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How to Unfreeze Your Credit

Published March 28, 2023
4 min read

Key points about: unfreezing credit

  1. A credit freeze restricts who can access your credit report.

  2. You may need to unfreeze your credit to apply for new credit.

  3. It is free to freeze and unfreeze your credit report.

If you’re concerned about fraud or identity theft, a credit freeze can prevent someone from accessing your credit report. However, if you want to apply for a new credit card or a loan, a creditor will need access to your credit report to see if you qualify. To permit a credit check, you will have to unfreeze your credit report if you previously placed a credit freeze on your credit file. Let’s explore what a credit freeze is, when to unfreeze your credit, and how to do it.

Is freezing credit the same as freezing a credit card?

Freezing your credit report and freezing a credit card are not the same thing. A credit freeze prevents access to your credit report and against someone opening new credit accounts in your name, while a credit card freeze prevents most new transactions on a card.

What is a credit freeze?

A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, restricts who can access your credit report. When you freeze your credit, it prevents you and others from opening a new credit account for as long as the freeze is in place. The purpose is to prevent any new credit accounts from being opened fraudulently in your name. You may decide to do a credit freeze if you’ve experienced credit card fraud or identity theft.

Anyone can freeze their credit report. To place a credit freeze, you need to contact each of the three major credit bureaus–Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Freezing your credit score is free, and will not hurt your credit score.

What is a credit card freeze?

If you misplace your credit card and you want to look for it before canceling, your credit card issue may allow you to use a credit card freeze. For instance, if you think you left your credit card at the grocery store, you may be able to freeze your account until you have a chance to find it.

Did you know?

A freeze prevents anyone from using your credit card without having to report it as lost or stolen. With Discover, you can use Freeze it® to freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.1

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There is no cost associated with freezing your credit card, and as soon as you find your credit card, you can unfreeze it. 

When to unfreeze your credit report

A credit freeze typically lasts until you unfreeze your account. If you want to apply for a new loan or credit card, you will need to unfreeze your credit to allow the lender to review your credit report to see if you qualify. When you want to unfreeze your credit report, you have two options.

Unfreeze your credit temporarily

If you’ve experienced fraud or your personal information has been stolen, you may want to use a temporary unfreeze. This is also called “thawing.” A temporary thaw allows creditors to access your credit for a select amount of time. You can contact the credit reporting agency to schedule a specific period of time that you would like to unfreeze your credit. 

Unfreeze your credit permanently

If you feel confident that your credit is secure and there has been no fraudulent activity, you might want to permanently unfreeze your credit.

Credit freeze vs. credit lock

A credit freeze and a credit lock both block access to your credit report. However, while a credit freeze is free, a credit lock is a service that is typically offered as part of a paid credit monitoring service offered by a credit bureau. With a credit freeze, you can keep it in place for as long as you want. A lock will last as long as you pay for the service. The main advantage of a credit lock is that you can lock and unlock your credit report yourself online, so you don’t have any wait, as you might with a credit freeze.

How to unfreeze credit with the major credit bureaus

To unfreeze your credit report, contact the credit bureau(s) where you originally froze your credit. You can typically reach the credit reporting agencies by phone, online, or by mail.

How long does it take to unfreeze your credit?

Credit bureaus are required by law to lift a freeze within one hour if requested by phone or online. If you mail in your request, the credit reporting agencies have up to three days after the request is received.

What does it cost to unfreeze a credit report?

By law, it is free to freeze and unfreeze your credit report whenever you want.

If you’ve been the victim of credit card fraud or identity theft, a credit freeze is a consumer protection tool that can help. A credit freeze is a free and convenient way to prevent someone from reviewing your credit report. If lenders need access to your credit file to approve you for new credit, you can request a temporary thaw. If you feel that you’re no longer at risk, you may want to request a permanent unfreeze.


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