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Advertiser Disclosure Places That Use the Most Retail Credit and Charge Cards
The question — “Would you like to sign up for a store card?” — is a customary, sometimes irritating, part of the store checkout process. While store cards can be great ways to access discounts and other benefits, they can also be among the most expensive credit cards out there with rates often surpassing 20% APR. Who signs up for and uses retail cards the most?

After combing through TransUnion credit data from users of My LendingTree, the free credit monitoring service of the parent company of CompareCards, we found that some metro areas are home to heavy users of retail cards while other locations have a population who use retail cards more sparingly. Our study uncovers retail and charge card usage for 100 of the most populated metropolitan areas. Nationally, 61.3% of credit card owners have at least one retail card and 30.4% of them carry a balance on a retail card, representing 11.4% of outstanding balances. The average balance on a retail card in the U.S. is $2,699.

The methodology
We looked at a sample of anonymized users who logged into My LendingTree the first quarter of 2018. From this sample, we calculated how many of them had retail credit and charge cards, and then calculated statistics related to their balances.

Four statistics were the areas of focus:

Percentage of credit card owners who have at least one retail card.
Average balance on retail cards, among those who have them.
Percentage who carry a balance on retail cards.
Average percentage of credit card and charge card balances that are held on retail cards.
The results were aggregated to the 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas by population. To rank results, each metro was scored by summing the normalized value (relative to other metros) of each of the four statistics and then dividing that sum by four, for a highest possible score of 100 and a lowest possible score of 0.

In this study, retail cards are defined as revolving credit cards or charge accounts under the following industry codes: Clothing; Home Furnishings; Department & Variety Stores; Automotive; Oil Companies; Jewelry & Cameras; Lumber/Building Material/Hardware; and Sporting Goods. Farm & Garden Supplies are not included since these appeared to include mostly heavy agricultural equipment suppliers.

Key findings
Residents of McAllen, Texas are by far the highest users of retail credit and charge cards. The metro earned a final score of 87.2 and ranked first in these categories:
The number of people who have retail cards (72%)
The number of retail card owners who carry a balance on their retail cards (45%)
And the percentage of credit card debt carried on a retail card (17%)
People in Charleston, S.C. have this retail card claim to fame: They carry the highest balances on their retail cards among all 100 metros, with an average balance of $4,026 and a median balance of $1,746. Meanwhile, Albany, N.Y. had the lowest average balance ($2,420).
Honolulu has the lowest retail card usage, with a final score of 9.4; although it didn’t rank last in any individual category, it ranked extremely low in all.
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