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‘Wealthiest’ Cities: How Income, Home Values and Credit Limits Stack Up Around the US

May 23, 2016
Personal Finance, Studies
Wealthiest Cities: How Income, Home Values and Credit Limits Stack Up Around the US
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Wealth is relative to where you live. Some folks in San Francisco could have mortgage payments that force them to pinch pennies, even though their income would have them living large in Evanston, Illinois.

So where are people actually wealthy in terms of income, home value and credit availability? To find out, NerdWallet analyzed 475 American cities with at least 65,000 people. We looked at:

  • The median household income and percent of homes without a mortgage, as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey.
  • The monthly median home value as reported in February 2016 by Zillow Research.
  • The average credit limit for credit card holders as reported in 2016 by credit bureau Experian.

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NerdWallet’s analysis

California cities were at the top of every category, and nine of the 10 of what our analysis is terming the “wealthiest” cities in the nation were in California. One Southern city made the top 10: Bethesda, Maryland. Its median home value of $808,800 topped that of several California cities in the top 10, and the city placed second among all cities measured for average credit limit and median household income.

The average credit card limit offers insight into how much credit an average resident has access to from day to day. The average credit limit for all 475 cities measured was around $35,800. Newport Beach, California, ranked highest, with an average credit limit of almost $83,000 for credit card holders. While Californians could access more credit than cardholders anywhere else, the average credit limit for the top 10 cities in each region fell between $45,000 and $69,000. Northeasterners had the lowest credit limits, with four of the top 10 cities in that region falling below $40,000.

Midwestern cities were among the most affordable for housing. The Midwest top 10 contains five suburbs of Chicago, which is the third most populous city in America. These suburbs had lower median home values and strong median household incomes compared with the rest of the country. This means residents of these places spend less on housing, giving them more buying power compared with other regions.

Let’s take a look, region by region:

Wealthiest cities in the Northeast

In the table below, scroll down and across to see data on the region’s top 20 cities.

RankCityMedian household incomeMedian home valuePercent of homes with no mortgageAverage credit limit Total score
Newton, Massachusetts$102,796$886,40035%$70,82282.82
2.Stamford, Connecticut$88,686$447,90028%$50,90464.13
3.New Rochelle, New York$72,353$629,60032%$52,15959.71
4.Cambridge, Massachusetts$84,249$649,00032%$39,99758.80
5.Norwalk, Connecticut$75,285$373,30027%$47,73656.91
6.Framingham, Massachusetts$64,213$347,20027%$45,89151.17
7.Somerville, Massachusetts$74,048$537,50030%$31,96750.40
8.Boston, Massachusetts$56,902$480,00025%$33,54850.38
9.Danbury, Connecticut$69,394$245,70026%$38,62847.48
10.Toms River, New Jersey $72,236$251,70031%$46,64246.97
11.Brentwood, New York$65,032$243,50019%$21,25446.25
12.Quincy, Massachusetts$68,409$375,40031%$36,363
13.Nashua, New Hampshire$70,521$236,80030%$40,11344.30
14.Warwick, Rhode Island$64,455$187,60028%$40,60042.79
15.Jersey City, New Jersey$60,497$346,50026%$27,16942.61
16.Clifton, New Jersey$67,191$304,20032%$37,26041.70
17.New York, New York$52,996$614,50038%$41,03841.43
18.Lynn, Massachusetts$52,481$271,20023%$25,72540.32
19.Manchester, New Hampshire$53,082$196,90026%$32,57538.94
20.Cranston, Rhode Island$51,520$208,50030%$44,94338.92

In the Northeast, Newton, a suburb west of Boston, topped the list. Newton’s high average credit limit and high median home value placed it well ahead of the other top 10 cities. The average credit limit in Newton was $70,822, almost $19,000 higher than the city with the next highest figure, New Rochelle. Newton’s median home value was $886,400 — over $200,000 more than Cambridge, which had the second-highest median home value in the Northeast, at $649,000.

