The 5 Best Credit-Friendly Cities to Start a New Family

by J.R.February 16, 2017

If you want to live in a city known for its great credit scores, you better bundle up. This past winter, credit bureau Experian released their 2016 State of Credit report. The study listed the 10 cities with the best average credit scores in the country. Some were small towns and others were big cities—most were in Minnesota or Wisconsin.

The scores of the top 10 cities started at Madison, Wisconsin’s 702 and topped out at Mankato, Minnesota’s 708.

A little extra research into these scores revealed incomes tended to be higher in these cities, but, based on the research we’ve done, we know that credit scores have a lot to do with on-time payments and total debt utilization.

In layman’s terms, that means cities with good credit have citizens who tend to pay their bills on time and whose running credit card balances are less than 30 percent of their overall credit limit.

What does all this have to do with starting a family? Simple: Cities with good credit scores tend to offer higher salaries and affordable home prices. That combination can keep you from making late payments and, as a result, keep your credit scores high.

Our list of the best places in the U.S. to start a family is based on Experian’s data on average credit scores, plus median home prices pulled from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and Forbes.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa (701)

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Cedar Rapids has become a darling destination as of late, appearing on several top-10 lists including Business Insider‘s article about cities with the lowest cost of living.

The median home price in Cedar Rapids was $166,000 in the third quarter of 2016, the NAR reports, which is more than $20,000 less than the national average of $188,900.

The city’s official website includes an awards page highlighting recent distinctions and rankings. Over the past few years, Cedar Rapids was named the best city in the U.S. for kids, a top-10 most affordable city and home to the fifth-happiest zip code in the country.

Green Bay, Wisconsin (707)

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via Green Bay Economic Development

Aside from it being home to the Green Bay Packers and storied Lambeau Field, not many people know what’s happening in Green Bay.

If you don’t mind the cold, you’ll be happy to know that Green Bay’s housing market is among the most affordable in the country for a bigger city: the median home price in 2016 was $146,200, according to Forbes. Job growth is slow, but unemployment is below 4 percent and the cost of living in Green Bay is nearly 10 percent below the national average.

If you have plans to take future little ones to football games, then you will love Green Bay. Packers fans are some of the most passionate in the country. In fact, WalletHub named Green Bay the best city in the country for NFL fans.

Missoula, Montana (692)

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If you’ve always dreamed of raising a family in a natural wonderland, Missoula just might be the perfect fit. This city’s average credit score is within 10 points of Experian’s top 10, and it’s located in one of the most picturesque parts of the region.

The median home price is $225,300, which is above the national median. However, rental aggregator Rent Jungle puts a two-bedroom apartment in Missoula at $928 month, an affordable rate for a couple wanting to keep things simple.

The city’s Big Sky High School earned a bronze medal in U.S. News & World Reports’ 2016 Best High Schools rankings.

In 2013, Outside magazine ranked the city among the five best in the country for raising outdoor kids.

“With critters from mink to mule deer roaming the nearby woods, Missoula gives parents plenty of opportunities to teach kids respect for wildlife,” contributor Julie Schwietert Collazo wrote.

Omaha, Nebraska (692)

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Nebraska, in general, has great credit scores, but Omaha tops the list for young families.

For parents, the city hits the sweet spot between below-average home prices ($166,200) and above-average income ($60,566). If you can manage to get an FHA home loan with 3 percent down, your monthly payments (with insurance and property tax) on a $160,000 home would be around $1,050. Not bad!

Cost of living in Omaha is below average, which is further evidence that you can get more bang for your buck in this emerging city.

The combination of low median home prices, high income, a burgeoning foodie scene and its five Fortune 500 companies led Time’s Money section to rank Omaha the best city in the Midwest.

Not convinced yet? In 2015, TripAdvisor rated Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium the best zoo in the world based on reviews left by TripAdvisor users.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (692)

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The last city on this list has the largest population (2.3 million) and lies in the heart of the industrial Northeast.

Pittsburgh might be famous for those old-school images of steel workers, but they’re making a name for themselves when it comes to credit scores.

According to Forbes‘ 2016 stats, Pittsburgh’s median home price was $149,700 and median income was $53,964, a combination that warrants home-buying consideration. Time named Pittsburgh the best place to live in the Northeast because of its booming tech scene housing market.

“Pittsburgh is different from many tech hubs in one key way: You can still afford a house there,” reporter Ian Salisbury wrote. “Home prices are just 2.7 times the median income.”

Honorable Mentions: Bend, Oregon (688) and Minneapolis, Minnesota (704)

Pioneer Park in the city of Bend in Central Oregon
Pioneer Park in the city of Bend in Central Oregon

bigstock-128536730Minneapolis, Minnesota

Both Bend and Minneapolis have strong average credit scores, as well as slightly above average incomes. They didn’t make our official list because home prices were at least $50,000 higher than the national median home price, and cost of living was either just below national averages or a bit higher.

Keeping Your Credit Healthy as You Ponder a Move

If you’re thinking about moving, any of the cities we mentioned above are excellent choices. Cost of living is, in most cases, at least 5 percent lower than the national average. Home prices are affordable and median income is strong.

However, those numbers won’t mean much if you can’t show lenders you’ve got a great credit score.

If you’re preparing to buy a house, take a look at your credit card balances. Your credit score is made up of hundreds of factors, but the one factor that influences the most rapid changes are your balances.

If any one of your credit cards has a balance of more than 30 percent of its credit limit, your score could drop by as much as 10 points. The opposite is true—moving balances around to make sure all cards are under 30 percent can increase your score considerably.

As you prepare to shop for houses, review your balances. Are any of them above 30 percent of their credit limit? Check each of your cards to see if there are any 0 percent balance transfer options. If there are, move balances to that card to get all cards under 30 percent.

You should see a nice jump in your score and it could lead to getting lower interest rates on your mortgage. According to Credit.org, bumping your credit scores from 720 to 745 could drop your interest rate 0.3 percent. That fraction of a percent could save you $9,000 in interest paid on a $160,000, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.

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About The Author
J.R.
J.R. is a reporter for HighYa.com, uncovers the hard truths about personal finance through in-depth research and interviews with experts. He has written extensively on topics including credit cards, credit scores, debt, financial advisors, and other personal finance issues.

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