Do I Need to Lift a Credit Freeze to Apply for Credit?

Do I Need to Lift a Credit Freeze to Apply for Credit? article image.

 

A credit freeze, also called a security freeze, helps stop identity thieves from taking out credit in your name by preventing new creditors from accessing your credit report. A freeze doesn't only secure your report against criminals, however: It blocks all credit inquiries, even those that result from legitimate credit applications. So you'll need to lift the credit freeze before you apply for new credit.

Luckily, it's straightforward to lift the freeze, and there are options for unfreezing or "thawing" your credit without leaving yourself open to identity theft. That way, you can apply for credit without losing sleep.

How a Credit Freeze Works

Freezing your credit can help protect you from fraud by preventing identity thieves from applying for new credit in your name. You might choose to start a freeze after learning your personal information has been compromised in a data breach or after being targeted by an identity thief.

It's free to freeze your credit file, and it won't impact your credit. Note that you'll need to request a credit freeze with all three major credit bureaus to achieve the most protection.

To start a credit freeze through Experian, go to the Experian Security Freeze Center and select the option to start a new freeze.

Why You Need to Lift a Credit Freeze to Apply for Credit

Freezing your credit provides you with added security by blocking all hard inquiries from new creditors. The downside here is that freezing your credit will also prevent legitimate, authorized creditors from accessing your report in order to assess your creditworthiness when you apply for a card.

Because you must allow a creditor to access your credit history when you apply for new credit, you'll need to lift the credit freeze when you apply for a credit card. The same applies to mortgages and other loans.

Luckily, it's free and easy to unfreeze your credit report before you apply for new credit.

How to Unfreeze Your Credit Report

Unfreezing your Experian credit report online is a fast process: Your request will go into effect within an hour. Note that if you aren't sure which credit bureau your lender will use to pull your report, you'll need to thaw your credit through all three (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) individually.

There are three options for lifting a credit freeze.

Temporarily Lift the Freeze

If you still want the protection a freeze provides but need to give creditors short-term access to your file, a temporary thaw could be a smart move.

You can choose to lift the security freeze for a day, a week or however long you think is necessary to complete your credit application. The freeze will be restored automatically at the end of the timeframe you select.

To temporarily lift your credit freeze online, go to Experian's Credit Freeze Center. Select "Remove or lift a security freeze" and follow the instructions to provide the necessary personal information and select your dates.

Allow Just One Lender Access to Your Frozen Report

Don't want to leave your credit report open to identity thieves, even for a brief window of time? Experian allows you to provide a creditor with a single-use PIN to access your credit report.

To create a one-time PIN for your creditor, navigate to the Security Freeze Center and select "Grant a creditor one-time access to my credit file." Then, follow the instructions on the screen to generate your PIN.

Permanently Unfreeze Your Report

Proceed cautiously when permanently unfreezing your credit report. A security freeze provides you with armor against identity theft and fraud. If you believe you're being targeted, you probably want to keep that protection. If, however, you froze your report as a precaution, permanently unfreezing your credit file may be a good option for you.

To permanently unfreeze your report, start in the Security Freeze Center and select "Remove or lift security freeze." Follow the instructions on screen and choose the option for a permanent lift.

Keep in mind, you can also guard against potential identity theft using a fraud alert. Like a security freeze, a fraud alert puts on the brakes when creditors check your credit due to an application—but instead, a fraud alert requires creditors to take extra measures to verify your identity. That way, you don't need to take any action: The creditor will reach out to you when necessary to verify your identity. To place a fraud alert on your credit report, go to Experian's Fraud Alert Center.

The Bottom Line

Freezing your credit can reduce your risk of exposure to identity theft and fraud by blocking new creditors from accessing your report. When you're ready to apply for new credit, you'll need to provide access to your creditor by lifting the credit freeze.

Whatever you choose, continue monitoring your credit through Experian to keep an eye on all activity and detect potential fraud before damage occurs.

 

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