A new survey finds the average per capita credit card debt in New Jersey is $3,847, representing 10.5 percent of per capita income and 9.9 percent of per capita wealth.

That’s considerably higher than the average national amount of credit card debt, which is $2,576.

The SmartAsset.com review finds that Hunterdon County has the lowest per capita credit card debt, $5,002 compared to per capita income of $53,222 and per capita net wealth of $159,394.

The second lowest per capita credit card debt in New Jersey is Somerset County, which is $4,551 compared to income of $50,034 and net wealth of $114,736.

Residents in Hudson County have the highest per capita credit card debt — $3,336, which is 9.7 percent of income and 40.5 percent of wealth.

Essex and Passaic counties also had crushing credit card debts. Essex's per capita debt of $3,412 was 10.2 percent of income and 26.6 percent of wealth. Passaic's per capita debt of $3,530 was 12.3 percent of income and 19.5 percent of wealth.

Maury Randall, a finance professor at Rider University, said this is concerning because credit card debt is a very costly method of borrowing money.

“If one searches one might be able to get a better rate if one had to borrow from a financial institution, if one has access to that."

He suggested people carrying credit card debt definitely should look into taking out a loan from a financial institution like a bank.

“They might be far better off borrowing at a lower rate and paying off that credit card debt which could easily be somewhere between 10 and 20 percent, the borrower is paying an enormous amount of money.”

Randall said instead of carrying credit card debt and paying a lot of interest, if someone has a money market account, any kind of savings, CDs or even money in bonds or the stock market, “the interest they’re paying on the credit card debt is very often much higher than on the return they’re getting on these other investments."

That means if you take money from another investment to pay off what’s owed on a credit card, “it’s a risk-free return. In other words, by paying off the credit card debt, it’s going to reduce that financial outflow to the tune of a very high interest rate.”

He said doing this makes a lot of financial sense.

“They know it’s going to improve their financial state and it doesn’t hinge upon stock prices going up or down or anything along those lines.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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