The following is a review post by my good friend Sydney, who've I've brought on board to write more frequently here on Financial Samurai. This is a sponsored review.
We all love to have choices. Being able to choose our jobs, where we live, what cars to drive, and what we do with our money is empowering. But sometimes having too many different options makes decision-making overly complicated.
Perhaps you’ve experienced this sense of overwhelming choices when it comes to picking credit cards, insurance providers, and banks.
As a personal finance fan, I tend to read a lot about different ways to save money and am always looking for new solutions for selecting financial products. One such company I recently came across is Cinch Financial, started in 2012 by Sean Collins and Joe Ranft.
Cinch Financial Overview
This Boston-based fintech startup was founded in 2012 with the objective of supplying users with unbiased ratings on five core types of financial products and providers:
- Credit Cards
- Auto Insurance
- Home Insurance
If you answer some easy, standard questions you can get personalized recommendations or simply browse through their product ratings by category. They are continually reviewing thousands of offers by a wide range of banks, insurance companies, credit unions, and other financial institutions to help people save money. They also plan to add cell phone plan recommendations soon.
Some of the factors used in their ratings include customer service, pricing, reputation, and accessibility. They also plan on offering more and more transparency about their recommendations as they grow.
Their other main offering is called BillSnap – upload a statement like your phone bill or mortgage, and they will analyze it and offer suggestions on ways you could save money.
Examples Of Cinch Financial Recommendations
I played around with several of their product recommendations to get a taste of their platform.
Here’s a peak at how the personalized recommendations for credit cards works.
First you answer a series of simple questions. I chose to look for a rewards credit card.
- Why are you looking for a new credit card?
- How much do you think you’ll spend using the card each month?
- What kind of rewards would you prefer to receive?
- Do you spend more than $X each month on any of the following?
- What’s your estimated credit score
Then, it spits out several recommendations based on your answers. In my case it offered 3 recommendations: Citi Double Cash, Fidelity Investments American Express Rewards, and Capital One Quicksilver.
What stood out is that the results estimated how much I would earn in yearly rewards. I just chose the Chase Freedom card to use as a comparison to their three suggested offerings and see how much more I would benefit by switching.
Clicking on a recommendation brings up further detail including how many credit cards were compared (in this case 929 different credit cards), pros and cons, current rate information, and links to sign up for the card online or by phone. Cinch Financial doesn’t receive any money to promote products, which is why they pride themselves on their unbiased ratings.
Here's an example of what shows up after clicking their top recommended card:
Next, here’s a quick overview of their auto insurance recommendations. Again, you start off by answering a series of questions:
- What is your zip code?
- Do you have a clean driving record going back 3 years?
- Rank the following in order of importance to you when choosing an insurance company:
- Face to face
- Well known company
- Customer service
- Lowest price
- Are you currently insured?
- What’s your estimated credit score?
- Car year, make, model, body?
My results offered 3 suggestions: State Farm, Progressive, and Auto Club of Southern California. After inputting my current provider, USAA, I was happy to see that I’m already on an excellent plan and am saving more than if I were with their three recommended providers. What’s interesting to note is that because USAA has unique eligibility restrictions for military families, it is currently not a provider that’s included in Cinch Financial’s search pool. Perhaps they will find a way to include it later on as they expand their questionnaires and personalization features.
Lastly, I tested out their BillSnap feature, one of the most unique tools I've heard of so far to save consumers money. I sent over my monthly Xfinity Comcast cable statement and waited for them to analyze it and see if I’m still on a decent plan. The quick answer is “yes.” Based on the internet speed package I’m on, they recommended I keep my existing plan.
They did offer the suggestion of purchasing my own modem and router versus renting equipment from Xfinity. Renting on a 2-year contract is $240, their estimated cost of purchasing my own equipment is $120, for a two-year savings of $120.
Switching to a bundled AT&T bundled plan was another suggestion they had to save money, but that would mean downgrading to a slower internet speed plan. Fast internet speed is one thing I am happy to pay for as a publisher! I recently had Xfinity install a signal booster in my house for free too, so I’m happily sticking with them for now.
Cinch Financial Review
After tinkering around with some of the other types of recommendations, here’s my breakdown of the positives and areas of improvement of their platform.
You don’t have to create an account and it's free. It’s nice being able to browse around and get recommendations without having to create a login. Of course the benefit of taking the time to create an account is you can save your results and get ongoing recommendations based on your personal profile.
The questionnaires are fast and easy. I walked through the personalization questionnaires for credit card, banking, auto insurance and mortgage recommendations and they were all straightforward. It only took a couple minutes each.
Simple and clean interface. The website is easy to navigate and is clutter free. Simplicity is the trend these days and they’ve done a nice job on the site’s design.
Find new products and providers. Since Cinch Financial has reviewed thousands of banks, insurance providers, credit cards and more, chances are you could come across new options you haven’t heard of or considered before. It’s always beneficial to keep an eye on the market and your existing providers’ competitors.
Quick access to products and providers. If a recommendation catches your eye and you want to pursue it, Cinch Financial conveniently offers the phone number and website information of the product or provider right on the page. They don’t receive any compensation for referrals.
Areas For Improvement
Local recommendations aren’t always available. They have reviewed thousands of products so far, but they need to review thousands more to build out their offering. Using BillSnap is a good workaround for now. It takes a couple days to get a response back, but it’s personalized and free.
The credit card comparison features are limited. I liked that the credit card recommendations show you how much you can earn from specific rewards cards. But neither of my existing credit cards were available in the dropdown list to compare with their recommendations. Takes time to build out more offerings.
The sustainability of the business model is unclear. While it’s great they are currently offering all of their tools and recommendations for free, every company has to some day figure out a way to make money. If that day comes, I wonder how things will change.
