There are numerous affiliate networks out there, and when one is shopping around for the best fit, many factors come into play. Having worked in affiliate marketing for longer than many affiliate networks have been around, we put together the below table – for you to compare the main North American affiliate networks side-by-side.
We compared the more traditional networks, and have not included any of the sub-affiliate ones (or so-called “CPA networks” here (read about the differences in this blog post of mine | and see the CPA ones here).
Comparison of Top American Affiliate Networks
Without further ado, we bring you our brief side-by-side comparison of how much a merchant should expect to spend on launching (and running) an affiliate program on the top North American affiliate networks, and how much they should be prepared to spend to maintain the program. The data was last updated on 03/03/2023 with the green check-mark (✓)indicating the networks that collaborated with us verifying their data in our table.
|Ascend (formerly Pepperjam)||
|3% of sale’s total|
|Awin ✓||$550||$100||20% of affiliate commission||$0 (month 1)
|CJ (formerly Commission Junction) ✓||$3,000||$1,000||3% of sale or 30% of affiliate payouts||$500|
|Impact (formerly Impact Radius)||$500 – $5,000 per month (depending on sales volume)|
|$500||20% of affiliate payouts (with $0.30 minimum)||$100 (grace period: 1 month)|
|Rakuten Advertising (formerly LinkShare) ✓||
|3% of sale or 30% of affiliate payouts||$500|
|25% of commission|
|20% of commission
$0 (0-30 days)
$35 (30+ days)
*Setup Fee – frequently called “Network Access Fee” or “Signup Fee” – is the one-time fee charged by the network to get your affiliate program set up on the affiliate network. With some of the above-listed networks the setup fee includes such things as assistance with tracking integration, technical and automatic configuration of daily datafeed updates (AvantLink is known for that), additional exposure for newly-launched programs, and account management interface training.
**Network Fee – sometimes also called a “Network Override” or a “Transaction Fee” – is a recurring fee incurred by the advertiser on every commissionable transaction. Some networks tie it to affiliate payouts, others – to the total revenue of valid affiliate-referred transactions, while yet others – charge a monthly fee.
***Monthly Minimum – the minimum amount that you must pay in-network fees to avoid being charged the difference. Most networks are open to waiving the monthly minimums during the first month(s) giving your affiliate program a time to ramp up.
Our list of affiliate networks follows an alphabetical order, and is not meant to rank, but only compare whatever affiliate network information we were able to obtain. Experience shows that it is not unusual for the pricing to change; so, it is always best to check for the most up-to-date information with the respective affiliate network(s) directly. The above comparison, however, should give you a good preliminary idea of what to expect to spend on an affiliate network.
5 Ways to Lower Affiliate Network Fees
Nearly every one of the above-listed affiliate networks is open to negotiated/lower terms. There, actually, are numerous ways for brands to save money on affiliate network fees. Below you may find just a few approaches which we have seen work for our clients in the past.
Go Through an Agency
If you are open to having an agency build and grow your affiliate program, do take into account that you can sometimes get really attractive network discounts through them too. Depending on the affiliate network, AM Navigator clients enjoy either waived setup fees, or eliminated renewal fees, or lower transaction fees and monthly requirements, or all of these and more. It isn’t unusual for such savings to amount to thousands of dollars.
Commit to Network Exclusivity
As affiliate networks compete with one another, brands can come out as winners. Most networks are open to giving you (substantial) discounts on their pricing when the brand agrees to run their affiliate program exclusively on one network – even if only for a set time period (of 12 or 24 months, for example).
We have seen cases where large(r) escrow deposits help advertisers secure lower network fees too. Just make sure that your contract is worded in a way that the network refunds the unused part of the deposit, should you part ways.
Pay by Bank Transfer
Most affiliate networks would accept credit card payments, allowing you to fund your account using the plastic. However, since credit card payment processing fees can eat up as much as 3% of the total amount paid, many networks are happier with real cash. Inquire about setting up an alternative funding method (be it an ACH transfer or a bank wire) in exchange for a price break on their fees.
Agree to High(er) Monthly Minimums
When an advertiser commits to higher-than-default monthly minimums (thereby guaranteeing monthly income to network), there is a clear benefit to the network, and it can influence your other fees too. We have seen this work wonders in network/platform migrations of established affiliate programs – especially when combined with all (or even some) of the above-listed tactics for lowering your fees.
