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Commission Junction’s $10 Monthly Inactivity Fee for Publishers

Update: I have the solution.

I’ve been using Commission Junction for a couple of years (well, actually, much longer, but that account was closed), first with SodaRatings.com (for the eBay affiliate program) and then with the “Managing Online Forums” book site, to enable affiliate links to Books-A-Million. eBay moved away from Commission Junction, a while ago, bringing their affiliate program in house. Since then, I’ve just been using the Books-A-Million program. Everything was going fine, I thought, until I received this e-mail on February 1:

Dear Patrick O’Keefe,

You are receiving this email because we are concerned that your Commission Junction publisher account has not generated any valid commissions (from payable transactions) recently. We encourage you to begin earning commissions as quickly as possible. Otherwise, your publisher account is at risk of deactivation due to dormancy. Please see the Commission Junction Publisher Service Agreement for further explanation.

Accounts deactivated for dormancy are eligible for voluntary reactivation with Commission Junction, but you must re-establish any previous relationships with your advertisers. After reactivation, you are ready to redevelop your publisher business and begin actively promoting offers within the CJ Marketplace.

Of course, we would much rather see your publisher account actively earning commissions. If you would like some information on strategies and tips for doing so, please log in to the CJ Account Manager and click on the CJU Online link for helpful resources.

If you have any further questions regarding this or other issues, please use the Ask a Question feature available by selecting the Contact Us link available in your CJ Account Manager.

Client Support

Notice, there is no mention of any fee in there. I did want to keep my account and I wanted to keep working with Books-A-Million. The e-mail was vague on what exactly I needed to do – just to “begin earning commissions as quickly as possible.” So, I went and logged in to my account to send them an e-mail to ask exactly how much activity was needed and to see what I could do.

I logged in and checked my stats, first, to see what sort of activity I had. I was surprised to see that, on February 1, that same day, I had had a $10 fee deducted from my account balance. The balance was $13 and change and I now had $3 and change. A quick Google search led me to this thread at PowWeb. And then it started to fall into place.

I’m sure it’s in their terms and I, most likely, violated those terms. No dispute there. Take my $10, I guess. Commission Junction didn’t do anything wrong to me. Just wanted to be clear about that. It’s in their terms and they enforced them. I’m fine with that. But, I think maybe it would have been better if they notified people, in advance, and told of the fee, at least, when you are running close to having it happen.

I e-mailed support to ask them if the fee could be refunded, expecting that it wouldn’t be. If that would be possible, I said, then I could go ahead and buy something through one of my links (as their documentation advised) to keep it out of the inactive state. The support person was nice and polite, but basically said no. So, I provided some more feedback, and asked that my account be closed.

The person closed it and told me that, worse yet, had my account been left, they would have cleared it out by $10 every month, until it reached $0 and then it would have been closed. Because I closed it voluntarily, the representative said, they would send me a check for the balance. Again, the person was very nice, kind and polite and said that I could always come back and reopen my account. She even said that the policy was an inconvenience for publishers.

I don’t feel comfortable quoting the e-mails, in full, that I exchanged with the support rep. I don’t mind posting the e-mail above, which was automated. But, I will quote one small part. She said that the $10 fee “occurs due to the system which has certain rules which keep the network productive.” I just wonder: is it worth it?

Is the gain of this $10 fee really worth the negative feelings it must cause with struggling, small publishers? Is having inactive accounts really such a strain on Commission Junction’s network? When people get charged $10, do they think “well, I’m going to go work harder to promote my Commission Junction links” or do they think “they took my $10?! I’ll just use someone else.” Commission Junction is a leader and they represent a ton of attractive programs – but, that said, there are plenty of other folks in this arena, including major site based affiliate programs (like Amazon.com’s and eBay’s), other affiliate networks and CPA networks (like AzoogleAds or Market Leverage). I just don’t know if it’s worth charging $10 for this.

I’ve taken down the link to Books-A-Million, leaving links to Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and Powell’s. I would apply to the Borders program, but they, too, use Commission Junction. It’s a shame as I’d like to link to Books-A-Million and Borders, but the Commission Junction policy just makes me not want to work with their program.

30 responses

  1. This is (unfortunate) case of a company that’s focusing on the wrong thing. Commission Junction wants their publishers to be more successful so they make more money, obviously. They’ve chosen to punish the ones who aren’t successful in order to threaten them to becoming successful. Does that make sense?

    I think a better policy would be to provide useful information to publishers. How can they be successful? How can they increase the number of leads they generate? Write content, provide articles, blog, etc. to publishers giving them resources to help them become successful.

