they have to do is blog about it (whatever it is) to drum up interest.  I’m not comfortable with that.  I make it a point to write about whatever is most interesting to me at the moment.  If its on my mind, hopefully readers will find it interesting too.  More than once I have even delayed writing a post because a short term incentive has made it unclear whether I was driven by my interest or by potential profit.  I’m not saying that I don’t like earning a living from blogging (I love it!), but I try very hard to separate the business of the blog from the content of my daily posts.  That’s why I never put credit card affiliate links in my blog posts.  Instead, I keep the affiliate links on separate web pages accessible from my website menu.

4. Advertised deals are OK

When a company advertises a deal, there’s no reason for me to hold back.  If I find it interesting, I’ll happily publish it.  And, if I write up ways to get more out of the deal than the company realized, I believe that’s fair game too.

5. Pre-published deals are fair game (or are they?)

Up until now I’ve felt that opportunities that have already been published in other blogs or forums are fair game for me to publish too.  In a recent comment-conversation, though, a reader pointed out that it is not just one-time exposure that can kill deals, but repeated exposure as well.  I can’t argue with that.  Honestly, I’m simply not sure where I stand with this right now.  I clearly don’t have all of the answers for drawing my “blog line”.  This is one place where the line is murky at best.

6. Dying deals are usually OK to publish

If I have a good reason to believe that a deal is going to end soon anyway, I don’t see any reason to keep it secret.  In most cases, the more people that can get in on it before its gone, the better.  This is often related to point 5 (regarding pre-published deals) because some things like mistake fares almost always die a quick death once they’ve been published.

7. Obfuscate as needed.

Most big businesses use news gathering services to keep an eye on how and where their business is being discussed on TV, newspapers, blogs, etc.  I believe that sometimes deals are killed when people in charge learn what’s going on from such sources.  I’ll sometimes write about the “numerically named convenience store” or the “three letter drug store” simply to keep those posts from catching the eye of anyone from those organizations that may be monitoring media.  The point isn’t to hide the information from the reader, but rather to make it less likely to come up in a search.

Above are the types of things I think about when trying to decide what I should and should not write.  This is not a checklist that I march down with each post.  Instead, it is my best attempt to put down in ink the inner dialogs that guide my decisions. 

What do you think?  Please comment below, but please keep your comments civil!  For some reason debates like these tend to devolve into name calling.  I’d rather not censor comments, but I will delete profanity and attacks on individuals.

Follow me on Twitter / Like me on Facebook / Find me on Google+

If you are new to collecting miles, click here for the free newsletter
If you are new to Frequent Miler, start here



  1. Excellent post. Glad you are taking to heart the problem with over exposure when bigger, more influential blogs start to give circles and arrows to deals. (and don’t kid yourself, in this part of this hobby, “FM” is instantly recognizable as is VFTW, TPG, and TBB!

    Only wish you’d “name names” of the sleaze bags who sell any deal down the river to get more clicks and $$ (like Mr. Bow Tie and a dozen other turds like him).

    • Just as I respect the fact that everyone has a different personal line that they won’t cross, I don’t blame other bloggers for having different ideas about what should or shouldn’t be published. Would I like it if others followed my lead? Sure. Do I expect it? No.

  2. #6 gives you WAYY too much deference for abuse in my opinion. Remember MMS and HIGC’s? Bow-Tie kept defending himself by saying the deal was already on its way out so it was ok to share. A lot of people in the community did not agree. How come he gets to make that call?

    #6 is a cop-out rule. Everything in this game has a relatively short lifespan and by blogging you shorten each deal’s lifespan. I’m an avid reader and respect the content you provide but it’s delusional to think you can mutually coexist with the deals out there. Bloggers are the biggest dealkillers of them all.

    • I understand why you feel that way. Yes, its definitely possible (and likely) that there will be times that I’ll be wrong with this one — that a deal I think is on its way out really isn’t. On the flip side, if I err towards not publishing anything, then many people will miss out on deals that end up dying as expected. Ultimately, my blog is highly geared towards sharing deals, so I’d rather err towards sharing than not-sharing in these cases. With the HI card example, going forward if that happened again I would probably share the deal in a cryptic way.

  3. Why would someone give a mies and points blogger a tip on a hot deal and then ask him to not blog about it? Are they bragging?

    • People will share tips with bloggers and ask them not to share details because they want the deal/trick to last as long as possible. By telling someone a secret, they feel that their secret is safe and will not be published. Usually it is a win-win for the blogger and the person sharing the secret since both parties can participate in the deal/trick. I’ve shared a few tips with FM over the months and I’m sure others have as well.

      I forgot which blogger said this, but the bloggers who kill deals are not personally involved in the deals they kill. You don’t care about deals you aren’t involved in. You would be hurting yourself and upsetting your readers. I think FM has a good idea of what can/can’t be shared. His Quick Deals blog has more time sensitive posts about deals ending soon.

      • Grant: “Usually it is a win-win for the blogger and the person sharing the secret since both parties can participate in the deal/trick”

        How is it a win for the person sharing the secret? S/he gets to participate whether s/he shares or not.

