When and How to Freeze Your Credit

6/29/2023 12:00:00 PM

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Month after month, reports of data breaches saturate the news. In today’s day and age, you can never be too safe with your personal and financial information.

Since your credit history is important for nearly all types of borrowing, you may want to consider freezing your credit as an extra way to protect yourself. Freezing your credit is free, and so is temporarily lifting the freeze (or “thawing” your credit).

What Is a Credit Freeze

Because most creditors need to view your credit report before opening a new account, a credit freeze helps prevent thieves from opening new credit and charge accounts in your name.

How a Credit Freeze Works

To fully protect your credit, you must place a credit freeze through all 3 credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

The process takes less than 5 minutes per bureau. To freeze your credit, you need to provide your full name, date of birth, Social Security number and current billing address. (In some cases, you may also need to provide a previous address, copy of your driver’s license and recent utility bill.)

Parents can also freeze their child’s credit, if the child is under 16 years old.

How to Lift Your Credit Freeze

When applying for the credit freeze, you will be given or asked to choose a PIN for each freeze you place. The PIN is used to temporarily lift (or remove) the freeze when you want to apply for a loan or new line of credit.

If you request a “credit thaw” online or by phone, credit bureaus must lift the credit freeze within one hour. (If you chose to submit via mail, the bureau has 3 business days after receiving your request to lift the freeze.) We recommend lifting a freeze 2 days prior to a credit inquiry from your borrower.

Note: A credit freeze does not affect your credit score or prevent you from receiving your annual credit report. It also doesn’t prevent a thief from making changes to existing accounts – only from opening new accounts in your name. That’s why even with a credit freeze, you should regularly monitor your bank and credit card accounts and insurance statements.