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What You Need to Know About Being an Affiliate with Clickbank Products

by Kristi on January 7, 2011 · Affiliate Programs

*Disclaimer: Links included in this post to products mentioned are affiliate links. You will be supporting myself and the site if you purchase your product through them, which is always greatly appreciated!*

After a little over six months as a Clickbank affiliate, I am finally getting my first paycheck of affiliate commissions. But for a while there, I wasn’t sure it was going to happen.

Affiliate Programs I’ve Used

As a bit of background info on my history with affiliate providers, I’d like to say that Clickbank isn’t the only one I have worked with for affiliate products. I’ve promoted products with eJunkie, ShareaSale, and a few smaller affiliate sites.

All of them have been pretty easy – you make a commission on any products (from a novelty promotional item to full making money online course), and typically get paid out within a month, with exception to a few conference affiliate commissions that withheld payment until the event started to prevent any commissions being paid and then attendees canceling later. It’s been straightforward, and whatever commissions I earned, I eventually got paid via Paypal or direct deposit.

Clickbank Products

Clickbank Affiliate Program

What products are available in the Clickbank Marketplace? There are a LOT of products you can market in almost every category, from Arts & Entertainment to Travel. Essentially, any niche that you belong to, you should find a product on Clickbank that fits in it. Some that I market include:

Clickbank Affiliate Payment Rules

When I signed up for my first product out of the Clickbank Marketplace (the Income Blogging Course, which I have also taken myself and enjoyed thoroughly), I didn’t feel the need to read through all of the guidelines, as I assumed one affiliate service works like the next. This is a bad assumption.

Each month, I watched my commissions pile up, but kept seeing a CDR status next to each bi-weekly report of my earnings. I lowered my payment threshold to $50, so I knew it was no longer that. So I started reading the affiliate rules to find the first issue with getting money from Clickbank.

CDR – Customer Distribution Requirement

The Customer Distribution Requirement is Clickbank’s way to make sure you are not gaming the affiliate system and buying affiliate products through your own link to give yourself a little extra discount. In order for your commissions to be paid out to you, you must have affiliate purchases with:

  • Paypal (a minimum of 1)
  • Five unique credit card payments with Visa or Mastercard

This means that you must have people buy affiliate products through your links using six different forms of payment. Now I don’t know about you, but when I buy products online, unless it’s through Amazon or a well known online brand, I typically use Paypal for everything. And, surprise surprise, so do most others. Getting several Paypal purchasers is simple. But you will probably be waiting for a while to get the five unique credit card purchases.

The CDR is particularly tough when you see your earnings accumulating with recurring payments, such as with the blogging course I mentioned earlier. I received commissions every month from people who signed up for the six month program. But, of course, the credit card they used only counted once toward the CDR.

Fortunately, I did make the CDR in December, six months after I started marketing Clickbank products. But what happens if you don’t meet this requirement?

Dormant Account Charges

If you start earning commissions, but don’t make the CDR, get discouraged, and stop working hard on affiliate promotions, will you lose your earnings? Possibly. Clickbank charges fees for dormant accounts. Their policy is:

Accounts with a positive balance but no earnings for an extended period of time are considered dormant. Dormant accounts are subject to a charge of $1 per pay period after 90 days of no earnings, $5 per pay period after 180 days of no earnings, and $50 per pay period after 365 days of no earnings.

So needless to say, you don’t want to forget about those earnings! Keep promoting and make sure you get your CDR met so you can get the payments you have earned.


Oh, one more thing. Because there is the chance that your affiliate commissions payout may happen before a purchaser’s return timeframe has expired, Clickbank takes a “return allowance” of around 10% of your affiliate earnings, which they will credit back to your account. In 12 weeks.

So let’s say after your first payment you slack off of affiliate marketing and kind of forget about it. 84 days later, you get the $50 credited to your account. Six days later, you start getting hit with the $1 per pay period charge because your account is dormant (pay periods can be once every two weeks, ie. $2 per month. Three months later, the $44 you have left will start to be charged $5 per pay period, ie. $10 per month. In a few months, that $50 will be all gone, even though you had earned it rightfully in the beginning.

Needless to say, if you want to actually get all of your affiliate commission payouts, you must keep your account active by constantly promoting affiliate products. For some affiliates with huge mailing lists and highly trafficked sites, that’s usually not an issue, but for smaller affiliates who “get lucky” here and there, it could become a problem.

Is Clickbank a Scam?

Since I did receive my payment, I can say that Clickbank is not a scam.

Clickbank Affiliate Check

Is it one of the most difficult affiliate service providers for affiliates to get their full commissions paid out from? I would say so – again, maybe not for large affiliates, but for smaller ones that do not heavily focus on affiliate marketing, definitely!

