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The Credit Crunch: The Best and Worst States

Las Vegas
Joe Cavaretta
Las Vegas

According to news reports, the United States is a credit disaster. People are out of work, deeply in debt, and having their homes foreclosed. It's a grim picture.

However, that is not an accurate picture of the whole country. The fact is that credit conditions vary radically from state to state.

In an exclusive analysis, CardRatings.com looked at credit conditions in each of the 50 states, and found a considerable difference in the credit profiles of the best and worst states.

While some states are struggling to provide jobs and financial support to their residents, there are states that are still thriving and even far exceeding national averages. When a residents' state could translate to extra income, better rates or superior employment opportunities, state lines become a game-changer.

"It's very interesting to look at credit conditions at a state level. I think states in the lower credit tier could learn quite a bit from what states in the upper tier are doing right," said CardRatings.com founder Curtis Arnold.

"While we've made significant progress as a nation since the credit crunch a few years back, there is still more progress that needs to be made. This survey underscores the fact that the need is greater in certain areas of the country."

The 10 best states could benefit from the positive billing; some of these states cannot fill all of the jobs they have available. Providing jobs for those living in struggling areas who are willing to relocate would further strengthen these states' economies.

The list of the 10 worst states does more than reflect the harsh economic climate for some; it could serve as a wake-up call to states on the fringes. The road to economic recovery looks much longer for those states, and for the people who reside in them. There is a stark difference in the credit profiles of the best and worst states for credit conditions, and that should be food for thought for anyone considering a move or business venture.

The 10 best states for credit conditions

1. North Dakota. This state may be the best-kept secret in the country. Can you imagine a place where unemployment is at 3.0 percent, credit scores are strong, and foreclosures rarely happen? All are true of North Dakota. This state had the strongest scores in three of five categories, and was fourth best out of the fifty states in the other two.

2. Vermont. Vermont was second best in the nation in terms of low foreclosure and bankruptcy rates, and was among the ten best in all categories.

3. South Dakota. While ranking in the top ten in all five categories, South Dakota actually beat its neighbor to the north when it came to average credit score.

4. Montana. The only category where Montana slipped out of the top ten was for unemployment rate, but 6.4 percent is still much better than the national average.

5. Iowa. Besides a very low rate of credit card delinquency, Iowans also enjoy low unemployment and a high average credit score.

6. Nebraska. At 4.0 percent, Nebraska has the nation's second-lowest unemployment rate. It also scores very well for high credit scores and a low rate of credit card delinquency.

7. Wyoming. Wyoming was among the ten best in every category except average credit score, where it placed in the middle of the pack.

8. Hawaii. You can add the following to the list of reasons to go to Hawaii: low incidence of foreclosures, bankruptcies and credit card delinquencies.

9. Minnesota. This state has the highest average credit score in the nation, though oddly enough, it does suffer from a relatively high foreclosure rate.

10. Alaska. Judging from most of this list, there may be something about cold weather that keeps people on the straight and narrow. Alaska has the lowest bankruptcy rate in the country. Its only downfall is that its average credit score is lower than that of most states.

The 10 worst states for credit conditions:

1. Nevada. It's pretty much a credit disaster across the board: Nevada ranked worst for unemployment, bankruptcy, and credit scores, and was among the ten worst in the two other categories as well.

2. Georgia. Ranking among the worst five states in four out of five categories, and among the worst ten for the fifth category, Georgia's credit problems come in many different forms.

3. Florida. Credit card delinquencies, foreclosures, and unemployment are all very high in Florida, while credit scores and bankruptcy rates aren't much better.

4. Arizona. This is the second worst state of the union when it comes to foreclosure rate, and low credit scores are also a problem.

5. California. Completing a sweep of the worst five by warm-weather states, California is the worst state of all for foreclosures. Unemployment and bankruptcy are also prominent problems on the left coast.

6. Alabama. Its foreclosure and unemployment rates are about average, but Alabama's placement in the bottom ten for bankruptcies, credit scores, and credit card delinquencies was enough to land it among the nation's worst ten states overall for credit conditions.

7. Mississippi. Being the worst state in the union for credit card delinquencies and second-worst for average credit score were enough to place Mississippi in the bottom ten overall, despite a relatively low foreclosure rate.

8. Illinois. Illinois is about average when it comes to credit scores and the rate of credit card delinquencies, but it ranked in the bottom ten for each of the three other categories, resulting in a poor score overall.

9. Indiana. Bankruptcies are the most acute problem in Indiana, and the state is below average in all other categories.

10. Tennessee. The biggest problem for Tennessee is the bankruptcy rate, which is third-worst in the nation. In all other categories Tennessee is below average, but not among the ten worst.

To see the full list of state rankings, see The best and worst states for credit: the full list.

To determine state rankings, CardRatings.com analyzed indicators directly related to individual credit usage and repayment behavior as well as broad economic health indicators.

The five categories analyzed were unemployment (Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2012), personal bankruptcy rates (American Bankruptcy Institute), average credit score (Experian National Score Index), credit card delinquency rates (TransUnion) and home foreclosure rates (RealtyTrac).

Tied total scores were resolved based on which state in the tie ranked highest in the most categories, and lowest in the fewest.

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