Last Updated Apr 26, 2011 9:09 PM EDT
What cities have the highest average credit scores? Find out where yours ranks.
Yesterday, I told you about the American cities with the five HIGHEST credit scores. Today, it's all about cities with the lowest credit scores - and they're pretty low.
Experian, one of the three major credit reporting bureaus, released a new feature called LiveCreditSmart.com. (You can also find it under the "Credit Education" button on the company's main website.) The site lists the U.S. cities with the highest and lowest credit scores. The scores are based on the Vantage credit scoring model, which runs from about 500 to 990 and was created by the three credit reporting bureaus, Experian, Equifax and Transunion. Credit scores from 900 to 990 are top credit scores, or Grade A. Scores from 800 to 899 are Grade B. Credit scores from 700 to 799 are Grade C, and so on.
Not that many consumers are familiar with the Vantage credit scoring model. Most are more familiar with the credit score scale created by Fair Isaac Corporation (called a FICO score), range from 300 to 850.
[One big problem with trying to compare credit scores is that the Fair Isaac, Credit Karma, Vantage credit scores are all built on different models, according to Craig Watts, public affairs director for Fair Issac. The vast majority of lenders use the FICO score, so for most consumers, these other scores may not matter much.]
Credit scores determine how much you'll pay for your mortgage, insurance, auto loan and school loans. According to MyFico.com (which is owned by Fair Isaac), if your FICO credit score is 760 or above, you might pay 3.9 percent on a 30-year loan (which is an all-time low, by the way). If your credit score is 620, which is about the lowest score you can have and still get a mortgage these days, you'll pay 5.5 percent on the same loan. That's quite a difference.
Experian used the Vantage credit scoring model to chart the highest and lowest credit scores in the country. No city in the country has an average score over 800. The top cities that are in the upper 700s, would translate into a credit score of about C+.
The cities with the lowest credit scores barely break the 700s.
Cities With the Lowest Credit Scores Include:5. El Paso, TX â€" 706
4. Shreveport, LA â€" 702
3. Corpus Christi, TX â€" 700
2. Jackson, MS â€" 698
1. Harlingen, TX â€" 684
In short, residents in Harlingen TX, have an average credit score of a D+. That's not so good.
No matter where you live, your credit score has an impact on all parts of your financial life. A bad credit score can keep you from getting a low interest ate on your mortgage, and you may have to pay extra fees. With lenders being extra picky these days, a bad credit score can even prevent you from getting a mortgage entirely.
Quicken Loans, released the report on the lowest credit scores in America and their message is that you shouldn't count yourself out even if you have a low credit score. According to the press release that accompanied the report, "If you have a large down payment, high cash reserves or an overall low debt-to-income ratio, you could qualify for a mortgage and possibly a rate that satisfies your needs."
But I wouldn't count on that these days. Instead, try improving your credit history by using these three tips.
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Ilyce R. Glink is the author of several books, including 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask and Buy, Close, Move In!. She blogs about money and real estate at ThinkGlink.com and The Equifax Personal Finance Blog, and is Chief Content Strategist at RealtyJoin.com, a community for real estate investors.