Written by Guest | June 26th, 2019Our goal here at BestCompany.com is to provide you with the honest, reliable information you need to find companies you can trust.
"When lenders compete for your business, you win!"
It's a tagline that any consumer looking for a loan could get behind, and LendingTree has put it at the forefront of its ads since its launch in 1998, promising to get multiple lenders to "compete" for each customer and get them the best rates in the process.
Too bad what actually transpires is more like a stampede.
Notwithstanding LendingTree's almost two decades of advertisements and an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the company leaves many of its customers on the losing end of their business model.
Bad customer experiences.
One online complaint after another hits on these themes with alarming frequency. Meanwhile, LendingTree seems to make only lukewarm efforts to rectify these issues.
If you're thinking of using LendingTree to find a loan, you should compare the company against top-rated lending options and be wary of the most common issues customers experience with LendingTree. Here are the seven most common complaints:
1. Loan offer comparison issues
In its own mission statement, LendingTree makes this promise:
"We serve as an ally to consumers who are looking to comparison-shop and make informed purchase decisions for loans and other important transactions. We do so by providing consumers with a broad array of information and tools free of charge, conveniently located on our various websites."
It's surprising that so much of LendingTree's marketing emphasizes the ability to compare offers from lenders when the actual customer experience falls short in the comparison department.
One disgruntled customer, in their complaint filed online, gives a glimpse into the reality of LendingTree's comparison features:
"The commercial leads you to believe (using images of a person typing on a computer and seeing graphs with various rates) that you will get a side-by-side comparison of rates from different lenders. This is not what happens. Instead, they are sharing your personal information with hundreds of third parties resulting in day and night non-stop phone calls."
To be fair, Lending Tree does provide places on its websites where different loan options are placed side by side, including interest rates, such as the Loan Explorer page. As might be expected, these interest rates are typically unbelievably low—low enough to persuade many customers to give their personal information to LendingTree.
Unfortunately, numerous complaints make it clear that the actual interest rates that lenders offer to customers rival those of the worst credit cards, many of them up in the 30-percent range. (More about this below...)
And the claim about customers being able to see all those offers side by side? When the offers do come, they're not neatly organized on a well-designed web page. Instead, inboxes fill with waves of messages from various lenders and phones ring off the hook. Offers come in one phone call or email at a time. Unless you have your own spreadsheet handy, it gets extremely difficult to keep track and compare each offer that comes in.
On this topic, the LendingTree FAQ imparts this advice:
"It's important that you evaluate all of the terms of each offer before you choose the one that's best for you. Compare the interest rate, APR, points, loan amount, loan term and other details of the loan offer. Please use our online calculators to help you make your decision."
2. High rates
The LendingTree promise of lenders competing for customers is really about delivering lower interest rates than customers could get by just walking into their local bank. The banner currently splashed across their homepage promises, "5/1 ARM Rates as low as 2.63% (2.97% APR)."
Sadly, it seems LendingTree does little to make sure the lenders in their network actually deliver on this promise. Even customers with the best credit history are served offers with interest rates far above those advertised on the site.
"Supposedly, my score is good at 759," said Cyndi of Morristown, Arizona, through a customer review. "but none of the loans could give me... a good rate. Not one of the loan offers was below 14% interest."
Mariam of Annandale, Virginia, had a similar experience when she received an offer for three times the amount requested, at three times the interest quoted by her local bank.
It seems there are two beneficial ways to rectify the situation:
- Stop telling customers that they can get them lower interest rates when they really have no control over what the lenders in their network do; or...
- Work with lenders to secure better rates for their customers.
3. Lack of transparency in extra fees and costs
The costs of finding loans through LendingTree don't end with higher interest rates. Again, because of the lack of control LendingTree seems to have over the lenders in their network, they're also unable to ensure that customers receive all the facts on the extra fees they will be paying before they assume loans.
Unfortunately, customers often discover these extra fees only after they've signed on the dotted line.
"I did not discover the loan fee, $720 until I received my deposit of the loan into my account," one LendingTree customer complained in an online review:
"Immediately I called to inquire about the disclosure of the loan. The representative even had trouble guiding me to the location of the costs in the documents. She even acknowledged that the information may have moved or the documents may have changed. I borrowed $18,000. The loan origination cost was $720. So my loan was actually $17,280."
Another customer complaint submitted tells of lenders quoted amounts not matching up with reality.
