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Where you live will cost you

Janet Nguyen Jul 27, 2015
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Conventional thinking might lead us to believe that people who reside in cities with higher living expenses probably also have the highest debt burdens. But residents of the City by the Bay have the least credit card burden of any major metropolitan city, according to a new study by CreditCards.com.

Using data from credit bureau Experian, CreditCards.com determined how long it would take for residents of 25 of the largest U.S. cities to pay off their current credit card debt. And the results were all over the map.

Metropolitan areas on the coasts tended to have lower credit card burden than elsewhere in the country, while areas of the South were on the opposite side of the spectrum.

Courtney Miller, an economics writer for NerdWallet, says a lot of it comes down to the culture surrounding credit card debt.

“I think there’s a ton of factors that go into it, and part of it is how much people need to rely on credit cards. So a city like San Francisco … there [are] a lot of cash-only places in that kind of city.”

San Antonio came in last place, where residents were projected to take the longest to pay off credit card debt — in fact, of the top 10 cities with the highest debt burden, seven were located in the South. Miller points to lower overall income in those areas, combined with a tendency towards higher credit card debt.

But there are a lot of moving parts to determining credit card debt. Take Alaska for example.

“They tend to have a higher credit card debt, but they actually have a pretty high credit score compared to the rest of the country … (In Alaska), maybe you have to buy things online more, so you use a credit card more,” Miller says.

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