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Dennis Edell @ Direct Sales Marketing January 8, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Awesome review from the affiliate side Kristi.

They’re definitely not for the slacker or “tester” but the full or damn near full time affiliate marketer.

I always advise beginners start with places like ejunkie or paydotcom. You have to remember to pay your affiliates yourself, but the rules are a lot less stringent.
Dennis Edell @ Direct Sales Marketing recently posted..Contest Sponsors Linking to Money Making Pages – I Need Your Honest Opinion – FAST!My ComLuv Profile


Gail Gardner January 10, 2011 at 5:37 am

We need to find out if someone uses a PayPal debit card at Clickbank if that is counted as a PayPal or a credit card – if it counts as a credit card that would make it easier to hit the threshold.

I personally know someone who lost what he earned from Clickbank sales because of dormant charges. Thanks to sales of Andrew Rondeau’s Income Blogging Guide he has hundreds of dollars sitting in Clickbank and is once again at risk of losing that income because – as you point out – most people bloggers know are other bloggers and they use PayPal – not credit cards.

While the case could be made that Clickbank is simply protecting itself against people joining to get discounts, it is also possible that they set up their payout process to intentionally keep most of what new and smaller affiliates earn.

Because of this requirement I would caution anyone who is not really serious about consistently promoting affiliate products to avoid Clickbank and suggest that creators of digital product creators consider finding an alternative because they don’t want to have unhappy affiliates.

I have heard recommendations for Clickback for probably a decade now and this is the first I’ve heard about this payout issue. Does anyone know if it has always been set up like that?
Gail Gardner recently posted..Small Business Internet Marketing- Where to StartMy ComLuv Profile


Kristi January 10, 2011 at 9:46 pm

I’m sure it’s a protection thing, and i can kind of understand it, because with some networks it really is a bit easier to buy your own thing. But at the same time, I thought it was something that needed to be known for the smaller affiliates – you have to really promote it hard to get past the CDR – either heavy on one product or, if that isn’t working (like if you see most of the people buying one product seems to only pay with Paypal, then try something different. I think outside of the IM niche, you might get a lot more purchases with credit cards as they are not heavy Paypal users.


Dennis Edell @ Direct Sales Marketing January 11, 2011 at 11:58 am

Just one of the reasons Paydotcom was created…
Dennis Edell @ Direct Sales Marketing recently posted..UPDATE! Contest Sponsors Linking to Money Making Pages – I Need Your Honest Opinion – FAST!My ComLuv Profile


Derek January 10, 2011 at 5:47 am

The CDR requirement is something that I am currently battling as I have previously lost earnings due to my account falling into the dormant stage. I’ve not built up a decent amount of sales and am trying to secure the necessary credit card transactions.

Do you know if there is any way to determine how many more transactions you need? The search results / reporting don’t go back far enough for me to see some of my older transactions to know what payment method was used. Most of my recent transactions have all been with PayPal, as you mentioned.

Thanks for the post Kristi, I think this issue catches a number of small / beginning affiliate marketers using ClickBank.
Derek recently posted..How To Add PHP Pagination To LinkShare ProductsMy ComLuv Profile


Kristi January 10, 2011 at 9:51 pm

I figured mine out through the reporting – I looked at who had VS or MC and what state they were in, assuming that if they were in different states, they were unique cards. I managed to calculate it out correctly through that. But I think if you send them a support request and let them know that you can’t go back far enough in reporting to find out how many you need.

Outside of that, you just have to promote it pretty hard – I watch Twitter for people talking about wanting product reviews and send them mine if extremely applicable. Then you might get some outside audience of your norm who pay (hopefully) differently.


Derek January 11, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Thanks for the feedback Kristi. I will try sending a support request to see if they can provide a summary of how many transactions I have towards the required minimums.
Derek recently posted..Market Samurai- Looking At A WordPress NinjaMy ComLuv Profile


Ileane January 12, 2011 at 3:45 am

Hey Kristi, thanks for the run down on how Click Bank works. I am debating rather I should sign up because I contributed to an eBook and the affiliate program is with them. You’ve just made it easier for me to make my decision. Thanks!
Ileane recently posted..Link Building Mastery- Master The Art of Link BuildingMy ComLuv Profile


Gail Gardner January 15, 2011 at 11:35 pm

Hi Ileane,

Kristi was busy answering the Q&A on Facebook that Social Media Examiner hosted. I’m sure she’ll be around to answer your question herself later.

ClickBank has been around as long as I can remember and the only major drawback is what Kristi wrote up in this post – that if you can’t get enough sales using unique credit cards you can’t get the money you’ve earned out.

Anyone in that position will need to take action to make that happen. You might try asking on your product landing pages that your buyers use a bank debitr or credit card instead of PayPal (and share with them why).

