Maxed out

This Houston-area town rings up some of the longest credit card payoff time in the U.S.

Houston-area town rings up some of the longest credit card payoff time

wallet with credit cards
No one likes to think about credit card debt around the holidays. Photo courtesy of Local Government Federal Credit Union

Residents of The Woodlands might be dreaming of a white Christmas — as well as a debt-free Christmas.

A new study from personal finance website WalletHub shows that among more than 2,500 U.S. cities, The Woodlands hovers near the top of the longest-time-to-pay-off list, coming in at No. 7 overall. WalletHub found the median credit card debt there is $5,088, and the period to pay off that debt runs 20 months and 27 days. 

In other words, someone in The Woodlands with that level of debt right now wouldn’t wipe it out until late 2020.

WalletHub researchers relied on data from credit bureau TransUnion, the Federal Reserve, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the company’s proprietary credit card payoff calculator to determine the time required to pay the median credit card balance in more than 2,500 U.S. cities.

Meanwhile, a Texas city to the north sits at No. 1 in the nation for the amount of time it takes to pay off credit card debt.

According to the study, the median credit card debt in Colleyville adds up to $5,593, and the amount of time it takes to pay off that debt totals 24 months and 28 days. 

If folks in The Woodlands and Colleyville are seeking examples of how to pay off credit card debt rapidly, they can look to their neighbors in Allen. There, the median debt of $3,780 evaporates in only three months and 16 days, the study says. That was one of the shortest payoff periods among the more than 2,500 cities in the study.

Elsewhere in Texas, Austin ranks fifth among major U.S. cities for the longest time to pay off credit card debt. Austin’s median credit card debt of $3,217 takes 16 months and six days to erase, the study indicates.

As cardholders in The Woodlands, Colleyville, and Austin might be discovering, a fat balance on a credit card can make them feel pretty Grinch-y.

“We believe the biggest mistake people make when managing credit card debt is thinking that carrying a large balance doesn’t hurt their credit,” Caroline Compton of, a nonprofit credit counseling agency, says in a video accompanying WalletHub’s release about the study.

Credit utilization is the second biggest factor in determining your credit score, Compton notes. Therefore, she adds, consumers should use their cards “wisely by keeping the balances between 20 and 30 percent and paying them down when the bill is due so you can maintain a healthy credit score and avoid any unnecessary interest charges.” 

FICO, the country’s largest provider of credit scores, says that how much credit you’re using makes up 30 percent of your credit score. Payment history is the leading factor, at 35 percent.