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Study: Popular Types of Credit Cards by State

Aug. 23, 2016
Credit Card Data, Credit Cards
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It’s impossible to surf the internet, turn on the TV or open your mailbox without encountering credit card offers. Some give cash back or other rewards, some dangle low-interest balance transfers, and some help build credit. And the popularity of each type of card varies across the country.

To get an idea of which types of credit cards are most popular in each state, we sifted through more than a million visits to credit card pages. From there, we determined where the visitors came from and which cards were clicked the most. We then categorized these cards into seven types: cash-back, balance-transfer, travel rewards, secured and student, as well as cash-back and travel cards specifically for businesses.

Three of these card types stood out as the most popular: cash-back, balance-transfer and travel. “Each of these three types has its own appeal, pros and cons, but is relevant to the mass market,” says NerdWallet credit card expert Sean McQuay. That, he says, is likely why they’re more popular than other card types we tracked, which target subgroups, such as students, people building credit and small businesses.

Popular card types across America

The map below shows the types of credit cards that NerdWallet visitors have clicked on the most in 2016. For a closer look at credit state by state, we’ve also included each state’s average VantageScore 3.0 credit score and average individual credit card balances.

Cash-back credit cards

Cash-back credit cards, which offer redeemable cash for every dollar you charge, are more popular than any other card type in 27 states. Many of these cards have no annual fee, and they tend to be advertised more than any other card type. They’re also often easier to use and simpler than other rewards cards — there are no conversion rates to consider and they offer flexibility. Note that these cards typically have a higher annual percentage rate than other types, so they’re best for people who consistently pay their balances off in full so no interest charges accrue.

Balance-transfer credit cards

In 15 states, balance-transfer cards were clicked on more than any other card type. These cards allow people to move one or more high-interest balances onto a single account, usually for a fee as a percentage of the total balances moved. The new account has low or no interest for an introductory period of about 12 to 18 months, so cardholders can pay down the principal of their transferred balances. Typically, only people with good or excellent credit are approved for balance-transfer credit cards.

Travel rewards credit cards

This is the most popular card type in eight states, all of which are west of Texas, other than New York. The exact perks depend on the account, but generally, travel cards offer rewards that can be redeemed for free or discounted flights or hotel stays. They typically charge no foreign transaction fees, usually offer sign-up bonuses and may include perks such as free checked bags or airport-lounge access. Annual fees range from $0 to $450. The higher the fee, the greater the rewards and perks. The average travel card charges an annual fee of about $150, with the premium cards averaging around $450.

The states by credit scores

The chart below shows the types of credit cards that have racked up the most clicks from NerdWallet visitors. We also included the statewide average VantageScore 3.0, a credit score that shares the same 300-850 range as FICO, and average individual credit card balances. Both these metrics are a snapshot from July 2016, from the credit reporting agency Experian.

StateMost popular card typeAverage VantageScore 3.0 credit scoreAverage individual credit card balance
AlaskaBalance transfer668 $ 7,446
AlabamaCash-back rewards654 $ 5,141
ArkansasBalance transfer655 $ 4,814
ArizonaTravel rewards666 $ 5,466
CaliforniaTravel rewards676 $ 5,469
ColoradoTravel rewards686 $ 5,887
ConnecticutCash-back rewards689 $ 6,323
DelawareCash-back rewards670 $ 5,646
FloridaCash-back rewards666 $ 5,498
GeorgiaCash-back rewards651 $ 5,833
HawaiiTravel rewards691 $ 5,887
IowaCash-back rewards695 $ 4,317
IdahoBalance transfer679 $ 4,921
IllinoisCash-back rewards681 $ 5,529
IndianaBalance transfer665 $ 4,806
KansasCash-back rewards678 $ 5,169
KentuckyBalance transfer661 $ 4,708
LouisianaBalance transfer648 $ 5,184
MassachusettsCash-back rewards696 $ 5,505
MarylandCash-back rewards671 $ 6,160
MaineBalance transfer688 $ 4,963
MichiganCash-back rewards675 $ 4,816
MinnesotaCash-back rewards707 $ 5,076
MissouriCash-back rewards673 $ 5,051
MississippiCash-back rewards645 $ 4,554
MontanaBalance transfer689 $ 4,980
North CarolinaCash-back rewards664 $ 5,243
North DakotaBalance transfer698 $ 4,536
NebraskaCash-back rewards695 $ 4,774
New HampshireCash-back rewards699 $ 5,711
New JerseyCash-back rewards685 $ 6,231
New MexicoBalance transfer657 $ 5,535
NevadaBalance transfer650 $ 5,459
New YorkTravel rewards686 $ 5,693
OhioCash-back rewards675 $ 5,019
OklahomaBalance transfer654 $ 5,338
OregonTravel rewards684 $ 5,110
PennsylvaniaCash-back rewards686 $ 5,286
Rhode IslandBalance transfer685 $ 5,581
South CarolinaCash-back rewards655 $ 5,255
South DakotaCash-back rewards699 $ 4,720
TennesseeCash-back rewards661 $ 5,110
TexasCash-back rewards655 $ 5,915
UtahTravel rewards679 $ 4,949
VirginiaCash-back rewards679 $ 6,279
VermontCash-back rewards700 $ 5,126
WashingtonTravel rewards690 $ 5,744
WisconsinCash-back rewards695 $ 4,594
West VirginiaBalance transfer659 $ 4,585
WyomingBalance transfer678 $ 5,277

Choosing the best credit card type for you

Cash-back, balance-transfer and travel credit cards are the most popular types in the country among NerdWallet visitors, according to our data, but are they right for you? Here’s how to decide.

If you want to build credit or improve a low score: Consider a secured card, which requires a security deposit that’s returned once your account is upgraded or closed in good standing. These are often good credit cards for bad credit, because they’re easier to qualify for than unsecured cards. College students with a steady income may be able to qualify for a student credit card, which is unsecured and easier to qualify for than other types.

If you want to save on interest: Balance-transfer cards allow people to consolidate multiple high-interest debts onto one card that typically offers a 0% APR introductory period. These cards require good or excellent credit to qualify. Cards with ongoing low interest or an introductory 0% APR period will also help you save on interest.

If you want to earn rewards: Consider which types of rewards are most relevant to your spending. Frequent vacationers may opt for a travel card, for example, while others may prefer a cash-back card. Whichever rewards card you choose, keep in mind that they typically carry a higher APR than other types. They’re best for people who regularly pay their bills in full, without incurring interest.

Read more about picking the best credit card for you.


We analyzed data from more than 1 million visitors to credit card pages to see which types of cards were clicked on the most in each state. Note that no personally identifiable data was used. The data spans January 2016 through June 2016. We determined users’ state of origin by analyzing their IP addresses. After counting every credit card that received more than 100 visits, we grouped the cards into seven types: cash-back, balance-transfer, travel rewards, secured and student, as well as cash-back and travel cards specifically for businesses.

In the chart, VantageScore 3.0 credit scores and average individual credit card balances are from the credit reporting agency Experian. They’re statewide averages for July 2016.

Courtney Miller is a data analyst at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected]. Laura McMullen is a staff writer at NerdWallet. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @lauraemcmullen.