Review methodology

At Moneywise, our top priority is to empower our readers with accurate and unbiased information about a wide range of financial products. We firmly believe in the importance of providing transparent and reliable reviews, which is why we go to great lengths to ensure that our evaluations are free from any marketing or affiliate influences that could affect our objectivity.

To achieve this goal, our team of experienced writers follows a rigorous set of criteria when reviewing each product. We examine all aspects of the product, including its features, benefits, drawbacks, and any potential limitations. We also take into account factors such as customer service, reputation, and pricing to provide a comprehensive and detailed analysis of each product.

At the end of the review process, we assign a unique score to each product based on our assessment of its quality and value. We believe that this approach enables our readers to make informed decisions about their financial choices and helps them navigate the complex world of financial products with confidence and ease.

Mortgage reviews

Review methodology for mortgage lenders

Moneywise rates mortgages on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best. The ratings are incremented in tenths, such as 3.2, 4.1, 4.9, etc. The ratings are based on the criteria listed in the table below.

Different types of mortgages are rated using different weightings. Each mortgage is rated according to its primary type. Ratings are directly comparable only within the same type. For example, Fixed-Rate Mortgages are rated more heavily based on the interest rate, term length, and early repayment charges. Meanwhile, Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (ARMs) are typically assessed more on criteria such as initial interest rate, adjustment frequency, maximum rate change, and lifetime cap.

Moneywise's business relationships have no effect on ratings. The ratings are determined only by the features of each mortgage. The ratings are designed to help consumers make a decision, but they're not intended to be the only consideration in choosing a mortgage. Mortgages that earn 5 stars are those that are believed to deliver the most value to the greatest number of consumers when used as intended.

At Moneywise, we strive to provide our readers with up-to-date and accurate information about mortgage offers. To ensure that our content is current and reliable, we maintain regular communication with mortgage lenders. When offer details change, our editorial team promptly audits and updates our content to reflect the most accurate information. We also regularly update our ratings to ensure that our readers have access to the most relevant and helpful information possible.

Criteria
Description
Interest rates
How do the lender's interest rates compare to their competitors'? Are the rates fixed or adjustable?
Fees
What fees does the lender charge, and how do they compare to their competitors'? How clearly does the lender disclose all fees, costs, and terms of the loan? Are there any hidden fees or surprise charges?
Loan term
What are the available terms for the loan? Are there both short and long-term options available to cater to different financial needs?
Loan types
What types of loans does the lender offer? Are there fixed-rate, adjustable-rate, interest-only, and other options available?
Loan amounts
What is the range of loan amounts available? Can the lender cater to both high and low-budget buyers?
Down payment requirements
What is the minimum down payment required? Is it manageable for a broad range of buyers?
PMI
If the down payment is less than 20%, how much is the private mortgage insurance (PMI)? Does the lender offer any low PMI options?
Prepayment penalties
Are there penalties for paying off the mortgage early? If so, how much are they?
Customer service
Can you reach a human representative by phone? Is communication just through email? Chat? Social media? What are the hours that service is available? Is there 24/7 support available?
Online platform
Does the lender offer an online platform for applying and managing your mortgage? How user-friendly is the platform?
Reputation
What is the lender's reputation in the industry? Are they known for good customer service and fair lending practices?
Availability
In which states is the lender licensed to operate?
Pre-approval process
What is the lender's pre-approval process like? How long does it typically take to get pre-approved?
Closing process
What is the lender's closing process like? How long does it typically take to close on a loan?

Investing reviews

Review methodology for robo-advisors

A robo-advisor is a service that uses a computer algorithm to provide automated investment advice on the asset allocation of your portfolio.

