How to freeze your credit for free
If you have concerns about account security and identity theft, it’s possible to freeze your credit to keep others from opening new accounts in your name.
It’s free, but there are a few steps you have to take—and multiple companies to contact. Here’s how to freeze your credit, plus other information about credit monitoring and protecting against fraud.
- A credit freeze restricts access to your credit reports, which can prevent identity thieves from using your information to open accounts in your name.
- You must request credit freezes separately from each major credit bureau.
- Freezing your credit won’t harm your credit or prevent you from building credit.
- Credit freezes will also keep potential lenders or employers from accessing your credit files.
- You can unfreeze your credit—temporarily or permanently.
What is a credit freeze?
Credit freezes restrict access to your credit reports. They’re sometimes called security freezes. And when your account is frozen, it makes it harder for scammers to open new lines of credit in your name.
Credit freezes aren’t just for adults. In some cases, you may also be able to freeze accounts on behalf of your children or other adults you’re responsible for.
Why freeze your credit?
Lenders review your credit before issuing you a new line of credit or a loan. If your personal information were to fall into the wrong hands, having a freeze in place can make it more difficult for scammers to open accounts without your permission.
Even if you don’t have any immediate concerns, you may choose to freeze your credit as a precaution— especially if you aren’t planning to open any new accounts soon. But be aware, you’ll have to unfreeze your credit if your plans change.
It’s worth noting that placing a credit freeze won’t affect your ability to build credit with your existing accounts and that it’s still important to pay all your bills on time.
How do you freeze your credit reports?
To freeze your credit reports, you’ll need to contact each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax®, Experian® and TransUnion®.
Each bureau has its own process, but be prepared to share some personal information, such as your Social Security number (SSN) and birthdate. You’ll also have to verify yourself. That might mean providing copies of personal documents, such as a driver’s license and a bank statement.
Each bureau lets you freeze your credit online. It’s a great option because you can also quickly unfreeze your account that way as well. But they also have telephone and mail options, which you might need if you’re freezing someone else’s credit.
You can visit each bureau’s website for the latest information, including information about credit monitoring services. But here are some basics about each bureau to get you started:
How to freeze your credit with Equifax
Here’s how Equifax says you can freeze your credit:
- Online: Start the Equifax credit freeze process by creating an account. Once your freeze is placed, you can also use the account to temporarily lift or permanently remove it.
- Phone: Call 888-298-0045 and follow the automated prompts. To verify your identity, you’ll be required to answer questions based on information in your credit report. You can also choose to have a one-time PIN sent by text message.
- Mail: Print and fill out Equifax’s security freeze request form. The form also notes the copies of personal documents you’ll need to provide to verify your address and identity. Once you have everything together, mail it all to:
- Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348-5788
- Equifax Information Services LLC
How to freeze your credit with Experian
Here’s how you can start the Experian credit freeze process:
- Online: Placing an online freeze with Experian starts with providing some personal information. You’ll also be asked to create a PIN to manage your account. You can also choose to have a random number assigned to you. The PIN is important for managing your freeze, so be sure to keep track of it.
- Phone: Call 888-397-3742 and follow the prompts. You’ll be required to provide your SSN to get started.
- Mail: Experian has specific directions about requesting a credit freeze by mail. The company says your letter should include your full name, middle initial and generation, if you’re a junior or senior. You also need to include your SSN, birthdate and complete addresses for the past two years. Supporting documents include a copy of a government-issued ID—such as a driver’s license—and a copy of a utility bill, bank statement or insurance statement. You can mail your request to:
- Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
- Experian Security Freeze
How to freeze your credit with TransUnion
Here’s how you can start the TransUnion credit freeze process:
- Online: Create a free account with TransUnion. You’ll be able to use the account to manage your freeze and access other services.
- Phone: Call 888-909-8872 to place a freeze over the phone. When you call, you’ll have to choose a six-digit PIN.
- Mail: TransUnion says to include your name, address and SSN in your letter. It also notes you’ll need to choose a six-digit PIN. Mail written requests to:
P.O. Box 160
Woodlyn, PA 19094
Important things to remember about credit freezes
First, freezing your credit doesn’t mean you can stop paying off debts. You’re still responsible for making at least the minimum payments on all your accounts every month.
Second, placing a freeze won’t hurt your ability to build credit with your existing accounts, but it also won’t keep your credit scores from going down if negative information is reported to the bureaus.
Freezing your credit might help protect your personal information, but it can also keep legitimate lenders from accessing your accounts. Every time you apply for a loan—including applications for credit cards, auto financing and mortgages—you’ll need to unfreeze your account so potential lenders can review your credit. You may also have to unfreeze your credit if a credit check is required to rent an apartment or turn on utilities.
If you know which credit bureau a lender will use to review your credit, you may be able to avoid unfreezing at each bureau. But that information can be hard to track down.
Finally, credit freezes are just one way you might protect yourself. It might help to learn other simple ways to help prevent identity theft. You can also read up on other scams and how to report them.
How to unfreeze credit
Unfreezing credit, sometimes called thawing, can be done on a temporary or permanent basis.
It’s free to unfreeze your credit, but the process is different at each bureau. Here’s what they say:
- Equifax: You can manage and unfreeze your account in multiple ways. But it might make sense to use the same method you used to place the freeze. You can sign in online, call 888-298-0045 or use the same form to submit a request through the mail.