  4. Miler, great post and I respect your wisdom on this.

    I will say I have shared things with Miler in confidence, and he has always respected that and not posted. Some may ask why I do it? Well, Miler actually seems to like to collect miles like me, and I want to share back little tricks I learn since they are often based on some tactics he has shared. It is my way of saying thanks and it is worth the risk in my book.

    I will also mention Miler has posted when I have brought something to his intention that I thought was important to get out; I also think that is important.

  5. Great post! Does this mean you are sitting on something and don’t know whether or not to spill the beans? Feel free to tell me in confidence :) Keep up the good work FM.

  6. The answer to our problems is simple: a secret handshake, and an oath to secrecy. It’s worked for the Rothschilds, the Koch Bros, and sure enuff, it should work for us all here at Boardingarea!

  7. It’s definitely a tough call to make. I think your guidelines are pretty good. I also don’t publish stuff that is not easily replicated, for example if it only works for a very small group of people. I also think there are far too many people in this business who think they have some god given right to determine what bloggers do and don’t publish. Some of you are ranting on here already, and others will be along in due course. Many of these will talk about the “community” and how we steal from it, but the reality is pretty much all the techniques I use in this game I learned from one post on Rick’s blog back in the day when he ran it. Once you have worked out all you are trying to do is buy cash with credit cards, the rest falls into place. What right does anyone have to say I can’t then blog about it? Yes there is value in sharing experiences, but I have found most of the complainers don’t do that. In fact I think I can say I have learned almost nothing from the complainers. One exception would be MM who has shared some info on limits, which of course I could always find out solo would just take more time and trial and error. The rest of you have provided jack poop, so why do you deserve any bloggers silence? p.s. FM how much do you get paid for your captcha? It’s the only commercial captcha I’ve ever seen, and it continues to piss me off I have to basically read an ad to post on here. I hope it pays well!

  8. I love (sarcasm) how all bloggers have their version of #2. One one hand, it can be taken at face value. OTOH, it is a subtle plea for people out there to share secrets with the blogger.

    Furthermore, in this case, the blogger gives himself an out by saying he reserves the right to publish the secret if he was already in the know. I suppose we just have to trust him (?)

    @Grant, so this this point, how exactly is it a “win-win”? (The sharer gains nothing, unless the blogger offers a favor in return.)

    I can’t see a motivation to share a secret with a blogger, unless he/she is your friend. Otherwise, you are just a sort of “teachers pet”.

    (I fully expect to be slammed for this post.)

    • Ha ha. It certainly wasn’t meant as a plea for people to share secrets with me! I think that many people’s motivation is simply to be nice. They found something cool and thought I could benefit from it. That’s great.

      • I agree with Greg. Some people just want someone else’s opinion or point if view on a particular idea or variation of a known deal. I believe most people share secrets because they expect to get a secret in return.

  9. Hey Greg, I appreciate your humility in asking for feedback on such a controversial topic. It seems that you have a level head about how to make the decision (share or not share) and I appreciate that you try to do whats in your readers best interest (rather then focusing on the bottom $). This attitude, is a lot of the reason you have won (and kept) readership. You cannot make everybody happy though, so I would caution you against caring too much what people say or how they react.

    Deals that people are benefiting from are going to tempt them to anger if you blog them. Deals that they don’t know about they will be grateful for you telling them. So either way, some people will be happy and some not as happy. For example, I didn’t like your post last week about the 5% CB cards, only because I’ve been using and abusing those cards, and want the cards to last as long as possible (and suspicion to stay low). It was fair game to post though, and I respect your decision to do so. Had I not heard of the cards though, I would have been happy for your post, and probably would have thanked you for them.

    I like your list, though I would caution you on using your fifth bullet point as a cop-out. If a no name blogger (e.g. Points to Paradise) has posted a deal (e.g. HIGC pins) then is it really fair to say that the deal is public now and is fair game? Is it fair to say that a comment on a 6 month old post is public and fair game? I would say no, because the blogger has little to no followers, and the comment will have little to no exposure. If however, MMS or some other boarding area blogger has blogged it, or if its a FT thread with hundreds of replies then sure, maybe thats a little clearer, though I’d hope you give a little more scrutiny to what truly is exposed before you blog it. Does that make sense? Would you agree? So its clear, I’m not accusing you of this or saying you’ve done this (I can’t think of an instance that you did), but I have seen other bloggers do this.

    • I agree 100% with your post. I stumbled across the cash back link in the summer and you better believe I was hoping no one else would :). I was pretty bummed when someone actually shared the info online but completely understand that the bloggers will pick up on it. That is what the game is about. Mostly I am learning things that I did not already know. Love your blog FM.

  10. FM
    One thing I really respect. Minimal Pimping , maximum research and consideration given in your blog.

    You and maybe 3 other bloggers I feel are truly objective.
    You seem to have a conscience and give thought to your opinions and that of your readers . I also like the tongue in cheek comments you sometimes make

    I read your blog daily. Keep it up

  11. Also, a thought about #7 is that it doesn’t necessarily work because people tend to include the full name of stores and stuff like that in the comments. One last thought: I think credit card affiliate links on a blog are OK. It’s a win-win situation for both the blogger and the reader, so I don’t understand the problem with it.

