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You may know how your credit score measures up to the national average FICO score of 716, but with the wide diversity of incomes, debt and economic backgrounds across the country, the average credit score can vary widely by state.
A lot more goes into your credit score than paying your bills on time, but not everyone knows what they can do to increase their score. Opening new accounts periodically, for example, may improve credit over time, but 30 percent of credit cardholders have never switched their primary credit card, according to Bankrate.
Here’s how the average credit score in each state breaks down.
Bankrate’s key credit score insights
- 43% of U.S. adults with credit card debt don’t know all of the interest rates on their cards that carry balances from month to month. (Bankrate)
- 37% of U.S. adults with credit card debt don’t know that 0% balance transfer cards exist. (Bankrate)
- 63% of cardholders who make $100,000 or more annually pay their credit card bills in full every month. (Bankrate)
- 45% of cardholders who make less than $50,000 annually pay their credit card bills in full every month. (Bankrate)
- The average number of hard credit inquiries fell 12.1% year-over-year, as of April 2021, indicating that fewer people are actively seeking credit. (FICO)
- 17% of the FICO-scorable population experienced a score decrease of 20 or more points between April 2020 and April 2021. (FICO)
Average credit scores by state in 2021
The latest available average credit score is 716, but looking at each state shows that most have a higher credit score than average. Minnesota had the highest credit score in the country as of 2021, the latest state data available from Experian, with an average score of 742.
Minnesota is the only state in the country with an average credit score above 740. Minnesota’s average credit score is even better since 2020, when it was still the highest in the country at 739.
|Rank||State||Average credit score in 2021||Score increase since 2020|
|30||District of Columbia||717||+4|
The average national score remained the same between 2022 and 2021 after years of increases, according to FICO. Experian data showed the average credit score also increased in every state between 2020 and 2021.
The average increase ranged between two and six points, depending on the state, according to Experian data analyzed by Bankrate. Maine, Nevada and Mississippi saw the highest average credit score increase from 2020 to 2021, all increasing by six points. Oklahoma’s and South Dakota’s average credit scores only raised two points.
How high interest rates are impacting American credit
The U.S. inflation rate was 6.4 percent in January 2023, as of the latest data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, reflecting an increase of everyday costs of living. To combat that, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates by 0.25 percentage points on Feb.1, the latest increase after several months of rate hikes in 2022.
Lending institutions use the federal funds rate to influence their rates, which means interest rates on mortgages, credit cards and more can be affected by each rate hike. That means raised rates impact those who want to finance a house or other purchases, which can spell trouble if you’re trying to improve your credit score and pay down your mortgage or credit card debt.
Practicing better credit habits can help with feeling the impact of rising interest rates. For example, if you have variable interest on your credit cards, that changes along with the Fed’s rate, which means you may need to pay more to keep your card balance down. But not all regions or states of the U.S. practice the same credit behavior, even as interest rises.
|Region of the U.S.||Percentage who pay their card in full monthly||Percentage who carry a balance||Percentage who do not have credit cards|
A Bankrate survey found that more people in the Northeast U.S., compared to lower-income regions like the South, pay their credit cards in full each month. Northeast residents have a higher median family income ($102,316 as of 2021), compared to Southerners ($78,483 as of 2021), according to St. Louis Fed data. The South has the highest percentage of people in the U.S. without a credit card (29 percent), according to Bankrate.
How might credit scores change in 2023?
Credit card balances are rising as Americans take on more debt, but delinquencies, defaults and debt-to-income ratios are still below historical figures, according to Bankrate Senior Industry Analyst Ted Rossman.
“Credit card rates have been routinely setting new record highs, and the combination of pricier everyday expenses and splurging on post-pandemic pent-up demand for travel, dining and other out-of-home activities has pushed credit card balances considerably higher,” Rossman said.
As a result, Rossman explained that, according to the Federal Reserve, a third of credit card issuers have begun tightening their lending standards, while half plan to do so in 2023.
“It’s getting harder to build and maintain a strong credit score,” Rossman said. “There’s a cumulative toll to high inflation and higher interest rates, and lenders expect delinquencies to continue to increase from the artificially low levels we observed in 2020 and early 2021.”
But Rossman isn’t expecting a credit crisis.
“‘Normalization’ is the trendy phrase — as in, back to 2019-ish levels, which weren’t so bad,” Rossman said. “But the job market warrants a close watch. Many people are sounding recession alarm bells, but so far, most of the economic data has been more positive. If the unemployment rate rises more than anticipated, the effects on the credit market would be much more pronounced.”
The U.S. economic state resembles a K-shaped recovery, Rossman says, in which some parts of the economy are recovering, while some parts are stagnant or falling. Though low-income families are experiencing the effects of high inflation and interest rates, higher-income families are weathering the uncertainty better, leading to a mixed overall national result.
Why your credit score matters
Your credit score is one of the most important numbers in your financial life. It goes a long way toward determining whether or not you’ll be approved for loans and lines of credit. Landlords typically check your credit score during the application process. Cell phone companies and other utilities often run credit checks, too. Even some employers review prospective new hires’ credit reports.
If your credit profile is unfavorable, your application could be rejected. Even if you’re approved, a low credit score could cost you in the form of a higher interest rate on your mortgage, car loan or credit card. That could equate to big bucks over time.
How to improve your credit score
Many of these factors evolve slowly over time. One of the quickest things you can do to improve your score is to lower your credit utilization ratio (credit you’re using divided by credit available to you). Your ratio might be high even if you pay your credit card balances in full each month because it’s typically reported on the statement date. Good fixes include making bi-weekly payments and asking for higher credit limits.
Other ways to increase your credit score quickly include getting on someone else’s credit card as an authorized user and signing up for services such as Experian Boost, Perch and eCredable Lift. These can incorporate your payment history for various financial commitments that aren’t included on traditional credit reports (such as utilities, streaming subscriptions and rent).
- Credit scores in 2022: Statistics and how to build your credit
- What is a good credit score?
- Why is good credit so important?
Bankrate.com commissioned YouGov PLC to conduct the survey on carrying credit card debt. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov PLC. Total sample size was 2,458 U.S. adults, including 1,876 credit cardholders and 849 who carry credit card debt from month to month. Fieldwork was undertaken December 7-9, 2022. The survey was carried out online and meets rigorous quality standards. It employed a non-probability-based sample using both quotas upfront during collection and then a weighting scheme on the back end designed and proven to provide nationally representative results.