- Experian: Make sure you have the PIN you were given when you placed your freeze. It’s crucial whether you’re removing a freeze online or over the phone (888-397-3742). If you don’t remember your PIN, you’ll have to go through the verification process again. You can also submit through the mail, but you’ll need to provide the same information and documents used to freeze your credit.
- TransUnion: The bureau says that the simplest way to remove a freeze is to do it online. You may also be able to do it over the phone or through the mail. Call TransUnion at 888-909-8872 to find out more.
How to freeze your child’s credit
There are rules about how old you have to be to get a credit card. And because most children can’t open an account on their own, people might think there’s nothing to worry about.
But fraud and identity theft can still happen to children. And just because they’re underage doesn’t mean scammers can’t use their information to open credit cards, bank accounts and more.
If your child is 15 or younger, you can freeze their credit as a precaution. Once they turn 16, they can do it themselves—not that you can’t help.
In cases where a scammer has already used your child’s information, the Federal Trade Commission says you should immediately freeze your child’s credit, among other steps.
If you decide to freeze your child’s credit, you’ll again need to make separate requests to each bureau. Those requests have to be done through the mail. Between that and gathering paperwork, the process can take a little time. And if you have more than one child, you’ll have to submit separate requests for each.
Here’s how to get started with each bureau:
- Equifax has a dedicated page to answer questions about freezing your child’s credit report. It also has a minor freeze request form to help you get started.
- Experian also has a page that details the basics and a formal request form to help you get started.
- TransUnion provides step-by-step directions about how to freeze your child’s credit report and what to include with your request.
Remember, freezing your child’s credit is just one precaution you can take. And like doing it for yourself, it won’t totally prevent identity theft.
How to freeze credit for a parent or other adult
If you’re in charge of caring for an older loved one, you may be able to place a security freeze on their behalf if you have power of attorney or a court order.
In some cases, the process is similar to placing a freeze for a child:
- Equifax has an adult freeze request form with full directions. It includes a list of documents you must provide to verify your identity and a mailing address where you can send your request.
- Experian directs people to use the same request form for adults and minors.
- TransUnion says you can call 888-909-8872 to start the process.
Credit freeze FAQs
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 other types of revolving credit. But if you want to open new lines of credit, including new credit cards, you’ll need to unfreeze your credit.
Does freezing your credit hurt your credit score?
No, freezing your credit doesn’t affect your credit score. If you plan to open a new account, you may have to lift your credit freezes first to be able 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 lift the freeze temporarily or permanently.
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’ll need to lift your freeze only with that bureau. If not, you’ll need to lift your freeze with each bureau. Choosing to permanently lift a credit freeze means your credit will remain unfrozen until you request another freeze.
How much does it cost to freeze your credit?
It’s free to freeze and unfreeze your credit. But that may not be the case with a similar process called a credit lock.
Credit locks also restrict who can access your credit reports. They may be helpful, but unlike freezes, credit locks aren’t guaranteed by law. Bureaus might even offer both credit locks and freezes. Be sure to double-check before you sign up.
And be sure not to confuse credit freezes and credit locks with card locks. Card locks can be used to limit the use of your actual credit card if it’s lost or stolen. Talk to your credit card issuer to find out more.
How is a credit lock different from a credit freeze?
Some credit bureaus and third parties offer credit lock services. Similar to credit freezes, credit locks might allow people to instantly lock or unlock their credit files. But there are two big differences.
First, credit freezes are protected by federal law. And they’re free. But a credit lock might be offered as a premium service—and that premium may come at a price. You may have to pay for the extra convenience. It can help to do some research to decide which approach is best for you.
How do fraud alerts compare to credit freezes?
People who suspect they’ve been the victim of identity theft, experienced a data breach or otherwise had their information compromised can also request fraud alerts.
Credit freezes require you to contact each of the major bureaus. For fraud alerts, you only have to reach out to one bureau. That bureau—whether it’s Equifax, Experian or TransUnion—must then contact the other two to have them place fraud alerts too.
Freezing credit in a nutshell
Concerned about identity theft or someone stealing your credit card number? It’s important to take steps to secure your information and identity. Part of that might include freezing your credit.
You can also monitor your credit by regularly reviewing your credit reports. You can get free copies from all three bureaus by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
CreditWise from Capital One
Another tool that might help is CreditWise. It’s free for everyone, even if you’re not a Capital One cardholder. And it has security features like dark web surveillance and an SSN tracker to help you take action more quickly if your personal information is compromised.
You can also use CreditWise to monitor your credit in other ways. It gives you access to your TransUnion credit report and weekly VantageScore® 3.0 credit score. Best of all, using CreditWise won’t hurt your scores.
We hope you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment or financial advice or to indicate that a particular Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.
Capital One does not provide, endorse or guarantee any third-party product, service, information, or recommendation listed above. The third parties listed are solely responsible for their products and services, and all trademarks listed are the property of their respective owners.
Your CreditWise score is calculated using the TransUnion® VantageScore® 3.0 model, which is one of many credit scoring models. Your CreditWise score is a good measure of your overall credit health, but it is not likely to be the same score used by creditors. The availability of the CreditWise tool depends on our ability to obtain your credit history from TransUnion. Some monitoring and alerts may not be available to you if the information you enter at enrollment does not match the information in your credit file at (or you do not have a file at) one or more consumer reporting agencies.
CreditWise Alerts are based on changes to your TransUnion and Experian® credit reports and information we find on the dark web.