If that doesn’t do the trick ask your friends who are likely to be interested in buying downloadable products to buy them through you using a bank card so you can get your money out.
Gail Gardner recently posted..Business Blogging Tips- Top Advice from 31 Bloggers Totally Free DownloadMy ComLuv Profile


Ileane January 15, 2011 at 11:48 pm

Hi Gail, thanks for the advice. I’m glad I saw this post because I’m sure I would not have known about Click Bank’s payout policies otherwise. I hope Kristie has time to keep this blog updated with great insights on affiliate programs like this. I’ll head over to SME’s Facebook page and get caught up. Talk to you soon.
Ileane recently posted..Help Me Win the Credit Cards Canada Guest Post ContestMy ComLuv Profile


Gail Gardner January 16, 2011 at 12:55 am

Hi Ileane,

I wouldn’t have known about this issue if Kristi had not mentioned. Then I asked Derek and he had the same problem. I’ve known about ClickBank since 1999 so I’m surprised I haven’t read more about this before.

Any of our collaborators who need assistance making sure they get paid should ask their friends to help. Those who don’t have enough friends can ask me.
Gail Gardner recently posted..Best of GrowMap – Our Most Important Posts All in One PlaceMy ComLuv Profile


Nick Daws January 12, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Good post. I’m glad I joined Clickbank as an affiliate some years ago, when far fewer people had PayPal accounts. I find that Clickbank are 100% reliable about sending payments (once you’ve reached your payment threshold), so it’s worth sticking with them to enjoy the benefits later.

Another alternative some readers might like to check out is the affiliate program run by my publishers, The WCCL Network. They offer hundreds of self-help products, courses, manuals, and so on (and yes, they include some that I have written). They notify you of every sale you make and send payment by Paypal 30 days later (as long as the purchase hasn’t been cancelled by the buyer). There is no minimum requirement of sales before you get paid. Click through my website link for more info.
Nick Daws recently posted..Does Your Character Have CharacterMy ComLuv Profile


Brankica from Live Your Love January 12, 2011 at 6:35 pm

I have heard so much about ClickBank, tried it, didn’t do much with it and left it aside. However I have never gave up on it like I did on CJ for example.
I read the post but haven’t checked out the links, I am definitely going to go through the post again.
The main reason for commenting it that I want to say that I needed some affiliate tips and I see that this is the blog I can learn that from. Seeing who commented here makes it even more a “must do” :)
Thanks for the tips and I hope to start doing CB the proper way!
Brankica from Live Your Love recently posted..Human spammer How to lose reputation as a blogger and get banned the easy wayMy ComLuv Profile


Gail Gardner January 12, 2011 at 9:50 pm

For affiliate marketing in general the affiliate network that is most trusted in for physical products, events, etc.

The primary other sites I use where you can find Affiliate Marketing information are AffiliateXFiles, MurrayNewlands, Kikolani and DazzlinDonna and I have some comprehensive posts on affiliate marketing on my blog too. I’ll put one in CommentLuv.
Gail Gardner recently posted..Ethical Affiliate Marketing My ComLuv Profile


Henrik Blunck January 22, 2011 at 12:21 am

I never doubted Clickbank was for real because results have been excellent for those marketers who put up valuable offers through their services. But they would still have to keep alert to the fact that other players have come to the scene – such as Plimus.
Thanks for a good review. I hope you will continue to experience similar results in your efforts with earning money online. :-)
Henrik Blunck recently posted..The Most Difficult Comment You Can WriteMy ComLuv Profile


Gail Gardner @ GrowMap January 24, 2011 at 11:12 pm

I sent several tweets to Clickbank today hoping to get a definitive answer to whether a purchase made with a PayPal dedit card is considered a credit card purchase or a PayPal purchase.

They have not responded yet; however, @loxly (Affiliate Marketing expert Deborah Carney) tweeted back:

@loxly @growmap credit card.

Later in the day Ivan Walsh tweeted to the contrary. While Deborah is likely to have run into the issue and be correct, we need verification from Clickbank.

Here are all the Tweets related to this so far in order:

@GrowMap If I buy something from @ClickBank using a PayPal debit card does that count as a PayPal sale or a Credit Card sale?

@loxly @growmap credit card.

