Credit Freeze vs. Lock: What’s the Difference?

Posted on by David Lukic in Credit August 05, 2020
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The main difference between a credit freeze and credit lock is that while freezing your credit you restrict access to your credit report. It’s legal protection in contrast with credit lock. 

With all our technology and connectedness comes a price, vulnerability. Now more than ever before, our credit and identities are at risk from cybercriminals, thieves, and hackers. We, as consumers, must do all we can to protect ourselves against our most personal details falling into the hands of these perpetrators. 

Both Experian and Equifax experienced serious data breaches, and millions of Americans were affected. A couple of tools that people use to protect their identities are a credit lock and a credit freeze. Both options prevent someone other than you, from accessing your credit report and using it to open new accounts. Let’s explore a credit lock and a credit freeze to see, which is a better option for you.

What is Credit Lock?

All three of the major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) allow you to engage a lock on your credit. Credit bureaus are pushing this newer service because they often charge fees, and it’s quick and easy. However, be warned, a credit lock is not government-sanctioned or regulated, so you are not as protected with a credit lock as you are with a credit freeze. 

A credit lock is a temporary tool that you can use to restrict access to your credit report. You can unlock your credit at any time through a mobile app or through the internet, with the click of a button. It is entirely automated, which is why they sometimes charge fees. Credit reporting agencies promote these user-friendly options over a credit freeze because they are easier to manage and maintain.

credit lock vs credit freeze

Some consumers enjoy credit lock vs freeze because they do not have to remember any PINs. Experian also offers bundled services with its CreditWorks and IdentityWorks products. Some of the perks of a credit lock are copies of your credit report, your FICO score, and dark web monitoring of your sensitive information. TransUnion offers identity theft insurance, debt analysis, and access to an ID theft specialist with their products. Equifax offers a free product called Lock & Alert, but it’s pretty bare-bones without a lot of fanfare. 

How to Lock Credit

Unlike credit freezes, credit locks are unregulated, and all three of the credit reporting agencies do not guarantee their uptime or error-free operation. You take a risk using something like that on your crucial credit report and personal details.

To fully lock your credit, you will need to contact each of the three major credit bureaus separately to arrange it. Their information is below:

  •  Equifax Credit Lock

  •  Experian Credit Lock 

  •  TransUnion Credit Lock 

If you have been the victim of a data breach or identity theft, you may want to consider a credit freeze instead. 

What is a Credit Freeze?

A credit freeze restricts access to your credit report, but it’s also protected by law. If you order a credit freeze on your account, you must provide lenders with a PIN so they can access your credit report when determining your creditworthiness. No one without a PIN can access your report. You can “thaw” or lift the credit freeze at any time by calling, through the mail, or online. You will need to verify your identity and fill out a form with each one of the credit bureaus to remove it.

The federal government requires that all credit reporting agencies offer free credit freezes to their customers. The Fair Credit Reporting Act regulates these credit freezes.

What is a Credit Freeze?

How to Freeze Your Credit

If you have experienced identity theft, and are thinking about freezing your credit vs locking, credit experts advise against a credit lock in favor of a credit freeze. If your data was exposed, you want the most secure protection available, and a credit freeze is a way to go. Even while you have a credit freeze on your account, you can still access your credit report.

To impose a credit freeze on your credit, you will need to contact each of the three credit reporting agencies individually. Here are the three credit bureaus phone numbers and how you can reach out them :

  • Equifax - 800-685-1111, or by mail at P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348-5788.

  • Experian - or in writing at P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013, or call 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742).

  • TransUnion - by mail at P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016, or by calling 800-909-8872.

How to Freeze Credit for Child

You may want to consider freezing your child’s credit until he or she is an adult. As a parent or legal guardian of a child under 16 years old, you contact three credit report bureaus and put a freeze on their credit. Be aware that there can be a small fee. Child identity theft is a significant concern for many U.S. parents.

An Alternative to a Credit Lock or Credit Freeze - Fraud Alert

Another option instead of a credit freeze or credit lock is a fraud alert if you have been the victim of fraud. A fraud alert puts a notice on your credit report (without locking or freezing anything) to notify lenders that you have experienced fraud or identity theft. They then need to take extra precautions to verify your identity before lending you any money or opening new lines of credit. 

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