Special Report

States With the Most Credit Card Debt

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread, many Americans struggled to make ends meet without a weekly paycheck after the mass layoffs in the early days of the pandemic. Although expanded unemployment benefits helped for a while, households still had to pay for goods and other expenses with less money. Many, then, turned to credit cards to make up the difference between rising living costs and less income. 

Credit card balances collectively reached $856 billion as of the fourth quarter of 2021, a $52 billion increase from $804 billion in the third quarter, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reports. Despite the increase, the federal reserve bank notes, credit card balances are $71 billion lower than at the end of 2019. (Here are the states where debt is increasing the most during COVID-19.)

Including both bank and retail plastic, credit card debt averaged $6,569 per cardholder with unpaid balances in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to 2022 Credit Card Debt Statistics from Lending Tree. And just like housing costs and gas prices, credit card debt varies by state. 

To determine the states with the most credit card debt, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed Lending Tree’s report. States were ranked on the average credit card debt per cardholder, using credit report data from 2021.

New Jerseyans shouldered the most credit card debt at an average of $7,872 per cardholder. But other Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states have residents with high unpaid balances, too. Connecticut came in at No. 2 with average debt per cardholder of $7,721, and average debt in No. 3 Maryland is $7,464.

Meanwhile, Kentuckians are living comparatively debt-free with an average unpaid credit card balance of $5,441 – nearly $2,500 less than New Jersey cardholders. The disparity could be attributed to the higher cost of living in the Garden State. According to a 24/7 Wall St. study, the cost of living in New Jersey is 15% higher than the average nationwide, while the cost of living in Kentucky is 7% less than average. (Here are the most expensive states to live in.)

Click here to see the States with the most credit card debt

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