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Small Towns vs Big Cities: Where Are the Best Credit Scores?

During the 2016 Presidential election, much attention was paid to the differences in urban versus rural populations: How people vote, where they work, their cost of living, education levels, and on and on.

But are there differences in how people in urban or rural areas manage money and credit?

Experian's latest State of Credit report looks at consumer behavior across America. Based on the data, the upper Midwest stands out, securing nine of the top ten spots for highest average credit scores, with Minneapolis leading the way.

Which Cities Are in the Top 10?

Top 10 Highest Average Credit Scores by City
RankingsCityState2017 Average VantageScorePopulation
1MinneapolisMinn.709205,974
2RochesterMinn.70850,635
3MankatoMinn.7086,814
4WausauWis.70620,222
5Green BayWis.70552,023
6DuluthMinn.70420,339
7Sioux FallsS.D.70430,963
8San FranciscoCalif.703366,444
9La CrosseWis.70324,214
10MadisonWis.70345,295

What the data shows is people in these top 10 cities are doing a good job with paying their bills on time, and not maxing out their revolving credit—the most important pieces of maintaining high credit scores.And while there's no direct correlation between population density and credit scores, four of top 10 are more populated than the most populated city (Harlingen, Texas) in the bottom 10.

Mankato is the anomaly in the top 10, with a very low population but the third-highest average score of 708.

Minneapolis is the second-most populated city in the top 10., while San Francisco is the most populated metropolitan area in the top 10, ranked number 8 in average credit scores. Mankato is the anomaly in the top 10, with a very low population but the third-highest average score of 708.

How Can Residents in the Bottom Ten Cities Improve?

Cities with the lowest average credit scores in this year's analysis are all in Southern states. Greenwood, Miss. has the lowest average scores, followed by Albany, GA then four cities in Texas, two in Louisiana and one in Alabama.

Bottom 10 Lowest Average Credit Scores by City
RankingsCityState2017 Average VantageScorePopulation
1GreenwoodMiss.6248,540
2AlbanyGa.62616,428
3HarlingenTexas63147,368
4LaredoTexas63511,141
5RiversideCalif.6363,229
6Corpus ChristiTexas63826,671
7OdessaTexas64020,615
8MonroeLa.64021,694
9MontgomeryAla.64030,038
10ShreveportLa.64047,319

The populations of the cities ranked with the lowest average credit scores are small towns, but the data does not show that population is a major contributing factor. The main factors are late payments and using too much of your available credit limit.

For most credit scoring models, your payment history and utilization rate make up between 60% and 70% of your score.

Tips for Improving Your Credit Scores

Here are some ways you can better you credit score. For more tips, click here.

  1. Pay past due accounts to get them current. Pay at least the minimum payment, and continue to make payments on time every month.
  2. Pay down high credit card balances to improve your credit utilization rate.
  3. Be cautious when opening new accounts. Applying for credit will add a hard inquiry to your credit report, which impacts your credit scores.
  4. Closing credit card accounts may affect your credit utilization rate as it lowers your total available credit.
  5. Don't close the credit card you've had the longest if you can avoid it, as the "age" of your credit history factors into the calculation of your credit score.

The good news is that the negative impact of late payments, high utilization and inquiries will reduce over time. Starting your good credit habits now can get you to your personal best "State of Credit."


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, or other company, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. All information, including rates and fees, are accurate as of the date of publication.
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