Boston and its suburbs comprise half of the top 10 in the Northeast. Three of the Massachusetts cities are college towns: Cambridge is home to MIT and Harvard; Somerville to the research university Tufts; and Boston to Boston University.

Connecticut took three spots in the Northeast’s top 10. All three cities — Stamford, Norwalk and Danbury — are in Fairfield County and are part of the New York metropolitan area. Each of these cities is home to at least one Fortune 500 company. Charter Communications is headquartered in Stamford, Xerox has its main offices in Norwalk, and industrial gas company Praxair is in Danbury.

Wealthiest cities in the South

In the table below, scroll down and across to see data on the region’s top 20 cities.

RankCity Median household incomeMedian home valuePercent of homes with no mortgageAverage credit limitTotal score
1.Bethesda, Maryland$149,623$808,80033%$78,53986.62
2.Ellicott City, Maryland$114,801$488,20023%$65,73869.24
3.Arlington, Virginia$109,266$606,40021%$46,72064.83
4.Flower Mound, Texas$125,378$337,90019%$51,14262.20
5.Centreville, Virginia$102,331$376,2009%$45,72561.81
6.Frisco, Texas$115,603$359,10016%$43,98559.79
7.Alexandria, Virginia$86,809$491,60020%$44,55755.91
8.Mount Pleasant, South Carolina$82,358$388,80021%$55,02955.49
9.Columbia, Maryland$99,719$329,70019%$47,88455.20
10.Rockville, Maryland$90,606$458,90026%$50,49755.05
11.Franklin, Tennessee$80,536$393,40023%$56,07854.85
12.Gaithersburg, Maryland$79,988$338,30017%$50,02353.72
13.Allen, Texas$102,466$272,00017%$44,37753.61
14.Cary, North Carolina$92,000$306,70021%$51,65153.47
15.Roswell, Georgia$80,125$324,50023%$57,31252.78
16.Germantown, Maryland$82,527$282,60012%$39,44450.30
17.Waldorf, Maryland$80,069$262,1009%$31,851 47.67
18.Silver Spring, Maryland$72,412$364,30022%$38,27145.14
19.Frederick, Maryland$69,476$252,70017%$40,33544.50
20.Pearland, Texas$101,211$216,40024%$35,33543.98

Bethesda claimed the top spot in this category. The median income for Bethesda households was almost $150,000, the second-highest of all U.S. cities reviewed for this study. It trailed only Newport Beach, California, for the highest average credit limit for credit card holders. And Bethesda’s median home value was $808,800, the highest among any Southern city by a mile. Only Arlington came close, with a median home value of $606,400, still just 75% of the median in Bethesda.

Bethesda is home to the National Institutes of Health and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, as well as hospitality companies Host Hotels & Resorts, Marriott International and Ritz-Carlton. Nearby Rockville is home to Choice Hotels and other hospitality and health companies.

Bethesda, Arlington and Alexandria are all “inside the Beltway,” which means they’re within Interstate 495 near Washington, D.C. Arlington is home to federal government agencies, including the Department of Defense, and Alexandria is the location of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Wealthiest cities in the Midwest

In the table below, scroll down and across to see data on the region’s top 20 cities.

