How to Freeze Your Credit
Information on freezing your credit—plus resources for monitoring your credit score and protecting yourself from identity theft
Have you heard of a “credit freeze”? If you have concerns about your account security or identity theft, freezing your credit might be an option to consider.
Credit freezes can make your data more secure by restricting access to your credit report—and as of 2018, it’s free to freeze your credit. Here’s what you need to know about how to freeze your credit, plus other information about monitoring your credit score and protecting against credit card fraud.
What is a Credit Freeze?
A credit freeze allows you to restrict access to your credit report. When a credit freeze is placed on your account, no one can access your credit report—making it harder for a fraudster to open a new line of credit in your name.
The Federal Trade Commission is a useful source for up-to-date information on credit freezes. This section references information from the FTC. For more details, refer to the FTC’s Credit Freeze FAQs.
Here are some of the most important things to know about freezing your credit:
Why freeze your credit?
Banks and businesses typically need to see your credit report before issuing you a new line of credit. So if you have concerns about identity theft, a credit freeze can make it more difficult for fraudsters to open new lines of credit in your name.
Even if you don’t have any immediate concerns of identity theft, you may choose to freeze your credit to increase your credit security, especially if you aren’t planning to open a new account soon.
How much does it cost to freeze your credit?
Under current U.S. law, it won’t cost you anything to freeze your credit with the 3 main nationwide credit bureaus. Unfreezing your credit is also free of charge.
How do you freeze your credit?
In order to freeze your credit for free, you’ll need to contact each of the 3 major credit bureaus: Equifax®, Experian® and TransUnion®. You can request a credit freeze online, but you’ll need to contact all 3 bureaus. Or if you prefer, you might be able to mail in a request or freeze your credit over the phone.
In order to freeze your credit, you may be required to provide your Social Security number, birthday and other personal identification information. You then may be asked to select a PIN to protect your report.
How to freeze your credit with Equifax
- Visit the Equifax website and click the GET STARTED button.
- Enter your personal information and create an account.
- Request a freeze on your credit.
How to freeze your credit with Experian
- Visit the Experian website and click the following 2 buttons: Add a Security Freeze, then Freeze My Own Credit.
- Enter your personal information and create a PIN.
- Click Submit and request a freeze on your credit.
How to freeze your credit with TransUnion
- Visit the TransUnion website and click the ADD FREEZE button.
- Create an account and verify your identity.
- Request a freeze on your credit.
Can you still build credit with a credit freeze?
Yes, you can still build credit with a credit freeze. It doesn’t affect your ability to use your current credit cards or practice behaviors that can help build credit. But if you want to open new lines of credit, including new credit cards, you will need to go through the process of lifting the freeze on your credit.
Does freezing your credit hurt your credit?
No, freezing your credit does not affect your credit score, and it won’t affect your ability to get your annual free credit report. It also does not keep you from opening a new credit card account, though you must first lift the freeze to apply.
How long does it take for a credit freeze to be lifted?
If the request is made by phone or online, a credit freeze must be lifted within an hour. When you lift the freeze on your credit, you’ll need to determine whether you’d like to permanently or temporarily lift the freeze.
Temporary lifts might be beneficial if you have a potential employer or lender interested in accessing your credit report. If you know which credit bureau the business uses, you need to lift your freeze only with that bureau. If not, you’ll need to lift your freeze with each bureau. Opting to permanently lift a credit freeze means your credit will remain unfrozen until you request another freeze.
Is freezing your credit different from locking your credit?
Freezing your credit and locking your credit are different, but similar, processes. A credit freeze is protected by federal law. A credit lock, on the other hand, might be offered by credit bureaus as a service. While credit locks can be more convenient, they also may have monthly fees or associated costs, so do the research to decide which approach is best for you.
Protecting Yourself Against Credit Card Fraud
Concerned about credit card fraud? Freezing your credit is one way to protect yourself against fraud or identity theft, but there are other tactics you can use, too. Learn more about why fraud alerts are triggered, and take some basic steps to make your accounts more secure.
What triggers a credit card fraud alert?
Fraud alerts can provide helpful protection against identity theft and stolen credit card numbers. Purchases made in new stores or on large shopping sprees or large cash withdrawals can all trigger a fraud alert on your card.
Of course, sometimes you may actually just be making a bigger purchase than usual or traveling to a new area—but it’s better to be safe! Many banks offer the option to set up purchase notifications via text messages or mobile apps, such as the Capital One® Mobile app.
What steps can you take to protect against identity theft?
There are a number of signs that your identity may have been stolen, including unknown transactions, unexplainable tax filings and missing financial statements. Credit card numbers can be stolen from surprising places—anywhere from coffee shops to your email inbox. Fraudsters can even steal your information by targeting your cellphone in a scam commonly referred to as a “SIM swap.”
One of the most important first steps to take is to make sure your information is safe and secure. Avoid using the same passwords across accounts, and choose a PIN that’s not easy to guess (hint: not your birthday). Want more protection against credit card fraud? Follow these tips to keep your accounts secure.
What if my credit card is lost or stolen?
If you’ve misplaced your card (or think it may have been stolen), it’s important to report the loss immediately. If you’re a Capital One customer, you can do this by logging in to your account and clicking “Report Lost, Stolen or Damaged Card” under the “Services” drop-down menu.
Many credit card companies offer $0 fraud liability, which means that once they’ve verified your report, they likely will not hold you accountable for unauthorized charges that are made on a lost or stolen card. After you’ve reported your card as lost or stolen, you may want to follow these steps to monitor your account security.
Tips for Checking Your Credit Score
Quick—do you know your credit score? Monitoring your credit score and report is one way to ensure you’re in the know about changes that could impact your score. Here are some resources that can help you check your score and understand how it’s calculated:
How to monitor your credit report and credit score
You can get a free copy of your credit report once per year from annualcreditreport.com.
Between reports, you may want to use a credit monitoring tool such as CreditWise® from Capital One to monitor your credit score. CreditWise gives you free access to your TransUnion report and your credit score,* and it’s a free service that’s available to anyone—even if you’re not a Capital One customer.
Know what impacts your credit score
Credit scores are determined by 5 main factors: payment history, amounts owed, length of credit history, types of credit and new credit available. Your score is a gauge of financial responsibility, and it’s an important number to know. FYI, generally, a credit score of 760+ is considered “excellent.”
Don’t get more credit cards than you need
Multiple inquiries for new credit cards can have a negative impact on your credit score, so be mindful of this when applying for cards. If you’re not sure how many credit cards is too many, check out these tips to help you determine what might be right for you.
Stay Protected With a Personal Security Strategy
Concerned about identity theft or someone stealing your credit card number? It’s important to take steps to secure your information and identity.
A credit freeze can be a helpful tool for added protection, so consider implementing it as part of your personal security strategy. But freezing your credit is just one option to consider, so look into other strategies, such as purchase notifications and credit monitoring, to keep your accounts and credit score secure.
We hope that you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.
*Your CreditWise score is calculated using the TransUnion VantageScore® 3.0 model, which is one of many scoring models used by lenders. It likely won’t be the same model your lender uses, but it is an accurate measure of your credit health. The availability of the CreditWise tool depends on our ability to obtain your credit history from TransUnion. Alerts are based on changes to your TransUnion and Experian credit reports and information we find on the dark web. The tool is not guaranteed to detect all identity theft.