Study: Credit Card Comparison Sites Don’t Work as Promised

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Credit card comparison websites can help consumers pick the best card for their needs, but the services come with a big possible conflict of interest. Most of these sites have a business model that relies on affiliate marketing: You click and apply for a card, and the site earns a commission. Why is this a problem?

It can leave users wondering (or completely unaware) whether or not the cards that have been selected based on the criteria they plug in are the best choices for them, or simply the biggest moneymakers for the site.

When we evaluated  nearly a dozen comparison sites a few months ago, we found most of the search results lacking. The same handful of cards showed up numerous times, and sometimes didn’t mesh up with the requirements we requested. It appears as if the problem is the pay-to-play business model, which skews the results heavily in favor of a small group of cards issued by an even smaller number of banks.

Advocacy group Consumer Action just released the results of a much larger study, and the conclusions were similar. The group sifted through 54 websites that let people compare credit card offers. The results weren’t pretty; only 13 sites were ranked “useful and complete,” and even those sites weren’t all that great.

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