There are affiliate programs that would be similar to rewards programs. If you purchase enough stuff on your credit card, you get discounts at certain retailers. If you accumulate enough mileage on an airline miles program, you can fly with any of their affiliates, which might include other airlines or rental car agencies or cruise lines or other types of businesses.
There are also buyer’s club-type programs in which you can purchase brand-name items at discounts by virtue of your membership.
The “affiliate programs” that give us pause (if I may speak for others here) are the ones that promise income for your involvement. There is a huge difference between being involved in a program as a consumer or as a member and being involved in it as a representative or an employee.
And some affiliate programs go out of their way to blur that distinction. Some of them even blur the nature of their relationships with other businesses that are affiliated with them. A/Q is the main example that comes to mind. There are many businesses that have a business relationship with A/Q, but to hear an IBO promoting it, you’d think it was a partnership. They are NOT partners, but IBOs think they are.
So the admonition to beware of these programs is not a condemnation of them, but it is solid advice to keep your eyes open for what it is they are trying to sell – products & services, or an “income opportunity.”