Cities Where Credit Scores Are The Most and Least Improved

 
 
 
 

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Credit scores serve as one of the key metrics in determining the economic health of American consumers, reflecting the ease or difficulty by which people are able to make payments on their mortgage, car loans, and other obligations.

Previous studies have shown which cities in the U.S. perform the best when ranked by the average credit score of their population. For our analysis, we went a step further to rank more than 200 cities on how much the average credit score has changed between 2010 and 2016. That data offers an indicator of whether the city's financial health has been improving or declining.

The changes in credit score ranged from a 3% improvement (for Las Vegas NV) to a -2.1% decline (for Glendive MT). If those changes seem modest, consider that the national average change for these years was a meager 0.52% – meaning that scores in these outlier cities changed by five or more times the rate of the country as a whole.

While our ranking is based entirely on credit-score data, we also took a snapshot of current key indicators of credit health within these cities, such as delinquency rates, credit utilization, and the average credit card debt. Those comparisons, based on 2016 data, are covered in the sections below our coverage of cities with the most and least improved credit scores.

The Cities With The Most Improved Credit Scores

For the most part, the cities with the best track record of boosting credit scores are among the ones where scores probably lost ground in the years prior to 2010. In particular, several cities within the top 5, including Las Vegas and Phoenix, were among those whose housing markets were hit especially hard by the mortgage crisis. As homeowners in those and other cities foreclosed on mortgages for their overvalued homes, and even had their homes seized by banks, credit scores naturally took a huge hit. As both the economy and the housing markets have bounced back, credit scores, too, have recovered.

It's worth noting, however, that despite their gains almost all of these cities remain at or below the national average credit score of 670. In other words, they're on the road to recovery, but still not among the heathiest of cities as far as creditworthiness goes.

  • Las Vegas, NV

    • Average Credit Score 2016: 645
    • Average Credit Score 2010: 626
    • Percent Change: +3%
  • Fort Myers, FL

    • Average Credit Score 2016: 685
    • Average Credit Score 2010: 666
    • Percent Change: +2.96%
  • Palm Springs, CA

    • Average Credit Score 2016: 665
    • Average Credit Score 2010: 651
    • Percent Change: +2.16%
  • Los Angeles, CA

    • Average Credit Score 2016: 670
    • Average Credit Score 2010: 656
    • Percent Change: +2.10%
  • Phoenix, AZ

    • Average Credit Score 2016: 665
    • Average Credit Score 2010: 651
    • Credit Score % Change Since 2010: +2.07%

The Cities Where Credit Scores Worsened the Most

If the cities whose credit scores improved the most had nowhere to go but up, those that lagged arguably had nowhere to go but down. That is, many of them had (and still have, for the most part) credit scores that are above the national average of 670.

A list showing cities where credit scores dropped the most.

All of the Rest

The five above were tops, but 200 other cities were also considered. Where did yours rank?

