Dallas-Fort Worth, Deep in Credit Card Debt

Late Wednesday, we received in the in-box this list of 25 cities ranked by the average amount of credit-card debt its residents carryin their back pockets. At the top of the pops was San Antonio with $5,177, but, as you can see, Dallas wasn't far behind at No. 5; says credit-reporting agency Experian, as of the December 2010 statements Dallasites were holding on to an average of $4,936 in plastic debt, which is actually down 4.5 percent from the same time last year. Nevertheless, says Experian's release, that's "15.2 percent higher than the national average." To which Money mag adds: "Out of the 25 cities with the highest levels of credit card debt, nearly all were located in the South."

Which isn't the worst news. Says Experian, once you add together the credit ratings from all three major reporting agencies -- including Experian, Equifax and TransUnion -- you get something called the VantageScore. Which, as The New York Times puts it, "gives a picture of whether the credit card spending came from economic confidence, or from desperation." The higher the city's score, the more likely its residents pay their credit-card bills on time and carry a higher limit. Says Experian: "Dallas is one of the cities with the lowest VantageScore in the country."

For further explanation, we turn to The Times and Maxine Sweet, vice president for public education at Experian:

The list of the 25 cities with the lowest VantageScores in December was heavily Southern. Texas had seven cities on the list (Harlingen, El Paso, Tyler, Waco, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston, going from lowest to highest credit scores). Other than two California cities (Bakersfield and Fresno) and Las Vegas, every other city on the list was from the South.

"Part of that is a lot just a lot of younger people moving in, and a larger migrant population -- so by younger, meaning not just in age, but also less depth in their credit history, and we think that's one factor," Ms. Sweet said of the lower credit scores in Texas in particular. "When you have these consumers who are in crisis with foreclosures and unemployment, that has to be driving up their credit card debt."

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