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4 of Largest US Metros Have Average of More Than 30% of Credit Cardholders With 5-Figure Balances

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After several tumultuous years for the U.S. economy, the weight of consumer credit card debt has become increasingly burdensome. In fact, an average of 22.6% of American credit cardholders across the 100 largest metros have balances of at least $10,000 — an increase of 45.8% from 2019 and 32.9% from 2021.

We utilized LendingTree data from the first quarter of 2023 to determine the percentage of consumers with credit card balances of at least $10,000 and $50,000. Here’s what we found.

On this page

Key findings

  • The percentage of credit cardholders with five-figure debt continues to grow. 22.6% of American credit cardholders across the 100 largest metros have balances of at least $10,000 — up 45.8% from 2019 and 32.9% from 2021. In 2019 and 2021, the rate of cardholders with balances of at least $10,000 was 15.5% and 17.0%, respectively.
  • Four of the 100 largest U.S. metros have an average of more than 30% of credit cardholders with balances of at least $10,000. This list is led by Poughkeepsie, N.Y. (33.2%), New York (31.2%), Baton Rouge, La. (30.9%), and Bridgeport, Conn. (30.6%).
  • Five of the 100 largest metros have an average of less than 18% of credit cardholders with balances of at least $10,000. The five are Greensboro, N.C. (15.2%), Toledo, Ohio (16.5%), Harrisburg, Pa. (17.4%), Richmond, Va. (17.7%), and Durham, N.C. (17.9%).
  • If extended to balances of at least $50,000, Baton Rouge takes the top spot. 4.3% of cardholders in this Louisiana metro have balances that high, followed by New York (3.2%) and Bridgeport (2.8%). Albany, N.Y., also joins the mix, at 2.5%. Overall, an average of 1.4% of credit cardholders in the 100 largest metros have balances of at least $50,000 — an increase from 0.6% in 2019 and 1.1% in 2021.

Percentage of credit cardholders with 5-figure debt on rise

As financial pressures escalate, the percentage of credit cardholders with five-figure debt continues to grow. In fact, 22.6% of American credit cardholders across the largest 100 metros have balances of at least $10,000. That’s a 45.8% increase from 15.5% in the first quarter of 2019 and a 32.9% jump from 17.0% between April 1 and June 7, 2021.

“The last year or so has been brutal for those with credit card debt thanks to widespread inflation and constantly rising interest rates,” LendingTree chief credit analyst Matt Schulz says. “Those two factors alone likely pushed many Americans who had high four-figure card debt into low five-figure debt, and that’s a scary place to be. Believe me, I’ve been there.”

Where percentage of credit cardholders with 5-figure debt is highest (and lowest)

Among the 100 largest U.S. metros, four have an average of more than 30% of credit cardholders with balances of at least $10,000. Leading that list is Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where 33.2% of credit cardholders have five-figure balances. That’s followed by New York (31.2%) and Baton Rouge, La. (30.9%).

At No. 4 is Bridgeport, Conn., where 30.6% of credit cardholders have five-figure balances. This is a notable change from 2021 and 2019, when Bridgeport held the No. 1 spot at 24.3% and 22.9%, respectively. Tulsa, Okla., rounds out the top five.

Nearly all of these top-ranking metros have median incomes below the U.S. median, with New York as the only exception. However, Schulz believes that the slightly higher median income in New York may mean that these consumers have bigger credit limits. And because New York is a high cost-of-living metro, it may be easier for consumers there to over-utilize their credit limits.

Still, Schulz says, it’s important to understand that debt in some cases is being held by choice rather than as a sign of struggle. For example, a higher-income family might take on significant debt to start a small business, remodel a home, take a dream vacation, throw an elaborate wedding or any number of reasons.

However, while Schulz believes high credit card balances may not necessarily be bad, he says Baton Rouge’s presence near the top of the list is concerning. The cost of living in Baton Rouge is lower than average, and the median income is more than $20,000 below more than $20,000 below the U.S. median. Amid this, the percentage of those carrying five-figure card debt in the metro has spiked from 15.3% in 2021 — a two-year increase of 102%.

