The annual holiday season came and went four months ago, but some consumers may still be paying off their purchases, given that the average consumer owed more than $4,200 on his or her bank cards as of Dec. 31, 2010, according to new data from Experian, one of the three major credit reporting bureaus.
Consumers today have fewer bank cards, that number having dropped nearly 23 percent since 2007 to 1.97, or slightly less than two cards per person, on average. But the utilization of those cards jumped nearly 10 percent over the same time period, with consumers now utilizing more than 30 percent, on average, of their total available bank-card limits.
Carrying high balances affects a consumer's utilization rate, which plays a significant role in how his or her credit score is calculated, according to Maxine Sweet, vice president of public education at Experian.
"By carrying over credit card balances and utilizing a significant portion of their available balance, (consumers) can potentially negatively affect their credit scores, which can, in turn, hurt them when it comes to applying for other types of credit," Sweet said in a company statement. "It's important for consumers to get that debt under control before it has a lasting impact on their credit scores."
Experian also identified the 25 U.S. cities where consumers had the highest bank-card debt, on average, in December 2010. The top 10 and their average balances were:
1. San Antonio: $5,177 -- 21 percent higher than the national average.
2. Jacksonville, Fla.: $5,115.
3. Atlanta: $4,960.
4. Honolulu: $4,939.
5. Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas: $4,936.
6. Norfolk, Va.: $4,925.
7. Seattle: $4,877.
8. Austin, Texas: $4,791.
9. Richmond, Va.: $4,771.
10. San Diego: $4,673.
The next 15 on the list were: Baltimore; Columbus, Ohio; Denver; Tallahassee, Fla.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Las Vegas; Washington, D.C.; Augusta, Ga.; Reno, Nev.; Spokane, Wash.; Savannah, Ga.; Phoenix; Miami; Montgomery, Ala.; and Orlando, Fla.
So, how high is your balance, and what's your plan -- if you have one -- to pay it off?
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