RankCity (MSA)State2016 Average Credit Score 2010 Average Credit Score% Change
1Las VegasNV 6456263.00%
2Ft. MyersFL 6856662.96%
3Palm SpringsCA 6656512.16%
4Los AngelesCA 6706562.10%
5PhoenixAZ 6656512.07%
6AustinTX 6716581.99%
7San DiegoCA 6786651.97%
8Riverside-San BernardinoCA6326201.96%
9SalisburyMD6706581.93%
10Miami-Ft. LauderdaleFL 6586461.86%
11San Francisco-Oak-San JoseCA 6996871.77%
12Grand Junction-MontroseCO 6836711.74%
13LaredoTX 6356241.70%
14DenverCO6876751.70%
15Dallas-Ft. WorthTX 6576461.68%
16Florence-Myrtle BeachSC6486371.67%
17Sacramnto-Stkton-ModestoCA 6726611.62%
18Waco-Temple-BryanTX 6566461.60%
19Yuma-El CentroCA6556451.56%
20Seattle-TacomaWA 6926811.54%
21CharlestonSC 6556451.53%
22Orlando-Daytona Bch-MelbrnFL 6656551.42%
23Tucson (Sierra Vista)AZ 6736641.41%
24HoustonTX 6596501.40%
25Monterey-SalinasCA 6766671.39%
26BendOR 6886791.37%
27Panama CityFL 6556461.36%
28Greenwood-GreenvilleMS6226141.34%
29ChicagoIL6796701.31%
30Raleigh-DurhamNC6656571.30%
31Tampa-St. PetersburgFL 6706611.30%
32CharlotteNC6616531.25%
33West Palm Beach-Ft. PierceFL 6756671.23%
34HonoluluHI 6916831.21%
35BoiseID6746661.19%
36RenoNV6576491.15%
37Hattiesburg-LaurelMS 6516431.14%
38EurekaCA 6776701.09%
39Washington, DCVA, MD, DC, WV6846761.09%
40BuffaloNY6886811.09%
41Santa Maria-Santa BarbaraCA 6866791.06%
42JacksonMS 6426351.03%
43OmahaNE6926851.03%
44Daphne-Fairhope-FoleyAL6616541.01%
45Corpus ChristiTX 6396331.01%
46New YorkNY6866801.00%
47Brownsville-HarlingenTX 6316240.97%
48La Crosse-Eau ClaireWI7036960.96%
49AtlantaGA6576500.96%
50Minneapolis-St. PaulMN7077010.95%
51El PasoTX 6486420.94%
52MeridianMS6496430.94%
53ColumbusOH 6706640.94%
54JacksonvilleFL6546480.93%
55WilmingtonNC 6676610.93%
56Salt Lake CityUT6786720.92%
57Columbus-Tupelo-West PointMS6466400.91%
58Des Moines-AmesIA6946870.90%
59Fort SmithAR6636570.89%
60CharlottesvilleVA 7006940.88%
61UticaNY 6876810.88%
62PortlandOR6846780.87%
63South Bend-ElkhartIN6696630.87%
64MadisonWI 7026960.86%
65Fresno-VisaliaCA 6466410.85%
66Rapid CitySD6926860.84%
67BakersfieldCA 6396340.80%
68WatertownNY 6816750.79%
69Greenville-Anderson-MauldinSC6646590.78%
70GainesvilleFL 6666610.77%
71Richmond-PetersburgVA 6676620.76%
72RochesterNY 6916860.74%
73Butte-BozemanMT 6966910.72%
74ToledoOH6796740.71%
75SpringfieldMO6736680.70%
76BostonMA6996940.69%
77Cheyenne-ScottsblufWY6776730.68%
78MontgomeryAL 6416370.68%
79Colorado Springs-PuebloCO 6746700.66%
80DothanAL6586530.66%
81Idaho Falls-PocatelloID6806750.64%
82Greensboro-H.Point-W.SalemNC6656610.62%
83DetroitMI 6726680.60%
84San AntonioTX 6526490.57%
85Columbia-Jefferson CityMO 6846810.56%
86Traverse City-CadillacMI 6876830.55%
87Albany-Schenectady-TroyNY6906860.54%
88CincinnatiOH6756720.53%
89Twin FallsID 6716670.53%
AVERAGE6716670.53%
90PhiladelphiaPA6786750.52%
91MemphisTN6426390.52%
92Medford-Klamath FallsOR6806760.52%
93Fargo-Valley CityND7036990.51%
94Sioux FallsSD7037000.50%
95ChattanoogaTN6586550.48%
96Flint-Saginaw-Bay CityMI 6706670.47%
97Norfolk-Newport NewsVA6596560.45%
98Joplin-PittsburgMO6596560.45%
99Biloxi-GulfportMS 6516480.45%
100IndianapolisIN 6606570.44%
101Grand Rapids-WyomingMI 6776740.44%
102Green Bay-AppletonWI7047010.44%
103AlbanyGA 6246210.44%
104BinghamtonNY 6886850.43%
105BangorME 6826790.40%
106NashvilleTN6646620.39%
107Duluth-SuperiorMN7037010.38%
108Greenville-WashingtonNC 6546510.38%
109FairbanksAK 6726690.37%
110MilwaukeeWI 6856820.37%
111SpokaneWA6876840.36%
112Rochester-AustinMN7087050.36%
113TylerTX 6486450.36%
114MaconGA 6446420.36%
115SyracuseNY 6856830.36%
116St. LouisMO6786750.35%
117Ottumwa-KirksvilleIA6816790.33%
118BillingsMT6836810.32%
119YakimaWA6776750.31%
120Baton RougeLA6496470.31%
121Providence-New BedfordRI6856830.31%
122SavannahGA6426400.30%
123Roanoke-LynchburgVA 6756720.30%
124Chico-ReddingCA 6746720.30%
125JacksonTN 6566540.30%
126MankatoMN7087060.29%
127Tallahassee-ThomasvilleFL6506480.29%
128Kansas CityMO6756730.28%
129Cleveland-AkronOH 6806780.28%
130ColumbiaSC 6486470.27%
131Portland-AuburnME6906880.27%
132MissoulaMT 6916890.27%
133North PlatteNE 6906880.26%
134Presque IsleME 6956930.26%
135Burlington-PlattsburghVT6976950.26%
136Albuquerque-Santa FeNM6576550.26%
137PittsburghPA6926900.25%
138ColumbusGA6436410.24%
139Cedar Rapids-Iowa CityIA 7016990.23%
140Abilene-SweetwaterTX 6516490.22%
141BaltimoreMD 6696670.21%
142Sherman-AdaOK6486460.20%
143Sioux CityIA6966950.17%
144VictoriaTX 6536520.17%
145Davenport-MolineIL6886870.17%
146JonesboroAR 6536520.17%
147St. JosephMO6756740.17%
148ShreveportLA6406390.16%
149San AngeloTX 6566550.16%
150ParkersburgWV6726710.14%
151Oklahoma CityOK 6566550.14%
152AnchorageAK 6706690.13%
153DaytonOH6736720.12%
154New OrleansLA6536520.12%
155LexingtonKY 6566550.12%
156RockfordIL 6726720.11%
157Wausau-RhinelanderWI 7047030.10%
158LincolnNE6996980.09%
159JuneauAK 6786770.08%
160Ft. WayneIN6776760.08%
161Casper-RivertonWY 6686680.07%
162Monroe-El DoradoLA6396380.06%
163Wichita Falls - LawtonTX6556550.05%
164BirminghamAL 6526520.04%
165MarquetteMI6976970.03%
166Little Rock-Pine BluffAR 6556550.02%
167LansingMI 6736730.02%
168KnoxvilleTN6636630.01%
169TopekaKS 6786780.01%
170Lake CharlesLA 6526520.01%
171EugeneOR 683684-0.02%
172LimaOH 676676-0.03%
173YoungstownOH676676-0.03%
174ZanesvilleOH 666666-0.05%
175Springfield-HolyokeMA 685685-0.06%
176Odessa-MidlandTX 641641-0.06%
177AmarilloTX 651652-0.08%
178Peoria-BloomingtonIL 690691-0.09%
179Tri-CitiesTN-VA661661-0.12%
180LouisvilleKY664665-0.12%
181Charleston-HuntingtonWV651651-0.13%
182AlexandriaLA 639640-0.13%
183Quincy-Hannibal-KeokukIL687687-0.13%
184Hartford - New HavenCT 687688-0.14%
185Huntsville-Decatur-AlbertvilleAL665666-0.15%
186Beaumont-Port ArthurTX 648649-0.15%
187HarrisonburgVA681682-0.18%
188LubbockTX 646647-0.19%
189Harrisburg-York-LebanonPA 689691-0.19%
190EvansvilleIN673674-0.22%
191EriePA 681683-0.25%
192Wilkes Barre-ScrantonPA 681683-0.27%
193ChampaignIL679681-0.31%
194AugustaGA642644-0.34%
195Johnstown-AltoonaPA 694696-0.35%
196TulsaOK653656-0.38%
197Bluefield-Beckley-Oak HillWV653656-0.39%
198Clarksburg-WestonWV 662664-0.39%
199LafayetteLA 652655-0.43%
200Bowling GreenKY 660663-0.45%
201ElmiraNY672675-0.46%
202Terre HauteIN665668-0.46%
203LafayetteIN 669672-0.48%
204Great FallsMT 683686-0.50%
205WichitaKS672675-0.50%
206Wheeling-SteubenvilleOH671676-0.64%
207HelenaMT 697701-0.65%
208AlpenaMI 694699-0.75%
209Minot-Bismarck-DickinsonND693700-1.00%
210GlendiveMT 690705-2.11%

