Jul 15, 2021

Comparing The Top 4 Mortgage Lead Acquisition Platforms


In a digital world you have to meet potential mortgage customers where they spend time online.  If you are buying mortgage leads you are likely participating in one of four major ad platforms: Bankrate, LendingTree, NerdWallet, or Smart Assets.  Together, they make up the majority of quality lead buying opportunities for digital mortgage advertising.

Let’s take a look at the unique solutions that each of these platforms offer.

Bankrate Rate Table


Bankrate describes itself as the “leading personal finance destination for rates, tools, and advice”.  You can find advice on topics including credit cards, personal loans, and competitive selection of mortgage companies presenting real time rate offers. Bankrate positions itself as a trusted source that consumers will visit to learn more about the products and services it advertises on behalf of its advertising partners. 

Mortgage lenders participate on interactive rate tables.  These tables allow consumers to review competing loan scenarios and submit their contact information through a workflow questionnaire provided by Bankrate. These leads are then delivered to the participating lender that was chosen by the lead.

Leads from interactive rate tables are considered high quality and high intent because the users choose specific lenders after going through an 8-10 step questionnaire to submit their information.

Lenders set their monthly budget and remain as an option on the rate comparison tables until they have received their allocated number of leads.  Our customers report that a rate table lead from Bankrate costs between $200-$250, and they are typically satisfied with their results.

LendingTree Lead Questionnaire


LendingTree is the pioneer in the group, dating back to 1998.  It originated the online home mortgage comparison shopping experience, and is an established online marketplace that offers consumers ample options and information.  The platform is not as much of a financial education destination, like Bankrate, but more of a marketplace strictly for comparison shopping of financial products.  The products they advertise include student loan refinancing, credit cards, personal loans, and mortgage loans.  

The lead acquisition model of LendingTree is different from Bankrate, NerdWallet, or SmartAssets.  Although LendingTree does match a lead to a lender it also sells mortgage leads which can be contacted by multiple lenders.  LendingTree provides its own lead questionnaire form to acquire leads which it can then sell to multiple lenders. 

Rate comparison tables are available on LendingTree but it is not clear if the lender that is selected from the rate table is also the lender that is matched to the lead.  Typically if a mortgage lender is working with LendingTree they will buy 500-1500 leads a month. Our customers state their closing average runs around 3% of total leads. That’s a lot of leads to sort through to find the ones that close.  Leads on LendingTree range from $30-$50. 

NerdWallet Rate Table


NerdWallet was founded in 2009. Its mission is “to assist users in making personal financial decisions.”  NerdWallet is more in line with the Bankrate model of financial education for its visitors and placing advertisements for financial products within its website. They provide information on credit cards, investing, insurance, mortgage, travel, and more.  Their approach heavily emphasizes website content which helps it rank higher in SEO.  A mortgage lender can participate on NerdWallet mostly through its rate comparison tables, but also by being featured in its library of mortgage-related articles.  

NerdWallet uses a basic rate comparison table to advertise its lending partners.  It does not provide the lead questionnaire but leaves it up to the lender to provide the landing page experience once the lead clicks to move forward with the rate table offer. This can lead to a very low conversion rate if the lender does not follow landing page best practices.  

Since NerdWallet does not own the lead questionnaire and then deliver that lead to the mortgage lender it likely has a cost per click model.  Our customers do have good success with NerdWallet, because most also have a high qualifying landing page to convert those leads. 

Our customers see a cost of $160-$195 per lead on NerdWallet. 

SmartAssets Rate Table


SmartAssets was established in July of 2012. The company publishes articles, guides, reviews, calculators and tools to help people make decisions about personal finance. The product offering initially focused on home buying but expanded into all aspects of personal finance including checking accounts, investing, tax guidance, and home ownership resources.  Similar to Bankrate and NerdWallet, SmartAssets provides extensive educational content in hopes of attracting web traffic to its platform.  It then places its advertisers into related articles to convert that web traffic into high quality leads for the advertiser.  The majority of its mortgage content centers around home buying guides, calculators, mortgage lender reviews, and rate comparison tables.  

The SmartAssets rate comparison table is provided by a third party and not actually supported by SmartAssets.  Since SmartAssets is in the business of creating content to drive traffic to its website it has elected to partner with a third party who does the daily maintenance of the rate comparison table.  

Similar to NerdWallet, it is the advertising lender's responsibility to provide the landing page when the lead chooses to move forward.  This experience is not ideal, nor is it a seamless handoff, and it can diminish conversion rates.  If you are a mortgage lender that has a strong understanding of how to build a high quality landing page that converts then advertising on SmartAssets could be a good option. 

SmartAssets seems to have the same cost per click model as NerdWallet.  Typically cost per click is lower than complete lead acquisition like Bankrate provides.  Our customers who participate on this third party rate table also participate on other mortgage related websites.  Most have positive reviews of the rate table experience.  We see a typical lead acquisition cost of around $150 for SmartAssets.  


Each platform has its benefits. Based on our current customer feedback Bankrate has the best overall reviews from our customer base. This is based on overall feedback of how easy the platform is to set up, maintain, ROI performance, and executing on budget.  We also hear that it has the highest quality leads and highest lead closing percentage. The downside to Bankrate is that its cost per lead acquisition is the highest among its peers.  Bankrate can also become addictive for a lender and is heavily dependent on refinance activity. 

If you want to learn how to lower your lead acquisition costs or diversify from Bankrate, LendingTree, NerdWallet, and SmartAssets, reach out to us.  We help lenders put a digital advertising plan in place that is built for purchase and refinance activity.

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