Hint: It’s in a state with a lot of cheese. It has a low unemployment rate. It has about 40,000 people. Ok, you probably haven’t heard of it.
In Experian’s latest analysis of U.S. cities, Wausau, Wisconsin, took the top prize as the city with the best average credit score in the country. Residents of Wausau have an average credit score of 789. The national average is 749, while the lowest city in the study, Harlingen, Texas, had an average score of 686.
The highest credit scores were overwhelmingly found in the Midwest. In fact, 8 of the top 10 average credit scores are in that area of the country, including Minneapolis (last year’s No. 1), Madison, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Wausau seems to be doing everything right: At the time of the survey, the average debt there was $22,439 ($2,000 lower than the national average); the unemployment rate was 8.1 percent; and there were only a handful of foreclosures.
The Midwest fared far better than other regions in the U.S. It seems that during better economic times, its residents tend to stay within their financial means.
By contrast, many of the worst average credit scores were found in the southern states, including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia.
The good news is that, nationally, our credit score is going up — but barely. This year, it’s 749. Last year it was 748. Before the recession it was 754.
What’s funny is that Wausau’s residents aren’t exactly celebrating their distinction. In fact, they’re questioning it. “If the majority of people in Wausau had a 789 credit score, I would be shocked,” said Kathy Jansen, a vice president at Cloverbelt Credit Union in Wausau.
Some bankers in Wausau are actually questioning the survey’s legitimacy, and believe that the average score is in fact much lower. But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wausau’s unemployment rate has been falling over the last several months and now sits at 7.4%. So Wausau appears to be doing something right. Perhaps modesty and frugality go hand in hand.