Hawaii consumers continued paying down their credit cards last month as they tracked a nationwide trend that showed individuals slowly climbing out of debt.
Dealing with debt
How Hawaii ranked nationally in November in various credit categories:
Credit card debt
1. Alaska $8,830
1. Massachusetts 684
1. California $323,323
Auto loan debt
1. Wyoming $19,401
Student loan debt
1. Massachusetts $32,767
However, credit scores both in Hawaii and on the mainland slightly worsened, according to Credit Karma, a California-based credit advocate and credit scoring website (www.credit- karma.com).
"While consumers remain focused on paying down their credit cards, credit scores have decreased since the beginning of the year," said Ken Lin, chief executive officer of Credit Karma. "We suspect consumers’ credit scores may be affected by larger economic factors such as a weak housing market, continued unemployment and lack of available credit."
Hawaii consumers lowered their average credit card debt 4.8 percent last month to $8,191 from $8,607 in November 2009, according to Credit Karma, which based its results on a database of 1,900 Hawaii residents compared with a smaller sample size of 700 a year ago. Hawaii consumers’ credit card debt was $8,521 in October of this year and $9,845 at the start of 2010.
Nationwide, the average consumer credit card debt was $7,336.
"Hawaii is very consistent with the national trend of paying down overall debt," Lin said. "One of the interesting trends is that Hawaii’s debt tends to be a little higher than the national average. That’s consistent with the fact that the cost of living is higher in Hawaii, and that leads to higher debt levels."
The average credit score in Hawaii slipped to 671 in November from 674 both in the previous month and in January. Hawaii’s credit score in November 2009 was 669. Nationally, the average credit score last month was 665.
Lin said the high unemployment rate has contributed to credit scores’ overall worsening despite the improvement in credit card debt.
"Higher default rates in credit cards and mortgages — foreclosures — are having an impact," he said. "Those are outpacing the fact that consumers are paying down their debt."
Hawaii ranked seventh in the country in November for highest credit card debt and 11th for the best credit scores. Alaska was first for highest credit card debt at $8,830 while Massachusetts had the best credit score at 684.
In other categories, Hawaii was second in mortgage debt at $300,824, down 2.9 percent from $309,926 a year ago; 21st in auto loan debt at $15,276, up 1.7 percent from $15,025; and 31st in student loan debt at $26,970, down 9.2 percent from $29,689.
The national average last month was $173,566 for mortgage debt, $15,147 for auto loans, and $28,617 for student loans.