Moneywise rates robo-advisors on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best. The ratings are incremented in tenths, such as 3.2, 4.1, 4.9, etc. The ratings are based on the criteria listed in the table below:

Criteria
Description
Commissions and fees
How do the robo advisor’s commission and fee rates compare to their competitors’? And are all costs transparent? What are the fees of the ETFs/mutual funds offered?
Account types
What types of accounts are offered (taxable, IRA, 401(k), etc.)? Does the robo-advisor cater to various investing needs?
Investment options
What range of asset classes and securities can the robo-advisor invest in? Does it include both domestic and international equities, bonds, and alternative investments?
Customization
How personalized is the investment strategy? Can it accommodate individual preferences, risk tolerance, and financial goals?
Tax strategy
Does the robo-advisor provide tax-efficient investing strategies, such as tax-loss harvesting? How sophisticated are these strategies?
Minimum account balance
What is the minimum amount required to open an account? Is it accessible for beginner investors?
Customer service
How responsive is the customer support? Are there multiple channels of communication (email, phone, chat)?
Ease of use
In these days of "instant” everything, ease of use is key. Does the advisor have an app as well as a desktop platform? How easy is it to use the robo-advisor's platform? Is it intuitive, clean, and user-friendly? Can your deposits be scheduled to occur automatically?
Tools and resources
Besides the main function of a robo advisor (determining your appropriate asset allocation), does the service provide other tools such as goal-setting services or calculator?
Automatic rebalancing
Does the robo-advisor offer automatic portfolio rebalancing? How frequently does this occur?
Asset allocation
How flexible are the portfolio options? Can you remove and/or add investments? Is the asset allocation rigid? What quality are the investments? Does the service force users into cash? The amount of funds available in portfolio creation? Are there too many funds in the portfolios created?

Review methodology for real estate investment platforms

Real estate crowdfunding is a rapidly growing field that enables investors to profit from the potentially lucrative real estate market without having to physically fix and flip properties themselves. When evaluating real estate investment platforms, we consider the following criteria:

Criteria
Description
Commissions and fees
How do the platform’s commission and fee rates compare to its competitors'? And are all costs transparent?
Customer service
Can you reach a human representative by phone? Is communication just through email? Chat? Social media? How long does it take for emails to be answered, on average? What are the hours that service is available? Is there 24/7 support available?
Ease of use
In these days of “instant” everything, ease of use is key. Does the service have an app as well as a desktop platform? Are the investment platforms easy to use and figure out?
Diversification
How many investments are offered? How diverse? Is there a tight focus on what kinds of investments are offered?
Amount of deals
How large is the selection of investment offerings on the platform? Are new deals brought forward on a regular basis? Or are investors limited to only a handful of options?
Due diligence
What type of process do they use to verify applicants? Do they offer ratings?

Review methodology for stock brokers

Online stock brokers assist with placing self-directed trades. Typically, they charge significantly lower transaction fees compared to traditional stock brokers. When evaluating stock brokers, we consider the following criteria:

Criteria
Description
Commissions and fees
How do the broker's commission and fee rates compare to their competitors'? And are all costs transparent? Do they offer commission-free ETFs? Is there a minimum deposit?
Customer service
Can you reach a human representative by phone? Is communication just through email? Chat? Social media? How long does it take for emails to be answered, on average? What are the hours that service is available? Is there 24/7 support available?
Ease of use
In these days of “instant” everything, ease of use is key. Does the broker have an app as well as a desktop platform? Are platforms easy to use and figure out?
Tools and resources
What features does the broker offer? Watch lists, calculators, charts? What is the quality of the research they conduct and present? Do they send out email notifications, analyst reports on investments, or screeners? Can you set prices on trades? What flexibility do you get when buying or selling? How do the stocks that the broker monitors perform?
Account options
Are banking services — loans, CDs, checking, etc. — offered by the broker, making it a one-stop shop? If they do, is checking, ATM, etc., commission-free? Do they offer credit cards? As well, do they offer retirement accounts such as IRAsor other account types like 529s or trusts?
Investment options
Does the broker offer their own ETFs? Can you trade options and/or bonds? What types of securities can be traded? How long does the broker take to execute your trades?

Review methodology for microsavings apps

Similar to robo-advisors, microsavings apps use computer algorithms to assist you in maximizing your asset allocation. However, they frequently do not offer retirement accounts and are primarily designed for short-term savings. When evaluating microsavings apps, we consider the following criteria:

Criteria
Description
Commissions and fees
How do the service’s commission and fee rates compare to its competitors'? And are all costs transparent?
Customer service
Can you reach a human representative by phone? Is communication just through email? Chat? Social media? How long does it take for emails to be answered, on average? What are the hours that service is available? Is there 24/7 support available?
Ease of use
In these days of “instant” everything, ease of use is key. Does the service have an app as well as a desktop platform? Are platforms easy to use and figure out? Can your savings deposits be scheduled to occur automatically?
Tools and resources
Besides the main function of a microsavings service, does it provide other tools such as calculators, charts, etc.?
Investment options
How broad are the services offerings? For instance, do they provide taxable accounts, 401(k) guidance, third-party account linking, 529s, IRAs, or other retirement accounts?
Asset allocation
How flexible are the portfolio options? Is the asset allocation rigid? What quality are the investments that your savings go into? Do they represent a broad diversification into stocks and securities?

