Debt dilemma

Houston racks up spot among worst cities for credit card debt

Houston is No. 13 in a recent study about credit card debt. Photo courtesy of Local Government Federal Credit Union

Many Houstonians are taking it to the limit — the credit limit, that is. A study published by LendingTree's CompareCards website finds that Houston ranks Houston ranks 13th nationally for the share of cardholders with at least one maxed-out card (28.4 percent). Ten percent have maxed out two or more cards.

Experian says the average credit card debt in the Houston metro area was $7,205 in the second quarter of this year, up 3.1 percent versus the same time in 2018. Houston ranks 11th for the highest level of credit card debt among major metro areas.

For its study, CompareCards analyzed an anonymized sample of credit reports from 1.3 million My LendingTree users with active credit cards. In the Alamo City, 29.2 percent of credit card holders have maxed out at least one card, meaning the balance is at least equal to the credit limit, according to CompareCards. Eleven percent have two or more maxed-out cards.

A report released November 4 by Experian, one of the major credit bureaus, shows the average credit card debt in the San Antonio metro area stood at $7,210 in the second quarter of this year, up 2.6 percent from the same period in 2018. That put it in 10th place for the highest amount of credit card debt among major metro areas.

Elsewhere in Texas, San Antonio ranks seventh with maxed-out debt. "The biggest reason for San Antonio appearing near the top of the list is probably income," says Matt Schulz, chief industry analyst at CompareCards. In 2018, the median household income in the San Antonio metro area was $57,379, compared with $60,629 in Texas and $61,937 in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Dallas lands at No. 43 (25.2 percent) and Austin at No. 66 (23.6 percent) on CompareCards' list of places for where cardholders have maxed out at least one credit card. The study indicates 8.7 percent of cardholders in Dallas and 7.6 percent in Austin have maxed out two or more cards.

Cardholders in Dallas-Fort Worth had average credit card debt of $7,291 in the second quarter of this year, up 1.8 percent from the same period in 2018, Experian says. DFW ranked eighth for the highest amount of debt among major metro areas.

In Austin, the average credit card debt in the second quarter of this year was $7,329, up 1.9 percent versus the year-ago period, according to Experian. That was the sixth highest amount among major metro areas.

Schulz points out that lower-income consumers tend to have credit cards with relatively low credit limits, making it easier for them to max out their cards.

At the top of the heap for maxed-out cardholders is Bridgeport, Connecticut, where 32.3 percent of consumers have maxed out at least one card, CompareCards says. In addition, 10.4 percent have maxed out two or more cards. Not surprisingly, cardholders in the Bridgeport metro area carried the highest average credit card debt in the U.S. during the second quarter of this year ($8,679), according to Experian.

The place with the lowest share of maxed-out cardholders is Provo, Utah, according to the CompareCards study. There, 17.9 percent of cardholders have maxed out at least one card, and 6.1 percent have two or more maxed-out cards.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

Stroke patients have a new hope for arm rehabilitation thanks to a team from UH. Photo courtesy of UH

Almost 800,000 people in the United States suffer from a stroke annually — and the affliction affects each patient differently. One University of Houston researcher has created a device that greatly improves the lives of patients whose stroke affected motor skills.

UH engineering professor Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal developed a next-generation robotic arm that can be controlled by the user's brainwaves. The portable device uses a brain-computer interface (BCI) developed by Contreras-Vidal. Stroke patient Oswald Reedus, 66, is the first person to use a device of this kind.

Reedus lost the use of his left arm following a stroke that also caused aphasia, or difficulty speaking. While he's been able to recover his ability to speak clearly, the new exoskeleton will help rehabilitate his arm.

When strapped into the noninvasive device, the user's brain activity is translated into motor commands to power upper-limb robotics. As patients like Reedus use the device, more data is collected to improve the experience.

“If I can pass along anything to help a stroke person’s life, I will do it. For me it’s my purpose in life now,” says Reedus in a news release from UH. His mother and younger brother both died of strokes, and Reedus is set on helping the device that can help other stroke patients recover.

Contreras-Vidal, a Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen distinguished professor, has led his device from ideation to in-home use, like with Reedus, as well as clinical trials at TIRR Memorial Hermann. The project is funded in part from an $813,999 grant from the National Science Foundation’s newly created Division of Translational Impacts.

"Our project addresses a pressing need for accessible, safe, and effective stroke rehabilitation devices for in-clinic and at-home use for sustainable long-term therapy, a global market size expected to currently be $31 billion," Contreras-Vidal says in the release. "Unfortunately, current devices fail to engage the patients, are hard to match to their needs and capabilities, are costly to use and maintain, or are limited to clinical settings."

Dr. Gerard E. Francisco, chief medical officer and director of the Neuro Recovery Research Center at TIRR Memorial Hermann, is leading the clinical trials for the device. He's also chair and professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston. He explains that TIRR's partnership with engineering schools such as the Cullen College of Engineering at UH and others around the nation is strategic.

“This is truly exciting because what we know now is there are so many ways we can induce neuroplasticity or how we can boost recovery,” says Francisco in the release. “That collaboration is going to give birth to many of these groundbreaking technologies and innovations we can offer our patients.”

Both parts of the device — a part that attaches to the patient's head and a part affixed to their arm — are noninvasive. Photo courtesy of UH

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