    If Commission Junction wants to work with smaller publishers, they need to seriously re-evaluate their policies. If they don’t, then they need to put CLEAR policies in place so they don’t sign up smaller publishers to begin with.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Brandon. I appreciate your thoughts. I think those ideas make sense.


  3. I don’t trust Commission Junction. Their reporting and payment procedures aren’t transparent, and I am not convinced anyone reads the support emails – I think they simply choose a pre-made template to send in response.

    The issue I have with them is in late payments. I understand that they can’t pay me until they receive payment from the merchant first. However, they need to be more transparent in their reporting to show when a merchant has paid an outstanding balance and when this can be expected to be passed along to affiliates.

    Instead of telling me they understand my concerns, they should be telling me what they are doing to encourage those merchants to pay their bills. Perhaps they need a traffic light system in place (like in Affiliate Window) so potential affiliates know what kind of payment frequency to expect.

    Very frustrating.

    – Martin

  4. Thanks for sharing that, Martin. I appreciate it.


  5. Affiliate Marketing Rules 101 | Affiliate Payload Review

    […] Commission Junction’s $10 Monthly Inactivity Fee for Publishers … […]

  6. That’s exactly why I don’t use CJ.

  7. […] in February, I wrote about how Commission Junction had charged me $10 for inactivity on my affiliate account without any notice. I was displeased and stopped sending traffic to […]

  8. Ron P. Avatar

    This is quite funny (m I use the term loosely) I too had the same exact event just occur, even the money is the same. Almost to the penny. I was carrying a balance of $13 and change and just went into the acct to make a link for someone who was going to buy an item that I was signed up for. As soon as I open acct I see a $10 deduction, under the very explict descripotion of FEE. They only way I know what this is is your post.
    Since they raised the payout limit to $100 before they cut a check, Im sure penty will have this Fee. So what they will do is just whittle those accts down to ZERO and then either ask for MORE money out of the Publishers pocket to bring the acct to Zero (So they can then close it) and then you have also lost all the money you were accumalating.

    CJ has always pulled fine line crap but as you said, they represent some big companies with nice plans.

    But as a whole, they are terrible to do business with.

    So hopefully I can get my friend to make thius buy, get the commission added and then close my acct and be given the $3 plus the new commission. But I bet that doesnt end up working.

  9. I think that the most frustrating thing is the Lack of response. That will drive you crazy and it is bad business and it definitely tells everyone, that “We dont give a crap. This is our company and screw you!”.

    I mean how hard is it to set up an autoresponder, that says “We will get back to you soon, my name is blah, blah, blah, your account rep., your business is important to us”, and so on.

    I will give anyone a shot if they are trying, but screw some one that blatantly ays, “Yes, we have the ability to show concern, but we choose not to.”

    Bottom line is, CJ has pissed a lot of people off, and its not a secret anymore, so either they fix it, or someone will just move up and take their place.
    Most companies dont care once they have made their money.

  10. This must be going on everywhere, I had the exact same thing happen at Click Bank. I couldn’t get enough commissions to get past the Customer Distribution Agreement which requires multiple credit card numbers as well as other requirements and no pay pal sales count towards the payout. They eventually cleaned out my account but left it open and I’m left wondering if its worth the hassle. They took roughly 95 bucks from my account :-(

  11. Glenda Clarke Avatar
    Glenda Clarke

    I just went through the same thing with the $10 jack. I had $17.94 and now it’s down to $7.94 cents. I’ll call on Monday to have it deactivated so I can at least get something. They really should give you notice before taking themoney out. I just hate these massive corporations that peck away at the innocent, small time individual. They must make a fortune from this scheme.

    1. I’m sorry to hear that, Ms. Clarke. Thanks for sharing.

  12. It’s a rip off. And I’m considering reporting that to ripoffreports.com!

  13. Colin Avatar

    Hi Patrick. This has just happened to me too. I had a balance of £5.10, but after a period of inactivity (my website is very seasonal) this has been wiped off and my balance is now zero. So I’ve decided not to bother with CJ any more, as I’m not going to waste time trying to earn money only to see it disappear!

    1. Sorry to hear that, Colin.

  14. I was with CJ for quite a while. Several times I found my accounts being closed. I believe that collecting money from the long tail of affiliate accounts generates a large sum for them and is a business model. And it is a major trap for the unwary. Considering you need $100 for a payout (why?), chances are that many starting sites will end up failing to make a sale eventually and forfeit all that money to the company. It’s preposterous and I’ve already written to at least 2 companies telling them that I’m solely promoting their competitors because they use methods other than Commission Junction. If you use the service, I wouldn’t expect to see any money unless you’re generating very large sums for them.

