Personal Finance

The Most Credit Card Hungry States

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There are many reasons to open a new credit card: Maybe you want to take advantage of its great rewards, transfer a balance from a different card with a higher interest rate, finance a large purchase, make ends meet in an emergency or increase your available credit limit.

But in some states, credit card holders like to spend a lot of money right when they get their fresh pieces of plastic. Sure, it’s exciting to get a new credit card, but it’s not as if the magnetic stripe goes bad if you don’t use it right away. A high balance on your credit card can hurt your credit score, too. Of course, there could be a good reason for posting a balance right away (e.g. balance transfer, taking advantage of promotional financing), but if you’re using the card for rewards or trying to improve your credit score, you won’t want to run up a balance.

Burning a Hole in Their Wallets?

Looking at data from Experian-Oliver Wyman Market Intelligence Reports, Alaskans seem to be particularly spend-happy when they get new credit cards. In the third quarter of 2013, the most recent data available, the average credit limit for a new credit card in Alaska was $4,835, according to a report produced by Experian’s IntelliView tool. And among the cards opened that same quarter, the average balance on credit card statements that quarter was $1,364. That’s just shy of a 30% credit utilization rate within the first three months of opening the card.

A 30% credit utilization is pretty good, but lower is better. To get the best credit score in this area, you’d want to use less than 10% of your available credit.

Of course, Alaskans aren’t alone in running up balances in the early days of a credit card. Here are some other states with high average balances on new cards.

10. New Hampshire
Average balance on credit cards opened in Q3 2013: $1,130
Average limit on new credit cards: $5,246

9. Oklahoma
Average balance: $1,137
Average limit: $4,432

8. Alabama
Average balance: $1,144
Average limit: $4,366

7. Washington
Average balance: $1,175
Average limit: $5,343

6. Texas
Average balance: $1,180
Average limit: $4,609

5. Maryland
Average balance: $1,222
Average limit: $5,355

4. Delaware
Average balance: $1,225
Average limit: $4,970

3. Virginia
Average balance: $1,254
Average limit: $5,349

2. District of Columbia
Average balance: $1,290
Average limit: $6,369

1. Alaska
Average balance: $1,364
Average limit: $4,835

In all, 15 states had average balances higher than $1,100, and only one, North Dakota, had an average balance lower than $1,000, at $984. And compared with the same time in 2012, most states’ average balances on new cards has gone up (as have limits).

Perhaps what’s most interesting is how a state’s average balance doesn’t correlate with its average credit score. For example, only three states on this list were in the bottom 10 for average credit scores (Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas). New Hampshire, on the other hand, has a high average credit score.

There are a lot of other things that go into credit scoring other than your credit utilization rate, even though that’s very important. If you’re curious about how your credit card usage (or lack thereof) affects your credit score, you can easily see a breakdown of your credit history with a free account. Other than debt usage, your payment history, mix of credit accounts, average age of accounts and number of credit applications affect your score, with payment history as the most important factor. Still, it’s a good idea to keep your debt levels down.

More on Credit Scores:

Image: Hemera

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