    Greg, one thing I was a little bit disappointed about was when you posted about VRs at the numerically named convenience store. I don’t know if you are partially responsible for that opportunity to have severely diminished over the course of the last few months, but it can’t have helped. What do you think caused so many of those stores to go cash only for VRs?

    • Well, other blogs larger than mine not only shared that info but called out the store by name. My best guess is that someone in charge saw the blogs and was embarrassed by it and so shut it down. I don’t think that it was necessarily the influx of people making those purchases that shut it down… Other similarly lucrative opportunities are still alive and well there despite many people taking advantage.

  12. There are a lot of things that I have struggled to find a balance with this past year. I want to share information, but I agree that if something is told in confidence it doesn’t get shared.

    That said, I think it is unfair to keep something to myself if it can be helpful to the reader, and sometimes I go beyond my own comfort zone, such as when I shared about changing the date of travel after it had happened for a free trip – I think some things like that are just plain interesting to read about, whether I would do them or not.

    The irony of sharing is that every single reader wants to hear about the next big secret, but as soon as they find out it is one of ‘their’ big secrets you become a scum bag. I get the same readers each time saying ‘post it post it’ then a second later complaining that I posted it.

  13. Good post FM. I know you are a good man who means well and I appreciate you clarifying things in here like this.
    In point #5… well, there are some interesting dynamics to consider. Let’s say there’s some well known gig or deal or style of doing XYZ that works and is perfectly fine, but if it were over-publicized, it would most certainly end or seriously change for the worse. Ok, now let’s say that without really needing to be told, everyone kinda knows NOT to talk about it in great detail or post about it in public areas such as these. But then one person does. that person may be making an innocent mistake or maybe they just dont give a hoot, but the fact is they post XYZ and the cat’s outta the bag. Well, the problem is, NOW, the next person says, hey! I saw it in a blog so now that means I can post about it too, right? And then the next person sees that, and so on, and so on and so on.
    see where the problem arises?
    We have to go less by 1,2,3,4,5,6 guidelines, and more by rational case by case thought and careful selection. But we can all still write or talk about things, just not in ways to so obviously blow them out of the water.
    I gave the analogy of the Eye of Sauron from Lord of the Rings… my thinking here once again goes like this:
    You stand up and wave your arms and say, “Hey big eye in the sky, here’s deal XYZ and maybe the wandering eye misses you the first time. Maybe even the second. But eventually it’s going to see you and catch you and then deal XYZ gets killed. I mean, can you imagine how the movie would have ended if the Eye of Sauron had seen the hobbits? They had enough work ahead of them trying to climb a bleeding volcano, let alone being careful not to be seen whilst doing it.
    One doesn’t even need to be a fan of that series to get my point. Fact is, though, if something is good and working, what is the need and what is the gain of publishing the guide book about it? Let’s reserve that for the events where speakers like yourself can explain it in large rooms or in small talks with those who care to listen. As well, it should be reserved for people who will try to learn how to do it right instead of stabbing in the dark. If a person tries to do some of the known MS methods without some insight and understanding, they will get burned or stopped by the stores, and the stores may begin to curb how they process such transactions, thereby ruining it for everybody else.
    This is why I want to speak at such events… to help people who do MS learn to do things in ways that lessen the problems and increase the MS gains. I think you certainly have the ability to teach people that too, but I seriously believe that some more complex and touchy gigs out there–and many here know what I am talking about–simply cannot and should not be outlined in full color detail in a blog post or a few posts.
    I aint you and I cannot tell you what to do… much of what you have done in this blog has been great and that’s why people like me and others like it and you. But there’s really no point in even coming close to things that might fall apart if fully exposed. It helps no one in the end, and we have to know in our heart of hearts what those things are and I think you do.
    MM :)

  14. I know exactly what you mean. I had a situation very recently where an American Express rep told me something in the fine print of the AMEX Platinum US/AA/Delta Lounge debacle that she clearly didn’t realize she was telling me…basically handing me $500 (and others up to 2k).

    Then the dilemma…do you blog it and risk killing the deal, or not share at all? I decided to blog it, but bury the details in the 3rd paragraph so as not to attract too much attention.

  15. First of all, I really, really appreciate the advice I’ve gotten from your blog and the fact that you do original research and analysis.

    It’s going to be very difficult for you to keep both camps happy. At some point, you have to decide if your job is to make money from MS or to be a publisher and optimize traffic for monetizing your blog. Staying in good graces with heavy hitters at MS and being a publisher about it just aren’t goals that are consistent with each other.

    I do think its hypocritical for people to complain about bloggers killing deals, even though they rely on them for info about deals!

    I wouldn’t treat all info equally though. A deal that’s worth $100 that doesn’t scale is fine to publish about. But if you find something that scales up to 1000x that, you’d better sit on it. And the devil is in the details. You can talk about MS all day long, as long as you don’t share details of how to scale it up big.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *