If you’ve ever paid a visit to San Diego, you probably returned home praising the city for its beauty, perfect weather, and fun, active vibe.

It’s also a mixed bag when it comes to credit scores, debt levels, and other financial metrics, as San Diego is one of the most expensive cities to live in, leading to high debt levels and relatively low credit scores for residents.

For those of you who have never been to San Diego, we turned to Will Farrel’s character, Ron Burgandy, in the movie Anchorman to help us narrate some facts and stats about credit scores and debt in San Diego.

First, a little history of San Diego straight from the mouth of Ron Burgandy, himself…

Discovered by the Germans in 1904, they named it San Diego, which, of course, in German means…

Ok, maybe we can skip that part and get right into the credit and debt statistics.

According to new reports, the average San Diego resident now has $8,665 in credit card debt.

Great Odin’s Raven! 

So, are people in San Diego awash in credit card debt and facing credit score implications?

That may seem a hefty number but consider that the average credit card debt in California is $8,971, so San Diego is actually lower than the state average.

I immediately regret this decision.

Likewise, economists use a metric called CDTI, or Credit (Card) Debt to Income, which is a more accurate measurement of debt levels compared to earnings. For instance, if someone in Milwaukee, let’s say, has $8,665 in credit card debt, it’s a much more significant burden proportionally because annual incomes there are much lower than San Diego.

Baxter, is that you? Bark twice if you’re in Milwaukee!

With that in mind, San Diego has an 8.59%, CDTI, which is 8% lower than the California state average, thanks to a relatively high average household income of $100,830 in San Diego.

For comparison purposes, Palo Alto, CA has the lowest CDTI ratio in the Golden States, sitting at only 4.56%. But Palo Alto residents also hold $9,415 in average credit card debt – far more than in San Diego. But close to 10k in debt is just a drop in the bucket when you consider that the average household in Palo Alto earns $206,325 annually!

Don’t act like you’re not impressed!

Of course, credit card debt managed correctly doesn’t have to be a burden, and credit scores in San Diego don’t necessarily need to suffer.

So, what is the average credit score in San Diego among all residents?

According to sources, the typical Experian credit score for San Diegans is only 661 – far below the national average of 695 or so. That’s somewhat surprising considering the high incomes and relatively modest credit card levels for San Diegans.

You stay classy, San Diego!

One clue why San Diego suffers in the credit scoring department is the fact that student loan debt is sizable in California’s second-largest city.

The average level of student loan debt (among those who have educational loans) is an eyebrow-raising $28,950 in San Diego. That’s right in line with student loan levels for the rest of California, but the burden on young (and young-ish) San Diego residents is evident.

If I were to give you some money out of my wallet, would that ease the pain?

In fact, San Diego is #4 in the entire country for the levels of credit card debt among Millennials. The average San Diegan between 18-34 years old holds $2,989 credit card debt individually (not household debt), which is only behind Irvine, CA ($3,327), San Francisco, CA ($3,104), and Virginia Beach, VA ($2,994).

A recent Credit Karma & Qualtrics survey found that 40% of all Millennials have gone into debt or spent on credit cards just to keep up with their friends – a disturbing financial trend. Instagram FOMO in action!

I’m kind of a big deal!

But it’s not only the younger demographic of Millennials that are burdened with student loans in San Diego, as 40-year-olds in the city lead the nation in student loan balances owed. The average 40-year-old San Diegan with student loans owes $43,483, the highest mark of all 25 largest metropolitan markets surveyed.

In total, San Diego’s 40-somethings owe an average of $43,970 in non-mortgage debt to 3.98 creditors, so they’re far from perfect when it comes to spending on credit cards!

When it comes to credit scoring in San Diego, there is some work to be done, as only 64% of all borrowers – less than 2 out of 3 – have a 100% track record with paying on time.

They’ve done studies, you know. 60% of the time, it works every time!

Credit scores are determined by a variety of factors, but payment history and paying on time every month accounts for 35% of FICO’s credit scoring algorithm, the most influential factor.

To paint an accurate credit score and debt picture for the typical San Diegan, we also have to take into account some negative trends for the city’s economy. In fact, the cost of living in San Diego is 64% higher than the national average, and the cost of housing is 178% above the national average.

Well… THAT escalated quickly.

It’s not a newsflash that San Diego – like many other California cities – is expensive for residents, but San Diego also has fallen from economic grace somewhat over the last 15 years.

In 2005, Forbes named San Diego the fifth wealthiest city in the entire United States. But fast forward to 2019 and San Diego has the third largest homeless population in the U.S., and 15% of all San Diegans live below the poverty line.


If you have any questions about your credit score, credit reporting, or need help boosting your credit, contact Blue Water Credit, the industry leader in credit repair, and stop by our local office in San Diego.

I’m very important – I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany!