This Study Ranked Cities By Credit Score. Is Yours on the List?

Average credit score
A Greenwood, Miss., home is pictured on Feb. 25, 2013. AP Photo/Laura Tillman
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Do you want the good news or bad news first?

Experian just released its 2016 “State of Credit” analysis, a statistical look at how Americans are handling their credit.

The report dives into consumer behavior by city, ranking those with the best credit scores and those with the worst. It also reveals some telling numbers about credit cards and debt.

Here’s what you need to know.

The Good News First: 10 Cities with the Highest Credit Scores

The falls at Minneopa State Park are pictured near Mankato, Minnesota. Minnesota State Parks and Trails/Facebook

Interestingly enough, you Midwesterners have the highest credit scores.

Take a look at the cities and corresponding average credit score:

  1. Mankato, Minnesota: 708
  1. Rochester, Minnesota: 708
  1. Minneapolis, Minnesota: 707
  1. Green Bay, Wisconsin: 704
  1. Wausau, Wisconsin: 704
  1. Duluth, Minnesota: 703
  1. Sioux Falls, South Dakota: 703
  1. La Crosse, Wisconsin: 703
  1. Fargo, North Dakota: 703
  1. Madison, Wisconsin: 702

To put this into perspective, Experian found that the 2016 national average credit score is 673 — up four points from 2015. So y’all are doing great things up there.

Now the Bad News: 10 Cities with the Lowest Credit Scores

The area where folks have the lowest credit scores is fairly concentrated in the South, plus California.

Here are the 10 cities with the lowest scores and their corresponding numbers:

  1. Greenwood, Mississippi: 622
  1. Albany, Georgia: 624
  1. Harlingen, Texas: 631
  1. Riverside, California: 632
  1. Laredo, Texas: 635
  1. Monroe, Louisiana: 639
  1. Alexandria, Louisiana: 639
  1. Bakersfield, California: 639
  1. Corpus Christi, Texas: 639
  1. Shreveport, Louisiana: 640

Again, to give you context, the average credit score was 673. And according to Credit Sesame, a “good” credit score is generally above 700.

Great… But Why Does My Credit Score Matter?

I had this same question. Wouldn’t it just be better if I had no credit and paid for everything with cash or my debit card?

Not really.

First off, I don’t have the money to pay for a car or house outright.

Second: “It’s a measure of how well you’ve managed money in the past, and often used as an indicator of how well you’ll manage money in the future,” writes Penny Hoarder contributor Sarah Kuta. “Banks and credit card companies use it to determine if they want to lend money to you — and at what rates.”

So say I’m going to buy a house and want to take out a loan. A good credit score will typically call for lower interest rates, whereas those with low credit scores might face higher ones.

How to Determine Your Credit Score — and How to Improve It (for Free)

There are a number of online tools for checking your credit score. One we recommend is Credit Sesame.

You can also check with one of the “big three” credit reporting services: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Legally, they’re required to provide you one free credit score a year. (But Equifax and TransUnion might owe you money.)

Reminder: Most credit scores range from 300 to 850.

And don’t panic if you don’t like what you see. The three-digit number isn’t set in stone. You can improve it.

Like I usually do, I took note from our senior writer, Dana Sitar, who had a 528 — and nearly $60,000 in debt (think: student loans, medical bills, life…).

To help her untangle the mess, she used the Credit Sesame app.

After snagging her free credit score from the online platform, she was able to see her total debt. But not only did she see that daunting number, she also looked at her “Debt Analysis,” which broke down what she owed and where she owed it.

“This service helps me see exactly what is hurting my credit score, so I can begin to take steps to fix it,” Sitar wrote.

She could also see her “Credit Score Analysis,” which included her credit usage and payment history. Both came with grades, so she was able to see that improving these could impact her overall score.

In addition, Credit Sesame outlined personalized, recommended steps Sitar could take to get back on track. “I’ve read plenty of tips to improve my credit before I found this site, but they’re mostly irrelevant to my situation,” she explains.

You can read about Sitar’s entire experience and the steps she took to improve her score here. Then, hop over to Credit Sesame to check out the free service.

Oh, and if you really want to reach for the stars, check out this guy who has a perfect credit score.

Your Turn: Did your city make either of these lists?

Disclosure: A toast to savings! Thanks for allowing us to place affiliate links in this post.

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.