Time for a Personal Finance Checkup?

Time for a Personal Finance Checkup?

Did you make a New Year's Resolution to get your financial house in order in 2013?

A good place to start is by doing a personal checkup of your credit. And there are free options out there.

Don't fall for the pitches from the companies offering to sell you a credit report and obtain your credit score for a fee.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting agencies--Equifax, Experian and TransUnion--to provide consumers with one free copy of their credit report once every 12 months.

A credit report includes information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you've been sued or arrested, or have filed for bankruptcy. Nationwide consumer reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home.

To order your credit report, go to AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. You can also go online, complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

Do not contact the three nationwide consumer reporting companies individually. They provide free annual credit reports only through the centralized website, toll-free phone number and mailing address set up to handle such requests.