can’t think about your credit score without also thinking about income and
spending. NerdWallet blends these two personal finance elements and includes
lots of useful editorial content covering those topics. It’s totally free, supported
by offers and recommendations from financial product providers that generally
stay out of your way as you explore the available tools and data. NerdWallet combines aspects of Credit Karma and Mint, the Editors’ Choice for free
personal finance services (Quicken Deluxe wins for paid personal finance
software), though it lacks some of those services’ strengths, such as budget tracking, robust account
management tools, and user-friendly interfaces.
opens to a home page that looks more like a magazine’s table of contents than a
financial website home page. Your credit score appears in a box in the upper
left; you can click there to get more detail on another page. Next to this is
the total you’ve spent so far during the current month, with a comparison to
the previous month’s spending. Clicking there opens another screen that further breaks down your
spending. Those two linked screens (Credit Score and Spending) are NerdWallet’s core financial
management content. You can also reach them by clicking tabs at the top of the
to the Dashboard. Scroll down and you’ll see brief
descriptions of, and links to, all the individual sections that make up
NerdWallet. This includes your credit score, spending, personalized suggestions for
financial products like credit cards, and special editorial content. Other
sites display data right on their dashboards, along with links to deeper
details, but NerdWallet only shows
your credit score, current spending, and links to internal pages. Plus, it’s
an overly lengthy page.
You can learn what factors contribute to your credit score by using NerdWallet.
Credit Score Page
on Credit Score at the top of the screen, and your credit score appears in a
prominent graphic. A historical line graph is available here, too. You can now view this
graph for date ranges that span from one month to two years; previously, only
one month was available.
this, you’ll see suggested credit cards and a list of the credit factors that
contribute to your score. Click one, and a screen opens containing more
detail. Tips and common questions appear below this list. When you return to
the main Credit Score page, you can access additional data, like your complete TransUnion credit report. There are interactive tools, too. The Credit
Simulator estimates what would happen to your credit score if you, for example,
decreased your credit balances by X or let X number of accounts go past due.
Finally, there’s an online community.
closest competitor in terms of credit score support is Credit Karma, though it
offers two major features that Credit Karma lacks: voluminous editorial
content and basic income- and expense-tracking tools. In terms of providing
information about your credit score and how you might improve it, the two sites
are fairly comparable, though Credit Karma offers a superior user experience.
It also contains scores and reports from two reporting agencies, NerdWallet is
restricted to one: TransUnion.
NerdWallet’s account registers look different from its competitors’, but they display the most important information for each transaction
You click Spending to add financial accounts, such as checking, savings, and credit cards. You do this the same way as on
competing sites: by entering your login details from each online account. Once
you add your accounts, the page displays the most critical information at
the top—how much money you have left to save or spend during the current month.
A line graph tells you how much you’ve spent and what your upcoming bills
total, then subtracts these numbers from your income. Clicking one of the
first two numbers opens a page displaying their background transactions.
than calculating your income based on information downloaded from your bank,
like other sites do, NerdWallet asks you to estimate your income.
This is odd. The service’s spending chart is unusual, too. It breaks down your spending
into categories, but there’s no text describing each category, only an icon. You also can’t click a chart section to see expenses in that category for the one, three, or six months, or a year in the past. Instead, you must click on each category from a list off to the side. Click on another link, and you’ll see
your spending in every category.
other content on the Spending page, including a graph that compares the current
month’s spending to the previous one, as well as a three-month average. You can also see a list of upcoming bills, the places where you spent the most money, and your most recent transactions.
Two additional links, which say See All Transactions
in small type, take you to your account registers. They’re attractive, but take up more space than necessary—you must scroll to see more
than about 10 of them. And they don’t provide a lot of detail about the transactions.
financial sites display a list of your accounts and their balances, usually in
the left vertical pane, with direct links to their registers. There’s
no list of accounts on the Spending page (this information is tucked away in
other areas of the site, like Settings), and the two See All Transactions links
on the Spending page provide the only way to see your registers from there.
Plus, the accounts are all combined in the register. You can’t see individual
account registers from here (though you can elsewhere). NerdWallet can’t
compete with Mint or Quicken Deluxe in the financial management arena, but these
basic tools will help track your spending.
NerdWallet asks you to estimate your income every month to compare it against your spending.
user experience would be a lot more effective if the company reduced the
website’s real estate. It’s not a bad user interface; in fact, it’s pretty easy
to find your way around on individual pages. There’s just a lot to take in.
This interface sprawl detracts from the tasks at hand and requires an excess of
said, individual screens are clean and attractive. Everything is legible and clear. Still, it’s puzzling why everything is so spread out.
You must scroll down to see what other tools and data are available on most
pages. There’s nothing above the fold that gives you a table of
contents for that screen. Other sites do bleed content below the fold, of
course, but not as far, and they generally show more content up front.
vertical toolbar lays out all of the site’s content. Besides the Credit Score
and Spending sections, links here take you to the Home Value, Debt, and Auto
screens. These sections show your related personal information (home
and vehicle value, and a breakdown of your outstanding debt) alongside tools
like simulators and refinancing options.
NerdWallet can find asset values, and suggest ways you might save money.
can also view a list of your accounts, along with their financial
details and transactions, as well as a enroll in a special rewards program that helps
you get additional cash back on participating credit and debit cards. There’s
also a link for a mobile-only tool that
lets you transfer funds from an external checking account to a checking or savings
account on NerdWallet.
second section of links in the toolbar takes you to screens where you can shop
for financial products that may be better suited to you. The product categories include credit cards, banking, investing, mortgages, loans, insurance, money,
and travel. You can sort results in each section. Under Credit
Cards, for example, you can search for those that are the best in terms of rewards, cash back, and balance transfers. You can also compare
cards, read reviews and excellent editorial content, and use
tools like a simple retirement calculator and fee analyzer.
is an excellent resource that you might want to revisit occasionally. Obviously,
you shouldn’t go product-hopping and make multiple changes in a short
period of time, as this could be damaging to your credit score.
on the Road
can download NerdWallet’s Android app or iOS app if you want to check your
credit score and take a quick look at your spending and income when you’re away
from your computer. Both versions look and work similarly. Though it doesn’t
seem that absolutely everything on the website is available on the mobile apps, they cover a lot. The user experience on these mobile apps is much better than on the website. I’d probably use these apps exclusively if I was consulting the site regularly.
navigation toolbar along the bottom opens the apps’ individual sections. The
Home button takes you to your Dashboard, which mirrors the one on the
desktop-based version. The Credit button takes you to your Credit and Debt
pages, and Money opens your Spending screen, as well as the new Savings tools.
And the Rewards and Market icons give you access to NerdWallet’s financial
link in the upper right opens a menu of housekeeping options, including account
management, transfers, and notifications (you can ask to be notified when, for
example, your credit score is updated or there’s unusual activity in your
NerdWallet excels at helping you find financial products that might serve you well.
is a massive site in need of a restructuring; I’m afraid that some of its
valuable content never gets seen or used, simply because the user never sees it. The site might go up a half point in its
rating if the web-based user experience was more accessible and compact. It would benefit from minimizing the need to scroll and making more of a page’s content viewable at a glance.
and Quicken Deluxe are the Editors’ Choices again this year for personal
finance services, primarily because of their superior income and expense
management, as well as their exceptional user experiences. Though they don’t provide
all the credit-centric educational content and tools that NerdWallet does, Mint
and Quicken give you access to your credit score and some related content. You
might use one of them in conjunction with NerdWallet to get the best of both
you’re thinking about getting your personal finances in order, you should also
make sure you know which personal tax preparation service you’re going to use
in the extended tax season.