How Does NerdWallet Make Money?

NerdWallet is an online platform providing tools and tips on all matters related to personal finance. The company gained traction as a simple web application comparing credit cards. NerdWallet makes money via affiliate commissions determined according to the affiliate agreements.

Origin story

NerdWallet is a personal finance company founded in 2009 by Jacob Gibson and Tim Chen with an initial investment of just $800.

NerdWallet began as a simple web application comparing credit cards. Jobless after the GFC, credit analyst Chen got the idea for NerdWallet after being asked for advice on the credit cards with the lowest foreign transaction fees.

Traffic to the site grew quickly in the following years, allowing the company to expand through capital raisings and the acquisition of retirement planning firm AboutLife.

With Chen sitting on the board of the National Foundation for Credit Counselling, the company maintains a focus on educating consumers about financial literacy. In addition to credit card reviews, NerdWallet now compares banking, investment, loan, and insurance products.

Read Also: How Does Venmo Make Money?

NerdWallet vision, mission and value proposition

NerdWallet primary value proposition is to offer “trustworthy financial guidance to consumers and SMBs.”

Its mission can be summarized as “to provide clarity for all of life’s financial decisions.”

While its vision is “a world where everyone makes financial decisions with confidence.”

How does mission, vision and value proposition find applicaiton within NerdWallet’s business model? Let’s see.

How does NerdWallet work? Inside NerdWallet platform

A quick glance at NerdWallet platform from mobile (Image Credit: NerdWallet).

The platform is built around the mission to enable consumers and SMBs to make well-informed financial decisions with confidence.

Starting from the assumption that consumers want someone who is independent, objective, and that they can trust to provide this sort of financial advice.

The tech platform, in reality, is the tip of the iceberg concerning the editorial content (NerdWallet counts 100+ person editorial team who also joined from publications like Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal) to cover the various verticals (like credit score, debt management, and retirement spending and many others).

The platform consists of three main moments:

The user/customer journey within NerdWallet consists of three key moments: learn, shop and manage (Image Credit: NerdWallet).

Therefore, the tech platform itself is comprised of three main parts:

  • Content management which “leverages structured data components to showcase our financial guidance to consumers at scale.”
  • Partner access managing “over 400 financial services partners across eight verticals.”
  • Recommendation engine leveraging machine learning to match consumers to financial products and partners that meet their unique needs (e.g. credit card products, our approval odds model determines a consumer’s likelihood of getting approved).

NerdWallet platform’s network effects

NerdWallet claimed network effects: starting from a massive top-of-funnel reach (made of organic traffic campaigns driven by content, branding and marketing campaigns), and as more consumers join the platform, more data is aggregated, thus generating more refined recommendation for users. And with more engagement and trust through the platform (Image Credit: NerdWallet).

More precisely, as more consumers use the platform, the transaction database grows, with more layered recommendations and higher engagement and success rates.

Thus, increasing repeat users’ rates.

As more consumers join and as more data is aggregated and analyzed with the help of machine learning, the platform itself also becomes more valuable to financial service partners.

NerdWallet branding strategy: “Turn to the Nerds”

NerdWallet’s marketing strategy’s top-of-the-funnel is diversified across brand marketing, organic, and performance marketing.

While its bottom of the funnel is skewed toward customer relationship management and communications.

Brand campaigns include campaigns like “Turn to the Nerds:”

NerdWallet revenue generation


NerdWallet makes money via affiliate commissions first and foremost.

In this scenario, a business owning a financial product or service pays NerdWallet to send them new customers.

The exact commission is based on the particular arrangement between NerdWallet and the company it is affiliated with.

The product itself also has a major bearing on the commission.

For example, a new bank account sign-up fee would be next to nothing.

However, the commission for a new mortgage or life insurance account is likely to be a few hundred dollars.


In addition to receiving affiliate income, NerdWallet receives money from some financial institutions in exchange for a review of their services on the company website.

