Posted by William Charles on September 20, 2018
Credit Reports

Published on September 20th, 2018 | by William Charles

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Should I Keep My Credit Report Frozen? An Updated Look At Pros/Cons

Update 09/20/18: When I originally posted this article I stated that you do still receive pre-screened offers. This was based on information found on the FTC website. Readers rightfully pointed out that you do receive some offers but not as many as you’d receive when your reports are unfrozen. Sites like CardMatch also won’t show any offers, because of that I’ve added it to the cons. I’ve also added having to unfreeze reports for bank account openings as a con as well. I believe it’s important to outline when you make mistakes so that’s why this post has been reposted.

Starting on Friday consumers will be able to freeze and unfreeze their credit reports for free. Several readers have asked if they should keep their reports frozen or not. Before we get started it’s important to understand what freezing your credit report actually does.

When you freeze your report it prevents it from being accessed by anybody, the only exceptions are that you can still access your own report and creditors that you already have an existing relationship with can still access your report but they can’t extend you new lines of credit. Having your report frozen can be useful for a number of reasons (discussed below), but the main reason people want to freeze their report is to prevent identity thieves from opening accounts in their name. If your report is frozen then a lender cannot access it and because of that no credit will be extended. When you place a freeze on your report you’re also given a PIN or password and this needs to be used whenever you want to:

  • Unfreeze your report
  • Allow a specific third party to access your report (e.g a lender)

Now that you understand what a credit freeze is let’s talk a look at both the pros and cons of keeping your reports frozen.

Pros

  • Security. As mentioned previously the main reason people want to freeze their report is to prevent identity thieves from opening new accounts and causing havoc. Having a freeze in place makes this significantly more difficult as they need to know your PIN/password to be able to lift that freeze.
  • Spreading credit inquiries over all three consumer reporting agencies. There are three main consumer reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian & TransUnion. One reason credit card companies will deny you is for too many recent inquiries for credit. An inquiry for credit (also known as a hard pull) is done whenever you apply for a loan/credit card, but in most cases they will only do a hard pull on your credit report from one of these three consumer reporting agencies. What reporting agencies a lender will pull from largely depends on what state you live and the lender themselves. It’s not uncommon for most lenders in one state to all pull from the same consumer reporting agency. In cases like that it’s useful to be able to ‘spread’ your inquiries over the other two unused agencies. This is possible with some lenders as they will pull your credit report from a different reporting agency if one is frozen. For more details read this post. This isn’t that applicable in this case as it normally requires one to be unfrozen, but sometimes they will accept the PIN/password instead. Keep in mind things like the Chase 5/24 rule care about how many new cards you have opened, rather than how many inquiries you have and new cards show up on all three reports.

Cons

  • You will need to unfreeze your report every time you apply for credit. If you want to apply for any loan, you’ll either need to unfreeze your report or provide an access code so the lender can view the report. Keep in mind under the new law the consumer reporting agencies have to unfreeze it within one hour and freeze it within one day.
  • Pre-screened offersAccording to the FTC you can continue to receive pre-screen offers even with a frozen report. In practice most people report not receiving pre-screened offers or not receiving as many as they previously did. Keep in mind sometimes pre-approved offers are higher than publicly available (e.g Platinum 100,000) or bypass rules (e.g Chase in branch or selected for you offers) so having access to these is important. In particular CardMatch won’t show any pre-approved offers if your reports are frozen.
  • Bank account bonuses/openings. When you open a new bank account (for the sign up bonus or other purposes) they do a soft pull on your credit report. If your report is frozen then they will usually just deny you. For those chasing bank account bonuses this means you’ll need to unfreeze your report each time you do.

F.A.Q’s

Can I still receive FICO/credit score updates?

According to this page on Credit Karma you can’t enroll for Credit Karma when your report is frozen, but you will continue to receive updates. This makes sense as existing relationships are allowed continued access as long as no credit is being extended. This should also be the case for other free credit monitoring/scoring sites and for free FICO scores provided by lenders.

Does freezing your credit report affect your score?

No it does not.