"After looking at all the offers and then sitting down and doing the real math, every single offer I received would have cost far more in the end than what they said," the customer says. "When I confronted them with this, all I got were excuses."
4. Lending scams
Many online reviews of LendingTree come with warnings about giving the company your name and number. These are accompanied by horror stories of customers barely finishing hitting 'submit' when their phones and inboxes are inundated with an endless barrage of offers from lenders.
This is where the aforementioned stampede comes in.
Consider this horror story from Dean of Alexandria, Virginia:
"Opened an account several weeks ago to simply look at what mortgage lenders and rates were. I have now been inundated and harassed with multiple calls and emails daily for several weeks. I have received multiple phone calls from the same mortgage company but different lenders ... Furthermore, my information has probably been sold multiple times to various lists for further harassment by less-than-scrupulous lenders."
Unfortunately, Dean's story is far too common, with many of LendingTree complaints echoing this same story. They lament the flood of calls and emails that befell them the moment they signed up with LendingTree and didn't let up for months.
Stop LendingTree Phone Calls and Emails
Customers can attempt to stop the barrage of communications from LendingTree and its partners. This page lets customers discontinue emails from LendingTree.
"You agree to receive all current and future notices, disclosures, communications and information, and to do business electronically with LendingTree, Lenders, Providers and real estate companies. This means that LendingTree, Lenders, Providers and real estate companies may communicate with you by sending a message to the email address you provided or at another address that may be associated with you that we receive from Lenders."
Two important things to note here:
1) You not only agree to current calls from lenders when you sign up with LendingTree. You agree to all "future notices" as well.
2) LendingTree doesn't just have access to the personal information that you provide them with. LendingTree notes that by doing business with them, you are agreeing to communication through any means of information associated with you that lenders may find. This means additional emails, phone numbers, addresses, etc.
5. Credit score risks
While endless calls and emails can be annoying and a nuisance, imagine what happens when a dozen lenders pull your credit score at the same time.
As any experienced consumer knows, every time a potential lender checks your FICO score, it brings it down a notch. And bad credit can impact your car insurance rates, cell phone contract, utility costs, and even job opportunities. According to customer horror stories, LendingTree gives their partner lenders authorization to pull customers' credit scores, often without customers' permission.
Stacey of Kansas City, Missouri recounts:
"EVERY SINGLE company that called me (around 20) had pulled my credit report, even though I declined to accept that section and never actually submitted my application! So now a few months later, I'm in a better place to actually buy a house and my credit is shot because it looks like I had 20 people looking into my credit!"
How to Stop LendingTree from Running Your Credit
As noted above, many customers note LendingTree pulling their credit report and sending this information to countless lenders, ultimately ruining customers' credit scores—and without their permission to run their credit in the first place.
To stop LendingTree from running your credit, we suggest not giving out any personal information that would allow them to do so unless you are 100 percent sure you want to do business with LendingTree.
Through countless LendingTree customer complaints and questionable disclaimers from LendingTree's website, it seems inevitable that your credit will be pulled and sent to countless lenders once LendingTree has the bare minimum of information that they need to do so.
If you don't want to risk LendingTree running your credit, be stingy with the personal information you give them, and do not sign any paperwork.
With the questionable disclaimers and caveats listed on LendingTree's website, it's no doubt LendingTree will likely have similar ones on any paperwork they ask you to fill out and sign. And once you sign something and give them access to your personal information, you can't stop LendingTree from running your credit and allowing lenders to do so as well.
6. Customer neglect
There seems to be a real sense of polarity among LendingTree partners. Some of them will not leave you alone. But some will, even after you've filled out an application with them, completely forget you, according to one customer from Virginia.
Paula of Rockville, Virginia:
"I applied on 6/12/15 and heard nothing Friday-Monday. I called them and they told me the person assigned to my account was out to lunch and would call me back. Heard nothing, so called again on Tuesday. The gentleman that answered the phone said my loan was not completed. I asked him, 'How would I know that if no one called me back.' He said, 'Recomplete the application.' However, when I went back into LendingTree for that company, it was not there."
This story and others like it highlight the fact that LendingTree seems to have a real quality control problem. They can put all the promises they want on their website, but they really can't control how the lenders treat their customers. LendingTree may want the best for their customers, but it's hard to follow through with those promises when they don't have direct control.
