No one wants to see their state on the list of worst anything, be it food, standardized test scores or road rage incidents.
But being among the worst when it comes to credit scores is especially disappointing. Because your score is a reflection of your creditworthiness in the eyes of lenders, a low number can mean you're less likely to qualify for credit cards and loans — or that you'll owe a higher interest rate if you do qualify.
That's bad news for Mississippians, whose average credit score of 662 is the worst in the nation, according to a recent report from WalletHub, based on data from TransUnion.
That puts them in bad, but not unsalvageable, shape. Credit scores generally run from 300 to 850, with scores over 750 considered "excellent." The U.S. average is 695 using the model from VantageScore, so don't get too superior if your state isn't among the low scorers. Plenty of Americans have some work to do on the credit score front.
Read on to see the 10 states with the lowest average credit scores and what credit experts say you can do if you want to bring your score up.
- Mississippi: 662
- Louisiana: 668
- Alabama: 672
- Arkansas: 673
- Oklahoma: 673
- Texas: 674
- Georgia: 675
- West Virginia: 676
- Kentucky: 678
- South Carolina: 678
If you, like the average Mississippian, find yourself in the 600s, it's time to work on repairing your credit, experts said. That's because top-of-the-line credit offers are reserved for those with scores of 750 and above.
"Once you get between 660 and 680, you're getting to the cutoff for subprime credit," said Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate.com. "Below that, you're much less likely to be approved. Below 620, you're going to have a hard time getting approved."
Anyone looking to take out a loan, open a credit card or eventually buy a house would be wise to try to boost their score, said credit expert Gerri Detweiler. "If you're in the 600s, getting over that 700 threshold is a good goal to aim for," she said.
Here are three tips from credit experts to help you get your number up.
1. Check your credit report
"Start by taking a good inventory," said Rossman. Get a free copy of your credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com and scrutinize them carefully.
"The biggest thing to look for: Are there any mistakes?" said Rossman. "Look for signs of identity theft or expenses that don't belong to you. These could include late payments you think you made on time."
2. Establish good credit health
If there aren't any mistakes, you're unlikely to be able to change the credit reporting agencies' view of your past. But you can change your habits to boost your score going forward.
Be sure to make credit card payments — even the minimum — on time. Late payments are "what sinks your score the fastest," said Detweiler.
You'd also be wise to lower your credit utilization ratio — a measure credit bureaus use to calculate your score, which compares your balance with your credit limit. Ideally, your balance at the end of your billing cycle should be no more than 25% to 30% of your available credit.
To keep this number down, consider asking your creditor for a higher limit or paying off part of your balance in advance of the end of the billing cycle, said Detweiler.
3. Look into alternative scoring systems
You may have a low score because you have a "thin" credit history, which can feel paradoxical. How can you prove to creditors that you're a good borrower if you can't get a loan?
It might make sense to look for a service that helps you increase your score by taking nontraditional payments into account. The free Experian Boost service, for instance, incorporates payments such as utilities, video streaming services and rent. A similar, paid service at eCredable Lift, which reports to TransUnion, takes cell phone, utility and internet service bills into account.
"These are things that haven't historically counted but should," said Rossman. "These are a good way to advocate for yourself."
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