Final Thoughts

I think it’s really an individual choice on what the best option is. Having your identity stolen and accounts opened in your name sounds like an absolute nightmare. I don’t mind having to freeze and unfreeze my reports, but not having access to pre-screened offers is a big deal. I think I’ll end up keeping mine unfrozen for now, but it might depend on how difficult it is to freeze and unfreeze.

I’m also almost certain I’ve missed some pros and some cons, feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments below.



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Michael
Michael

Do we have any data points indicating that you are targeted for pre-screened offers when it’s frozen? I’ve been wondering this very question for 6+ months now…

I’ve had my credit frozen for 2 years now due to an identity theft issue… I haven’t been targeted for a single pre-screened offer since i froze it. My credit is quite good too so…just bad luck?

Tony
Tony

Whenever I freeze my Transunion, I find no offers on Card Match. When I unfreeze it, Chase and Amex show up like magic. This is just 1 dp, so take it with a grain of salt.

YoungestofAlltheBuck
YoungestofAlltheBuck

@Tony Same experience here

Simon
Simon

Another DP: I’ve kept mine frozen for the past 5 years… The only “pre-screened” offers I received were from Amex (I have their cards) and Capital One (just the regular offers sent out to most if not all people). And similar to Tony’s experience, Card Match doesn’t work for me at all – it shows card offers worse than those publicly available ones.

Parkerthon
Parkerthon

I don’t get squat from card match because I opt out of the marketing data sharing options whenever possible.

Gadget
Gadget

One man’s junk mail is another man’s treasure.

For someone that does OPT-IN, SO & I, we haven’t got jack from CardMatch, or the other prescreen credit card specific sites. As Simon said, the one’s I typically find are WORSE than public. However, occasionally I will get a decent offer in the mail or e-mail. 9 times out of 10 times I am finding the best offers here! Thank you DoC!

Mahraja
Mahraja

creditors that you already have an existing relationship with can still access your report sorry doc i do not agree to that bank of America now soft pulls for the credit increase and they were unable to even soft pull me and sent me letter to unfreeze blah blah…same thing happened with Synchrony Bank (Walmart MC) they sent me letter that due to freeze we are unable to process the credit line increase please unfreeze your file and contact us in so and so date whatever ..with that being said.. i am now sure even the soft pull can not be done if the reports are on ice just my 2 cents 😊

Gadget
Gadget

Existing creditors can soft pull your report for admin purposes. If you are requesting a new credit line, that’s always a hard pull, or credit limit increase, often that is a hard pull too. You have to unfreeze and/or provide your PIN.

Mang
Mang

Amex does NOT do a hard pull most of the time. My last 3 Amex cards did not add any hard pulls to any of the three bureaus

AUSTIN R BEAR
AUSTIN R BEAR

I had a CLI on a Bank of America credit card done a few weeks ago and it was a soft pull.

Gadget
Gadget

Hence why I said often. Depends on the issuer and sometimes the size of the request, and probably other factors.

Maybe because a CLI is a customer initiated pull, that might require the report be thawed. I am sure we will all see a lot more of these kinds of DP’s as the waters are tested. Mine are staying thawed so I won’t be the DP.

John
John

Sorry that is misinformation – https://www.doctorofcredit.com/bank-of-america-to-stop-hard-pulling-for-credit-limit-increases/ BoA already stopped doing hard pulls for CLI’s months ago. (The person you are responding to said they were requesting CLI with BoA)

https://www.doctorofcredit.com/credit-cards/which-credit-card-companies-do-a-hard-pull-for-a-credit-limit-increase/

^ There are many banks that do soft pulls only for CLI’s.

Gadget
Gadget

Ok John. Well, that is good information to have. And yes – many banks do soft pulls for CLI…. I was aware of that, but the very few times I have done CLI, they only bumped it up a little, and if you wanted more, it had to be a hard pull. But now that people have the ability to do easy freezes and thaws, many people are going to test the waters because you may as well request a CLI if have your reports frozen just to see what happens. No harm can come of it. Well, unless you get a shutdown…

_here_
_here_

How long does it take to unfreeze credit? Is it immediate or is it a 2-3 day waiting period? Could that cause problems for leaked links etc?

