How Long Does It Take to Thaw Frozen Credit?

Woman paying bills at laptop on bedroom floor
Dear Experian,

If I have thawed my credit report, how long is it before I can apply for credit and it will be accessible?

- SME

Dear SME,

In most cases, if you request to remove the freeze (also known as "thawing" your credit report) online or by telephone, your Experian credit file can be unfrozen within a matter of minutes—although you should allow up to an hour. You can also request to lift your freeze by mail.

If you send your request to thaw your report by mail, we recommend you allow up to three days for it to be thawed once Experian receives your request.

Equifax and TransUnion, the two other national credit reporting companies, may have different processes and policies for requesting a credit file thaw. Please contact them for details on how to unfreeze the credit reports they maintain.

Should I Freeze My Credit Report?

A credit freeze is a free tool available to help victims of identity theft protect themselves and their credit. But it is an extreme step, and there are some drawbacks. When you have a freeze on your credit report, you will need to remember to lift the freeze prior to applying for credit.

If you have had your personal information compromised and are concerned about credit fraud, there are some other free fraud tools to consider:

  • An initial security alert: This alert is also called a temporary security alert or temporary fraud alert. It lets lenders know that someone may be trying to apply for credit fraudulently and asks them to take extra steps to verify your identity before extending credit. Initial alerts are automatically removed after one year.
  • A fraud victim statement: Also called an extended fraud alert, this alert also lets lenders know that you have been a victim of identity theft and asks them to contact you at the number you provide if someone applies for credit in your name. To add an extended alert, you must submit a copy of your police report or identity theft report. Extended fraud alerts remain on credit reports for seven years.
  • An active-duty alert: Members of the armed forces on active duty can add an active-duty alert to their credit report to help protect themselves from fraud and identity theft while deployed. Active-duty alerts remain on the credit report for one year.

While a security freeze might be necessary in some instances, there are times when a fraud alert may be the wiser course of action. A fraud alert may cause a slight delay while your identity is verified, but once that's done, an alert will not prevent the lender from viewing your credit report and granting credit. With a credit freeze, you will have to contact each credit bureau where you have a freeze in place to lift it before your lender can check your credit, then reapply the freeze once the loan application process is finished.

For more information on file freezing, visit Experian's Freeze Center.

Thanks for asking.
Jennifer White, Consumer Education Specialist

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