Places where credit scores have risen the fastest

Your credit score is important. It can help determine whether you get a credit card with a 0% intro APR or a 23% APR. It can also help determine if your mortgage interest rate is going to be 3.5% or 5.5% – or if you qualify for a mortgage at all. People in some cities seem to be doing a better job improving their credit scores as compared to people in other cities. Read on as SmartAsset looks at credit scores across the country to find the places where credit scores are rising the fastest.

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In order to find the places where credit scores have risen the fastest, SmartAsset looked at credit score data from Experian. We use this data to find the percent change in credit scores from 2010 to 2016. We ranked metro areas from largest percent change to the lowest. Check out our data and methodology section to see where we got our data and how we put it together to create our rankings.

Key Findings

  • People are getting more credit savvy – In 2016 the average American is more credit savvy than the average American was in 2010. Data from Experian shows the average credit score for Americans in 2010 was 667. By 2016 that number rose to 673. This held true across most cities, as well. Metro level data shows a similar increase. On average metros saw their residents' credit scores increase by 3.5 points.
  • Things may be a bit shaky in Montana – Montana used to have some of the most credit-savvy residents in the country. And to be fair, they still do. But Big Sky Country residents' credit scores slipped from 2010 to 2016. Two Montana cities, Glendive and Helena, saw credit scores fall by two of the fastest rates in our study, 2.13% and 0.57%, respectively. However residents of both cities still have credit scores well above the national average.

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Places where credit scores have risen the fastest
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Places where credit scores have risen the fastest

1. Las Vegas, Nevada

When you imagine fiscal responsibility does Sin City spring to mind? Probably not and for a good reason. In 2016 the average resident in Las Vegas had a credit score of 645, which is below the national average. But it could be worse. In 2010 the average Las Vegas resident has a credit score of 626. That number is so low it makes it significantly more difficult for them to get approved for a mortgage. Overall from 2010 to 2016, Las Vegas residents increased their credit score by 3.04% – the fastest increase in the nation.

Photo credit: Getty

2. Fort Myers-Naples, Florida

Residents of the Fort Myers-Naples metro area saw some impressive gains on their credit scores. If we were measuring by points gained they would actually be tied with Las Vegas. The average resident grew her credit score by 19 points, up from 666 in 2010 to 685 in 2016. While 685 is pretty good there is always space to improve. For example, if you are the type who always pays off your credit card bills on time and in full, but uses most of your credit limit, consider asking for an increase of your credit limit. This will lower your utilization rate, an important metric which helps determine your credit score.

Photo credit: Getty

3. (tie) Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix residents tied with Palm Springs residents for third. On average, residents’ credit scores in the Phoenix area increased by 14 points, or 2.15%. Average scores rose from 651 in 2010 to 665 in 2016. Much of that increase came from Gen Xers and millennials. Gen Xers increased their credit scores from 616 to 642 on average. While millennials increased their scores from 598 to 621 on average.

Photo credit: Getty

3. (tie) Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs is tied with Phoenix at third for average credit score increase. In 2010 the average credit score in Palm Springs was 651 and by 2016 it had risen to 665. Unlike Phoenix however, it was the Baby Boomers doing the heavy lifting. Baby Boomers increased their credit scores from 654 to 687 on average.

Photo credit: Getty

5. Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles residents increased their credit score by the same number of points as Phoenix and Palm Springs but because they started from a higher number, they had a lower percent increase. But still a 2.13% change, from 656 to 670, is impressive. The good news for Angelenos is that almost all generations are taking measures to improve their finances. Every generation except the Silent Generation saw their credit scores rise from 2010 to 2016.

Photo credit: Getty

6. Austin, Texas

Austin was one of the more financially responsible cities in our top 10. The average credit score in Texas’ capital was 671 in 2016. That’s the third-highest score in the top 10. Overall the average credit score in Austin increased by 1.98% Unfortunately not all groups saw their credit scores increase. The Silent Generation and Generation Z both saw declines in their credit scores. 

Photo credit: Getty

7. San Diego, California

San Diegans started 2010 with an average credit score of 665. By 2016 the average credit score rose 13 points to 678. That means that the average credit score in San Diego in 2010 was considered a “fair” score and in 2016 is was considered a “good” score. Having a “good” or better credit score is key to unlocking access to better credit card and mortgage rates.

Photo credit: Getty

8. Riverside-San Bernardino, California

Back in 2010 residents in Riverside-San Bernardino needed a financial intervention. They had an average credit score of 620, which not only locks them out from good mortgage rates, it also stops them from getting the best rewards credit cards. By 2016 they saw some improvement. Residents increased their credit scores by an average of 12 points from 620 to 632, for an overall increase of 1.94%.

There’s still room for improvement, of course and there’s a lot of work to be done for millennials and Generation Zers in Riverside-San Bernardino. Both those generations have average credit scores below 600. Some ways to improve your credit score are to pay monthly bills on time and lower your credit card debt. It’s also important to check you credit report for any inaccuracies and then work on getting any errors fixed.

Photo credit: Getty

9. Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Miami-Fort Lauderdale residents increased their credit scores by 1.86% from 2010 to 2016. Average credit scores in the area rose from 646 to 658 over that time. This metro area is unique in our top 10 in that all but one generation saw their average credit scores increase. Only the Silent Generation saw their credit scores decline over this time. But don’t feel too bad for them, the average credit score among Miami’s Silent Generation is above 700. 

Photo credit: Getty

10. Salisbury, Maryland

Rounding out our top 10 is Salisbury, Maryland. Salisbury is a city just south of the Maryland-Delaware border with a population around 33,000. Average credit scores in the Salisbury area went from 658 to 670. That’s an increase of 12 points, or 1.82%. Generation Z, in particular, saw a dramatic increase in average credit scores, up from 533 in 2010 to 626 in 2016.

Photo credit: Gettty

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Data and Methodology

In order to find the places where credit scores are rising the fastest, SmartAsset compared average credit scores in 2010 to those in 2016 in 211 metro areas. We based our final ranking on the percent change in credit scores from 2010 to 2016. The areas were ranked from largest percent change to smallest.

Data on credit scores comes from Experian's State of Credit Report for 2016.

Questions about our study? Contact us at press@smartasset.com

Photo credit: iStock.com/Peopleimages

The post Places Where Credit Scores Have Risen the Fastest appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

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