Beefer
Beefer

It says in the psot that under the new law it takes 1 hour to unfreeze and 1 days to freeze.

sw2tched
sw2tched

Immediate. I’ve unfrozen my EQ on two separate instances when opening new checking accounts while meeting with bank rep. The reps were then immediately able to open the account

Michael
Michael

They typically say to give it ~15 minutes when I call to do it now. You have to leave it unfrozen for at least 24 hours (maybe 48?).

My only real complaint about it is that I do have to actually call both equifax and experien (transunion seems to work fine online) which is a royal pain. The website stopped working for me about 6 months ago for some asinine reason.

Del
Del

I had to unfreeze Experian last week in order for my Chase (World of Hyatt) application to go through. I did it online and called Chase immediately, so all in all this took 5-10 minutes from unfreezing to approval).

James L
James L

It has been immediate for me the few times I’ve done it. I usually do this online via a credit union website with a credit card rep on the phone, and chatting with a Chase rep he said in his experience they can usually pull a report after it’s unfrozen without needing another phone call.

SamSimon
SamSimon

You also must unfreeze the report for many banks when applying for checking savings etc for example HSBC, PNC etc the application will not go through…

sw2tched
sw2tched

I’ll second this. I always unfreeze my EQ when opening new checking/savings accounts now

MoreSun
MoreSun

Exactly what came to my mind. Frozen reports can cause ID verification failures for bank accounts. Not all but some.

Ann
Ann

Probably because some use Equifax’s ID question service and others use LexisNexis.

Yoni
Yoni

I will second this – DOC posted Rivermark CU bonus this summer, the website said they Pulled EX – reality was they HP EQ, so I only unfroze my EX and they said I needed to come into a branch to finish opening – unfroze DW EQ and she was able to fund and finish opening online. Going to wait till 90 days to retry (with EQ unfrozen).

SamSimon
SamSimon

Recently also Wells Fargo, and Bank of America applications for checking accounts online didn’t go through because my Experian was frozen… they told me to lyft it and reapply, I lyfted it, and applications went through. NY state. maybe it’s also YMMV. many banks use Soft credit pull nowadays

Filippo
Filippo

“creditors that you already have an existing relationship with can still access your report but they can’t extend you new lines of credit”

So I am assuming Chase is able to see all the new cards I am opening as they can soft pull my reports anytime, and eventually shut my accounts with them down?

Gadget
Gadget

Sure. They can. But I personally think the Chase shutdown fear is overblown. Can it happen? Yup. If they feel you are a risk, they can cut ties. It’s very probable they have algorithms that predict risk like your bust-out score… and they don’t have to tell you anything about why your being shutdown.

Discover shut me down for failed ACH trial deposits when setting up bank transfers. They pulled my CHEX and closed my credit card and bank products about a month later. A year later they were sending me pre-screened offers to come back. Applied-approved. They want you back when they think your profitable.

Jeff
Jeff

Data point: I froze all three reports last year after the Equifax breach (free for DC residents). My experience apply for credit cards since: it’s really easy and causes no problems unless they demand I unfreeze Experian. For Experian and TransUnion it is simple to go to their web site, enter my pin, and tell them to unfreeze my report for a specified range of dates. Simple. Except for Experian. My PIN, which I know is correct, never works and they then say I need to send in a ton of documents to verify my identity. Instead I call them, give them my pin over the phone, and they say no problem and unfreeze. Why this won’t work online I don’t know, but many people have the same issue. It is a hassle bc I have to navigate the menus to get a live person which is not easy to do (and I search the web for alternative phone numbers and strategies to make it easier). Recently most of my applications have worked by unfreezing TransUnion instead (after I call reconsideration line) and that’s good to spread out hard pulls anyway. Bottom line: Experian makes this difficult if you have to unfreeze them, but still worth it if you apply for 5-6 credit cards/year like me. A rep told me they are going to improve the web experience soon but I’m not holding my breath.

