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Two new reports on credit scores: one reveals significant variation by state, and another shows how credit scores are affected by common holiday credit moves such as applying for a retail card or sudden increases in credit utilization.

Location, location, location

Credit agency Experian released its State of Credit report and it found residents of Texas suffer from some of the lowest credit scores in the country. Conversely, people who live in the Midwest region average the highest credit scores. Experian bases its scores on the VantageScore scoring range of 501-990.

Harlingen, Texas, was found to have the nation's lowest average credit score of 686, and Experian's study showed four of the bottom 10 scores were in Texas. The highest average score of 789 was found in Wausau, Wis. And in fact, four of the top 10 scores were in Wisconsin.

Experian's study noted that nine of the top 10 cities with the highest average score also had an unemployment rate lower than the national average. On the flip side, seven of the 10 cities with the lowest scores were also those that had the highest average debt, suffer from high unemployment rates and high foreclosure numbers.

Ho-ho-huh?

Consumers who open retail credit card accounts, perhaps to pay for holiday purchases in the coming months, could experience a 52-point decline in their credit score, according to a simulation of credit score changes conducted by Freescore.com. The online credit score reporting business notes that by opening a new retail credit card account with a $2,500 limit, that a 52-point decline is possible, but also if an existing credit card balance is increased by $2,000, the possible decline could be about 68 points.

Freescore.com noted that for a new home purchase, a decline in credit score by just 40 points could result in a higher interest rate, which in Freescore.com's example could cost an additional $9,000 over the life of a $200,000 mortgage loan.