Loans reviews

Review methodology for personal loans

Personal loans can be used for a variety of purposes, such as debt consolidation, home improvements, or unexpected expenses. When evaluating personal loan providers, we consider the following criteria:

Criteria
Description
Interest rates
How do the lender's interest rates compare to their competitors'? Are the rates fixed or variable?
Fees
What fees does the lender charge, and how do they compare to their competitors'? Are there any hidden fees?
Loan amounts and terms
What loan amounts and terms are available? Are there options for longer or shorter repayment periods?
Approval process
How long does it take to get approved for a loan?
Funding timeline
How long does it take to receive the loan funds?
Customer service
Can you reach a human representative by phone? Is communication just through email? Chat? Social media? What are the hours that service is available? Is there 24/7 support available?
Online platform
Does the lender offer an online platform for applying and managing your loan? How user-friendly is the platform?
Reputation
What is the lender's reputation in the industry? Are they known for good customer service and fair lending practices?
Availability
In which states is the lender licensed to operate?

Review methodology for peer-to-peer lending

Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending can be a great way to earn fixed income. With P2P, not only are you making money, but helping companies and individuals pay off high-interest debt to boot. When evaluating peer-to-peer lending platforms, we consider the following criteria:

Criteria
Description
Commissions and fees
How do the platform’s commission and fee rates compare to its competitors'? And are all costs transparent?
Customer service
Can you reach a human representative by phone? Is communication just through email? Chat? Social media? How long does it take for emails to be answered, on average? What are the hours that service is available? Is there 24/7 support available?
Ease of use
In these days of “instant” everything, ease of use is key. Does the service have an app as well as a desktop platform? Are the investment platforms easy to use and figure out?
Diversification
How many investments are offered? How diverse? Is there a tight focus on what kinds of investments are offered?
Amount of deals
How large is the selection of investment offerings on the platform? Are new deals brought forward on a regular basis? Or are investors limited to only a handful of options?
Due diligence
What type of process do they use to verify applicants? Do they offer ratings?

Insurance reviews

Review methodology for auto insurance

Auto insurance can help protect you and your vehicle in case of an accident. When evaluating auto insurance providers, we consider the following criteria:

Criteria
Description
Cost
How do the provider's rates compare to competitors'? And are all costs transparent?
Coverage options and limits
What kind of coverage is available, and how much are the limits? Are there different levels of coverage available?
Customer service
Can you reach a human representative by phone? Is communication just through email? Chat? Social media? How long does it take for emails to be answered, on average? What are the hours that service is available? Is there 24/7 support available?
Claims process
How easy is it to file a claim? What is the process like, and how long does it typically take to receive a payout?
Discounts
What discounts are available, and how much can you save? Are there discounts for good drivers, safe vehicles, or bundling policies?
Financial strength
How financially stable is the insurance provider? What is their credit rating?
Additional features
What additional features does the provider offer, such as roadside assistance or rental car coverage? Are these features included in the policy or available as add-ons?
Availability
In which states is the provider licensed to operate?

Review methodology for home insurance

Home insurance provides coverage for your residence and personal property against damage or loss. When evaluating home insurance providers, we consider the following criteria:

Criteria
Description
Cost
How do the provider's rates compare to competitors'? And are all costs transparent?
Coverage options and limits
What kind of coverage is available, and how much are the limits? Are there different levels of coverage available?
Customer service
Can you reach a human representative by phone? Is communication just through email? Chat? Social media? How long does it take for emails to be answered, on average? What are the hours that service is available? Is there 24/7 support available?
Claims process
How easy is it to file a claim? What is the process like, and how long does it typically take to receive a payout?
Discounts
What discounts are available, and how much can you save? Are there discounts for good credit, bundling policies, or home security systems?
Financial strength
How financially stable is the insurance provider? What is their credit rating?
Additional features
What additional features does the provider offer, such as identity theft protection or water damage coverage? Are these features included in the policy or available as add-ons?
Availability
In which states is the provider licensed to operate?