JV
JV

For me I do not see the benefit of freezing and unfreezing. With as many credit monitoring services that I have, i get a handful of emails the same day a new inquiry is pulled and the same with a new account, just not as immediate. I think it would be too much hassle to do it. I do not need to spread inquires either, i more so dabble in bank checking/savings bonuses versus credit card bonuses.

Ryan
Ryan

Same, except I do focus on CCs mostly. But the alerts I get are sufficient for me. And where I live, there’s a fairly even spread of which bureaus get pulled for the most part.

Parkerthon
Parkerthon

You know what’s better than having someone successfully open an account in your name and being alerted? Not having them be able to open it all. Much less hassle. Of course depends on how often you open accounts with freezing unfreezing becoming burdensome for the active churners. For most people, this is recommended.

Gus
Gus

I’d really like to see a pro/con or just recommendation about freezing under 16 year old kids reports. Is it a good idea to take advantage of a free service or worrying about something that’s not really a problem?

Yoni
Yoni

Gus
IIRC most (not all) issues with id theft and kids – offenders most of the time are family members, or noncustodial parents –

But the Credit Card act of 2009 makes it much more difficult for those under 21 to establish credit, but much easier if they are an AU.

Some lenders – if your not responding to a preapproved offer want POI, job history, upload DL, pay stubs from what I”ve read before they will approve if your under 21 and applying for credit.

My eldest turned 18 this year and after she turned 18 she got about 4-5 pre-approved offers in the mail (she also has a healthy AU credit history and CL’s with 800+ FICOs we also had her setup a self-lender acct to add an individual installment (secured) on her CR. Discover pre-approval for 12 mo 0% (but we taught her to pay in full every month ) as well 1.5% CB 2X 1st year, and $1,500 starter CL and APR% is around 14%. I do miss the points/miles when she was an active AU.

She hasn’t shown much interest in Churning, but her younger sister I think will make up for her apathy 😉

Jason_08
Jason_08

William Charles

“Sould I Keep […]”

😀

Abey

Thanks for the post. Very useful.

Small typo. take for talk.
(let’s talk a look at both the pros and cons).

Kay
Kay

Thanks Will for writing this post. Gives us all some food for thought as to what we should do. I appreciate your thoughts and the thoughts of everyone who have posted. I am along line of freezing all of mine but I will continue to read everyone’s comment before I turn on the switch. Thanks again Will!

JL
JL

if only there was an app for that…where you can toggle frozen/unfrozen.

Yoni
Yoni

The Experian CreditWorks premium you press and hold a button on screen with the app to lock and unlock.

It’s instantaneous – when we bought a new Car in July – had to unlock so they could pull credit – re-tried to pull credit right after I unlocked (unlock/unfreeze -semantics mostly but functionally same) and was able to pull credit with 15-30 seconds of unlocking – same with BofA on a Recon call.

anthony
anthony

How much does that service cost?

Joel
Joel

Transunion has now a free app! Check it out

P
P

I do freezing now because of Citi 9-digit mailers. Citi always pull both Equifax and Experian. They’ll approve me if only Experian is frozen but not with Equifax frozen. I like doing this since the total number of inquiries on my Experian report are equal to the combined number of inquiries on my Equifax and Transunion.

Gadget
Gadget

These are the kind of DP’s we will see a lot more of… which is great! But once again, is that universal, or state by state, or product to product, unsolicited or preapproved.

JK
JK

I get pre-approved offers in the mail pretty much every day, even though I always opt out / set my preferences for electronic only and no third party sharing. I hate it! It’s so annoying, and it’s bad for the environment. I’ll freeze my credit reports in a heartbeat if it means I can cut down on the junk mail.

Sammy
Sammy

This might fit your needs: https://www.optoutprescreen.com/

Closertothesun
Closertothesun

“Can I still receive FICO/credit score updates?

According to this page on Credit Karma you can’t enroll for Credit Karma when your report is frozen, but you will continue to receive updates. ”

Kinda misleading here, since CK doesn’t give FICO, and the Vantage score they give you isn’t used by 95% of lenders.

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