One possible explanation is that Louisiana residents have traditionally lower credit scores. According to a 2020 LendingTree study on credit scores, the average credit score in Baton Rouge was 652.9 that April, which is considered fair. (For comparison, the average credit score in the U.S. at that time was 703, which is considered good.). That means that the credit card debt residents there are carrying is likely at a higher-than-average rate, causing it to grow far more quickly.

Metros with the highest percentage of credit cardholders with 5-figure balances

RankMetroPercentage of cardholders who owe at least $10,000
1Poughkeepsie, NY33.2%
2New York, NY31.2%
3Baton Rouge, LA30.9%
4Bridgeport, CT30.6%
5Tulsa, OK29.3%

Source: LendingTree analysis of about 110,000 anonymized credit reports from the LendingTree platform between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2023.

On the other end of the list, five of the 100 largest metros have an average of less than 18% of credit cardholders with balances of at least $10,000. That’s led by Greensboro, N.C., where 15.2% of residents have balances of at least $10,000. That’s followed by Toledo, Ohio (16.5%), Harrisburg, Pa. (17.4%), and Richmond, Va. (17.7%). Rounding out the bottom five is Durham, N.C., where 17.9% of residents have five-figure balances.

Metros with the lowest percentage of credit cardholders with 5-figure balances

RankMetroPercentage of cardholders who owe at least $10,000
1Greensboro, NC15.2%
2Toledo, OH16.5%
3Harrisburg, PA17.4%
4Richmond, VA17.7%
5Durham, NC17.9%

Source: LendingTree analysis of about 110,000 anonymized credit reports from the LendingTree platform between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2023.

According to Schulz, income once again plays a role here.

“Toledo and Harrisburg are examples of metros with well-below-average incomes and below-average to just-below-average costs of living,” he says. “That means they may be able to better manage their financial situation without using credit cards. However, their relatively low income might mean that even if they did spend heavily on their credit cards, many of the residents may not have high enough limits to do five figures worth of damage.”

Full rankings

Metros with the highest/lowest percentage of credit cardholders with 5-figure balances

RankMetroPercentage of cardholders who owe at least $10,000
1Poughkeepsie, NY33.2%
2New York, NY31.2%
3Baton Rouge, LA30.9%
4Bridgeport, CT30.6%
5Tulsa, OK29.3%
6Allentown, PA29.1%
7Miami, FL28.7%
8Albany, NY28.1%
9Wichita, KS28.0%
10Oxnard, CA27.1%
11Rochester, NY27.0%
12Portland, OR26.8%
13Dallas, TX26.6%
14Austin, TX26.5%
14Hartford, CT26.5%
16Houston, TX26.4%
17Los Angeles, CA26.0%
18Greenville, SC25.9%
19San Diego, CA25.4%
20Tampa, FL24.9%
20Palm Bay, FL24.9%
22Knoxville, TN24.8%
23Atlanta, GA24.6%
24San Francisco, CA24.4%
24Spokane, WA24.4%
26Sacramento, CA24.2%
27Washington, DC24.1%
28Nashville, TN24.0%
29Indianapolis, IN23.9%
29Augusta, GA23.9%
31Boston, MA23.8%
31San Antonio, TX23.8%
31Riverside, CA23.8%
34Louisville, KY23.7%
35New Haven, CT23.6%
35Salt Lake City, UT23.6%
35Little Rock, AR23.6%
38McAllen, TX23.5%
39Buffalo, NY23.2%
39Philadelphia, PA23.2%
39Phoenix, AZ23.2%
42Oklahoma City, OK22.9%
43Pittsburgh, PA22.7%
43Baltimore, MD22.7%
43Orlando, FL22.7%
46Cape Coral, FL22.6%
47Worcester, MA22.4%
48Stockton, CA22.3%
49Ogden, UT22.2%
49El Paso, TX22.2%
51Chicago, IL22.1%
51Charleston, SC22.1%
51Lakeland, FL22.1%
54Minneapolis, MN22.0%
55San Jose, CA21.9%
55Denver, CO21.9%
55Grand Rapids, MI21.9%
58Las Vegas, NV21.8%
59Tucson, AZ21.6%
60Jacksonville, FL21.5%
60Omaha, NE21.5%
62Seattle, WA21.4%
63Milwaukee, WI21.3%
63New Orleans, LA21.3%
65Columbia, SC21.2%
66Charlotte, NC21.1%
67Scranton, PA21.0%
68Detroit, MI20.9%
69Albuquerque, NM20.8%
70Jackson, MS20.6%
71Kansas City, MO20.5%
71Providence, RI20.5%
71Birmingham, AL20.5%
74Syracuse, NY20.2%
74Honolulu, HI20.2%
76Madison, WI20.1%
76Raleigh, NC20.1%
76Provo, UT20.1%
76Cincinnati, OH20.1%
80Boise, ID20.0%
81Des Moines, IA19.9%
82North Port, FL19.7%
83Winston-Salem, NC19.6%
84Bakersfield, CA19.5%
85St. Louis, MO19.3%
86Columbus, OH19.2%
86Fresno, CA19.2%
88Cleveland, OH18.9%
88Dayton, OH18.9%
90Memphis, TN18.7%
91Colorado Springs, CO18.6%
92Springfield, MA18.4%
92Deltona, FL18.4%
94Akron, OH18.3%
95Virginia Beach, VA18.2%
96Durham, NC17.9%
97Richmond, VA17.7%
98Harrisburg, PA17.4%
99Toledo, OH16.5%
100Greensboro, NC15.2%

