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State, Metro Credit Scores Show America’s Highs and Lows

November 1, 2016
Credit Cards, Credit Score, Personal Finance
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Your credit score shapes much of your financial life, such as the chance of approval for a new credit card or loan. That three-digit number varies greatly nationwide, stretching to a nearly 80-point difference between the median credit scores of people living in Wisconsin and Minnesota, the states with the highest credit scores, and those in Mississippi, the state where residents have the lowest median scores.

A credit score reflects borrowing history and debt payments, but its importance goes much further. A strong score makes it easier to get loans, better insurance rates, a nicer place to live and credit cards with better perks.

NerdWallet examined June 2016 VantageScore 3.0 data from the credit reporting agency Equifax to find the median credit score in each state and Washington, D.C. We did the same for the 100 largest metro areas. VantageScore 3.0 has a 300-850 scale, like traditional FICO scores.

Here’s what we found:

Scroll through the chart to see the median VantageScore 3.0 credit score in the 100 largest metro areas:

RankMetro area Median VantageScore 3.0
1Madison, WI760
2San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA754
3San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA751
4Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI750
5Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA748
5Pittsburgh, PA748
7Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT747
7Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI747
9Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT746
10Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY744
10North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL744
12Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA743
12Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI743
14Honolulu, HI742
14Rochester, NY742
16Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA741
16Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA741
16Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ741
16Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY741
20Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA740
21Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA739
22Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO738
23Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA737
23Springfield, MA737
25New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA736
25Worcester, MA-CT736
25Ogden-Clearfield, UT736
25Providence-Warwick, RI-MA736
25Syracuse, NY736
30St. Louis, MO-IL735
30Scranton-Wilkes-Barre-Hazleton, PA735
32Washington, D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria, VA-MD-WV733
32Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD733
32Provo-Orem, UT733
32New Haven-Milford, CT733
32Akron, OH733
32Cleveland-Elyria, OH733
38Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI732
38Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA732
40San Diego-Carlsbad, CA731
40Kansas City, MO-KS731
40Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN731
43Salt Lake City, UT730
44Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, CA729
45Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA728
45Colorado Springs, CO728
45Wichita, KS728
45Boise City, ID728
45Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL728
50Raleigh, NC727
50Dayton, OH727
50Tucson, AZ727
53Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD726
53Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI726
55Columbus, OH725
55Knoxville, TN725
57Louisville-Jefferson County, KY-IN724
58Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL723
59Toledo, OH722
60Austin-Round Rock, TX721
60Richmond, VA721
62Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN717
62Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN717
64Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ716
65Winston-Salem, NC715
65Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL715
67Albuquerque, NM713
67Chattanooga, TN-GA713
69Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC711
70Oklahoma City, OK710
70Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL710
72Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX708
73Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC707
74Stockton-Lodi, CA705
74Tulsa, OK705
76Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR704
77Birmingham-Hoover, AL703
77Fresno, CA703
79Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX702
79Greensboro-High Point, NC702
81Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC699
81Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA699
81Charleston-North Charleston, SC699
81New Orleans-Metairie, LA699
85Jacksonville, FL698
85Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL698
85Bakersfield, CA698
88Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA697
89Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL695
90Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV694
90San Juan-Carolina-Caguas, PR694
92Baton Rouge, LA690
92Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL690
94Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC689
95Columbia, SC688
96San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX687
97Jackson, MS679
98Memphis, TN-MS-AR675
99El Paso, TX672
100McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX658

Key takeaways

Midwest states dominate. Six of the 10 states where residents have the highest scores are in the Midwest — with Minnesota and Wisconsin tied at the top with a median credit score of 752. Of the 12 states counted by the U.S. Census Bureau as part of the Midwest, the median of those scores is 741.5. That’s a higher median credit score than for people in the Northeast (741), West (733) and South (709).

The top metros are geographically diverse. The Northeast claims five spots of the 10 metro areas with the highest scores, while the Midwest claims three. And the California metro areas around San Jose and San Francisco take the No. 2 and 3 spots, respectively. While the South doesn’t crack the top 25 on the state list, the North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton metro area of Florida is tied for the No. 10 spot, with a median credit score of 744. That’s 37 points higher than Florida’s median credit score of 707. This graphic shows how each city’s score compares with its state score:

Low scores in the South. Eight of the 10 states where residents have the lowest median scores are in the South, with Mississippi at the bottom (674). Even Virginia and Washington, D.C., which tie for the highest scores in the South (729), are No. 27. The nine metro areas with the lowest median credit scores are in the South, with the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission area of Texas at the bottom of the 100-city list. That metro area’s median credit score is 658 — which is over 100 points lower than the highest median score of (760) in Madison, Wisconsin.

Income correlates with credit scores in many metro areas. Although income isn’t part of a credit score, it was a dividing factor in the list. Residents in many of the metro areas with the highest median credit scores also have among the highest median household incomes, according to the Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey. In fact, the areas surrounding San Jose and San Francisco, California; Bridgeport, Connecticut; and Boston have four of the five highest median incomes of the 100 metro areas examined. Each of the 10 metro areas with the lowest median credit scores had annual household incomes below the 2014 national median of $53,482. Equifax’s data includes San Juan, Puerto Rico, which had the lowest median income of the cities analyzed at $21,295 and a median credit score of 694.

The basics of credit scores

The two most common credit-score models. FICO scores are most commonly used in lending decisions, followed by VantageScore, which was developed by the three major credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — in 2006. Like FICO, VantageScore’s most recent model, VantageScore 3.0, has a 300-850 scale. The two scores use almost all of the same factors.

NerdWallet used VantageScore 3.0 in this analysis. Use our tool below to find your credit score, then see how it compares with the median scores in your state or hometown.


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Factors that determine your credit score. Your record of paying bills on time influences credit scores the most, followed by credit utilization, which is the percentage of your credit limit for all accounts and on each account that you’re using at a given time. To learn more, read how credit utilization ratios are calculated. While they play a lesser role, a long credit history of responsibly borrowing money and a diverse range of accounts (revolving accounts such as credit cards and installment loans such as mortgages) also will positively affect your score. And while adding a new line of credit can help your number by lowering the utilization ratio, be careful — each new application will trigger what’s known as a “hard inquiry,” which can drag down your score.

Improve your credit score. Responsibly handling a credit card is one way to build or repair credit history. If you can’t get approved for a standard credit card, consider a secured credit card, which requires a cash deposit that issuers use as collateral if you fall behind on bills. Secured cards are typically good credit cards for bad credit, because they’re easier to get approved for. Pay your bills on time, every cycle and you’ll likely boost your score and get the chance to upgrade to an unsecured card. When rebuilding your credit score, remember to keep credit utilization low and be thoughtful about new credit card applications, which can hurt your score.

Laura McMullen is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: lmcmullen@nerdwallet.com.

Methodology

For each state and the 100 most populous metro areas, NerdWallet used the median VantageScore 3.0 from June 2016, provided by the credit reporting agency Equifax.