Collecting revenue from endorsements is somewhat of a grey area for consumers, but NerdWallet maintains that such endorsements do not affect their recommendations or advice in any way.

Content strategy

The NerdWallet website is free to use, but the company banks on the fact that approximately 5% of readers will then go on to make a purchase.

This percentage gives Gibson and Chen clarity on the sort of readership they need to attract to hit revenue targets. Indeed, one of the primary reasons for the success of NerdWallet is its prolific content strategy.

During the early years, the company committed to publishing 500 high-quality articles per month.

Over time, this has increased to 1000 articles per month, creating a vast resource backed by authoritative backlinks from related websites.

This focus on organic search traffic is a key component of the NerdWallet revenue generation strategy. It allows them to expand their reach and increase credibility while keeping costs low.

Key takeaways:

  • NerdWallet is an online personal finance comparison website. It was started with just $800 by Tim Chen and Jacob Gibson with the simple goal of reviewing credit card deals.
  • NerdWallet makes nearly all of its money through affiliate marketing. The exact commission depends on the advertised product and the arrangement between NerdWallet and the affiliated company.
  • Approximately 5% of all NerdWallet readers purchase to earn the company affiliate revenue. As a result, the company has a prolific content creation strategy to build authority and increase its reader base with minimal expense.

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List of FinTech Business Models


Acorns is a fintech platform providing services related to Robo-investing and micro-investing. The company makes money primarily through three subscription tiers: Lite – ($1/month), which gives users access to Acorns Invest, Personal ($3/month) that includes Invest plus the Later (retirement) and Spend (personal checking account) suite of products, Family ($5/month) with features from both the Lite and Personal plans with the addition of Early.


Started as a pay-later solution integrated to merchants’ checkouts, Affirm makes money from merchants’ fees as consumers pick up the pay-later solution. Affirm also makes money through interests earned from the consumer loans, when those are repurchased from the originating bank. In 2020 Affirm made 50% of its revenues from merchants’ fees, about 37% from interests, and the remaining from virtual cards and servicing fees.


Alipay is a Chinese mobile and online payment platform created in 2004 by entrepreneur Jack Ma as the payment arm of Taobao, a major Chinese eCommerce site. Alipay, therefore, is the B2C component of Alibaba Group. Alipay makes money via escrows transaction fees, a range of value-added ancillary services, and through its Credit Pay Instalment fees.


Betterment is an American financial advisory company founded in 2008 by MBA graduate Jon Stein and lawyer Eli Broverman. Betterment makes money via investment plans, financial advice packages, betterment for advisors, betterment for businesscash reserve, and checking accounts.


Venmo is a peer-to-peer payments app enabling users to share and make payments with friends for a variety of services. The service is free, but a 3% fee applies to credit cards. Venmo also launched a debit card in partnership with Mastercard. Venmo got acquired in 2012 by Braintree, and Braintree got acquired in 2013 by PayPal.


Chime is an American neobank (internet-only bank) company, providing fee-free financial services through its mobile banking app, thus providing personal finance services free of charge while making the majority of its money via interchange fees (paid by merchants when consumers use their debit cards) and ATM fees.


Coinbase is among the most popular platforms for trading and storing crypto-assets, whose mission is “to create an open financial system for the world” by enabling customers to trade cryptocurrencies. Its platform serves both as a search and discovery engine for crypto assets. The company makes money primarily through fees earned for the transactions processed through the platform, custodial services offered, interest, and subscriptions.


Compass is a licensed American real-estate broker incorporating online real estate technology as a marketing medium. The company makes money via sales commissions (collected whenever a sale is facilitated or tenants are found for a rental property) and bridge loans (a service allowing the seller to purchase a home before the revenue from the sale of their previous home is available).


Dosh is a Fintech platform that enables automatic cash backs for consumers. Its business model connects major card providers with online and offline local businesses to develop automatic cash back programs. The company makes money by earning an affiliate commission on each eligible sale from consumers.