The Top (and Bottom) Five Cities for...

We wanted to get a better picture of the economic health of the cities involved in this study. Therefore, using 2016 data we looked at a few additional metrics – other than credit score – across these places.

Delinquencies

Payment history is one of they biggest factors in determining a consumer's credit score -- it accounts for 35% of a FICO 8 score. Being late on a payment, or missing one completely can be hugely detrimental to an individual's credit standing. Most banks will wait until an individual is 60 to 90 days or more late on a payment before reporting them to a credit bureau. Below are the best and worst cities in terms of the percentage of their population being 90+ day delinquencies in each city.

The average U.S. delinquency rate is 33%.

RankCityStatePeople 90+ Days Past Due
1Minneapolis-St. PaulMN17.12%
2MankatoMN17.54%
3Rochester-Mason CityMN17.74%
4Sioux FallsSD17.86%
5Duluth-SuperiorMN18.01%
RankCityStatePeople 90+ Days Past Due
210HarlingenTX53.78%
209Corpus ChristiTX53.43%
208AlbanyGA52.22%
207ShreveportLA52.03%
206LaredoTX51.63%

Credit Utilization

How close you are to maxing out your credit cards is the other major factor influencing many of the popular credit scores -- it is roughly 30% of your FICO 8 score. The metric used in calculating this factor is referred to as utilization. Your debt burden can be responsible for as much as 30% of your final score This is expressed as the percentage of your total line of credit being used up. As a rule of thumb, you generally don't want to use more than 30% of your available credit line.

The average U.S. revolving credit utilization is 30%.