  15. I don’t particularly like CJ for a whole bunch of reason, but I don’t see the logicity in wanting to work with Books-A-Million but then you can’t even make a single transaction every six months?
    Where is the logic in that?

  16. Hey Mark,

    Thanks for the comment. As an author of a book, I wanted to link to a variety of stores and, back then, I felt like Books-A-Million had some value. That doesn’t mean people opted to use them. The question is… should I be penalized for that and is it a good practice for CJ publishers? Some will say yes, some will say no. Not everyone will agree. :)



  17. I recently checked out a service that I wanted to promote (Carbonite) and saw that they, unfortunately, run their affiliate program through Commission Junction. I used CJ years back and was hit with the same $10/month penalties as well. I closed my account and shifted focus to Link Share and Share-A-Sale advertisers. However, I really want to push Carbonite, because it’s a really great service, and was willing to chance it on CJ again but wanted to find out if they still had that scammy $10/month penalty policy. So here I am now. I checked the CJ “Terms of Use” page and did a Ctrl-F for “10” and nothing shows. I’m guessing they still have the policy but aren’t very forth coming about it, just like before.

    1. Thank you for the comment, Trusty Techs. That is interesting. Maybe they have changed – to be sure, I would ask them directly. See what they say.

      Thanks again,


  18. Danial Avatar


    Just been a victim of this. I had $105 earned though a single sale and sadly I forgot about it. The only mistake I made is not set my tax information so they did not send me a cheque to my office. What happens next is they start taking $10 every month on a regular basis and $70 goes down the gutter without any kind of notification.

    It is a shame when it comes to publishers they impose a bunch of policies to educate the customers clearly about how things work and all, but not even a single email of deduction of $10 every month? That is a disgrace.

    I will try to get it back, if I cannot, I will simply quit and look for better alternatives.


    1. Thank you for the comment, Danial. Sorry to hear that they are still doing this. I totally agree that the thing that bothered me most was the lack of communication. The fee itself, as explained above, is ridiculous to me. But not communicating it better is even worse.


  19. Scary reading through these comments & it feels like CJ just creating an extra revenue stream for themselves, and obviously not providing any type of service for their $10/mo charge. I’m wondering if you can start new account to circumvent these charges

  20. I too lost $10 today at CJ. I am a small publisher at CJ and make affiliate sales rare. I have been using them for almost two years. I guess they need to change their policy, else they are going to lose all their small publishers.

  21. I lost about $30 to dormant fees before CJ deactivated. They are probably profiting from this practice. What a sham!

  22. Add me to the CJ loser’s list, folks! Just days before I captured a sale, I got dinged for $10. Was close to their arbitrary $100 threshold, too. Going to close the account. If participation drives sales, and they want to penalize participation, let them shoot themselves in the foot. It’s idiotic.

  23. Count me among the people screwed over by Commission Junction. Ridiculous that they punish those who are struggling. I’d cancel my relationship with them, but too many of my blog’s affiliate links are from companies solely with them. It’s impossible to really change it so I’m stuck with them until my account gets closed out. I’ve gone from $90 to $20, and they’ve provided zero services.

    ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  24. I.Balachandar Avatar

    I had an idea to join in commission junction. After reading their terms about dormant fees, I am not comfortable with their conditions. Not having the sale is common, but they should not charge for inactivity.

  25. Just logged into CJ and I weirdly had the same situation as you did. I had a balance of $13.33 and saw that it was now down to $3.33. So after clicking on ‘balance details’ I saw that they had deducted $10 for “fees and other”. I did not get an automated message.

    I had stopped actively promoting a couple merchants inside CJ because I had found some better offers and the ones that do earn me money are seasonal (Halloween and Black Friday) so it’s been a while since I generated any sales.

    I didn’t feel any way about the $10 charge except that I thought I really should get busy with some kinda offer in there. I thought at the very least though that they should have notified me about the dormant account or even the charge instead of surprising me when I log in.

    Clickbank usually takes $1 and other networks don’t even bother charging for a dormant account as far as I know. I don’t see why this charge should be this high for CJ.

  26. I got into the same situation, and I am thinking if I shall close this account and concentrate on others instead. But I have the impression that several of the advertisers on CJ in reality are cheating me, and steadily more of them do.

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