Skip to content

How to Freeze Your Credit Reports

Updated Sep 09, 2021 | Published Sep 30, 20184 min read

Advertiser Disclosure

Credit Card Insider is an independent, advertising supported website. Credit Card Insider receives compensation from some credit card issuers as advertisers. Advertiser relationships do not affect card ratings or our Editor’s Best Card Picks. Credit Card Insider has not reviewed all available credit card offers in the marketplace. Content is not provided or commissioned by any credit card issuers. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information, though all credit card information is presented without warranty. When you click on any ‘Apply Now’ button, the most up-to-date terms and conditions, rates, and fee information will be presented by the issuer. Credit Card Insider has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Credit Card Insider and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. A list of these issuers can be found on our Editorial Guidelines.

At a glance

A credit freeze will prevent anyone from opening up new credit accounts in your name. The credit bureau won’t be able to share your credit report with anyone until you lift (thaw) the freeze. Credit freezes can be helpful if you’re concerned about identity theft, and they don’t impact your credit scores in any way.

Credit Card Insider receives compensation from advertisers whose products may be mentioned on this page. Advertiser relationships do not affect card evaluations. Advertising partners do not edit or endorse our editorial content. Content is accurate to the best of our knowledge when it's published. Learn more in our Editorial Guidelines.

Worried about data breaches? Wondering who has your personal information?

If you have serious concerns about identity theft or fraudulent activity, you can place credit freezes on your credit reports as an extra level of protection.

What Is a Credit Freeze?

A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, prevents the credit bureau from sharing your credit report with any person or entity without your permission (it prevents hard credit inquiries). Without a credit report pull, no one can obtain credit and open a new account in your name — in most cases (there are some “guaranteed approval” credit cards that don’t require a credit check).

This helps prevent identity theft because if someone steals your information and goes to apply for a credit card, for example, the card issuer won’t be able to check your credit file. That means they won’t be able to issue a new account in your name, even if your Social Security number was stolen and used. When you freeze your credit, only your existing creditors and debt collectors can access your credit reports and credit scores (government agencies can access them too, in response to a court order).

Credit freezes do not affect your credit scores in any way, positive or negative. Credit freezes do not prevent you from receiving pre-qualified credit offers, either (because these come from soft inquiries).

Freezing credit reports can be a good strategy for identity theft victims, or anyone who was affected by the massive Equifax data breach. The Equifax breach affected over 145 million Americans, and in some cases credit card numbers were exposed.

Insider tip

Want to check the contents of your credit reports for fraudulent activity? Learn how to easily Monitor Your Credit Reports. You can also get free credit reports once per year through

After requesting a credit freeze you’ll be given a personal identification number (PIN), which is used to unfreeze your report. Be sure to record this in a safe place.

If you don’t want to go all out with a credit freeze, you should consider fraud alerts as part of your credit monitoring strategy instead. Fraud alerts require lenders to verify your identity by calling your phone number before issuing new credit accounts in your name, adding an extra layer of security.

Credit freezes will last until you request an unfreeze, which is appropriately known as “thawing.” This is in contrast to fraud alerts, which will last for 12 months after you set them.

If you want to apply for new credit you’ll need to thaw your reports. If you don’t want to fully thaw your report, you can temporarily unfreeze it for a specified time period, giving you a few days to apply for credit cards or loans. Or, if you know you’ll be applying with a specific lender, you may be able to request a single-use PIN to give to that lender, which will allow one-time access to your credit report.

Freezes and thaws will typically take place instantly when requested online or by phone. If you mail a request it will take longer.

You’ll need to request a credit freeze with each of the major credit reporting agencies separately: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. We’ve provided instructions below.

Insider tip

Credit bureaus often charged fees for credit freezes and thaws, depending on your state laws, but these fees were removed according to the federal Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act of 2018. This legislation took effect on September 21st, 2018, but some credit bureaus decided to lift these fees of their own accord before then. Free credit freezes should be a boon to ID theft victims and anyone else concerned about credit security.

Request a Credit Freeze With Each Credit Reporting Agency

If you’ve made the decision to freeze your credit reports, then it’s essential to do so with all three of the major credit bureaus. There is no single, centralized source where you can freeze all three of your credit reports at once.

Think of a credit freeze like a lock on a door. If you have three doors to your home but you only lock one, a burglar can still enter. You have to lock all three doors individually if you want to be secure.

Thankfully, credit freeze requests are fairly easy, and the process can be completed online by creating an account with each credit reporting company. If you can’t use the online method for some reason, you can also call or mail in your request.

Credit Bureau Website Phone Mail
Equifax Equifax Security Freeze Page


1-800-349-9960 (for NY residents)

Equifax Security Freeze,
P.O. Box 105788,
Atlanta, Georgia 30348
Experian Experian Security Freeze Page 1-888-397-3742 Experian Security Freeze,
P.O. Box 9554,
Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion TransUnion Credit Freeze Page  1-888-909-8872 TransUnion LLC,
P.O. Box 2000,
Chester, PA 19016
Insider tip

Each credit bureau also offers a service, called a credit lock, which lets you quickly lock and unlock your reports. This is basically like a security freeze but instead it’s a product that each credit bureau offers, rather than being a federally mandated service.

  • Equifax: The Lock & Alert service is free.
  • Experian: The CreditLock tool requires a CreditWorks Premium subscription, at $24.99 per month.
  • TransUnion: The TrueIdentity service allows you to lock your report for free.

Credit locks are easier to apply and remove, they don’t require a PIN, and they supposedly take effect more quickly, although freezes and thaws are often instant anyway. We recommend credit freezes over credit locks because locks cost money in some cases, they can unnecessarily bind you into non-advantageous contracts with the credit bureaus, and the bureaus may use your information to advertise more products to you.

Plan Ahead When Applying for Credit in the Future

It’s important to remember that after freezing your reports you’ll need to thaw them before you can apply for new credit.

Credit reports should thaw within minutes when you make the request online or by phone, but requests by mail will take much longer. Even though thaws are usually nearly instant, Experian recommends allowing three days for your credit reports to thaw before applying for new credit, as some states may have laws that affect this.

Each credit bureau allows you to unfreeze your report permanently or temporarily. You may want to just thaw it for a day, so you can apply for a particular credit card. Or perhaps you want to thaw it for a month, so you can rate-shop for an auto loan or mortgage. Depending on the bureau, you may be able to schedule the thaw in advance.

If you apply for a loan or credit card while your credit reports are still frozen, the lender will not be able to access your reports or scores and you’ll be denied. The lender won’t be able to run hard inquiries to view the information in your credit files. So you’ll have to re-apply again and time the thaw a little better.

Credit freezes and locks, along with fraud alerts, are the only truly proactive ways to protect your credit reports from fraud and identity thieves. However, due to the cumbersome and potentially inconvenient situation a credit freeze might land you in, it’s an option that not many consumers choose. If a credit freeze is not right for you consider the other options, and be sure to monitor your credit reports regularly for suspicious activity to guard against identity theft.

Insider tip

Want to learn all about credit? Read more in our Insider Academy.

Was this helpful?
Written by

Brendan Harkness

Brendan has been writing about personal finance for over eight years, and is now taking on the challenge of bringing high-quality credit education to the masses. He makes sure that Credit Card Insider is covering the most important credit topics transparently and precisely, and that we have up-to-date reviews of credit cards so you can find cards that are right for you.

Do you have a correction, tip, or suggestion for a new post? Contact us here.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by bank advertisers. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers' responsibility to ensure all posts are accurate and/or questions are answered.

Scroll to top