When you do business with LendingTree, you are agreeing to do business with countless unknown lenders. You have no guarantee these lenders will be quality or trustworthy companies.
It's obvious that many of these lenders are indeed not the most competent/organized people on the planet—as detailed by countless customer complaints.
Should LendingTree be let off the hook if you think of it this way?—"Well, that's the lender, not LendingTree itself. LendingTree isn't responsible for how the lenders act."
As part of LendingTree being an "ally" to consumers, shouldn't they constantly be working to make this process better for customers? LendingTree boasts quick and quality service but do they take responsibility for the service customers receive from the lenders LendingTree puts in their path?
Instead, LendingTree's actions (or inaction?) make the company's real priorities crystal clear: they care about selling as many leads to lenders as possible. What happens to customers after that is none of their concern.
7. Advanced fee scams
It's not surprising that scammers have found a way to exploit LendingTree's system. Heck, they find a way to exploit every other service out there. What is shocking is the hands-off attitude LendingTree seems to have regarding these scams, at least according to customer reviews.
Take, for instance, the advanced fee scams that have begun to spring up on LendingTree. These fake lenders reach out to LendingTree customers via email and get their hopes up with better-than-expected terms and rates. To qualify, they just need to pay some money up front, as their name implies.
The rest of the story (here's an example from another online review) goes something like this:
"After I paid $400 for an appraisal, I didn't hear back from them until I called them in the middle of December and then I was told that I wasn't going to get my loan. The loan officer told me that he wanted to close the loan by Dec. 1, and I would also need a septic tank inspection ($325) and a well test ($45.00) so I ended up losing a total of $770.00."
To be fair, these stories aren't unique to LendingTree. All of the major online lending marketplaces are being exploited in this way. On its FAQ page, LendingTree makes it clear that they will never charge customers up front for loans or loan processing. They also state that customers should check LendingTree's list of partners before applying with a lender.
Is LendingTree the best lending marketplace for you?
All of the problems above lead to this question. For certain, no business is perfect, but the trend of recent complaints against LendingTree will likely make customers wary of their services. Do they really offer a system where customers get the best rates, better than what they would find at their local bank? Customer complaints cast extreme doubt on this.
There are many lending options that won't give out your information to countless lenders and are known for their quality and trustworthy services—and they won't do a hard pull on your credit until you are officially approved and you accept the loan offer. This will keep lenders from ruining your credit.
Fortunately, there are personal loan alternatives to LendingTree that allow customers to avoid the issues that may come from LendingTree's practices and lending partners, keeping customers' credit protected and their emails and phone calls free from hungry lenders' relentless efforts.
Here are five of the top-rated lenders in the industry that may be better alternatives to LendingTree. And you don't have to take our word for it—each lender has above a 4-star rating from consumers.
- 5.99% - 29.99% APR
- $35,000 max loan amount
- 640 minimum credit score requirement
- 5.99% - 29.99% APR
- $40,000 max loan amount
- 620 minimum credit score requirement
- 5.74% - 16.49% APR
- $100,000 max loan amount
- 680 minimum credit score requirement
- 9.57% - 29.99% APR
- $50,000 max loan amount
- 620 minimum credit score requirement
Here are some noteworthy pros and cons of each lender.
- Great for High-Interest Debt Consolidation
- Instant Decision Process
- Clear, Transparent Platform
- Overwhelmingly Positive Customer Reviews
- No Prepayment Fees or Penalties
- Due Date Changes for Eligible Borrowers
- Strict Approval Requirements (640 Credit Score Required)
- Origination Fee
- Quality Customer Service
- Simple Application Process
- FreedomPlus Works on Your Behalf
- Positive Consumer Reviews
- Over a Decade in the Lending Industry
- Competitive Rates
- Up to a Five-Year Contract
- Origination Fee
- $100,000 Max Loan Amount
- Flexible Term Loans
- Unemployment Protection
- Competitive Rates
- No Hidden Fees
- Overwhelmingly Positive Consumer Reviews
- No Same-Day Approval or Funding Guarantee
- Not Available in Mississippi
- High Likelihood of Approval
- Flexible Options
- Fast Disbursements
- Available Nationwide
- Up to a Five-Year Contract
- $50,000 Max Loan Amount
- Not Ideal for Debt Consolidation
- Fees Can Add Up
See a full list of alternative lending options on our Personal Loan Lending Page.
- Marcus Varner contributed to this piece