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Montana residents have a lot more going for them than breathtaking views, good microbrews and excellent skiing. They are also very skilled at managing their own credit and debt, according to a report released Wednesday.
Residents of Big Sky Country scored the top spot of all 50 states based on a money-management score, according to a study by CreditCards.com. South Dakota, North Dakota, Maine and Vermont rounded out the top 5.
The study compared each state's average credit score with its median income.
"I wasn't terribly surprised," said John Rogers, chief business development officer in Montana's Office of Economic Development. "Montanans believe their word is their bond, and that means paying their bills on time and meeting their obligations."
Alternatively, Maryland, which has the second-highest median income in the U.S., at $69,071, fared the worst, according to CreditCards.com's report, followed by Washington, D.C., Alaska, Virginia and Texas.
"A higher income doesn't always translate to a higher credit score," said Matt Schulz, CreditCards.com's senior industry analyst. "Good financial habits, like paying your bills on time and keeping your debts low, are what build a solid credit score, not how much money you earn."
Montana's $44,938 median household income was far below the national average of $53,657. However, so was the state's average credit card balance, at just $4,143, and residents of Big Sky have an impressive credit score of 686, according to Experian.
"There is a high quality of life here; money isn't everything, " Rogers said.
The average credit score in Maryland was 669 in 2015, which is also the U.S. national average, but the average credit card balance in the blue crab–loving state was $4,861, above the national average of $4,404.
"Maryland does have some of the highest incomes in the country," said Nancy McCrea, research and information director at the Maryland Department of Commerce. "But because of the way it is situated, a lot of the spending in the region crosses state boundaries, so there are other factors to consider, " she added.
The top money-managing states benefited from a lower cost of living, low unemployment and older populations, Schulz said, which contributes to a longer credit history — a key factor in a credit score.