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A recent analysis indicates Casper has one of the country’s smallest increases in credit card debt

A view of the downtown business district in Casper. A recent analysis by the personal finance website WalletHub ranked the Oil City as having the second lowest average increase in household credit card debt nationwide in 2022.
Nick Pangere
A view of the downtown business district in Casper. A recent analysis by the personal finance website WalletHub ranked the Oil City as having the second lowest average increase in household credit card debt nationwide in 2022.

A recent analysis by the personal finance website WalletHub has listed Casper as among the top cities in the U.S. with the smallest increases in credit card debt. This comes as American consumers added an all-time record $180.3 billion in new credit card debt in 2022. This also included the highest single quarterly increase in the amount of debt ever recorded, with $85.8 billion being tallied in the final quarter of last year alone. Wyoming recorded an average credit card debt of $5,428 in the first quarter of 2022. As of July, Wyoming ranked fifth highest nationally for median credit card debt, with an average monthly bill of $2,324. It’s estimated it would take 14 months and 10 days for Wyomingites to pay off these median balances.

“We have essentially increased our debt load since the end of the Great Recession more and more each year, [and the] fourth quarter especially is the time when people tend to spend the most money, it's the holiday season shopping is at a high. And then this last year, we've seen even more money being put on credit cards, because of inflation,” said Jill Gonzalez, a WalletHub analyst.

The increase in credit card debt can partially be attributable to purchases of gifts and other non-essential items, but there’s also been an uptick in the number of Americans who are increasingly dependent on using their credit cards as a way to purchase more essential things, too.

“It's not just frivolous spending, it's putting actual needs like housing, food, [and] gas on cards because people can't keep up with the inflation,” Gonzalez said. “On top of this, our interest is being added to every month for a couple of months because the Fed[eral Reserve] has been raising its target rate each time it meets for the last six meetings or so. So, it's really a combination of things that adds to this increase.”

Casper residents also increased the amount of credit card debt they hold, but only saw an uptick of a few hundred dollars per household compared to increases of several thousand dollars at the higher end of WalletHub’s rankings.

“It is one of the lower increases at around $318 per household,” she said. “Just for some context here, the average was more like $1,000. In terms of an increase, the biggest increases were in California at around $4,000, so just having an increase of around $300 [is] relatively good news.”

WalletHub’s rankings include 182 cities from across the country with data compiled from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Federal Reserve, and TransUnion, a consumer credit reporting agency.

Casper, with an average credit card debt of $10,389 per household, was listed second in the rankings, just six dollars an average increase behind Lewiston, Maine, at $8,200 per household, as having the lowest increases. Rapid City, S.D. and Billings, Mont. were listed in the top 15.

“The coastal cities certainly are seeing bigger increases [and] California was a big chunk,” Gonzalez said. “The Northeast has a big chunk. In Florida, like around Miami, there's big chunks as well, as well as just major cities having higher odds of credit card debt. More rural places like Casper, Rapid City, these places are seeing less of an increase and more of a pay down.”

But not all large metro areas listed recorded large increases and not all smaller cities experienced smaller ones. This was noticeably lower than cities such as Boston, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles, which ranked 15th, 61st, and 152nd with average household credit card debt increases of $824, $1,325, and $1,979 respectively. Cheyenne, the only other location in Wyoming listed, came in at the higher end of the rankings, coming in at 157th with an average debt increase of $2,103 per household.

"The household credit card debt in Cheyenne has increased significantly compared to Casper over the past year,” she said. “More specifically, Cheyenne households owed over $2,100 more in credit card debt, while Casper household debt rose by just over $300. Without further details about things like income, financial situation, or other types of debt, it's difficult to find the reasons behind this discrepancy. It could be that Cheyenne residents were more affected by inflation, or experienced more financial hardship, or that Casper residents were simply able to pay off more of their debt."

There are general trends that played out with regard to the amount of credit card debt in different regions of the country.

“I think lower cost of living certainly has a lot to do with it,” Gonzalez said. “Even when we're looking at household credit card debt in general and not just the increases, these places also have lower debt to begin with.”

The average credit card debt per household at the fourth quarter of 2022 was $9,990, an 8.9 percent increase from the same period in 2021. The total credit card debt for Americans was $1,179.4 billion, a 15.5 percent increase from the year prior. This marked a 17 percent increase in net quarter increase for the two periods.

WalletHub’s ranking will be updated at the end of the first quarter of 2023.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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