23 thoughts on “Compare North American Affiliate Networks Side-by-Side”
Nice list! However, to make this list complete it would be good to see approximate costs of having a dedicated affiliate management included.
I don’t want to go into the affiliate program management costs (remember, you cannot manage affiliates!). Some of the networks don’t do it, while others would provide such information to their existing clients only. So, I’ll just keep the number of columns limited to the ones that I have above.
Thanks Geno, what about clixGalore ?!
Thank you for your question. I decided to stay away from “CPA networks” (see the first paragraph), and stick with the traditional ones only.
Thank you. I am helping a merchant start an affiliate program. We are looking for a network and this information helps. The 50% difference in the set-up and long-term transaction fees is much larger than we expected. I doubt this large disparity exists between the competing merchants in these networks ““ so why here?
I do not want to discount the value from some of the merchants but can you help me understand what value justifies an additional 25% and 50% transaction fee.
I initially thought it might be because affiliates only work with one network but I learned that affiliates belong to multiple networks and shop for the best merchants.
So do all networks provide equal access to all affiliates ““ to all super affiliates?
Thank You Again,
Thanks for the list Geno and the recommendations but I don’t understand why you say CJ costs $500 – $20,000/mo. It’s my understanding that with CJ there is free account setup and then you apply to individual affiliate companies within CJ site and I am pretty sure it doesn’t cost any money to apply to them. So what costs are you talking about? Thanks
Trevor, all of the above affiliate networks do not charge affiliates anything for setting up an account with them. The pricing provided above applies to merchants/advertisers. So, do not worry about this.
Two additional points to make:
(i) The range you quoted for CJ is my bad. The setup fee is actually $3,000 for merchants (I’ll correct this in my original post as soon as I post this response), but the $500-20k range is for having CJ manage your program.
(ii) As an affiliate you do want to be aware of CJ’s dormant account fee. Clause F in their Service Agreement says: “If Publisher’s Account has not been credited with a valid, compensable Transaction that has not been Charged-back during any rolling, six consecutive calendar month period (“Dormant Account”), a dormant account fee at CJ’s then-current rate shall be applied to Publisher’s Account each calendar month that Publisher’s Account remains an open yet Dormant Account or until Your Account balance reaches a zero balance, at which time the Account shall become deactivated.”
The setup fee means what it costs to be a part of that network?
…as a merchant — yes. For affiliates — all of the above are free-to-join. See my above comments.
Nice list, Geno… obviously showing my ignorance, but why isn’t ClickBank here?
Carlen, thank you for your note. As stated in the opening lines “I compared the more traditional networks”, and excluded “CPA networks” and niche-specific ones like ClickBank which focuses on “digital goods”, and isn’t anywhere as all-encompassing as the above-listed affiliate networks.
Thanks for the distinction. I’ve been getting into IM just the last six months, so such lines are still a bit blurry to me. Carlen
This post helps make the cost of participation clear. Thank you for this valuable information, which goes well with your recent post “Top 4 US Affiliate Networks Compared.” Much appreciated!
Thanks, Ken. Glad you’ve found these two posts of use.
According to last CJ Fee Structure there are some important notes to add here:
One time deposit – $3000
Minimum monthly amount – $500
Annual Renewal Fee – $500
Thanks, Timofey. From my past experience, many of the numbers I have quoted over a year ago in the above table are negotiable and merchant-specific. But I certainly appreciate your input.
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I’m trying to help a company set-up an affiliate program. I am making a comparative analysis of possible affiliate network to choose. Aside from the attributes you put in here like set-up fee, deposit etc., what other factors should I need to consider in my analysis?
Thanks in advance.
Good question, Al. And I, actually, have an article on this very topic. I believe, there are 5 decisive factors in choosing an affiliate network to go with. See the details here: Choosing an Affiliate Network.
Let me know if you have any other questions.
I love this article. Thank you so much. If you can choose one without having to worry about money or setup fee, which would you pick and why?
Leo, first, do your competitive intelligence analysis to see what network your direct competitors (or closely-related merchants) are already being successful on. Secondly, check out my Choosing an Affiliate Network article, and make your call based on the 5 criteria mentioned there.
What about affiliate plugins such as Affiliates Pro for WooCommerce. It seems much more cost effective….what is missing?
Yes, there is number of these, and I mentioned some under “shopping platforms and shopping carts with affiliate program support options” in this post, but they are not “affiliate networks.”