RankCityMedian household incomeMedian home pricePercent of homes with no mortgageAverage credit limitTotal score
1.Naperville, Illinois$104,419$364,30023%$67,07593.06
2.Carmel, Indiana$109,375$296,60022%$62,91088.41
3.Arlington Heights, Illinois$78,988$312,00033%$57,42670.89
4.Evanston, Illinois$73,671$315,60028%$53,50270.60
5.Fishers, Indiana$91,262$209,70015%$40,44169.97
6.Troy, Michigan$83,921$269,10031%$48,94166.43
7.Palatine, Illinois$70,328$237,90028%$54,06364.57
8.Olathe, Kansas$77,008$204,30018%$38,16462.52
9.Bolingbrook, Illinois$73,333$197,40015%$36,43962.44
10.Ann Arbor, Michigan$60,337$320,90032%$43,29660.19
11.Skokie, Illinois$76,867$255,30035%$45,71658.93
12.Schaumburg, Illinois$71,946$207,10028%$46,05658.86
13.Minneapolis, Minnesota$50,791$206,70024%$40,20452.30
14.Waukesha, Wisconsin$57,179$190,00025%$39,10451.69
15.Aurora, Illinois$68,304$152,80018%$28,86351.65
16.Madison, Wisconsin$55,829$209,20027%$34,62549.40
17.Livonia, Michigan$68,668$168,10032%$37,55447.98
18. Bismarck, North Dakota$60,752$264,40041%$37,97147.46
19.Elgin, Illinois$60,810$158,90024%$28,787 46.10
20.Bloomington, Illinois$59,614$152,30030%$35,77744.91

Chicago is the largest city in the Midwest, and five of its suburbs —Arlington Heights, Bolingbrook, Evanston, Naperville and Palatine — made the region’s top 10. The Midwest is the most affordable region if you’re looking to live in one of the wealthiest cities. Modest home values characterize the Midwest; all of the cities in the top 10 had a median home value between $197,000 and $365,000. It may not sound “modest” to everyone, but Naperville’s median home value, at close to $365,000, is less than half that of Carlsbad, California, the city with the lowest median home value in the West’s top 10.

Based on these home values, one might assume that median household income in the Midwest would also be lower, but income for all of the top 10 Midwest cities was competitive with that of other cities at the top of our lists.

Wealthiest cities in the West

In the table below, scroll down and across to see data on the region’s top 20 cities.

RankCityMedian household incomeMedian home valuePercent of homes with no mortgageAverage credit limitTotal score
1.Palo Alto, California$151,370$2,503,60034%$71,69679.80
2.San Ramon, California$135,355$931,30012%$64,39272.38
3.Pleasanton, California$122,652$961,00019%$73,55769.06
4.Newport Beach, California$106,801$1,561,40031%$82,81166.94
5.Yorba Linda, California$117,368$781,50019%$72,39565.20
6.Laguna Niguel, California$96,732$776,60018%$72,82361.98
7.Redondo Beach, California$110,451$916,30020%$55,99158.71
8.Redwood City, California$87,255$1,247,20024%$67,10258.34
9.Carlsbad, California$104,424$740,20021%$62,55557.25
10.San Clemente, California$98,710$851,20024%$66,66356.70
11.Thousand Oaks, California$97,291$668,80021%$66,74856.63
12.Fremont, California$106,921$890,40023%$56,09955.41
13.San Mateo, California$101,229$1,044,00028%$62,38055.06
14.Mission Viejo, California$103,607$659,60021%$57,86954.47
15.Mountain View, California$100,318$1,417,70029%$51,03253.56
16.Chino Hills, California$99,601$586,60017%$51,32153.22
17.Santa Monica, California$82,096$1,311,30028%$58,74552.28
18.Lake Forest, California$96,655$649,10017%$46,92751.74
19.Irvine, California $90,743$784,50022%$55,71551.37
20.Livermore, California $87,815$692,30018%$52,01051.29

In the Western states, California dominated the list of wealthiest cities. At the top was Palo Alto, home to Stanford University and tech companies such as Tesla Motors, VMware and Palantir Technologies. The rest of the cities were divided among the San Francisco Bay Area — San Ramon, Pleasanton and Redwood City are all home to tech companies and their executives — and Southern California. Four cities in Orange County made the list: Newport Beach, Yorba Linda, Laguna Niguel and San Clemente.

The average credit limit for Newport Beach residents was $82,811, almost $10,000 higher than Pleasanton, the West’s runner-up in that category. Palo Alto boasted the highest median home value among all the U.S. cities analyzed, at $2.5 million. Despite that high price tag, 34% of those homes were owned without a mortgage, the highest percentage in the West’s top 10 and comparable to any other region in the country. In San Ramon, only 12% of homes were mortgage-free, which was the second-lowest among all Western cities and fourth-lowest nationwide.

