Which Credit Card Issuers Will Approve an Application with a Frozen Credit Report?

Repost 08/18/2018: Given that credit freezes and unfreezes will become free starting Friday, I suspect that a lot of readers will be interested in a strategy of frozen credit reports.

We’ve written about placing a security freeze on your credit report, see Credit Freeze/Security Freeze. It’s meant for someone who has a specific security concern, but anyone who prefers their credit report frozen can do so. Some people feel more comfortable knowing with certainty that their credit report is only pulled when they give special permission.

A reader recently asked if we can provide more info on which credit card issuers will approve you for a credit card when your credit report is frozen. Which card issuers will agree to switch over and pull your credit report from a different credit bureau that they usually don’t use?

Freeze Your Credit

Credit card issuers typically pull your credit report from one of three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, or Transunion. When they ‘pull’ your credit report, it shows up as a ‘hard inquiry’ on your credit report and reduces your FICO score. If we could freeze one bureau and convince the card issuer to manually pull the report from a different bureau, we’d be able to stagger the pulls across the three different bureaus, so that any single report isn’t full of hard inquiries. This – in turn – would improve your credit score and improve your chances of credit card approval.

[RELATEDMy Credit Card Application Strategy]

Just to be clear, if there’s a freeze on your Experian credit report, for example, and you apply for a card from an issuer who pulls Experian, there definitely won’t be any instant approval. The application will automatically come up as ‘pending approval’ – since they weren’t able to access your credit report. The question is whether we can call up the card issuer and ask them to manually pull a different report and approve the application based on that.

This point is very important since many of us apply for lots credit cards and our approval rate is partially based on the fact that there’s no human intervention; the system sees our credit score and certain other info and auto-approves the application. This won’t happen when your credit report is frozen. Besides the headache of calling in to get an application approved, it may also make it harder to get approved, under the prying eyes of a human.

That being the case, many of us have a high number of inquiries on one credit bureau, Experian usually being the case, and very few on the other reports. Because of that we ventured to collect data points about which issuers will be amenable to pulling the credit report from a different bureau.

Please note, many of the data points are a couple years old. Things could have changed since then, and – in any case – these things vary a lot based on the agent you speak to.

How to Freeze

You can place a freeze on your credit report at these links:

Experian – https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html

Equifax – https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp

Transunion – http://www.transunion.com/personal-credit/credit-disputes/credit-freezes.page

After freezing your report, if you decide that you want to allow a lender access to your frozen credit report, you have 3 options:

  • you can permanently remove the credit freeze
  • you can temporarily remove the credit freeze
  • you can give the lender a one-time use PIN so that they can access your credit report

Option 1 would only be a good idea if you no longer want your credit report frozen at all. If you still want your report frozen, then you should use option 2 or 3. Option 2 will allow numerous lenders to view your credit, while option 3 will only allow a one-time view of your report by the lender whom you give the one-time PIN.

Note: Experian limits us to 2 temporary PINs per day. Beyond that, you’d need to remove the freeze, either a temporary removal or a permanent one (1).

Cost: For more details on the cost of placing and removing a credit freeze, see our previous post on the topic. It’s either free or costs $5 or $10.

List

Here’s a list of reports on which issuers will allow freezes:

Chase

Varying reports. Some have had success with them agreeing to pull a different credit report (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7), but other attempts have not been successful (1, 2, 3 4). Chase will allow you to give them a temporary PIN in order for them to access your report (1, 2).

Bank of America

Some found Bank of America willing to pull a different report upon request(1, 2), including recently (1, 2, 3,). Others found that they won’t allow pulling a different report (1, 2,)   BoA won’t allow using a temporary PIN to access the report; you’ll have to temporarily remove the freeze on your end (1). Others had success conferencing the credit bureau into the call, and giving BofA access to the report that way (1).

Citi

They won’t agree to pull a different report (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), unless that report is Experian (1, 2). Citi is willing to access your report with a temporary PIN, you don’t need to unfreeze it on your end (1), but one person had trouble actually getting Citi to use the temporary PIN (1). Citi will send you a letter saying that you need to unfreeze your report in order for them to  process the application (1) .

American Express

They won’t agree to pull a different report (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). Amex will allow you to give them the PIN to temporarily access the report, without needing to remove the freeze on your end (1, 2). If your report is frozen, Amex won’t do anything to inform you of an issue, they’ll just let the application expire (1). Others report that they’ll send you a letter saying that you need to unfreeze your report in order to process the application(1). Recently (3/14/18) there have been a couple of reports of Amex pulling a different report when one is frozen.

Separately, it’s worth noting that American Express often doesn’t pull your credit at all for those who already have an Amex card; results vary, but quite often they don’t do any pull at all.

Capital One 

As we know Capital One pulls all 3 bureaus for any single credit card application. We’ve now seen numerous reports which indicate that you can freeze one report and still be approved by Capital One. You can even get an instant approval with one bureau frozen (1, 2). More than one report frozen is assumed not to work. The particular data points that we’ve seen mentioned were in regard to freezing Experian and still getting an instant approval. From this myFico thread, it sounds like Equifax can never be frozen, but you can have either Experian or Transunion frozen.

