Millennials and Credit: The Struggle Is Real

Stressed and worried young Asian woman working from home, handling paperworks and going through her financials

It's no secret that millennials are saddled with debt. But what many people might not know: Millennials also have one of the lowest average credit scores of any generation.

Weighed down by student loan debt and maturing on the heels of the 2008 economic crisis, millennials—people between ages 23 and 38—have had a tough time getting ahead financially. Held back by their credit scores, some millennials have struggled to obtain new credit and, as a result, may be finding it hard to reach certain financial milestones.

To understand more about millennial credit scores, Experian took a look at data from the fourth quarter of 2018 to see where these consumers had the best and worst FICO® Scores , what type of debt they had and how they've progressed in the past year.

Millennials Have an Average FICO® Score of 665

Compared with the national average of 701, millennials had an average FICO® Score of 665 in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to Experian data. The silent generation, those in their 70s and older, had the highest average FICO® Score of 756, followed by baby boomers, who had an average score of 732. Generation Z—the youngest group, with people between ages 18 and 22—had the same average score as millennials.

Here are some quick facts about millennial debt across the country:

  • Millennials have an average credit card balance of $5,231, up 7% year over year from $4,869 in 2017.
  • Millennials carried an average of $34,770 in student loan debt, up 8% from $32,239 in 2017.
  • Millennials have an average total debt amount of $80,666, up 11% from $72,988 in 2017.

Millennials in Minnesota Have the Highest Average FICO® Scores

Minnesota had the highest average millennial FICO® Score among states, with an average of 698—just three points shy of the national average of 701, according to Experian data from the fourth quarter of 2018. The District of Columbia followed with an average score of 697 for millennials, and North Dakota came in third with an average score of 693. Massachusetts had the fourth-highest average millennial FICO® Score at 692, followed by South Dakota, which had a 690.

States Where Millennials Had the Highest FICO® Scores
Top 10 StatesFICO® ScoreAverage Total Debt Balance
District of Columbia697$115,359
North Dakota693$98,861
South Dakota690$92,739

Source: Experian Q4 2018 data

Millennials in Mississippi Have the Lowest Average FICO® Scores

Mississippi millennials had the lowest score with an average FICO® Score of 621—a 44-point difference from the millennial average of 665. Alabama had the second-lowest average score at 633, followed by South Carolina at 635 and Louisiana at 636. West Virginia—the only state not located in the South—came in fifth with an average FICO® Score of 637.

States Where Millennials Had the Lowest FICO® Scores
Top 10 StatesFICO® ScoreAverage Total Debt Balance
South Carolina635$75,498
West Virginia637$69,378
New Mexico639$69,762

Source: Experian Q4 2018 data

How to Tackle Debt

If you're a millennial carrying more debt than you'd like, here are a few things you can do to get a handle on your finances:

  • Think about making a repayment plan. Repayment plans are informal, but they can be extremely helpful for planning and tackling debt. Just making a plan for how you will pay off your credit cards can give you the motivation to get it done. Once you've gotten a handle on your debt, your credit score may improve and new financial possibilities may become available.
  • Don't miss any payments. Payment history the most important factor in calculating your credit score. Even one late or missed payment can have a lasting negative impact on your score, so it's important to make sure never to miss a payment.
  • Periodically monitor your credit score for opportunities to improve it. Your credit score can be the gatekeeper for new borrowing opportunities. Keeping an eye on your score can give you insight into which areas of your credit profile you may need to improve, which may help you increase your score over time.

If you don't know where your credit stands, you can get a free copy of your credit report from Experian. Also check out Experian Boost®ø, a new tool that can help you increase your FICO® Score in minutes using certain positive payment history from your utility and telecom bills.