Which cities in America have been tightening their belts the most and getting down to the tough business of cutting their credit card debt? Turns out, consumers in areas where the recession hit hardest have been going down the most belt holes. Below, find the top 9 cities for credit card debt reduction.
On a year-over-year basis, nearly 60 percent of the 100 metropolitan areas that carried the most credit card debt saw significant declines in average balances judged as a percentage of income in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to new data from the credit reporting bureau Equifax. And the majority of those declines were observed in states hit hardest by the recession, including Florida, Louisiana, Washington and California. Florida had more cities with double-digit declines than any other state with five.
“It is interesting that [areas] from some of the states hardest hit by the recession showed some of the biggest reductions in credit card debt,” said Trey Loughran, president of Equifax’s personal solutions business. “This suggests that consumers from these hardest hit areas have been especially cautious in their spending and diligent in paying down their credit card debt.”
Port St. Lucie saw the largest declines in debt as a percentage of income nationally, at 23.59 percent. Ocala, Florida, was next at just under 21 percent, while the Bremerton-Silverdale, Washington, and Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana, areas were both above 20 percent as well. Here’s the list!
1. FL: Port St. Lucie – 23.59%
2. FL: Ocala – 20.97%
3. WA: Bremerton-Silverdale – 20.62%
4. LA: Shreveport-Bossier City – 20.10%
5. CA: Bakersfield-Delano – 19.05%
6. FL: Northport-Bradenton-Sarasota – 18.44%
7. FL: Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater – 18.43%
8. FL: Lakeland-Winter Haven – 18.32%
9. CA: Salinas – 17.85%
Consumers’ credit card debt has generally been falling since the fourth quarter of 2010, a trend that continued through to the end of last year. In 2010, prior to that trend of declines, consumers owed as much as 17 percent of their income to credit card lenders. American households still owe more than $800 billion to those lenders, but the amount of debt carried by consumers across all credit types – including mortgages, car loans, student loans, credit cards and the like – has fallen 11 percent in the more than three years since the all-time peak of $12.4 trillion observed in October 2008.
However, consumers are also beginning to feel better about their finances in general since the end of the recession and in recent months have even taken to opening new credit cards as lenders roll out efforts to market these accounts more aggressively. In particular, many lenders are now opening borrowing options to subprime borrowers who may have had the desire to borrow all along but were locked out by increased lending standards.
Don’t see your city on the list? Get cracking on cutting your credit card bills and maybe next time you’ll bump your town up to the top!
Image: James~Quinn, via Flickr