No Match for NerdWallet: Evaluating the Card-Seeking Experience of First-Time Customers

by on Feb 02, 2017

Despite the generally huge emphasis of credit card product advertising on issuers’ public sites, industry giants provide little in the way of resources for customers looking to open their first credit card. The major credit card companies tend to be well-known, so young customers will go directly to an issuer’s website in search of resources for first-time credit cards. But they’ll often be met with disappointment. Issuers on the whole lack the educational materials and straightforward language that would steer these potential customers in the right direction, and they poorly promote materials for those with limited credit history. Many prospects may be forced to third-party sites for further information, sites that provide the objective analysis that issuers lack in the form of articles, selector tools, worksheets, comparison tables and more.

Promoting cards for those with limited credit history is an important way to attract a sizable portion of new customers. While 10 of the 11 firms in Corporate Insight’s Credit Card Monitor coverage group provide some type of selection tool with card category filters, these options generally revolve around what type of rewards the customer wants and how they expect to spend their money. Few firms offer a category aimed at building or rebuilding credit and, even so, these results always include only secured cards or student cards, which are not always of interest to a first-time card holder. U.S. Bank is the only firm with a First Time Credit Cards or similar page but, again, all products listed are secured or college cards. Some firms include information within their financial education interfaces for prospects looking to open their first card, like Wells Fargo’s lengthy Ways to Build Credit page within its Financial Education portal. While this is a good resource for people to learn about the importance of credit, it fails to recommend any specific card products. Bank of America’s Better Money Habits Credit interface provides articles on choosing a card and understanding how credit works, but it is hardly discoverable from the main public portal.

Wells Fargo Build Credit Card Product List

Third-party sites, on the other hand, provide the best resources for prospects to research the top cards for first-time credit card holders. Sites like NerdWallet offer a bevy of unbiased articles on credit cards and the industry as a whole, as well as card selection information, including objective rankings of cards across numerous categories. Other helpful third-party sites like, Money Under 30 and offer specific, well-tailored information with accurate product recommendations, rankings and analysis.

NerdWallet Credit Cards Menu

While it’s difficult for issuers to provide an objective analysis of the entire credit card industry, better promotion of first-time cards and resources for those prospects with limited credit history would put firms at a lower risk of losing potential customers to competitors. Prospects looking for their first credit card will continue to flock to major financial institutions’ sites because of brand recognition. An increase in the number and quality of resources for first-time card holders, along with improved overall positioning of these resources within the public sites, will make it less likely for firms to lose prospects to competitor and third-party sites and will result in a customer base that is both more well-informed and more trusting of its credit card provider from the outset of the client-firm relationship.