10 States With the Highest (and Lowest) Credit Card Debt

Isla Fisher in Confessions of a Shopaholic, holding a credit card bill

Credit card debt is a problem for some people more than others | Touchstone Pictures

Seeing your credit card bill arrive in the mail might not be pleasant, but is more likely to be a problem for people in some states compared to others. A number of factors can affect how easy it is to pay the bill each month — including how much you’re spending, how much you’re making, and whether you have healthy financial habits in place.

According to a recent report from CreditCards.com, people in some states have a much harder job of paying off their credit card debt than others. While any credit balance can feel oppressive, the outlook for people in some states is worse because of other factors, including income. “A person’s income is incredibly important when it comes to their ability to pay off the credit card debt,” Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst for CreditCards.com, told The Cheat Sheet in an interview.

In light of that, the site compared the average credit card balances in each state against the median incomes, to see how long it would likely take residents of each state to pay off their credit card tabs. Not surprisingly, states that ranked the worst often had higher than average credit card spending, compared to the national average credit card burden of $5,551. However, the larger issue was that residents in those states also tended to earn less than the national average, further crippling their ability to pay back those balances. The nationwide median earnings was $31,394, Schulz said, though state median incomes varied quite a bit. 

CreditCards.com calculated how long it would take residents in each state to pay off the average credit card bill, assuming people set aside 15% of their income each month for debt repayment. Schulz explained that’s typically the amount that credit counselors and other experts recommend if you’re hoping to make strides in your debt management. Based on that, here are the states in the best and worst financial shape — at least when it comes to the bills they rack up on plastic.

States with the lowest credit card debt burdens

5. Wisconsin

State Capitol building in Madison Wisconsin

State Capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin | iStock.com/csfotoimages

  • Average credit card balance: $4,693
  • Median earnings: $31,474
  • Months to pay off credit card debt: 14
  • Amount of interest to pay off: $421
  • 90+ day delinquency rate: 23%

Wisconsin residents might make just above the national household income, but their credit card tabs are lower than the average bill across the country. If typical residents put aside 15% of their income to tackle their credit bills each month, they could likely pay off the balance in 14 months, CreditCards.com calculated. Though almost a quarter of Wisconsin residents are delinquent on their credit payments, it’s nothing compared to many other worse-off states.

4. Massachusetts

Boston skyline at dusk

Boston skyline at dusk | iStock.com/MIHAI ANDRITOIU

  • Average credit card balance: $5,565
  • Median earnings: $38,648
  • Months to pay off credit card debt: 13
  • Amount of interest to pay off: $482
  • 90+ day delinquency rate: 21%

Consumers in Massachusetts have a higher-than-average credit card load, but the state’s higher than normal income also means the debt should be less of a burden. They’ll likely pay a bit more in interest because of a higher starting point, but would be able to pay off their tab in 13 months.

3. Minnesota

Minneapolis downtown skyline

Minneapolis downtown skyline | iStock.com/RudyBalasko

  • Average credit card balance: $5,170
  • Median earnings: $35,147
  • Months to pay off credit card debt: 13
  • Amount of interest to pay off: $458
  • 90+ day delinquency rate: 17%

Slightly lower credit spending and slightly higher income compared to the nation means that residents in Minnesota have a relatively lighter debt burden. Only 17% of residents in the state are delinquent on their payments — the lowest figure among the states included in the report.

2. Iowa

Des Moines

Des Moines, Iowa | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

  • Average credit card balance: $4,410
  • Median earnings: $30,916
  • Months to pay off credit card debt: 13
  • Amount of interest to pay off: $379
  • 90+ day delinquency rate: 22%

People in Iowa make less than the median income across the nation. However, they also have the smallest debt total — more than $1,100 less than the national average and more than $3,100 less than the state with the highest credit card debt burden. In this case, Iowans prove that you don’t need high income to avoid major credit problems.

