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Credit Card Balances

With holiday spending expected to soar this year and some consumers using their favorite piece of plastic to front the cash, credit card balances are on the top of everyone’s mind.

Since a higher credit utilization ratio (total balances to total credit limits) can hurt your credit score, balances do matter. To see if your credit utilization is helping or hurting your score, you can look at your Credit Report Card, which gives your utilization a grade.

To get an idea of where Americans’ current credit card spending sits, we looked at data from the Experian-Oliver Wyman Market Intelligence Reports. Experian recently launched IntelliView, a Web-based query, analysis and reporting tool that crunches the data in these reports. We used this tool to compile a list of the 10 states with the highest average bank card balance per consumer in the third quarter of 2012, the most recent data set available. We looked at a list of the 10 states with the highest average bank card balance per consumer in the third quarter of 2012, the most recent data set available. The findings cover only revolving bank card balances for accounts that carried a balance in that quarter.

The full rankings, which are listed below, show a general trend of NorthEastern states dominating the top 10. In the past four quarters, states like New Jersey and Connecticut have comprised almost half of the list of states with the highest bank card balances. But one non-NorthEast state continues to dominate the top of the list.

[Related Article: A Credit Insider’s Tips for Holiday Spending]

Free Credit Check & MonitoringAlaska took the designation of the state with the highest average bank card balance per consumer handily for each of the past four quarters, coming in at $5,572 for the third quarter of 2012. “The Last Frontier,” as it’s called, has a poverty rate significantly lower than the national average as well as a higher median household income than the U.S. as a whole. So, citizens may not be spending beyond their means, they might just be making more money.

What do the balance numbers signal about Americans’ ability to manage their credit cards? Alan Ikemura, Senior Product Manager of Experian Decision Sciences, says Experian is focused on the improvement in Americans’ payments. He reports that the group has seen “fantastic performance” in on-time payments, with delinquency rates dropping significantly over a three-year period.

[Related Article: 10 Cities That Survived the Credit Crunch]

On the other end of the spectrum, North Dakota and Iowa were the states with the lowest bank card balances in the third quarter of 2012, at $3,595 and $3,624, respectively.

Here are the full rankings for the states that had the highest average bank card balance per consumer in the third quarter of 2012, the most recent data available:

  1. Alaska | $5,572
  2. New Jersey | $5,305
  3. Connecticut | $5,182
  4. Colorado | $5,043
  5. Maryland | $5,035
  6. Delaware | $5,020
  7. Georgia | $4,993
  8. D.C. | $4,910
  9. Virginia | $4,898
  10. New York | $4,891

Image: shawnzrossi, via Flickr

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