Choosing the best lender for your financing needs may seem overwhelming. How do you pick one out of so many? And where should you begin?

Studying and comparing online reviews can be a great place to start. Unbiased customer feedback can give you a sense of how a lender operates — and how it treats its borrowers.

But, you’ll want to focus your efforts on the most useful and trustworthy information.


What Matters Most When Choosing a Lender

Consumers say these five indicators matter the most when applying for a loan:

  • Interest rates
  • Fees
  • Customer service
  • Company reputation
  • Knowledgeable staff

To discover what that customer experience is like, many people turn to online reviews. But when it comes to navigating the results, remember that not all reviews are created equal. Your strategy? Focus on reliable resources and learn how to identify the real reviews from the fake.


Where to Find Authentic Reviews

From one-star rants to five-star raves, the ways that online reviews are vetted and managed is very important but can vary from site to site. Here are several sites you’ll want to put on the top of your list to check.

Better Business Bureau

The nonprofit BBB has been a trusted source of reviews for more than a century. The organization assigns letter grades from A+ to F – and these rankings don’t depend on review ratings. Its accreditation process guarantees a business makes a good-faith effort to resolve customer complaints. And as part of the review process, the BBB confirms that a transaction took place between the customer and the business.


Trustpilot is a well-known community-driven consumer review platform.  It’s taken steps to prevent bogus reviews as the usage of its huge platform grows. A company transparency report in February 2021 detected more than 2.2 million fake or harmful reviews, issued 1,000 formal “cease and desist” letters, and 522 public consumer warnings.


What to Look for in Review Posts

Conventional wisdom says that a dissatisfied customer is much more likely to post a negative review than a happy customer is to give a positive one. It’s human nature. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, according to a study of online reviews and consumer behavior by the Spiegel Research Center at Northwestern University. It found that people are skeptical of near-perfect reviews and the presence of negative ones actually adds authenticity. As you’re scrolling through online reviews, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Check for verified buyers.

Many review platforms track and label whether a reviewer’s purchase truly occurred or not.

Focus on the in-between reviews.

Why? Reviews that fall in the middle of the bunch tend to give fair insight into both positives and negatives.

Sort from newest to oldest and look for replies.

You’ll see the most recent feedback, and gauge recurring issues or signs of improvement. See if there are replies to reviews from the company. When a borrower shares a bad experience, does the lender try to solve the problem?


How to Spot Fake Reviews

Some review sites are targets for “opinion spam," or phony reviews. Many platforms set review standards and use advanced fake-review filtering and fraud-detection software. However, even with these advanced tools you’ll want to be on the lookout for these common signs of made-up posts:

Poor spelling, incorrect grammar, repetition, and generic names.

Unclear language with spelling mistakes can be a tip-off. So are multiple reviews using the same phrase or description. As well as reviews by questionable names like William Tell or Jane Smith. 

Scene-setting or duplicate examples.

Reviews that tell the exact same story are suspect, of course. But so are reviewers who embellish the details. If a review sounds like fiction, it just might be.

Clustered posting dates.

Watch for a large number of reviews posted during a short period of time. It could signal a solicited campaign to add overly positive reviews.


Maximize the Value of Online Reviews

Online customer reviews can be helpful when you have a financial decision to make. In fact, according to a recent poll, 81% of consumers believe that sharing experiences is important. Armed with these tips and resources, you’ll be better prepared to find the best lender for you.

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