Money

The US states with the highest and lowest average credit card balances

Sitka, Alaska.
Getty Images
Sitka, Alaska.

Your credit card balance can offer a window into what your monthly spending looks like and whether paying with plastic is helping or hurting you. Drawing on data from a 2017 report by Experian, a Supermoney infographic breaks down how you and your state compare to American consumers overall.

The average credit card balance is $6,354, the report found. Alaskans have the highest, carrying an average of $8,515 on their cards, about $1,000 more on average than residents of Connecticut, the runner up.

Iowans, by contrast, have the lowest average balance at only $5,155.

"Plenty of consumers use cards as often as possible, working to rack up rewards and cash back balances, but pay the cards off in full each month," reports Experian.

Revolvers, meanwhile, who don't pay off their balances in full, make up 43 percent of card holders, the report found. That means nearly half of Americans are spending way more than they meant to on their purchases: Interest payments cost the average American household with revolving debt about $1,000 a month and, throughout the U.S., outstanding revolving credit card debt has topped $1 trillion.

Even when you do pay off your balance in full, a high utilization rate can still negatively affect your credit score. "Credit utilization – the amount of debt you hold relative to your credit card limits – is a major factor in your score," reports Experian. "So if you are one of those 43 percent of Americans who are a revolver, work hard to get that utilization rate below 30 percent."

Supermoney also broke down how many credit cards consumers in each state carry. On average it found that Americans have 3.1 credit cards and 2.5 retail cards. Residents of New Jersey have the highest number, with 3.49 different cards, while those in Mississippi only have an average of 2.57.

Experian recommends caution when opening a new card and notes that navigating a few strategically can pay off: "A new card might have a short-term negative impact on your score; if you pay it off regularly and use only a small portion of the credit limit, it can help your score long-term."

All in all, credit cards can be a convenient way to spend and to gather perks, as long as you use them responsibly and pay off your debt. As the data shows, unfortunately, many Americans don't, which is why some experts recommend against using them at all.

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