Report: Jackson citizens' credit scores lag behind nation - - Jackson, MS

Report: Jackson citizens' credit scores lag behind nation

By Cheryl Lasseter - bio|email|twitter

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Check cashing stores and payday loan shops aren't hard to come by in Jackson. Those who can't get traditional loans often have low credit scores, and now the credit monitoring agency Experian has determined that citizens in Jackson have the second-lowest average credit score in the country. With an average score of 698, we only lag behind Harlingen, Texas. Minneapolis, Minnesota's average is the highest at 787.

Sherry Rainey is Regional President of CredAbility, formerly the Consumer Credit Counseling Service. It's a non-profit budget and credit assistance outfit. She says, because more people than ever are out of jobs, they're relying more on credit cards, and perhaps can't always make their monthly payments. Also, many have never learned to avoid spending more than they earn.

"Maintaining an accurate or sufficient credit score is tied to how well you budget your household money. Some people have never been taught that," Rainey says. "Sitting down with them is a very important tool that we give them."

A low credit score directly affects your buying power. Community Bank Mortgage loan officer Ernie Turner says he's never had to reject a mortgage applicant, but he has become somewhat of a credit counselor himself. "So much of our business these days is educating the consumer. Not just rubber stamping, declined or approved," he says. "The biggest effect it's going to have is the type of programs we can offer them. Certain mortgages require higher credit scores."

Some tips from Experian to improve your credit score:

1. Pay off old debts. Start with the smallest and work your way up.
2. If you can't get a traditional credit card to build credit, you might be able to get a secured credit card through a bank that requires a savings account to pay out of.
3. Keep your card balances low so they're easier to pay.

Finally, make sure your credit report is accurate. "Everyone is entitled to one free credit report a month. There are three credit bureaus. We advise on a quarterly basis to pull one from each," Rainey says.

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