@GrowMap Wonderful news for bloggers who promote products on ClickBank: PayPal Debit Cards are counted as credit cards NOT PayPal sales Thanks @loxly

@ivanwalsh @growmap: should be a PayPal sale as it’s not a credit card, ie MS or Visa

@GrowMap Hi @ivanwalsh PayPal credit card IS a MC & also a PayPal purchase. Accurate answer is important to @Clickbank #aff – See

@GrowMap Hi @Clickbank Many bloggers we know need your confirmation that a purchase made with a PayPal debit card = cc purchase >

@GrowMap Bloggers who have commented regarding @Clickbank payout policy are highly influential – See @Klout @PeerIndex

I mention influence not to threaten Clickbank but only to let them know that collectively we choose to provide very accurate information and we want the information about this to be confirmed by them so affiliates have the right answer.
Gail Gardner @ GrowMap recently posted..Own and Control Versus Going Viral – Your ChoiceMy ComLuv Profile


Jenn Mattern January 24, 2011 at 11:21 pm

From what I remember as both an affiliate and former seller working through Clickbank, the diversification rule only applied to your first payout. Once you reached that status of 5 unique credit cards, etc. you were done with it. In fact the last payment I received from them was for a single product sale, so I’m sure you don’t have to meet that requirement for every payout — would have been impossible in my case if that were true. Does anyone know for sure if that’s changed even though the evidence I’ve seen doesn’t seem to say so? Or is it still just a first payment issue?

Also, it’s kind of misleading on their part when they talk about discouraging people from using their own links for discounts. That’s been going on for years, will continue to go on for years, and I’ve yet to know a single affiliate to have their account suspended for it (despite the fact that they call it “fraudulent” — BS since you aren’t lying about who you are — and in an email I found on a forum they state they’ll suspend the accounts because it violates the client contract). Unless I missed something big, it doesn’t actually violate the client contract. The only mention I could even find about that was in the Customer Distribution Requirement section you mentioned, where on one hand they call it fraudulent behavior but then never technically ban it. It only says they try to discourage people from using it for the “sole purpose” of getting rebates. That means as long as you’re generally using it as intended, using your own links once in a while isn’t the “sole” purpose and therefore not technically in violation of the accounting policy.

I have to say, after taking a look through the policies they have some of the most ass-backward language I’ve seen. It’s a wonder any affiliates know what’s going on since their own reps don’t seem to read or understand what their policies actually say.
Jenn Mattern recently posted..Does Social Media Support LiarsMy ComLuv Profile


Gail Gardner @ GrowMap February 4, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Hi Jenn,

We are talking about the first payout issue. I sure hope that you don’t have to meet it more than once as many have trouble just meeting it the first time because in our niche who doesn’t just use PayPal to pay instead of pulling out a credit card?
Gail Gardner @ GrowMap recently posted..PostRank Connect Identifies Social Media InfluencersMy ComLuv Profile


Tia February 17, 2011 at 6:13 am

Hey Kristi – Cool to see you with a picture of your check! Would you say that after 6 months of heavy promoting, did you profit, break even, or lose money? I know that affiliate marketing is a long-run thing.

I really like MaxBlogPress products and use them myself, but one of the reasons I do not promote them via affiliate marketing anymore is because they are with Clickbank and I don’t know that I would ever see any money from them, unless like you mentioned, I decided to promote them heavily. I’ve got commissions sitting in pending and definitely don’t expect to receive a check from them.

So far, my favorite, easy to market affiliate programs have come through Commission Junction and Share a Sale!

Awesome review. Thanks.
Tia recently posted..30 Second MBA- What was the toughest feedback you ever gotMy ComLuv Profile


Kristi February 17, 2011 at 10:39 pm

I definitely profited in terms of making enough affiliate commission to cover the products I purchased to review & use and then some, but I did some pretty heavy promotion of all the Clickbank products to do it. It’s just a matter of finding ways to mention them in posts, articles, tweets, paying attention to their discount offers and really promoting the heck out of them, and so on. Having a mailing list definitely helps, but you have to find a way to promote without overwhelming your readers.


Shiva @ Webmaster Tips February 19, 2011 at 6:43 pm

Oh, I did not know that Clickbank had CDR’s. I have never promoted any Clickbank products till now but was thinking of doing so. Well, seems it is pretty hard to get payment from Clickbank for smaller affiliates. But well after all it is just for experience so I am surely going to give a try and promote their products
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Laura March 13, 2011 at 10:58 pm

Thanks Kristi for explaining this issue. I have recently signed up for ClickBank but haven’t been heavily promoting my affiliate links. I’m still trying to put most of my time into getting traffic. I think I will still continue with my plan to diversify what affiliate programs I promote and not rely only on ClickBank. Despite their first payout requirement and policies regarding inactive accounts, I still think their program is right in line with my site because they have so many options for what to promote.
Laura recently posted..How Much Money Can You Earn with HubPagesMy ComLuv Profile


Carla April 19, 2011 at 2:49 am


Congrats on your first Clickbank check! I remember getting my first check from online marketing, it was from Adsense though. I didn’t take a picture of it (I wish I would have,) but I did take it and show my friends. :)

And I agree, that 5 different credit card number requirement is really annoying when you are getting started,
Carla recently posted..Clickbank WoesMy ComLuv Profile


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