Why is the Lone Star State racking up so much debt? Its two largest cities—Dallas and Houston/Fort Worth make the list of the cities with the most credit card debt, and San Antonio comes in as No. 1.
The new study from CreditCards.com used credit report data from Experian to compare the average credit card debt in the 25 largest U.S. metro areas with each area’s median income. It assumed that 15 percent of a person's monthly income would be spent on paying down credit card debt.
The analysis claims it would take San Antonio residents with median incomes of $27,491 a full 16 months to pay off an average of $4,880, making monthly payments of $344 a month. By comparison, a resident of San Francisco making $42,613 a year would pay off $4,393 in credit card debt with nine monthly payments of $533 per month.
The cities with the highest credit card debt burdens were:
- San Antonio
- Dallas/Fort Worth
- Miami/Fort Lauderdale
The metro areas with the highest debt don’t necessarily have the highest debt burdens when adjusted for income. For example, Washington, D.C. has the nation’s highest average credit card debt at $5,046, but since it also has the highest median income in the nation, its debt burden is lower. By applying 15 percent of their paychecks, residents can pay off that debt in 10 months.
The cities with the lowest credit card debt burdens were:
- New York City
- Minneapolis/St. Paul
- Washington, D.C.
- San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose
Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com, points out that there isn’t much difference between the city with the highest credit card debt, Washington, D.C. ($5,046), and the city with the lowest credit card debt, the Riverside-San Bernardino area ($4,137), but there is a big difference in income. A higher income means that debts can be paid off more quickly. “It really is all about earnings,” Schulz says. “People are using their credit cards whether they live in the biggest city in the country or they live in the 25th biggest city in the country.”
While most folks won’t be able to increase their income that dramatically, there are still steps they can take to make sure they’re tackling their credit card debt in the most effective way possible.
His advice to consumers? “Absolutely, positively pay more than the minimum on your credit card balance every month.” And the next best thing? “If you can’t pay the full balance, then you have to pay off more than the minimum.”
Schulz also recommends calling the credit card issuer and asking if you can get better terms. “It’s certainly worth a call,” says Schulz. “We did a study last year that showed that 65 percent of people who asked for a lower interest rate got a lower APR.” The same study said that 86 percent of people who asked for a waiver of a late payment fee were successful in getting the charge removed.
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