Review methodology for pet insurance

Pet insurance provides coverage for your pets' medical care and treatments. When evaluating pet insurance providers, we consider the following criteria:

Criteria
Description
Cost
How do the provider's rates compare to competitors'? And are all costs transparent?
Coverage options and limits
What kind of coverage is available, and how much are the limits? Are there different levels of coverage available?
Customer service
Can you reach a human representative by phone? Is communication just through email? Chat? Social media? How long does it take for emails to be answered, on average? What are the hours that service is available? Is there 24/7 support available?
Claims process
How easy is it to file a claim? What is the process like, and how long does it typically take to receive a payout?
Discounts
What discounts are available, and how much can you save? Are there discounts for insuring multiple pets or for purchasing a policy online?
Financial strength
How financially stable is the insurance provider? What is their credit rating?
Additional features
What additional features does the provider offer, such as wellness care coverage or behavioral therapy? Are these features included in the policy or available as add-ons?
Availability
In which states is the provider licensed to operate?

Review methodology for life insurance

Life insurance provides coverage for your loved ones in the event of your death. When evaluating life insurance providers, we consider the following criteria:

Criteria
Description
Cost
How do the provider's rates compare to competitors'? And are all costs transparent?
Coverage options and limits
What kind of coverage is available, and how much are the limits? Are there different levels of coverage available?
Customer service
Can you reach a human representative by phone? Is communication just through email? Chat? Social media? How long does it take for emails to be answered, on average? What are the hours that service is available? Is there 24/7 support available?
Claims process
How easy is it to file a claim? What is the process like, and how long does it typically take to receive a payout?
Discounts
What discounts are available, and how much can you save? Are there discounts for bundling policies or for healthy habits, such as not smoking?
Financial strength
How financially stable is the insurance provider? What is their credit rating?
Additional features
What additional features does the provider offer, such as riders for specific health conditions or accelerated death benefits? Are these features included in the policy or available as add-ons?
Availability
In which states is the provider licensed to operate?

Review methodology for renters insurance

Renters insurance provides coverage for your personal property and liability as a tenant. When evaluating renters insurance providers, we consider the following criteria:

Criteria
Description
Cost
How do the provider's rates compare to competitors'? And are all costs transparent?
Coverage options and limits
What kind of coverage is available, and how much are the limits? Are there different levels of coverage available?
Customer service
Can you reach a human representative by phone? Is communication just through email? Chat? Social media? How long does it take for emails to be answered, on average? What are the hours that service is available? Is there 24/7 support available?
Claims process
How easy is it to file a claim? What is the process like, and how long does it typically take to receive a payout?
Discounts
What discounts are available, and how much can you save? Are there discounts for bundling policies or for having a security system installed?
Financial strength
How financially stable is the insurance provider? What is their credit rating?
Additional features
What additional features does the provider offer, such as identity theft protection or additional living expenses coverage? Are these features included in the policy or available as add-ons?
Availability
In which states is the provider licensed to operate?

Banking reviews

Review methodology for banks and credit unions

Banks and credit unions offer a variety of financial products and services, including checking and savings accounts, loans, credit cards, and more. When evaluating banks and credit unions, we consider the following criteria:

Criteria
Description
Fees
How do the bank or credit union's fees compare to competitors'? And are all costs transparent?
Interest rates
How do the interest rates offered by the bank or credit union compare to competitors'?
Accessibility
How many branches and ATMs does the bank or credit union have? Do they offer online banking services?
Customer service
Can you reach a human representative by phone? Is communication just through email? Chat? Social media? How long does it take for emails to be answered, on average? What are the hours that service is available? Is there 24/7 support available?
Mobile banking
Does the bank or credit union offer a mobile app? How does it compare to competitors'?
Security
How does the bank or credit union ensure the security of its customers' accounts and personal information?
Account options
What types of accounts are available, and what are the fees and requirements for each?
Additional features
What additional features does the bank or credit union offer, such as rewards programs or financial planning services? Are these features included in the account or available as add-ons?

