Americans’ credit scores have improved dramatically over the past decade. Even the brief but sharp COVID-19 recession couldn’t stop the upward progress. In fact, credit scores actually jumped in 2020 and 2021 as consumers pared back spending and paid off debt.
The average consumer’s FICO score was 714 in Q3 2021, up from 691 in 2023 and 687 in 2011. But that’s just the national mean. State average credit scores range from 742 in Minnesota to 681 in Mississippi.
Find out the average credit score in your state, how (and why) it compares to neighboring states, and how your friends’ and neighbors’ FICO scores have changed over time.
These are our top takeaways from recent national and state-level FICO score data:
- Minnesota is the only state where the average consumer has “very good” credit, using the generally accepted minimum of 740 on the FICO scale. The average credit score in the 49 other states and Washington, D.C., qualifies as “good,” though some teeter close to the “fair” threshold at 669.
- The average FICO score has risen without interruption since 2013, when the economy finally began turning the corner after the Great Recession.
- Only 61 points separate the highest and lowest state average FICO scores. That doesn’t seem like a lot. But if your own credit score has changed significantly over time, you know there’s a big difference between 681 and 742 on the FICO scale.
- On average, FICO scores are lower in the South and higher in the North. All top five states border Canada. Four of the bottom five border the Gulf of Mexico.
- State average FICO scores correlate with per-capita income, but the relationship isn’t very strong.
Where Did We Get This Data?
All of the credit score data in this article comes from Experian’s annual Consumer Credit Review. Experian compiles this snapshot of consumer credit trends each year using data from Q3 of the previous year. Jonathon Watterson, Money Crashers’ lead data analyst, compiled all charts, tables, and maps.
FICO Score Ranges
The FICO scale runs from 300 to 850, with 300 being the lowest possible score and 850 representing perfect credit.
You can slice up the FICO scale in different ways, but the most common way to do it uses five rating categories:
|850 – 800||Excellent/Exceptional|
|799 – 740||Very Good|
|739 – 670||Good|
|669 – 580||Fair|
|579 – 300||Poor|
Almost all states have an average credit score in the “good” range between 670 and 739. Only Minnesota noses into “very good” territory, and barely.
That said, there’s a big difference between a FICO score of 681 and a FICO score of 742 (or 736, for that matter). With a credit score in the 680s, you’ll pay higher interest rates on credit cards, auto loans, mortgages — just about any credit product. And don’t expect to qualify for premium travel credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card.
Average Credit Scores by State
Mouse over your home state to see its average FICO score, then see how neighboring states fare in comparison.
The first thing that jumped out to us as we put this map together was the stark regional divide in state average credit scores.
With only a few exceptions, southern states have lower average credit scores than northern states. The bottom five states — Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Texas, and Oklahoma — form a contiguous bloc around the Mississippi Delta.
The five states with the highest average credit scores are more spread out geographically, from Washington State in the west to New Hampshire in the east. But four of the five border Canada, and Wisconsinites can break for Ontario across Lake Superior if so inclined. Is there something in the (chilly) air up there?
5 States With the Highest Credit Scores
In the top five states for credit scores, the average consumer’s FICO score is comfortably above 730. Minnesota is the undisputed leader of the pack at 742.
What the Top 5 States Have in Common
These states have a few things in common:
Four of the five border Canada, and the exception (Wisconsin) is pretty close. This is in keeping with the apparent trend of higher credit scores as you move north. Farther down the list, most of the top 15 states for average FICO score are also in the northern half of the U.S.
Relatively Low Population
None of the 10 most populous states make it into the top five for average FICO score. The largest is Washington State, in 13th place by population. Wisconsin (20th) comes next, followed by Minnesota (22nd), New Hampshire (41st), and Vermont (49th).
Relatively High Household Income
Population size and latitude don’t directly affect consumer credit scores, but per-capita income sure does. All else being equal, higher-income folks have an easier time repaying their debts and aren’t as likely to carry excessive credit card balances.
By 2019 median household income, the top five states rank as follows: Washington (7th), New Hampshire (8th), Minnesota (13th), Wisconsin (21st), and Vermont (26th). Many residents of Washington (Seattle), Minnesota (Minneapolis-St. Paul), and Wisconsin (Madison and Milwaukee) live in relatively high-income metro areas, and populous southeastern New Hampshire is part of the wealthy Boston metropolitan area.
Overrepresentation of Non-Hispanic Whites
Each of the top five states has a disproportionately high share of non-Hispanic whites, who our analysis of credit card debt in America found to have better access to credit than Black and Hispanic Americans. Per the 2020 U.S. Census, self-reported whites make up 61.6% of the total U.S. population, while the top five states break down as follows: Washington (66.6%), Minnesota (77.5%), Wisconsin (80.4%), New Hampshire (88.3%), and Vermont (89.8%).