Need more clarity on the Cinch Score. They've come up with their proprietary Cinch Score for each product to make reviewing a product simple, but we don't know the exact variables that go into making the score. All they need to do is highlight the various factors that make up the score.
In summary, Cinch Financial is a helpful resource to get free, quick, straightforward recommendations on a range of financial products and providers. It was started by two financial services veterans with a mission that it should be as easy to get the right financial stuff as it is to get everything else.
They have analyzed a large pool of offerings and it’s great for users that their ratings are unbiased and the interface is user friendly. Their BillSnap feature where you upload your bill and get an e-mail analysis is worth trying to help lower your most common reoccurring expenses.
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18 thoughts on “Cinch Financial Review: An Easy Way To Find Better Financial Products”
I like how they have product recommendations in various categories. I just wonder how they plan to make money in order to grow and get more products on board?
Hi Linda, We’re already working on getting more products on board as we speak! As far as the money goes, we’re figuring that out. We’re confident we can make money without being biased if we can be the solution for the lack of transparency and hassle that comes with finances.
Maureen, Cinch Financial
I do my research up front when choosing a credit union, credit card, etc. But it’s time consuming. Even if you use a comparison service like Cinch, you still need to do a lot of manual research and comparison. So it takes a fairly significant amount of pain to make me look for a new alternative.
E.g. we’re doing a lot more video chat with relatives who want to see our high speed, low drag baby. That means solid, high speed internet for high quality video with a high frame rate. So we upgraded with Sonic. Same price as our old plan, 5x speed improvement.
Hi Jack, thanks for the feedback! Do you think using our BillSnap tool, where a member of our team does the research to give you a more detailed, personalized recommendation would take away the manual research? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Fintech really is growing like crazy. I like the unbiased approach they are taking for consumers. I agree it would be quite useful to get more detailed insights on how they come up with their Cinch score ratings later on. The list of pros and cons like on the Citi card screenshot right now are quite helpful though and quick to read. I didn’t realize that some cards come with buyer protection if a purchase is lost, stolen, or damaged. That must just be related to shipping incidents. I also knew about some credit cards coming with auto insurance if you rent a car with card. Didn’t realize some also offer travel insurance. I’ll have to check if my card has any travel related coverage.
Hi Jim, thanks for your feedback! Glad we were able to shed some light on some different credit card perks. While we are still working on providing more insight into our Cinch scoring system, you’re welcome to use BillSnap (www.cinchfinancial.com/billsnap) for a more detailed, personalized recommendation in the meantime.
Maureen, Cinch Financial
Interesting idea. I like the concept but agree that the potential future monetization seems like it could complicate things.
I find that the barriers to switching banks (mostly in terms of time) are just way too high to be worth it. I will occasionally open a new credit card or checking account if there is a great sign on bonus offer, but I keep the majority of my money in a few accounts that I don’t have plans to change.
I’ll be fascinated to watch how they develop and monetize. Fintech companies are so exciting to me.
I hear ya on how switching banks can be time consuming. I’ve done it a couple times in the past when I left a smaller bank to switch to a larger one when I relocated. I use four different banks now, but mostly just two. The advantage of multiple banks is extra FDIC coverage if you find a good bonus offer incentive to add a new one.
Hi Ali, thanks for your feedback! You’re not alone in your thinking as far as barriers to switching are concerned – it’s definitely something that is on our radar. In fact, we found a possible solution in the UK marketplace that will help the switching problem and we’re taking notes.
As far as our future monetization goes, we’re figuring that out. Our first step is to make sure we understand the real problem, and can find actual solutions. If we can figure that out, we’re confident we can make money without being biased.
-Maureen, Cinch Financial
This is a dressed up nerd wallet or bankrate. The value proposition in the technology is fairly negligible. They might make a little bit of money off of this. But, it’s just a well-marketed better mousetrap.
It certainly is a competitive space. I think Cinch’s ease of use and unbiased reviews are what can really benefit consumers. Sites like Nerd Wallet get paid for referring products, so that may not always be in a consumers best interest. I’m also interested to see how Cinch figures out their business model and how they keep the company growing.
NerdWallet built a very profitable business, but a lot of their revenue is from referring people to credit cards. Encouraging people to implicitly get into consumer debt just feels off. Would you feel right making money generating new a credit card lead, knowing full well the U.S. has a consumer debt problem? I wouldn’t.
How do you think these people are making money? Do you think it’s just benevolence for hosting and effort? No. Same game, slightly different execution.
We actually haven’t figured out how we plan to monetize just yet. At the moment, our number one goal is to solve the problem with the hassle and lack of transparency that comes with finance. You can learn more about our way of thinking on this post about how we make money: https://bit.ly/1OUPjZA
We totally agree with you which is why we know that way of making money isn’t a good one. Please keep an eye on us, Linda. We help users choose products that won’t fool them into revolving debt situations and encourage them to pay down what debt they may have. Credit cards are great for spending, but not the best way of borrowing when something unexpected arises.
-Maureen, Cinch Financial
Hi Austin, thanks for your feedback! My name is Maureen, a member of the Cinch Financial team. As Sydney mentioned, our unbiased recommendations are what separate us from the NerdWallets and BankRates of the world. And, with our BillSnap tool, we can give recommendations on bills such as cell phones, electricity, and cable, that NerdWallet and BankRate do not touch. BillSnap is also where we see some of our users’ biggest savings.
We’re taking Cinch to a very different place as you’ll see with our upcoming releases. Let us know if you would you be interested in looking “under the hood” to see where we’re going. You seem to know your way around these sites, so your feedback would be helpful to us.
Look, this is really noble of you but you can’t just not make money forever. It’s not 2001. I know one thing, if I was going to raise X hundred thousand for seed round I would probably have a monetization scheme I could at least expound on to those giving me the cash.
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