Bankrate commissioned Gfk Roper to conduct a random survey of Americans' credit monitoring behavior as part of our yearlong Financial Literacy series. When asked how often they check their credit reports, the most telling result was the 32 percent of respondents answering "never."
"This is the first random sample interview that I recall seeing on the question of how often people check their credit reports. As such, it provides an interesting baseline, especially now that everyone is entitled to a free annual credit report," he says.
He views the "never" group as a "glass half full" versus "glass half empty" result. "It is good that just over two-thirds of consumers have looked at their credit report at some point. But in this era of heightened awareness of identity theft and the importance of credit scores, I guess I'm still surprised that nearly a third haven't looked," he says.
The "never" group is much larger in actuality, according to the president of consumer education at Credit.com, John Ulzheimer. "That number is directionally accurate because it is higher than other groups," he says, "but 32 percent feels low to me. Based on the people we talk to, I'd expect that number to be up in the eighties."
Ages and income
The response breakdown by age shows that people in their most active credit usage years (aged 25-49) are more likely to check. Thirty-four percent of those 25 to 34 years old say they check their reports about once a year; 37 percent of adults aged 35 to 49 say they do, too.
"People would rather watch a basketball game than save hundreds of thousands of dollars."
"Over half of consumers (51.5 percent) aged 65+ have never checked, but that's not too surprising since most of them use credit less often than younger consumers. And, all of their more active credit usage years were in an era less friendly to credit report disclosure -- scores weren't disclosed at all until about 2002 or 2003," says Staten. The income breakdown reveals lower-income consumers (incomes under $30,000 per year) are less likely to follow their credit report, Staten points out, which is consistent with lower credit usage.
Adding together those who don't check reports regularly with those who never do, the poll results reveal that 50 percent of those surveyed aren't taking responsibility for their credit accuracy. "People would rather watch a basketball game than save hundreds of thousands of dollars. They'll buy books on making money on real estate, but won't pick the low-hanging fruit," says Ulzheimer.