Credit Score

The Best – and Worst – Places to Live for Great Credit

Written by Eric Rosenberg

Does your neighbor’s credit habits impact how you handle your finances? According to some interesting data, the answer is yes. Credit reporting bureau Experian recently released its State of Credit report, and it shows that cities in one region have the highest credit scores in the country while a region on the opposite side of the country have the worst.

Where does your city fall, and how does it compare to the cities with the best and worst credit? Let’s take a look at the results and see how your credit score stacks up.

Cities with the best credit scores

The best credit scores in the nation are almost all in America’s great north-central region encompassing Minnesota, Wisconsin, and South Dakota. With one exception all of the top ten cities for credit scores land in this region. The only oddball is San Francisco, which is nowhere near the rest.

Here is a list of the top ten credit score cities according to the report:

Top 10 Highest Average Credit Scores by City

Rankings City State 2017 Average VantageScore Population

1 Minneapolis Minn. 709 205,974

2 Rochester Minn. 708 50,635

3 Mankato Minn. 708 6,814

4 Wausau Wis. 706 20,222

5 Green Bay Wis. 705 52,023

6 Duluth Minn. 704 20,339

7 Sioux Falls S.D. 704 30,963

8 San Francisco Calif. 703 366,444

9 La Crosse Wis. 703 24,214

10 Madison Wis. 703 45,295

Four of the top ten are in Minnesota four are in Wisconsin. That is a very interesting correlation. What is in the culture of these states that puts them ahead of the rest in terms of credit?

Looking at Minnesota, the region has a strong economy and relatively low cost of living compared to big coastal cities, so residents may find themselves in a better financial footing than other cities. Minnesota also ranks high in education, which doesn’t hurt career and job prospects.

But at the same time, according to Experian, Minnesotans tend to be better at paying their bills on-time. The Midwestern mentality is to prioritize savings and pay down debts. The study found that Minnesotans keep credit card balances low and 80% of residents do not have any accounts past 90 days due.

Low unemployment helps, but it comes back to the fundamentals of paying bills on-time and paying down debt. Is it because it’s so cold in the winter they just sit around looking at their finances? Or maybe it is a good example set by neighboring friends in Canada? I doubt it!

Cities with the worst credit scores

As with the best credit scores list, the worst credit scores in the nation all come from the same region, with one exception on the list from California. Somehow the most populous state made both the best and worst credit score top ten lists!

For the remaining cities, they are all in Mississippi, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama. Texas claims four of the cities with the worst credit scores and Louisiana follows with two, but these are not titles to brag about. Here is the full list from Experian:

Bottom 10 Lowest Average Credit Scores by City

Rankings City State 2017 Average VantageScore Population

1 Greenwood Miss. 624 8,540

2 Albany Ga. 626 16,428

3 Harlingen Texas 631 47,368

4 Laredo Texas 635 11,141

5 Riverside Calif. 636 3,229

6 Corpus Christi Texas 638 26,671

7 Odessa Texas 640 20,615

8 Monroe La. 640 21,694

9 Montgomery Ala. 640 30,038

10 Shreveport La. 640 47,319

These states tend to rank lower in many economic metrics, which can hurt local residents and bring down credit scores. These states were also hit hard in the 2008 recession and have not seen an economic rebound in-line with many other states.

Some factors in common that link these states in contrast to the states with the best credit scores include education and higher in unemployment. But ultimately it is a combination of late and missed payments, bankruptcies, and high debt balances that hurt credit scores.

Texas has the highest average late payment rate in the United States, while San Francisco has the lowest average late payment rate of any US city.

Nationwide credit averages

While these 20 cities show the best and worst extremes of average credit scores, most people fall somewhere in the middle. According to the study data, here are some other interesting averages when it comes to credit and credit scores:

  • Average VantageScore – 675
  • Avg. mortgage debt – $201,811
  • Avg. non-mortgage debt – $24,706
  • Avg. number of credit cards – 3.1
  • Avg. balance on credit cards – $6,354
  • Avg. number of retail cards – 2.5
  • Avg. balance on retail cards – $1,841

The average credit score is the highest it has been since the Great Recession, which is good news for Americans all around.

What stood out to me from the list of averages is the average number of retail cards. Store credit cards are generally a bad deal for interest and bad for your credit score. That so many people have one shows that either stores are really good at pushing them, people don’t know better, or a combination of both.