E-Trade is a trading platform, allowing investors to trade common and preferred stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), options, bonds, mutual funds, and futures contracts, acquired by Morgan Stanley in 2020 for $13 billion. E-Trade makes money through interest income, order flow, margin interests, options, future and bonds trading, and through other fees and service charges.


Klarna is a financial technology company allowing consumers to shop with a temporary Visa card. Thus it then performs a soft credit check and pays the merchant. Klarna makes money by charging merchants. Klarna also earns a percentage of interchange fees as a commission and for interests earned on customers’ accounts.


Lemonade is an insurance tech company using behavioral economics and artificial intelligence to process claims efficiently. The company leverages technology to streamline onboarding customers while also applying a financial model to reduce conflicts of interest with customers (perhaps by donating the variable premiums to charity). The company makes money by selling its core insurance products, and via its tech platform, it tries to enhance its sales.


Monzo is an English neobank offering a mobile app and a prepaid debit card for consumers and businesses. It was one of the first app-based banks to enter the UK market, founded by Gary Dolman, Jason Bates, Jonas Huckestein, Paul Rippon, and Tom Blomfield in 2015. All were employees of Starling Bank, a similar neobank challenging the dominance of established financial institutions in England. The company enjoys many revenue streams: business and consumer subscriptions, interchange and overdraft fees, personal loans, and more.


NerdWallet is an online platform providing tools and tips on all matters related to personal finance. The company gained traction as a simple web application comparing credit cards. NerdWallet makes money via affiliate commissions determined according to the affiliate agreements.


Quadpay was an American fintech company founded by Adam Ezra and Brad Lindenberg in 2017. Ezra and Lindenberg witnessed the rising popularity of buy-now-pay-later service Afterpay in Australia and similar service Klarna in Europe. Quadpay collects a range of fees from both the merchant and the consumer via merchandise fees, convenience fees, late payment, and interchange fees.


Revolut an English fintech company offering banking and investment services to consumers. Founded in 2015 by Nikolay Storonsky and Vlad Yatsenko, the company initially produced a low-rate travel card. Storonsky in particular was an avid traveler who became tired of spending hundreds of pounds on currency exchange and foreign transaction fees. The Revolut app and core banking account are free to use. Instead, money is made through a combination of subscription fees, transaction fees, perks, and ancillary services.


Robinhood is an app that helps to invest in stocks, ETFs, options, and cryptocurrencies, all commission-free. Robinhood earns money by offering: Robinhood Gold, a margin trading service, which starts at $6 a month, earn interests from customer cash and stocks, and rebates from market makers and trading venues.


SoFi is an online lending platform that provides affordable education loans to students, and it expanded into financial services, including loans, credit cards, investment services, and insurance. It makes money primarily via payment processing fees and loan securitization.


Squarespace is a North American hosting and website building company. Founded in 2004 by college student Anthony Casalena as a blog hosting service, it grew to become among the most successful website building companies. The company mostly makes money via its subscription plans. It also makes money via customizations on top of its subscription plans. And in part also as transaction fees for the website where it processes the sales.


Stash is a FinTech platform offering a suite of financial tools for young investors, coupled with personalized investment advice and life insurance. The company primarily makes money via subscriptions, cashback, payment for order flows, and interest for cash sitting on members’ accounts.


Venmo is a peer-to-peer payments app enabling users to share and make payments with friends for a variety of services. The service is free, but a 3% fee applies to credit cards. Venmo also launched a debit card in partnership with Mastercard. Venmo got acquired in 2012 by Braintree, and Braintree got acquired in 2013 by PayPal.


Wealthfront is an automated Fintech investment platform providing investment, retirement, and cash management products to retail investors, mostly making money on the annual 0.25% advisory fee the company charges for assets under management. It also makes money via a line of credits and interests on the cash accounts.


Zelle is a peer-to-peer payment network that indirectly benefits the banks’ consortium that backs it. Zelle also enables users to pay businesses for goods and services, free for users. Merchants pay a 1% fee to Visa or Mastercard, who share it with the bank that issued the card.

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