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State credit-card debt third in nation at $8,521

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Hawaii’s credit-card debt totaled $8,521 last month to rank as the third highest in the nation.

Local consumers last month carried 4.2 percent higher credit-card debt from October 2009 when the state ranked fifth with an average debt totaling $8,180.

The survey is based on its database of 358,394 users nationwide, including 1,992 in Hawaii, according to CreditKarma, a California-based credit advocate and credit scoring website. However, the sample size in October 2009 was just under 200, significantly smaller than last month’s sample.

Hawaii’s credit debt ranked behind Alaska and Colorado, which recorded $9,128 and $8,741, respectively.

"The data shows that the high cost of living is still one of the main determinates of credit-card debt," said Ken Lin, chief executive officer of CreditKarma. "In Hawaii’s case, the high real estate and living costs seem to have a strong effect on credit-card debt."

Nationally, the credit card debt average was $7,382.

Meanwhile, the average credit score for Hawaii consumers last month was 674.

"It just continues to reflect the fact that we are still in business failure mode with people being laid off, downsizing — all of those things are creating stress on salaried wage earners," said Honolulu bankruptcy attorney David Farmer. "The first place to go to get a bailout is with a credit card."

People are continuing to use credit for daily living expenses, he said.

"Most folks live paycheck to paycheck no matter what their income is," Farmer added.

"It’s just the reality."

Meanwhile, Hawaii’s mortgage debt was down, while auto and student loans climbed from the year-earlier period:

» Mortgage: $302,875, down 10 percent from $336,782;

» Auto: $15,222, up 0.6 percent from $15,129;

» Student: $26,785, up 9.2 percent from $24,535.

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