This may sound surprising, but more than one in three Americans have never checked their credit reports and 14 percent say they typically go more than a year between checks, according to a survey by Bankrate.com.  

Array of credit cards (Photo by Medioimages/Photodisc, ThinkStock)

While those between the ages of 30 and 49 were the most likely to check their credit reports, seniors and millennials were not. In fact,  44 percent of senior citizens and 41 percent of millennials have never checked any of their reports.

Not all consumers are lagging behind though. The survey, which was released on May 4, found that 48 percent of Americans have reviewed at least one of their credit reports within the past year.

Consumers should check their credit reports at least once a year, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). Credit reports in the U.S. are issued by three major agencies - TransUnion, Experian and Equifax.

"It's important to check your credit report regularly at least once a year for a number of reasons. There are a number of inaccuracies that could be bringing your credit score down and if you want to maintain healthy credit, one of the easiest ways to do that is to check your report for accuracy and then dispute things that are inaccurate. That can give your credit score an immediate boost," Bruce McClary, spokesman for NFCC.

A study released in 2013 by the Federal Trade Commission found that one in four consumers had an error in a credit report issued by the three major agencies.

Inquiries placed on credit reports by an individual whose report it is, do not negatively impact the reports.

"You can check your credit report as much as you like, but free access to your report is limited to once every twelve months for each of the three credit reporting agencies," McClary said.

Why is it that many people are not checking their credit reports on a regular basis?

"I think it's a matter of people not necessarily knowing where to find their credit report or where to access it," McClary said. "Some people may also be confused by the process."

The information on a credit report can be used to determine whether a person can get a job in some states. Insurance, mortgage and car companies can also set their rates based on a person's credit score.

Bankrate has launched a new service, myBankrate, designed to help consumers monitor and protect their credit by offering a free credit score and credit report along with other no-cost financial assessment tools to help people make better informed financial decisions. You can access it at http://my.bankrate.com.

To access a free credit report, consumers can visit AnnualCreditReport.com, a site that is authorized by the federal government.