The 5 States (Plus D.C.) With The Highest Levels Of Credit Card Debt

If you were asked to guess which states had the highest average credit card debt, you might assume it would be dominated by places with high real estate costs, where consumers need to spread out their other purchases in order to make the rent or mortgage every month. Or you might go the other way and guess that states with low costs of living but high unemployment rates would top that list. But a new analysis of credit card data paints a different picture than either of these assumptions.

The folks at looked at credit card debt data from Experian, one of the three major credit reporting agencies, and compiled a list of the states with the highest level of average per-card debt.

Alaska topped the list, with an average per-card debt of $2,299, making it the only state with an average above $2,000. With above-average costs of everything from housing to transportation to food, the vast northern state was recently ranked as the fourth most-expensive place to live in the U.S., so it may not surprise many people to find that Alaskans have a high level of credit card debt.

But many of the remaining states with the highest level of credit card debt fall have average costs of living.

Like Virginia, which came in second on the list with an average per-card debt of $1,817. Given that it beats out neighboring Washington, D.C., ($1,793 average) by only a small amount, we have a hunch that the residents in the more-expensive D.C. suburbs are bringing up the average for the rest of the state.

D.C.’s other neighbor, Maryland, comes in fourth with an average debt of $1,750. Again, we have to wonder how much of this debt is concentrated near the capital.

But for the rest of the high-debt states, you’ve got to travel far from the I-95 corridor. The list doesn’t include many of the country’s most expensive places to live, like Hawaii, Connecticut, New York, California, or Massachusetts.

Instead, there’s Washington state and its per-card average debt of $1,741. And Colorado, with $1,697 in per-card debt.

What’s important to point out about the report is that it deals with per-card debt, not per-person debt. Many consumers have multiple credit cards, meaning someone in Virginia could have three cards for a total of $5,451 in debt and still be considered average.

One positive trend from the data is that the per-card debt is declining in all of these states, except D.C., where there was a slight year-over-year increase in the average balance.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.