The study also found a disturbing but well-known fact, that the average credit card and student debt levels are on the rise. In February 2017, total credit card debt surpassed $1 trillion in the United States for the first time. That is a big number.

The average student loan balance is $34,144, with 44 million Americans owning $1.4 trillion in total student debt. This student debt is holding young professionals and families back from buying homes and making other expensive steps forward in life.

Focus on fixing your finances

It seems a lot of people are worried about keeping up with the Joneses, but remember that the Joneses likely have $10,000 in credit card debt. It doesn’t matter if you live in a city or state with good or bad credit trends, all that matters is what happens in your own personal finances and credit.

Follow best practices, pay off your debt, create and follow a budget, and always pay your bills on-time. If you do, you are on track for a great financial future.

About the author

Eric Rosenberg

Eric Rosenberg is a finance, travel, and technology writer originally from Denver, Colorado living in Ventura, California. When away from the keyboard, Eric he enjoys exploring the world, flying small airplanes, discovering new craft beers, and spending time with his wife and baby girl. You can connect with him at his own finance blog Personal Profitability.


  • Until Government reigns in the massive and pervasive up charging in the medical industry it will be unlikely we shall see an upturn in personal credit scoring.

    Our family feels we will not be held hostage by these savagely greedy medical entities. With little left to battle, this industry our only real tool is non-payment of their unwarranted and unearned charges.

    If we are fortunate enough to reach agreements with these people payments will only be made once we receive written understandings to remove all negative information from our credit bureau files. Without this, we will not pay them a cent.

  • This article identifies a state where economic conditions are booming and another region where financial conditions hinder the repayment of debt. I live in a community with little education and a greedy government. I can see people who live beyond their means and use credit to “Get By” whom lack the understanding of why Payday Loans drive people deeper into debt and the bank pushes services for their financial gain. The region you live in also affects insurance rates, so why does anyone believe credit score models are any different?

  • Thanks for the information, I am starting all over again coming from and 821 to now a 517 is so hard to rebuild, recovering from surgery. I have so many collection and late payments, I can’t get any type of credit, where do I start?
    Thanks Joann

    • Save some cash/money as soon as possible, try for about $2000.oo or more that you will leave “frozen ” in an account for a while. The more the better but if it is too tight to save more, Do Not Wait ! With the $2,000.oo approach banks in your area for one that
      is willing to issue a “secured ” card to you.
      You will probably run into some “bonehead ” bankers who will tell you they don’t issue secured credit cards because of the “risk”. Two (2) things to do with these banks : 1) ask them to explain the details of their “risk” ; they’ll probably sound nervous or make
      up a sketchy story or just stonewall you 2) Take them off your list of banks you will ever want to do business with (unless they someday come up with a super incentive,
      like a free Corvette for opening a savings account with a $190.oo balance…you don’t need a bank like them ! )
      When you get your new credit card ( one without junk fees ) and you will if you are just a little bit persistant, DO NOT rush out and buy a bunch of “stuff ” you don’t really need. Keep your spending to things you need, like food and other “needs” that you are presently paying cash for because you have to. Treat the cash you didn’t spend because you used your new credit card like a valuable treasure (it is) and use it to pay the full “statement balance” on your new credit card the day before it is due by phone or online from another account, other than the one you used to set up the “secured” card account…being secured means the bank holds the money as security in case you do not pay the balances you accumulate. You will qualify for better ,more flexible credit and that will happen sooner than most people think, IF you stick to the plan and
      do not ever make a payment, even one day late. I know people who have received offers for larger credit limits within just a few months of starting a plan like this. You will then be on your way to a much higher credit score,.but you must keep up the good work and never let your guard down. I personally know a good friend who went from a
      “score” in the 400s to over 760 in less than 2 years ; just keep on keep’n on !

      ps feel free and welcome to send me an email about your experience following this
      plan or anything else related.

      Also, although I didn’t use the “Credit Solutions Program ” myself ( I already had
      long term experience in the “credit field’ ) I can tell you from my reading about it on Mike Roberts emails and website , I would highly recommend it to anyone who is experiencing any of the bad effects of a not so good to a bad credit score and is confused and or mystified about the why’s and what to do’s. I have met people who have suffered the bad effects of bad credit from marriage to retirement, never having experienced the benefits of a desirable credit score during all those years…Very Sad !

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