Debt Consolidation

Places That Pay Their Bills on Time, and Places Where People Fall Behind

Falling behind on bills is one of the most stressful aspects of modern life. Overtime, digging yourself out of late payments can become more challenging ⁠— especially as late fees begin to mount and your credit score takes a dive.

We reviewed over 1.4 million anonymized credit reports, from the 100 largest metropolitan areas, in order to find which areas are having the most success when it comes to paying bills on time. We also found which areas are struggling the most.

Click below to explore our findings:

Key findings

  • 94% of residents of Silicon Valley and the Bay Area are current with their bills, grabbing the 1 and No. 2 spots on our list. These are two of the most expensive places in the country, but also among those with the highest income.
  • Provo, Utah ( 1 last year) comes in 3rd — just a hair behind San Francisco — with 93% of residents current on their bills.
  • Jackson, Miss. took the last spot on the list. 17% of those residents are behind on their bills.
  • McAllen, Texas and Baton Rouge, La. round out the bottom three, where just under 17% and 16% are late on at least one bill, respectively.
  • Southern metros dominate the list of places where people are falling behind on their bills. All but two of the bottom 25 metros on our list are in the South; the other two are in Oklahoma.
  • The rate of people who are late is almost three times higher in Jackson than it is in San Jose, Calif.


The map above highlights the locations where people are most and least likely to pay their bills on time. The green dots represent the locations where people are most likely to be current on their bills. The red dots are the least likely to be current.

If you hover over a location, you can see which metro area it represents, as well as what percentage of people are current on their bills in that location.

10 places where Americans are paying their bills late

Since last year’s edition of this study, we have seen a significant shift in the areas where the largest percentage of residents are behind on bills. In our 2018 rankings, the Winston-Salem metro in North Carolina had the highest percentage of late payments, appearing last in our rankings out of 100 areas. That title is now held by Jackson, Miss.

The Winston-Salem area didn’t place among the bottom 10 this year. Despite this fact, the percentage of residents in that area who are behind on payments for at least one account rose year over year. In 2018, 9.53% of residents in the Winston-Salem metro were late on at least one account. In 2019, that number rose to 10.5%.


In general, the rates of residents behind on accounts in our bottom 10 have risen year over year. In 2018, the Winston-Salem metro ranked last, with 9.53% of residents behind on at least one account. In this year’s edition, Jackson comes in last with 17.1% of residents being behind.

Lower incomes may attribute to why these two regions have a history of struggling to pay their bills on time. The median income for an individual earner in North Carolina is $45,469, according to data from the Department of Justice. For Mississippi, it is $39,231. California meanwhile, which is home to the top two metros in our rankings, has a median income of $53,644.

But Mississippi residents are also contenting with another problem: High unemployment. It has the third-highest unemployment rate of any state (the District of Columbia included). Both Mississippi and North Carolina surpass California when it comes to unemployment rates. Unemployment is a difficult financial situation, and it may lead residents to have to decide between bills to stay current on.

10 places where Americans are current on bills

Two California areas take the top two spots in this year’s study: San Jose and San Francisco. About 94% of residents in both areas are current on their bills. This is no small feat when you consider how expensive it is to live in both of those areas. Interestingly, neither San Francisco nor San Jose ranked near the most debt-ridden places in the state.

Despite this, San Francisco experienced a drop in the percentage of residents who are current on bills. In 2018, 96.5% were current on their bills. In 2019, the rate is 93.7%.


In each of the top 10 areas in our rankings, more than 92% of residents pay their bills on time. And across the top 50 metro areas, 90% of residents are current on their bills.

Behind on bills? You have options to get current

  1. Speak with your utility providers and creditors
  2. Research government assistance programs
  3. Find a low-fee, short-term loan
  4. Look into debt consolidation

1. Speak with your utility providers and creditors

If you’re struggling to pay for utility costs, reach out to your providers and ask about assistance for low-income households, such as discount rates, and whether they offer payment plans. A payment plan might not reduce your overall cost of utilities, but it can buy you time.

You might also reach out to your creditors. Explain your financial situation and ask if they may be able to temporarily reduce or pause your payments so you could stay current on bills. If you’re struggling financially due to temporary circumstances, such as job loss, you could also see if your creditors offer any borrower protections. As an example, one personal loan lender we researched allows borrowers in good standing to apply for forbearance, up to 12 months.

2. Research government assistance programs

If you are struggling to afford your bills, you may be able to receive government assistance depending on your financial situation. There are government programs that may help you pay bills, including those associated with phone, medical and energy costs.

You can learn more about your options for receiving government financial assistance here.

3. Find a low-fee, short-term loan

A short-term loan can help you pay off bills before you miss a payment. A payday alternative loan (PAL) may be an appealing option to members of credit unions. The National Credit Union Administration enables federal credit unions to offer PALs to their members. A PAL is an affordable option. At most, PALs come with an application fee that costs $20 and they generally loan about $200 to $1,000. These short-term loans have terms that last 1-6 months.

For those who don’t belong to a credit union, Earnin may be an option available to you. Earnin is an app that allows you to access the money you’ve earned as soon as you finish working. In other words, you won’t have to wait until payday to collect income. There are no fees or interest associated with this service, making it a preferable option to traditional payday loans.

4. Look into debt consolidation

You can use a personal loan for a process called debt consolidation, where you take multiple unsecured debts (such as credit card bills) and roll them into a different form of financing like a personal loan. You’ll take a new loan and use it to pay off multiple debts. In the end, you will only have one loan to worry about paying off.

If managed responsibly, this process can help improve your credit score over time and lower the cost of the debt you are carrying. However, it is worth noting that without a strong credit history, you aren’t likely to qualify for favorable interest rates. If you have a lower credit score and take on an interest rate that is too high for you to afford, you risk not being able to make your loan payments on time. This can result in a lender taking actions that can damage your credit history, such as sending your loan to a collection agency or reporting your loan default to credit bureaus. If you have a low credit score, a secured loan that requires collateral may be a better option.

Methodology

Researchers reviewed a sample of over 1.4 million Q2 2019 anonymized credit reports of My LendingTree users to calculate the percentage of people who were at least 30 days late on at least one account in the 100 most populated metropolitan statistical areas.

My LendingTree is a financial intelligence platform available to the general public, regardless of their debt and credit histories, or whether they’ve pursued loans on a LendingTree platform. My LendingTree has over 12 million users.

 

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