Do stagnant California credit scores suggest consumer struggles?

”Survey says” looks at various rankings and scorecards judging geographic locations while noting these grades are best seen as a mix of artful interpretation and data.

Buzz: The average credit score was stable last year in California – as well as across the nation – after a string of previous improvements.

Source: My trusty spreadsheet looked at “FICO” credit scores by state as compiled by Experian, reviewing data for September 2022, September 2021, and 2019’s second quarter. These are estimates of bill-paying ability, scored on a scale from 300 to 850.


California’s 721 average credit score in 2022 ranked 25th among the states. The same score in 2021 ranked 24th best. The U.S. averaged 714 for both years.

Back in pre-pandemic 2019, California’s average score was 208 (No. 27). That 13-point improvement over three tumultuous years tied for eighth-best in the nation. In the same timeframe, the national score was up 11 points from 703.


There’s a decided north-south split in this U.S. bill-paying metric.

Last year’s best credit scores were found in Minnesota, with a 742 average. Then came Vermont at 736, Washington and Wisconsin at 735, and New Hampshire and South Dakota at 734.

Lowest scores? Mississippi at 680, then Louisiana at 689, Alabama at 691, and Oklahoma and Texas at 693. By the way, Florida was No. 37 at 707.

The biggest three-year improvements were in some fast-growth states: Alaska, Arizona, Idaho and Nevada – all up 16 points. Texas and Florida both tied California at No. 8 with 13-point improvements.

The smallest gains were in North Dakota (up 6), South Dakota (up 7) and Connecticut and Nebraska (up 8).

But scores didn’t move much in the past year across the nation.

There were 25 states that had no change in 2022, including California. And 14 states had a mere 1-point gain – including Texas and Florida.

And six states had FICO score drops: Connecticut, off 3 points, and Washington, D.C., Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey and New York off 1 point.

The biggest gains? Alaska, up 6, then South Carolina and Utah, up 3, and Arizona, Arizona, Colorado, and Idaho, up 2.


Credit scores are by no means perfect indicators of a person’s financial capabilities. But look at 2022 state credit scores to get a taste of what this yardstick tells you about bill-paying potential.

The best was Minnesota’s 742. Experian’s website says 23% of borrowers nationwide with that same score have late payments on credit reports.

California’s 721 is within a group of borrowers having late payments on 29% of their credit reports.

Then there’s Mississippi’s 680, the national low. That cohort had late payments in 36% of their histories.

Another view

California shopper psyche, as measured by April’s Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Indexes, is at a nine-month low and in a deeper funk than the nation.

The overall statewide confidence yardstick is down 8% in a year vs. just a 4% drop nationwide.

A key reason is that economic expectations are dreary, with the Conference Board’s financial outlook measurement down 12% in a year both in California and the U.S.

And the geographic confidence gap comes from views of the “present situation” – with the sentiment about current finances down 2% statewide since April 2022 but up 2% nationally in the same period.

Bottom line

Last year’s stagnant credit scores are hardly bad news, but they are another sign of a cooling economy.

The end of most of the government stimulus plans plus the pain of high inflation forced many consumers to borrow to maintain their aggressive shopping habits. More debt isn’t often good for credit scores.

In the short run, the ongoing spending spree is an economic boost. And the hot job market is a key catalyst to overall economic oomph and credit-score stability.

But flat credit scores are in line with sagging confidence, suggesting there’s a limit on how far shoppers can go.

Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at

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