WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - West Palm Beach residents have the highest average credit scores of any Florida city surveyed in an Experian report released Tuesday.
The average score of 753 for West Palm Beach is based on the VantageScore system with a scale of 501 to 990. The system is different from the more widely used FICO system which scores credit on a scale of 300 to 850.
Costa Mesa, Calif.-based Experian, one of the three main credit reporting companies, said West Palm Beach residents ranked 62nd out of 143 cities where consumers' scores were analyzed. A 753 is considered a "C" or average.
West Palm Beach's average score surpassed that of Fort Myers, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Miami and Tallahassee. The top-ranked city in the U.S. was Wausau, Wis., where the average credit score is 789.
Rod Griffin, Experian's director of education, said 4,829 scores of West Palm Beach residents were sampled in West Palm Beach.
"It is hard to pinpoint any single specific cause for scores in an area. What we have seen in the survey is that generally scores are better and unemployment is lower. There tend to be fewer foreclosures," Griffin said.
Florida ranks second nationally in foreclosures, and Palm Beach County's unemployment rate of 11 percent is almost two points above the national average of 9.1 percent.
The average debt of "West Palm Beach" is $23,443, which includes car payments, loans and credit cards, but not mortgages, Experian found.
Ryan Brown, president of Lending Group, a Palm Beach Gardens-based mortgage brokerage, said most consumers have no idea of the difference between the Vantage score and the FICO score.
"Most financial services companies will use the FICO score," Brown said. "If a client wants to check their credit report, they can do so online. We tell them to make sure they obtain the FICO, not the Vantage. It is more representative."
Multiplying the Vantage score by 0.86 approximates the FICO score, Brown said. On that basis, West Palm Beach's average would be 647.
Jessica Cecere, South Florida regional president at CredAbility in West Palm Beach, said it's not surprising that the area would be ranked average.
"We have the most wealth and the most poverty in the same county," Cecere said.
Best in Florida
Here's how average Vantage credit scores for residents of seven Florida cities ranked in a national survey.
Rank Score Average debt
West Palm Beach 62 753 $23,443
Fort Myers 69 75 $24,079
Tampa 92 740 $25,376
Orlando 98 734 $24,747
Jacksonville 113 727 $25,433
Miami 122 719 $24,030
Tallahassee 123 719 $24,104
Source: Experian, based on January through June 2011
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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