Credit Report Ladder - Illustration by Michael Brown
Illustration by Michael Brown

When did you get your latest free credit report?

Here is one important and disturbing fact: only one in five consumers obtains copies of their credit report each year.

Here is another: One in five that does get his or her report is likely to receive a different score than the one sent to a lender!

In December 2012, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a report on how the three largest nationwide credit reporting companies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) manage data and compile your credit report.

Your credit report is critical to your financial future because lenders use it to make big decisions about you, like whether to approve you for a loan“, said Pamela Banks, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union. The report helps consumers understand what goes in to their report so they can be smart about how they handle their credit.”

Banks continued, “It is especially concerning that so few consumers are getting their free credit reports every year. Often times the only way that a consumer will find out that there is an error is after they’re denied credit, which could easily be avoided by routinely checking your report and disputing errors.

My suggestion is that you get your reports and make sure they are accurate. Do this on a regular basis. You can spread your reports over the year; get one from Experian in January, one from Equifax in May, and so forth.

How long ago was it since you got yours?

Remember, there is only one official place to get a truly free credit report: the web site While other sites may offer you a free report and additional services, they eventually will charge you for this service.

Consumers Union also has a page at with information on how to get your free credit report, how to fix mistakes in the report, and why it’s so important to check yours every year.

Still, you need be aware that there is one important thing missing from that report – your credit score! You must pay to get that score from Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion.

Even worse, a previous report by the CFPB found that one in five consumers was likely to receive a different score than the one sent to a lender!

Many consumers might assume that the report includes your score, but it doesn’t,” Banks pointed out. “Consumers need access to a reliable score and they shouldn’t have to shop around for the best deal and hope that it’s an accurate score.

Consumers Union is one of many organization urging the CFPB and Congress to change regulations and require credit scores to be included in your annual free credit report.

For years we have been saying that we need to take the mystery out of credit reporting,” said Pamela Banks.