Read the latest on banking

Taxes reviews

Review methodology for tax software

Tax software is designed to simplify the process of filing your taxes, and can help you maximize your deductions and minimize your tax liability. When evaluating tax software providers, we consider the following criteria:

Criteria
Description
Cost
How do the provider's prices compare to competitors'? Are all costs transparent?
Ease of use
Is the software intuitive and easy to navigate? Are there helpful tutorials or guides available?
Features
What features does the software offer, such as import functionality, audit support, or error-checking?
Customer support
Can you reach a human representative by phone? Is communication just through email? Chat? Social media? How long does it take for emails to be answered, on average? What are the hours that service is available? Is there 24/7 support available?
Security
How does the software ensure the security of your personal and financial information?
Accuracy
How accurate is the software in calculating your tax liability and deductions?
Refund options
What options are available for receiving your tax refund, and how quickly can you expect to receive it?
Additional features
What additional features does the software offer, such as support for state tax filings or tax planning tools? Are these features included in the software or available as add-ons?

Credit card reviews

Review methodology for credit cards

Moneywise rates credit cards on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best. The ratings are incremented in tenths, such as 3.2, 4.1, 4.9, etc. The ratings are based on the criteria listed in the table below.

Different categories of cards are rated using different weightings. Each card is rated according to its primary category. Ratings are directly comparable only within the same category. For example, Balance Transfer cards are rated more heavily based on the annual percentage rate (APR), balance transfer fee, introductory period, and introductory APR. Meanwhile, Student Credit Cards are typically assessed more on criteria such as ease of approval for students, low interest rates, no annual fee, and the availability of rewards programs tailored towards student lifestyles, like cash back on groceries and textbooks.

Moneywise’s business relationships have no effect on ratings. The ratings are determined only by the features of each card. The ratings are designed to help consumers make a decision, but they’re not intended to be the only consideration in choosing a card. Cards that earn 5 stars are those that are believed to deliver the most value to the greatest number of consumers when used as intended.

At Moneywise, we strive to provide our readers with up-to-date and accurate information about credit card offers. To ensure that our content is current and reliable, we maintain regular communication with credit card issuers. When offer details change, our editorial team promptly audits and updates our content to reflect the most accurate information. We also regularly update our ratings to ensure that our readers have access to the most relevant and helpful information possible.

Criteria
Description
Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
What is the interest rate that is charged on the balance carried over month-to-month? Lower APRs are typically more favorable.
Annual fee
Does the credit card charge a yearly fee for use? Cards with no annual fee or a low annual fee can save cardholders money.
Balance transfer fee
For those who plan to transfer a balance from another card, what are the associated fees and interest rates?
Foreign transaction fee
Does the card charge a fee for transactions made in a foreign currency? This can increase the cost of overseas spending. Cards without these fees are more advantageous for frequent travelers.
Penalty fee and APR
Are fees charged for late payments or returned payments? What is the penalty APR (which might be higher) if you pay late?
Rewards programs
What rewards programs are offered, and how do they compare to competitors'? Are there restrictions on earning or redeeming rewards? The rate at which these rewards accumulate, their flexibility and redemption options are key factors.
Sign-up bonuses
Are there any sign-up bonuses offered, and how do they compare to competitors'? Some cards offer low or 0% introductory APRs or bonus rewards points for a set period after opening the account.
Customer service
Can you reach a human representative by phone? Is communication just through email? Chat? Social media? How long does it take for emails to be answered, on average? What are the hours that service is available? Is there 24/7 support available?
Security
How does the credit card ensure the security of its customers' accounts and personal information? Protection features against identity theft or fraudulent transactions, including alerts and zero-liability policies.
Additional features
What additional features does the credit card offer, such as purchase protection or travel insurance? Are these features included with the card or available as add-ons?
Acceptance
How widely is the credit card accepted, both domestically and internationally?
Credit score requirements
What credit score is necessary to be approved for the credit card, and how does it compare to competitors'?

Read the latest on credit cards

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Disclaimer

The content provided on Moneywise is information to help users become financially literate. It is neither tax nor legal advice, is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. Tax, investment and all other decisions should be made, as appropriate, only with guidance from a qualified professional. We make no representation or warranty of any kind, either express or implied, with respect to the data provided, the timeliness thereof, the results to be obtained by the use thereof or any other matter.