Wealthiest cities nationwide

In the table below, scroll down and across to see data on the nation’s top 100 cities.

RankCityMedian household incomeMedian home valuePercent of homes with no mortgageAverage credit limitTotal score
1Palo Alto, California$151,370$2,503,60034%$71,69681.94
2San Ramon, California$135,355$931,30012%$64,39272.68
3Pleasanton, California$122,652$961,00019%$73,55770.25
4Newport Beach, California$106,801$1,561,40031%$82,81169.61
5Bethesda, Maryland$149,623$808,80033%$78,53967.60
6Yorba Linda, California$117,368$781,50019%$72,39566.64
7Laguna Niguel, California$96,732$776,60018%$72,82363.56
8Redwood City, California$87,255$1,247,20024%$67,10160.77
9Redondo Beach, California$110,451$916,30020%$55,99160.45
10Carlsbad, California$104,424$740,20021%$62,55559.23
11San Clemente, California$98,710$851,20024%$66,66359.05
12Ellicott City, Maryland$114,801$488,20023%$65,73858.90
13Thousand Oaks, California$97,291$668,80021%$66,74858.69
14San Mateo, California$101,229$1,044,00028%$62,38057.82
15Fremont, California$106,921$890,40023%$56,09957.64
16Mission Viejo, California$103,607$659,60021%$57,86956.54
17Mountain View, California$100,318$1,417,70029%$51,03256.50
18Flower Mound, Texas$125,378$337,90019%$51,14256.07
19Naperville, Illinois$104,419$364,30023%$67,07555.80
20Newton, Massachusetts$102,796$886,40035%$70,82255.71
21Centreville, Virginia$102,331$376,2009%$45,72555.44
22Carmel, Indiana$109,375$296,60022%$62,91055.41
23Santa Monica, California$82,096$1,311,30028%$58,74555.31
24Chino Hills, California$99,601$586,60017%$51,32154.94
25Sunnyvale, California$104,681$1,366,40032%$48,78154.53
26Irvine, California$90,743$784,50022%$55,71553.79
27Frisco, Texas$115,603$359,10016%$43,98553.73
28Lake Forest, California$96,655$649,10017%$46,92753.52
29Livermore, California$87,815$692,30018%$52,01053.30
30Arlington, Virginia$109,266$606,40021%$46,72052.96
31Kirkland, Washington$94,332$521,50022%$56,46252.35
32Milpitas, California$102,917$818,10024%$45,90451.72
33Folsom, California$100,348$467,10018%$45,71951.35
34Bellevue, Washington$95,146$660,40031%$62,43950.88
35Alameda, California$86,888$845,90027%$53,54750.21
36San Francisco, California$85,070$1,115,70030%$51,47350.01
37Columbia, Maryland$99,719$329,70019%$47,88449.82
38Santa Clara, California$91,080$988,50025%$43,73849.81
39Allen, Texas$102,466$272,00017%$44,37749.73
40San Jose, California$87,210$810,00024%$48,32449.46
41Santa Barbara, California$62,340$1,073,00030%$63,12249.39
42Santa Clarita, California$81,577$468,30018%$48,86548.75
43Mount Pleasant, South Carolina$82,358$388,80021%$55,02948.55
44Cary, North Carolina$92,000$306,70021%$51,65148.508
45Simi Valley, California$82,168$514,20019%$47,94848.507
46Gaithersburg, Maryland$79,988$338,30017%$50,02348.29
47Camarillo, California$85,640$564,60026%$55,63148.23
48Huntington Beach, California$84,915$735,60029%$55,06548.21
49Franklin, Tennessee$80,536$393,40023%$56,07847.77
50Temecula, California$80,753$408,40013%$40,14147.76
51Berkeley, California$70,364$1,001,70031%$55,70047.33
52Roswell, Georgia$80,125$324,50023%$57,31247.22
53Alexandria, Virginia$86,809$491,60020%$44,55747.14
54South San Francisco, California$86,191$812,00029%$49,05346.99