RankCityStateUtilization
1Sioux CityIA23.54%
2Rochester-Mason CityMN24.00%
3LincolnNE24.03%
4MankatoMN24.15%
5Green BayWI24.37%
RankCityStateUtilization
210FairbanksAK38.00%
209Riverside-San BernardinoCA37.12%
208Greenwood-GreenvilleMS36.60%
207ColumbusGA36.50%
206Norfolk-Newport NewsVA36.23%

Credit Card Debt

The average amount of credit card debt consumers need to deal with can also be indicative of their overall credit health. As a whole, revolving debt in the United States has been on the raise since 2010. In recent months, the country hit record highs as consumers borrowed more than ever before. Credit card debt poses two dangers to credit scores. First, it helps drive up credit utilization which we discussed above. As an individual’s debt burden increases, they also run the risk of being unable to repay it – thus increasing their chance of a delinquency.

The average U.S. credit card debt is $5,105.

RankCityStateAverage Credit Card Debt
1AlpenaMI$3,987
2MankatoMN$4,011
3Ottumwa-KirksvilleIA4,058
4Greenwood-GreenvilleMS$4,125
5Presque IsleME$4,140
RankCityStateAverage Credit Card Debt
210JuneauAK$7,775
209FairbanksAK$7,536
208AnchorageAK$7,520
207Washington, DCVA, MD, DC, WV$6,651
206Norfolk-Newport NewsVA$6,650

Average Number of Credit Card Accounts Per User

Research suggests that one of the leading causes for certain age groups having thin credit files is a lack of credit cards. Opening a card is one of the easiest ways to begin establishing credit, though an increasingly large part of the population is beginning to shun this method of payment altogether. This trend is especially apparent among younger consumers, including millennials. The situation is a bit of a catch-22, since it is difficult to obtain a credit card with no prior credit history. However, at the same time it's hard to build out a credit history without a credit card.

The average U.S. individual has 2.17 credit cards as of 2016.

RankCityStateAvg Number of Credit Cards Per User
1New YorkNY2.77
2San Francisco-Oakland-San JoseCA2.64
3RochesterNY2.64
4West Palm Beach-Ft. PierceFL2.59
5BostonMA2.59
RankCityStateAvg Number of Credit Cards Per User
210Greenwood-GreenvilleMS1.67
209Columbus-Tupelo-West PointMS1.67
208MeridianMS1.71
207AlbanyGA1.72
206JacksonMS1.79

Experts' Take

To vary our coverage of the cities with most improved credit scores, we put the data aside and sought out experts for answers to questions of concern.

Robert Harrow

Robert is the Senior Credit Card Analyst at ValuePenguin and has been covering the industry for over 2 years.

  • What's the biggest thing people get wrong about credit scores?

    You shouldn't think of only the three-digit number. Your credit report is arguably more important. The score is just a quick summary of the information contained within the reports. You should try to never confuse the two. Most lenders will look at your report when making their decision about your application.

Ting Pen

Ting is the Co-Founder of ValuePenguin. She was formerly a financial analyst at Citigroup.

  • What's the quickest way someone can raise their credit score?

    The one thing consumers need to know is that raising a credit score takes a long time. On the other hand, trashing your score can be lightning fast. That's why it is crucial to be both patient and careful when working on rebuilding one's credit score. Make your payments on time, avoid taking on needless debt and start paying more attention to your finances. Avoid the mentality that you can do it quickly -- it can only lead to trouble.

DJ Kang

DJ is a former hedge fund analyst and the head of ValuePenguin Asia.

  • Are credit scores important in cities outside of the U.S.?

    The idea of a credit score, while not unique, isn't very popular globally. Canada and the U.K. you can see systems that resemble what we have in the U.S. However, if you look at some Asian countries, income plays a much larger role there when it comes to lending decisions and credit.

Methodology

We analyzed 210 cities across the U.S., examining over 40 metrics derived from data provided by Experian – one of the three major U.S. credit issuers. Experian collect and maintain a history of credit activity for millions of Americans. Each year the agency releases its State of Credit report, which gives a cross-section of data for U.S. city. The data includes credit information on different age segments (Baby Boomers, Silent Generation, Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Z). Attempts were made to include other cities, but insufficient data was available to do so. The data was available only on the level of Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). These currently provide the best small-area approximation for the credit score standing of a specific region.

The credit score examined in this study is the VantageScore 3.0. It is based on a scale from 300 to 850. The higher the score the better it is. VantageScores correlate fairly well to FICO 8 scores, which are the most widely used among bankcard lenders.

It should be noted that data on delinquencies "encompasses all trades, including third party collections." Therefore, it should not be assumed these statistics refer exclusively to credit card accounts.

Sources

  1. 2016 State of Credit - Experian (2016)
  2. Population Data - US Census Bureau (2012)
  3. U.S. Revolving Debt - U.S. Federal Reserve G.19 Report (2017)

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