Augusta ranks high in bad credit

When it comes to credit, there were more maxed-out cards and missed payments in Augusta than most other cities.

Augusta residents posted an average credit score of 709, ranking the city as the sixth-worst in the nation, according to Experian’s second annual State of Credit listing released Tuesday.

Four Wisconsin cities are among the top 10 communities with the highest average credit score. Georgia is not so lucky, with four cities among the 25 worst credit scores – Augusta, Columbus, Macon and Savannah.

Experian, one of the three predominant credit rating agencies, said the fallout of a weakened economy continues to contribute to major setbacks such as foreclosures and unemployment – factors that drive the rankings and trends for different regions of the country.

“So, you’re just missing more payments than the average in the nation,” explained Maxine Sweet, Experian’s vice president of public education.

Augusta’s ranking in foreclosures is 120th in the nation, according to RealtyTrac. It was as high as 85th in the nation in February.

The metro area’s unemployment rate was 9.6 percent in Sept­ember, a slight improvement from the 9.8 percent seen in August.

“It is not always the highest unemployment or the highest foreclosure rate, but the combination of the two is pretty deadly for most cities. If you have enough people having those catastrophic circumstances, it is going to pull down the scores for everybody,” Sweet said.

Augusta’s score was unchanged from last year, Sweet said, but the average nonmortgage debt came down 2.2 percent. The average person went from $26,784 in car loans, installment loans and credit cards to $26,204, she said.

Wausau, Wis., has the highest score in the country, 789, while Harlingen, Texas, has the lowest, 686. Considering that Experian’s scores go from 501 to 990, that puts all the cities in the average credit range – a C on the grading scale, Sweet said.

“Experian’s State of Credit data shows that we still have a long way to go toward economic prosperity, but that many consumers are taking small steps toward improving their credit and debt management,” said Michele Raneri, Experian’s vice president of analytics.

Sweet said the company puts out the nationwide credit assessment to provide insight into the successes and challenges various regions face, and “we see this as an opportunity to help consumers better understand how credit works so they can make informed, responsible decisions.”

Credit scores

Wausau, Wis., owns the highest average credit score in the nation, 789; Harlingen, Texas, has the lowest, 686. A look at the average credit scores in cities across Georgia and South Carolina:

CITY                          SCORE

Greenville, S.C.             740

Atlanta                           727

Columbus, Ga.               721

Savannah, Ga.               716

Macon, Ga.                    715

Columbia                       714

Myrtle Beach, S.C.        711

Augusta                          709

Source: Experian

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