Source: LendingTree analysis of about 110,000 anonymized credit reports from the LendingTree platform between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2023.

Baton Rouge has highest percentage of credit cardholders with balances of at least $50,000

Digging even deeper, 4.3% of cardholders in Baton Rouge have balances of at least $50,000 — highest among the U.S. metros. That’s followed by New York (3.2%), Bridgeport (2.8%) Albany, N.Y. (2.5%), and Miami and San Diego (both at 2.4%).

Metros with the highest percentage of credit cardholders with balances of at least $50,000

RankMetroPercentage of cardholders who owe at least $50,000
1Baton Rouge, LA4.3%
2New York, NY3.2%
3Bridgeport, CT2.8%
4Albany, NY2.5%
5Miami, FL2.4%
5San Diego, CA2.4%

Source: LendingTree analysis of about 110,000 anonymized credit reports from the LendingTree platform between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2023.

Cost of living likely plays a role here — except for Baton Rouge and Albany (where the cost of living is nearly the same as the U.S. average), all metros at the top have a cost of living higher than the U.S. average. It’s also worth noting that Baton Rouge and Bridgeport also made the top three in a 2022 LendingTree study on metros with the highest percentage of credit cardholders who’ve maxed out at least one card. New York and Miami were among the top 10 list.

Overall, 1.4% of credit cardholders in the 100 largest metros have a balance of at least $50,000. That’s an increase from 0.6% in 2019 and 1.1% in 2021.

Full rankings

Metros with the highest/lowest percentage of credit cardholders with balances of at least $50,000

