man paying for clothes in one of the highest retail store credit card debt cities

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The Lone Star State likes shopping more than learning.

If you live in McAllen, Texas, there’s a low chance you have student debt — but odds are, you have a credit card through a retail store.

That’s the results of two recent studies from investment firm Lending Tree. The first tells us McAllen, Texas has the lowest student debt, now we find they have the most debt on retail charge cards.

“Store cards can be great ways to access discounts and other benefits,” the study says. “They can also be among the most expensive credit cards out there with rates often surpassing 20 percent APR.”

That’s a high interest rate. Before we get too far into where these cards are used most often, let’s take a look at what makes these cards different than others.

What is a retail store credit card?

Have you ever brought your items to the cash register at your favorite store, and the cashier asked, “would you like to sign up for a store card? It’ll save you 20 percent on your purchase today.”

It’s very typical at most large retailers to offer these lines of credit, but the question is — are they worth it?

Retail store credit cards are often low-balance cards with a limited use to the store you open the line of credit through. If you’re new to credit, or trying to rebuild your credit, these cards can help you — as long as you pay the balance every month. However, there are some drawbacks.

Let’s say this credit card to your favorite store has a balance of $300, it won’t be hard for you to charge most of your available credit line. That will in turn have negative effects on your credit score. FICO determines your credit score off five key factors, one of which is your credit utilization ratio. Meaning, the available credit balance you have compared to the amount you have already charged.

Retail store credit cards are also known for having large interest rates. The average annual percentage rate on credit cards from some of the largest retailers in America is almost 25 percent, according to a 2017 survey from That’s an expensive debt to carry around.

Of course not everything about these credit cards is terrible. They do offer some extra perks to keeping this type of credit line open. Some retailers will offer special incentive, or rewards deals. But they often can only be used at those stores.

Where do Americans use retail store credit cards the most?

McAllen is just the city with most residents using these types of cards, and carry a balance on those cards. In the top 10 cities using retail store credit cards, Texas has three of its cities make the list. The other two — El Paso, and Houston, Texas tied for 10th place. Here are the cities that earned their spot in the top 5…

  • McAllen, Texas: The average balance on retail store credit cards is $3,207. That’s actually not the highest average balance, but when considering how many people have these cards here, and the percentage of card balances they have, brought this city to the top of the list. Seventy-two percent of McAllen residents have retail cards. And 45 percent carry a balance on those cards.
  • Charleston, South Carolina: The average balance on a retail store charge card here is $4,026. Sixty-three percent of this city’s residents have charge cards. And 33 percent carry a balance on these cards.
  • Bakersfield, California: The balance that most retail store creditors hold here is $3,053. Sixty-eight percent have a balance on their charge card in this city. And 37 percent carry a balance on their card.
  • Riverside, California: Another city located in California with a high amount of retail store card holders. These shoppers hold an average balance of $3,115. Sixty-six percent of the population has one of these cards, and 36 percent carry a balance on them.
  • Lakeland-Winter Haven, Florida: Coming in at No. 5, and the only Florida city to make the top 10. Retail store card holders carry a balance of $3,628. Sixty percent of city residents have one, and 34 percent carry a balance on their charge cards.

Tired of struggling to pay off credit card debt on your own? Talk to a certified consumer credit counselor to find relief now.

Find Relief Today

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Meet the Author

Joe Pye

Joe Pye

Associate editor

Pye is the associate editor of

Credit & Debt, News

credit cards, interactive map, student loans

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