5 States With the Lowest Credit Scores
The bottom five states all have average FICO scores of 692 or lower. Mississippi is in last place at 681.
What the Bottom 5 States Have in Common
These states have some notable similarities:
All of the bottom five states are in the southern half of the United States, a mirror image of the top five states.
Relatively Low Household Income
With the 22nd highest household income in the United States, only Texas qualifies as a middle-income state, thanks to dynamic, heavily populated metro areas like Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and Austin. The other four are at or near the bottom of the pile: Oklahoma (43rd), Alabama (46th), Louisiana (47th), and Mississippi (50th).
New Orleans, Baton Rouge (Louisiana), Jackson (Mississippi), and Birmingham (Alabama) are among the poorest midsized cities in the United States.
Poor Access to Financial Services
All of the bottom 5 states are underserved by mainstream financial services providers, according to the FDIC’s annual survey of unbanked Americans. About 4.5% of the U.S. population qualifies as unbanked, meaning they don’t have checking accounts or debit cards and may need to rely on predatory financial services like payday lenders.
The rates for the bottom five states are as follows: Alabama (4.7%), Oklahoma (5.4%), Texas (5.6%), Louisiana (8.1%), and Mississippi (11.1%).
Underrepresentation of Non-Hispanic Whites
The bottom five states are much more ethnically and racially diverse than the top five. Only Oklahoma has a higher share of non-Hispanic whites (63.5%) than the country as a whole (61.6%).
How Credit Scores Have Changed Over Time
We’ve seen how credit scores vary across geographies and how demographic factors like income and ethnicity affect them. But there’s another factor to consider: time.
Since 2005, the national average FICO score has fluctuated but primarily increased. Poor economic conditions are usually to blame when the national average credit score declines. When the economy recovers, so do credit scores.
Since 2005, the most noticeable downtrend at the national level occurred between 2008 and 2011. This coincided with the Great Recession and its aftermath, when unemployment spiked, incomes stagnated, asset prices fell, and more consumers turned to credit cards and personal loans to make ends meet.
From 2011 onward, average credit scores have risen steadily — first as consumers paid off old debt and rebuilt their credit after the lean years, and later as rising incomes and low unemployment made it easier for more Americans to keep up with their payments. But with average credit card balances nearing record highs and economic storm clouds looming, the party won’t last forever.
To understand why credit scores change over time, it’s helpful to know how credit rating agencies calculate them in the first place.
The FICO scoring model has five key elements, each with a different weight. Each is sensitive in its own way to changing macroeconomic conditions and consumer behavior:
- Payment History. Accounting for 35% of your score, this is the most critical factor in the FICO scoring model. That’s why even a single missed payment can make your credit score plummet. During periods of high unemployment and low or stagnant incomes, borrowers are more likely to fall behind on payments.
- Amounts Owed (Credit Utilization). Credit utilization counts for 30% of your score and is nearly as important as payment history. Borrow less than 30% of your available credit limit across all open accounts, and you’ll be fine. Go above that threshold, and your score could suffer. When times are tough or inflation runs rampant, people tend to take on high-interest credit cards and risky home equity products, jeopardizing their credit scores.
- Length of Credit History. This factor accounts for 15% of your credit score. It’s a straightforward one. The older your accounts are, on average, the better your score will be, all else being equal. Closing a bunch of old accounts or opening several new ones — which could happen during periods of financial stress — can negatively impact your credit score.
- Credit Mix. The FICO model likes a diverse mix of credit types, like credit cards, personal loans, mortgages, and auto loans. This factor only accounts for 10% of your score, but it can be a drag if you’re starting fresh after a bout of unemployment or self-imposed austerity.
- New Credit. The final 10% of your FICO score is basically a flashing yellow light warning you not to apply for too many loans at once. Rapid-fire credit applications suggest to the FICO model (and your creditors) that you’re overextended or will be soon.
The average credit score in every state is “good” or “very good.” Which means our work here is done, right?
Far from it. Yes, the mean American consumer has good credit. Yes, Americans’ credit scores have steadily increased for over a decade, and they positively jumped in 2020. Yes, Americans on the whole seem to be more credit-savvy than in the past.
But trouble lurks behind the headlines.
For starters, state average credit scores correlate closely with income, race and ethnicity, and access to basic financial services. The states at the bottom of this list tend to have lower household incomes, more residents from historically disadvantaged racial and ethnic groups, and fewer residents with bank accounts or debit cards.
Because good credit is the cornerstone of financial health, these disparities have measurable, real-world impacts. Bad credit makes it harder for people to buy houses, build wealth for themselves and their families, and feel like they’re actually getting ahead in the wealthiest country on earth.
More broadly, the era of rising credit scores could be coming to an end, at least for now. Inflation is rampant, forcing many consumers to live beyond their means. Most economists expect a recession in 2023, which could push more consumers into delinquency and force others to overextend their finances. So it’s likely just a matter of time before the trend reverses.