RankMetroPercentage of cardholders who owe at least $50,000
1Baton Rouge, LA4.3%
2New York, NY3.2%
3Bridgeport, CT2.8%
4Albany, NY2.5%
5Miami, FL2.4%
5San Diego, CA2.4%
7Rochester, NY2.3%
7Allentown, PA2.3%
9Austin, TX2.2%
9New Haven, CT2.2%
9Poughkeepsie, NY2.2%
9Wichita, KS2.2%
13San Francisco, CA2.1%
13Tampa, FL2.1%
13Oxnard, CA2.1%
16Dallas, TX2.0%
16Houston, TX2.0%
16Louisville, KY2.0%
16Worcester, MA2.0%
16McAllen, TX2.0%
16Ogden, UT2.0%
22Boston, MA1.9%
22Pittsburgh, PA1.9%
22San Jose, CA1.9%
22Tulsa, OK1.9%
22Greenville, SC1.9%
27Los Angeles, CA1.8%
27Nashville, TN1.8%
27Milwaukee, WI1.8%
30Minneapolis, MN1.7%
30Indianapolis, IN1.7%
30Cape Coral, FL1.7%
30Syracuse, NY1.7%
34Oklahoma City, OK1.6%
34Buffalo, NY1.6%
34El Paso, TX1.6%
37Chicago, IL1.5%
37Washington, DC1.5%
37St. Louis, MO1.5%
37Portland, OR1.5%
37Akron, OH1.5%
37Toledo, OH1.5%
43Denver, CO1.4%
43Salt Lake City, UT1.4%
43Tucson, AZ1.4%
43Des Moines, IA1.4%
43Durham, NC1.4%
43Palm Bay, FL1.4%
49Atlanta, GA1.3%
49Seattle, WA1.3%
49Charlotte, NC1.3%
52Baltimore, MD1.2%
52San Antonio, TX1.2%
52Las Vegas, NV1.2%
52Kansas City, MO1.2%
52Virginia Beach, VA1.2%
52Providence, RI1.2%
52Charleston, SC1.2%
52Madison, WI1.2%
52Scranton, PA1.2%
61Riverside, CA1.1%
61Orlando, FL1.1%
61Jacksonville, FL1.1%
61Raleigh, NC1.1%
61Albuquerque, NM1.1%
66Little Rock, AR1.0%
66Jackson, MS1.0%
66Harrisburg, PA1.0%
69Philadelphia, PA0.9%
69Phoenix, AZ0.9%
69Sacramento, CA0.9%
69Hartford, CT0.9%
69Omaha, NE0.9%
69Lakeland, FL0.9%
69Provo, UT0.9%
76Cincinnati, OH0.8%
76Grand Rapids, MI0.8%
76Knoxville, TN0.8%
76Boise, ID0.8%
76Augusta, GA0.8%
81Detroit, MI0.7%
81Cleveland, OH0.7%
81Memphis, TN0.7%
81Richmond, VA0.7%
81Honolulu, HI0.7%
81Columbia, SC0.7%
81North Port, FL0.7%
81Greensboro, NC0.7%
81Springfield, MA0.7%
81Winston-Salem, NC0.7%
91New Orleans, LA0.6%
91Birmingham, AL0.6%
91Colorado Springs, CO0.6%
94Columbus, OH0.5%
94Bakersfield, CA0.5%
94Dayton, OH0.5%
97Stockton, CA0.4%
98Deltona, FL0.3%
98Spokane, WA0.3%
100Fresno, CA0.0%

Source: LendingTree analysis of about 110,000 anonymized credit reports from the LendingTree platform between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2023.

Managing a mountain of credit card debt: Expert tips

If you’re struggling with large credit card balances, you might be feeling like you’re at your wit’s end. However, paying off your debt isn’t impossible. To keep your head above water as you’re paying off your balances, Schulz recommends the following:

  • Lower your interest rate, if at all possible. “High rates are a killer for those with credit card debt,” Schulz says. “A 0% balance transfer credit card can save you a fortune in interest and dramatically shorten the time it takes to pay off the balance. Also, you can call your card issuer and ask for a lower rate on your credit cards. It may sound too good to be true, but the 76% of cardholders who asked in the past year got their card’s APR lowered, according to a LendingTree survey on credit card APR requests. The average reduction was about 6 percentage points, which is big. It can be worth your time to ask.”
  • If you don’t have good enough credit to lower your interest rate on your credit cards, a low-interest personal loan can be a good option. You won’t get a 0% offer like you might with a balance transfer card, but you may still find a rate lower than the one on your current card.
  • Revisit your budget. “You can’t make a meaningful plan to attack credit card debt if you don’t know how much money is coming in and going out of your household each month,” he says. “If you haven’t reassessed your budget in the last few months, it might be giving you an inaccurate picture of your financial situation. Inflation might have made some of your spending assumptions outdated. There are any number of reasons why the budget might be a little off. Take a little time with it. Make sure it’s complete and updated, and then you can see if there’s any money that can be shifted around to put toward your debt.”

Methodology

LendingTree analyzed a sample of about 110,000 anonymized credit reports from the LendingTree platform between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2023.

This data was used to determine the percentage of credit cardholders who owe at least $10,000 or $50,000 in the 100 most populous metropolitan statistical areas.

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