WalletHub: 2017's Cities with the Highest & Lowest Credit Scores
Author: Richie Bernardo, WalletHub Reporter
Posted: April 11, 2017

Read the original story on WalletHub

If you’ve ever applied for a loan or credit card, you know that your credit score is more than just a three-digit number: it’s a numerical representation of your financial habits. And it tends to speak volumes, most important of which is how well you manage your debts.

But have you ever wondered how well your neighbors, your coworkers or perhaps your local Starbucks barista handle their finances? Are they as responsible — or irresponsible — as you when it comes to paying your bills or knowing when to keep your plastic in your pocket?

WalletHub’s analysts compared the average credit scores of residents in 2,534 U.S. cities to give credit where credit is literally and figuratively due. Scroll down to find out where Americans live by example and how we ranked the cities. Plus, get invaluable credit wisdom from seasoned money experts.

Curious to know how your own score compares with that of the average Jane or Joe in your town? Join the WalletHub community to get your free credit score.

Ask the Experts

Brenda EichelbergerSr. Management and finance instructor in the School of Business at Portland State University.

What tips do you have for a person trying to increase their credit score in a short amount of time?

  • First, get a copy of your credit score to see what is there.
  • Settle any mistakes or errors (I have seen stats as high as 30% of credit reports that have inaccuracies).
  • Pay off your accounts strategically; try to get them all down to below the 30% of limit on existing cards.
  • Do not close accounts (length of time open is important to your overall score).

What are some commonly held misperceptions about how credit scores are calculated?

  • Often people are concerned with "shopping" for loans, thinking that will increase their score. If you are looking for mortgage or a car, those will be grouped into a thirty-day inquiry, and it should not harm your score. It does "pay" to shop around for the best rates.
  • Students sometimes don't check their own scores because they think that will "hurt" their score. A self-inquiry is a "soft pull" and should not reduce your score. You should be always aware of your credit score.
  • It is important to get a credit card early; the length of time with credit is positive.It is good to have more than one card, but more than four will lower your score. So best to keep it to two or three.

Which are the most common mistakes people make when trying to improve their credit score?

  • Most common - ignoring it, or giving up too soon! It takes time to build a score (you should start at age 18 or sooner if your parents can help).
  • Closing long held accounts because they have found another offer they like better (rewards, travel, cash back, or lower APR).
  • Not being strategic with their pay down strategy. Dave Ramsey and others advise to pay down small balances for an emotional reward.I would recommend paying down balances to below 30% of their limit (for the quickest boost to your credit score), and then for the longer term target your highest APRs and get those down to zero while paying the minimums on your other cards (or accounts). List out all of your debts (mortgage, car, student loan, consumer loans, credit cards) and then set a time line and specific goals for elimination (be sure to consider tax implications).

Which is the best way for a young person to build credit?

  • Check your credit history and be sure you know everything on it. Several of my students have had a score and not been aware of it.
  • If possible you can start by being added to your parents card (this may or may not be a good idea, it really depends on the family and the situation).
  • I recommend a secured card of your own. Usually you can open an account at your bank with $500. That account secures a credit card that has a $500 limit. There are also cards that can get started with less (as low as $200).Check "secured cards" on line and see what best meets your needs.
  • If you plan on buying a computer or other relatively low priced (but over $100) item, you might consider opening a store account and paying it off within thirty days.
  • Pay your bills on time and in full.
  • Start early and build your score responsibly. Lots of people would love to be at zero debt, so just starting at zero is ahead of quite a few Americans.
  • Get started on it! The benefits of understanding your credit and having a strong credit score will make the road of life a lot easier to travel.
  • Take a class and don't expect yourself to know all the personal finance issues - credit score being one of the many.