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Places Where Credit Scores are Rising in 2019

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For most Americans, having a good credit score is key to building financial success. It can unlock the lowest interest rates on loans and access to competitive financial products, such as rewards credit cards. But even if you’re not interested in taking out credit, you may still need good credit to get a job, rent an apartment, or open a utility account.

Thankfully, many Americans’ credit scores are on the rise after being battered by the Great Recession. This may be partially due to the rapid rise in consumer financial education, easy access to credit monitoring tools, and the rise of fintech products such as budgeting tools and money-management apps. It’s often easier today to know what to do to increase your credit score than in your parents’ days.

We wanted to know just how much Americans’ credit scores are rising, so we looked at how much credit scores have improved in the 100 largest metro areas between the first quarter in 2018 and the first quarter in 2019 to quantify this. We found that credit scores are indeed on the rise, and sometimes significantly, for many of these cities.

Key takeaways

  • At 55%, Provo, Utah had the highest rate of people who raised their credit scores over the last year. Moreover, about 18% saw their scores rise by over 50 points, and about 2% saw their scores rise by 100 points.
  • El Paso, Texas and Spokane, Wash. filled out the top three spots, with about 54% and 53%, respectively. In both cities, about 16% of people saw their scores rise by at least 50 points; in Spokane, more than 3% saw their scores go up by over 100 points.
  • More than half of people in 40 of the metros we analyzed saw their scores go up.
  • Ogden, Utah had the highest rate of people who saw their scores rise by at least 100 points, 6%.
  • Oxnard, Calif. had the second highest rate, with 5.5% seeing their scores rise by at least 100 points. Denver, Minneapolis, and Salt Lake City rounded out the top 5 with about 4% of people seeing those dramatic rises.

Most — but not all — of the top 10 cities that showed the biggest population-wide increases in credit scores were located in the western United States. Only four cities — Omaha, Neb., Akron, Ohio, Charlotte, N.C., and Worcester, Mass. — were located outside of this region. In each of these cities, over half of residents saw an increase in their credit scores.

Still, if you’re able to increase your credit score by a lot — versus just a few points — you could be boosted into a new credit category entirely. For example, a difference of 50 points may mean you go from a Fair (580-699) to Good (670-739) FICO credit score. Such a big step up may mean you can qualify for premium financial products at better rates more easily.

Here are the top five cities that saw the biggest share of residents increasing their credit scores by 50 points or more:

In the above cities, about one out of every six residents saw an increase of more than 50 points in their credit scores. Provo, Utah again claimed the largest share of residents who’d increased their credit scores by 50 points or more. However, there didn’t seem to be any regional trends here, as residents in both Honolulu, Hawaii and Augusta, Ga. saw the largest 50+ point increases in their credit scores.

For some cities, a good chunk of residents saw even bigger increases in their credit scores, of 100 points or more:

Roughly one out of every 18 residents in these five cities saw a dramatic increase of 100 points or more on their credit scores.

Ogden, Utah claimed the top spot for the highest percentage of 100+ point increases of credit scores. This is curious, considering that Ogden in general ranked low for overall credit score increases — 88th out of 100. It seems that in this city, if you’re going to increase your credit score, you might as well go big. Similarly, Salt Lake City ranked 77th overall out of 100 for credit score increases, yet it had the fifth highest share of 100+ point credit score increases.

There may be a few reasons for these factors. For example, some adverse credit events, such as bankruptcies and foreclosures, can severely impact your credit score for seven to 10 years before falling off your credit report. It may be in these cases that in these cities, a large number of people experienced these adverse credit events that are now just beginning to fall off and lighten their credit scores.

See how well your city did in our full rankings

Curious about how your city did? We looked at the 100 largest metropolitan areas across the U.S. and compared credit scores from the first quarter of 2018 to the first quarter of 2019. Not all of the cities experienced such a positive growth in credit scores as the ones we’ve highlighted already. In fact, in many of the cities, less than half of people saw in increase in their credit score, which means that most people’s credit score stayed the same or even decreased.

In particular, we found:

  • Sarasota, Florida residents had the smallest proportion of people who raised their credit scores — only 44.8%.
  • No Florida cities had a majority of residents who increased their credit scores. At best, only 48.1% of Jacksonville residents saw an increase in their credit scores.
  • Utah had some of the highest-ranked and lowest-ranked cities for overall credit score increases: Provo was ranked first, while Ogden was ranked 88th out of 100.

Here is the full breakdown:

Why your credit score matters — and how to boost it

A credit score might seem like just an arbitrary set of numbers, but it has big power when it comes to making your life easier. By having a good credit score, you can qualify for the best rates on loans. That might not seem like a big deal at first, but consider this: for a $250,000 house, the difference between a 4% interest rate and a 6% interest rate on a 30-year mortgage is $109,921.70 in interest payments by the time you pay off the loan. You can see the difference for yourself with this mortgage calculator.

Having a good credit score also unlocks more opportunities for you. For example, if you have a good credit score (including a solid credit history), you may not have to pay a deposit to open certain utility accounts such as electric or cell phone service. You may also qualify for better financial products, such as premium rewards credit cards.

If you’re looking to improve your credit score, here are some of the best ways to do it:

  • Keep tabs on your credit score: This allows you to catch errors — and celebrate wins — in real-time. You can check your credit score, learn about the factors affecting it and more on MyLendingTree.
  • Always pay your bills on time: Even a single late payment can harm your credit score. Set up your bills on autopay, put it on your calendar or to-do list, or find some other way to remind yourself when each payment is due.
  • Pay down credit card debt: If you’re carrying a large balance in relation to how much credit you have available to you (known as a credit utilization ratio), you may be able to increase your credit score significantly by paying some or all of it off.
  • Don’t close old credit cards: 15% of your credit score is determined by how long your accounts have been open for. As long as you’re not using your old credit cards to go into debt even more or paying an annual fee, keep them open even if you don’t use them regularly.
  • Only apply for credit when you really need it: Each time you apply for credit, the lender will do a hard credit check. This can ding your credit score each time, except in certain cases such as if you shop around in a short period of time for an auto or mortgage loan. Soft credit checks to see what rate you might get, on the other hand, are safe.

Increasing your credit score is a slow and steady process. It takes time for these changes to accumulate over time, and for negative information to drop off of your credit report. But if you are consistent with these steps, the results of our study show that you can increase your credit score over time — and indeed, many people are successful in doing so.

Methodology

Analysts reviewed the credit reports of a sample of over 225,000 My LendingTree users who live in the 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas (“MSAs”) and compared their scores in the first quarter of 2018 to their scores in the first quarter of 2019.  The percentage of people who saw their scores rise by any amount, by at least 25 points, by at least 50 points, by at least 75 points, and by at least 100 points were calculated by their home MSAs.

My LendingTree is a free credit monitoring service available to the general public, regardless of their debt and credit histories, or whether they’ve pursued loans on a LendingTree platform. My LendingTree has over nine million users.

 

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