More recently, this seems to be YMMV with some people reporting (1, 2, 3, 4) that Capital One will not approve with a frozen Experian (and, possibly, with Transunion frozen either). Others are still having success with freezing Experian (12 3). Yet another recent 2021 report indicates that even Equifax can now be frozen.

US Bank

Reports indicate (1, 2) that US Bank  does will not agree to pull a different report, even with a temporary PIN; you’ll have to unfreeze it on your end.

In the past, we’ve recommeded freezing two smaller credit reports (ARS and Sagestream) before applying for a US Bank credit card, though recently some report that making it harder instead of easier.

Barclay

We haven’t seen any reports on freezes before a Barclay application. That’s probably because Barclay pulls Transunion 99% of the time, and Transunion is one of the lesser-used Bureaus; most people are happy to just leave it be and have their Transunion report pulled.

First National Bank of Omaha

They will just deny you if the reported they wanted to pull is frozen.

Discover

Recent data points suggest (1, 2) that they are willing to pull from a different report when you request that. (They are not, however, willing to accept a PIN to access a frozen report.)

HSBC

Will usually pull Experian, if that’s frozen they will usually agree to pull a different report (1).

Final Thoughts

Being able to manipulate which bureau will be pulled sounds intriguing, especially for someone with unbalanced numbers of inquiries on their various credit reports. As mentioned, there’s a big downside since you’ll need to deal with human approval and the added hassle of having to call in.

Note that if you apply for a credit card when your report is frozen you usually won’t lose anything in terms of credit, since the card issuer didn’t pull anything at all in most cases. However, it may not be good to have lots of unfinished credit card applications, since it may not look good to in the eyes of that issuer.

The one instance where freezing the report seems to be only beneficial is in the case of Capital One where you can still get an instant approval, despite the security freeze. It’s all gain: instant approval and saving an inquiry.

[RELATEDWhy Capital One Credit Cards Are Now on My Radar Screen]

It’s also interesting to know that Chase and Bank of America may be willing to pull a different credit report. And remember to freeze your IDA and ARS reports before doing a US Bank application.

If you’re interested in reading more about freezing credit reports, I’d recommend reading two post written by our friend Rapid Travel Chai here and here.

Here are some other useful credit card posts from our site, broken down by card issuer:

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medellinfein
medellinfein

Cap1 just approved me instantly for Spark Cash with EXP frozen
– had EXP CreditLocked, other two open
– i see “Access blocked” on my Experian portal

Nukimi
Nukimi

My problem is one I haven’t seen anywhere online. I have excellent credit and until recently have had no issues when applying for credit. In the past two weeks, I have had two separate creditors tell me that my credit report is frozen and that I must unfreeze it for them to process their application. One was Citi, with whom I have an existing credit card account that will show me my credit score (in the 800’s) at any time. I spent hours going back and forth, and finally had a conference call with Citi and Experian, each of whom said the other was wrong. Citi said it is blocked; Experian said it is not. Tonight I had a different creditor tell me to unfreeze my account. I have checked with Experian, Equifax, Transunion, and they all say my credit reports are not frozen, locked, and none have a security alert, that everything looks fine. Where do I go for help?

Dinarte
Dinarte

Barclay pulled EX when TU was frozen

George
George

With EQ frozen, Citi pulled EX and insisted on pulling EQ.
According to others’ comments, should have frozen EX and Citi can be satisfied with EQ only.
Location is VA.

nutsalad
nutsalad

Barclays Datapoint: if TU is frozen they’ll simply pull Equifax and it won’t affect approval. Just found that out accidentally. Good strategy for those(like me) who’ve managed to accumulate disproportionately few inquiries on Equifax.

Julian Banks

Wow, if this is true, that’ll be awesome news for me!

Chris Topper
Chris Topper

[message removed]

Guest
Guest

William Charles Just spotted a SPAM message here (the message that I replied to).

William Charles

Thanks, removed

Tim
Tim

Careful w/ Chase. The wife got snail mail saying they couldn’t approve because of a frozen report and to call when ready. Got the PIN and called in and they declined saying they already checked before even getting the PIN; they didn’t even want it. They cited inadequate history (wrong). Called recon and resolved it there.

Tim
Tim

Re: Discover, I only had my Equifax frozen and they requested I unfreeze.

Spencer
Spencer

Wife got the US Bank Altitude Reserve approved recently. All datapoints said SF Bay Area they’d pull Equifax. Unfroze all 3 and they pulled TU. So this datapoint is Northern CA, online app, TransUnion.

5150d
5150d

US Bank – unfroze TU others frozen. Denied. Called. Said I had to unfreeze ALL 3. Did. They pulled Ex. Approved.

Wanted the Cash Plus Visa. 5% back on HOME UTILITIES.