Minnesotans' noted Midwestern work ethic apparently extends to personal finance.

The consumer and business credit rating agency Experian said in its State of Credit report for 2017 that Minnesotans have the highest credit scores in the country.

The company's annual survey shows that Minnesotans have an average credit score of 709 out of 850, well above the national average of 675. Vermont and New Hampshire trailed Minnesota residents with average scores of 702 and 701 respectively.

Minnesota's neighbors also ranked in the top 10: South Dakota ranked fourth with an average score of 700; North Dakota, sixth with 697; Wisconsin, seventh with 696; and Iowa, eighth with 695.

Kelly Olson Pedersen, the founder and CEO of Bloomington-based Caissa Wealth Strategies and a self-described "farm girl from Iowa," noted the high credit scores across Midwest states and communities.

"It's a blend of Midwestern work ethic," Pedersen said, "and strong ties to our farmer communities."

Minnesotans didn't earn high marks by merely avoiding credit cards but by making good on payments. According to Experian, Minnesotans have an average of 2.97 cards per person, but had a 0.2 ratio on late payments per billing cycle.

Experian listed a number of factors that contribute toward a Minnesota mind-set of fiscal responsibility. Among them: the state's healthy, diverse business community, low unemployment and relatively low cost of living.

Among metro areas, the Twin Cities ranked tops with an average credit score of 709, 34 points above the national average. The Mankato area tied for second with Rochester, N.Y., each with an average score of 708.

Only 20 percent of residents in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro have one or more accounts 90 days past due, well below the national average of 36 percent, the best in the country.

A low credit score can disqualify some people for mortgages or car loans. So a good credit score is beneficial.

"Once your credit score gets dinged, its hard to repair," said Olson Pedersen.

The best way to maintain that score, according to Olson Pedersen, is not to be fearful of credit cards. Instead, have a bit of debt and make consistent and on-time payments.

States with the lowest average credit scores were Mississippi with an average score of 647; Louisiana with 650; and Georgia with 654.

Patrick Kennedy • 612-673-7926