It’s no secret that Americans are quick to choose credit over cash: Just consider the staggering $57.1 billion in consumer credit card debt we racked up in 2014.
But that debt burden weighs more heavily in some places than others.
A new analysis from CreditCards.com confirms that everything’s bigger in Texas, including the length of time needed to pay off your plastic.
San Antonio, specifically, has the highest credit card debt burden among the 25 largest U.S. metro areas, when average debt is compared to an area’s median income.
It takes a San Antonian 16 months—and $448 in interest—to tackle the average debt of $4,880, assuming that 15% of median income goes to monthly repayments. Dallas/Fort-Worth came in with the second-highest debt burden, and Houston the fifth highest.
Compare these figures to the situation in San Francisco, which CreditCards.com found to have the lowest burden. A median-income Bay Area worker needs only nine months to pay off their debt ($4,393). And by getting out of debt faster, they only shell out about half of the interest ($234) that a San Antonio local would.
“A lot of this comes down to the fact that [people in] big cities in the South don’t necessarily earn as much as in other big cities in the Northeast or West, so it makes it a bit more of a challenge for residents to pay off those credit card balances,” says Matt Schulz, CreditCards.com’s senior industry analyst.
Analysts also point to confidence in the regional economy—meaning people are more willing to take on unsecured debt—and a higher concentration of military service members with fluctuating incomes as contributing factors to the higher debt burdens found in the South and Southwest.
In contrast, Schulz highlights Washington, D.C.: “It has the nation’s highest average credit card debt, but since it has the highest median income in the U.S., its debt burden is lower than all but two metros.”
Here’s a closer look at the highest and lowest credit card debt burdens:
Cities with Highest Credit Card Burdens
1. San Antonio (16 months, $448 interest)
2. Dallas/Fort Worth (14 months, $382 interest)
3. Atlanta (14 months, $376 interest)
4. Miami/Fort Lauderdale (14 months, $351 interest)
5. Houston (13 months, $363 interest)
Cities with Lowest Credit Card Burdens
1. San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose (9 months, $234 interest)
2. Boston (10 months, $267 interest)
3. Washington, D.C. (10 months, $268 interest)
4. Minneapolis/St. Paul (11 months, $266 interest)
5. New York City (11 months, $293 interest)
So what should overextended credit card holders do, regardless of location?
Pay down as much as you can each month, suggests Schulz, and call your card issuer to ask about any adjustments to rates and other terms.
“A recent CreditCards.com poll found that while only about 23% of card holders called their issuer and asked for a reduced interest rate, about two-thirds of those consumers had their request granted,” he notes. “It’s a quick and easy potential way to save some substantial money.”
Also take note of these five successful strategies for keeping credit cards in check.