TransUnion has released its ranking of metropolitan areas with the highest and lowest consumer credit score in the country. Two areas in northern California--San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara (700) and San Francisco-Oakland-Freemont (696)--have the highest scores. Memphis is the area with the lowest credit score with 638.
The cities in the bottom ten are all in the South, while the cities in the top ten are scattered throughout the country.
Credit scores give a measurement of an individual's financial health. Consumers with higher credit scores receive the best interest rates on mortgages, loans and credit cards, in addition to better financing on larger purchases, such as automobiles. Credit scores may also affect housing rental and insurance rates.
"Just as an individual's credit score is a measure of the risk that consumer presents to a lender, our study calculated the credit score that would correspond to the risk presented on average by residents of various metropolitan areas," said Heather Battison, senior director at TransUnion responsible for consumer education.
The top 10 areas with the highest credit scores:
- San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 700
- San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA 696
- Madison, WI 694
- Honolulu, HI 693
- Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 691
- Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT 690
- Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH 689
- Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA 685
- Portland-South Portland-Biddeford, ME 685
- Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 685
The top 10 areas with the lowest credit scores:
- Memphis, TN-MS-AR 638
- McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX 639
- Jackson, MS 642
- El Paso, TX 650
- Columbia, SC 650
- Las Vegas-Paradise, NV 650
- Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR 651
- Baton Rouge, LA 651
- Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL 651
- Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC 651
Here are some consumer tips for increasing your credit score:
- Get a copy of your credit report from all three credit agencies. U.S. residents are entitled to one free copy of their credit report from each credit reporting agency once every 12 months. This information is found by calling 1-877-322-8228 or at AnnualCreditReport.com. If any of the information on a report is incorrect, contact the agency to correct it; doing so may give your score a quick boost.
- Pay all your bills on time. This is the single most important factor in your credit score because late and missed payments can quickly lower your credit score. Set payment reminders by email or text.
- Pay off your debt. High balances and high debt ratios drag down credit scores. If you have a good payment history, contact your creditors and ask for lower interest rates or transfer your balance to a lower rate credit card. Then use what you saved in interest to pay down your credit card balances. Make additional payments when you have extra cash.
- Build a long-term relationship with the accounts you have. Keep older credit card accounts open, even if you are not using them, because you are rewarded for a long, positive credit history on car loans, mortgages, and credit cards. If you feel you must close accounts for some reason, then close the newest ones first.
- Limit your credit applications. Too many new accounts can lower your credit score. Each time you apply for a loan, the application shows up on your credit report (this does not include shopping for a mortgage or a car loan).
- Get a checking and a savings account.
- If you can't pay your bills, contact your creditor or see a legitimate credit counselor. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling, a not-for-profit organization, can give counseling and help you put together a debt management plan.