To a degree, a lot of credit card debt comes down to making choices in how you handle your money,” Schulz said. Unexpected crises like high medical bills or unemployment can always change those circumstances in an instant, he added, “but it is important for people to remember that they do have a lot of power when it comes to changing their situation and making things better.”

1. North Dakota

Fargo, North Dakota, United States

Fargo, North Dakota | iStock.com/Ben Harding

  • Average credit card balance: $4,599
  • Median earnings: $34,336
  • Months to pay off credit card debt: 12
  • Amount of interest to pay off: $370
  • 90+ day delinquency rate: 20%

North Dakotans carry a higher credit balance than residents in Iowa, but a higher income helps to offset that issue. As a result, people in North Dakota would be able to pay off their average credit card balance in just 12 months, with only $370 required to cover the interest. Paying off credit cards can seem daunting, but that’s good news for North Dakota residents.

States with the worst credit card debt burdens

5. Florida

Tallahassee, Florida

Tallahassee, Florida | iStock.com/Sean Pavone

  • Average credit card balance: $5,603
  • Median earnings: $28,381
  • Months to pay off credit card debt: 18
  • Amount of interest to pay off: $678
  • 90+ day delinquency rate: 38%

When compared to the states with the lowest credit card burdens, you should notice some immediate differences when it comes to states like Florida. Median earnings are significantly lower than many of the states listed previously, and credit card balances tend to be higher. Even if Florida residents set 15% of their income aside, it would take them an average of 18 months to pay off their tab — racking up a much higher interest payment in the process. Not surprisingly, delinquency rates are much higher for the states with a higher debt burden.

4. Texas

Dallas, Texas cityscape with blue sky

Dallas, Texas cityscape | iStock.com/f11photo

  • Average credit card balance: $6,009
  • Median earnings: $31,038
  • Months to pay off credit card debt: 18
  • Amount of interest to pay off: $712
  • 90+ day delinquency rate: 44%

Texas residents have racked up the second-highest credit card balance in the report, with median earnings below the national average. The consequence is that it would take an average of 18 months to pay off those bills, with a hefty interest payment to boot. According to the report, Texans also have the highest delinquency rate among the states included in the summary.

3. Georgia

Columbus, Georgia, USA

Columbus, Georgia | iStock.com/SeanPavonePhoto

  • Average credit card balance: $5,953
  • Median earnings: $30,284
  • Months to pay off credit card debt: 18
  • Amount of interest to pay off: $716
  • 90+ day delinquency rate: 40%

Credit card balances dip for Georgia residents compared to those living in Texas, but unfortunately so does income. That lands Georgians in a slightly worse position, with an expected payback period of 18 months and slightly higher interest payments than what Texans would pay on average.

2. New Mexico

Santa Fe

Road sign in Santa Fe, New Mexico | iStock.com

  • Average credit card balance: $5,615
  • Median earnings: $26,244
  • Months to pay off credit card debt: 20
  • Amount of interest to pay off: $743
  • 90+ day delinquency rate: 39%

Low incomes are the Achilles’ heel in several of the Sun Belt states, according to CreditCards.com’s report. Residents in New Mexico have a credit card balance that’s only $64 more than the national average, but they’re saddled with the second-lowest median income in the nation, better only compared to Idaho. As a result it would take consumers in New Mexico 20 months to pay back their credit card tabs.

1. Alaska

Byers Lake, Alaska is the closest view to Mount McKinley

Denali in Alaska | iStock.com/mbarrettimages

  • Average credit card balance: $7,552
  • Median earnings: $35,552
  • Months to pay off credit card debt: 20
  • Amount of interest to pay off: $992
  • 90+ day delinquency rate: 34%

Though Alaskans make more money than the national average, they outspend them, too. The average credit card balance for those living in The Last Frontier is 36% higher than the national average — an amount that an extra $4,000 can’t improve. It would take the average Alaskan 20 months to pay back their credit card tabs, with almost a full $1,000 in interest payments alone.

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