55Walnut Creek, California$76,311$781,60037%$67,01946.88
56Germantown, Maryland$82,527$282,60012%$39,44446.75
57Rockville, Maryland$90,606$458,90026%$50,49746.64
58Fishers, Indiana$91,262$209,70015%$40,44146.35
59Union City, California$83,861$707,80026%$46,88746.28
60Orange, California$75,803$613,00022%$46,58646.03
61Gilbert, Arizona$84,153$282,30014%$39,35845.94
62Scottsdale, Arizona$73,387$412,40030%$65,00445.73
63Pasadena, California$70,873$714,90025%$50,60745.72
64Stamford, Connecticut$88,686$447,90028%$50,90445.26
65Waldorf, Maryland$80,069$262,1009%$31,85145.08
66Elk Grove, California$81,768$360,00015%$35,99044.37
67Tustin, California$67,344$638,50021%$43,65744.21
68Rancho Cucamonga, California$71,742$445,20016%$39,12343.95
69Daly City, California$80,885$750,30027%$40,91843.59
70Burbank, California$65,398$691,40023%$44,06043.48
71Tracy, California$77,798$413,70015%$33,15443.42
72Roseville, California$80,658$390,90022%$42,57543.26
73Boulder, Colorado$62,797$631,20032%$60,20642.77
74Chandler, Arizona$73,062$265,30018%$41,88342.67
75Seattle, Washington$70,975$536,70025%$46,04742.14
76League City, Texas$98,578$214,90022%$35,26641.99
77Pearland, Texas$101,211$216,40024%$35,33541.95
78New Rochelle, New York$72,353$629,60032%$52,15941.92
79Torrance, California$80,198$730,50031%$44,20941.85
80Napa, California$68,307$537,60027%$48,38541.81
81Frederick, Maryland$69,476$252,70017%$40,33541.767
82Bolingbrook, Illinois$73,333$197,40015%$36,43941.6995
83Corona, California$69,407$416,50016%$34,85641.6991
84Evanston, Illinois$73,671$315,60028%$53,50241.47
85Arlington Heights, Illinois$78,988$312,00033%$57,42641.46
86Chino, California$79,218$426,10019%$33,26341.44
87Lakewood, California$81,106$502,70024%$36,24941.29
88Norwalk, Connecticut$75,285$373,30027%$47,73641.20
89Olathe, Kansas$77,008$204,30018%$38,16441.13
90Murrieta, California$76,766$371,20019%$34,67541.07
91Renton, Washington$67,626$359,60022%$43,27340.67
92Palatine, Illinois$70,328$237,90028%$54,06340.66
93Sandy, Utah$83,399$266,10027%$44,24440.35
94Virginia Beach, Virginia$68,816$248,50020%$41,82640.16
95Glendale, California$51,020$718,60024%$43,56340.14
96Costa Mesa, California$66,820$698,00025%$38,26140.12
97Troy, Michigan$83,921$269,10031%$48,94140.11
98Cambridge, Massachusetts$84,249$649,00032%$39,99739.95
99Silver Spring, Maryland$72,412$364,30022%$38,27139.90
100San Diego, California$67,799$531,70025%$40,96639.84


We analyzed data from 475 U.S. cities with populations of at least 65,000 that had data available for all four categories. We calculated overall scores using four measures, each weighted as 25% of the score:

  • Average credit limit for those with credit cards as of 2016 was taken from the latest data reported by Experian.
  • Monthly median home value in a particular geographical region in February 2016 as reported by Zillow Research.
  • Median household income, from the 2014 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
  • Percentage of homes without a mortgage, also from the 2014 American Community Survey.

Courtney Miller is a data analyst at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected]. Veronica Ramirez is a staff writer at NerdWallet. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @veraudrey