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.
[RELATED: My 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
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.
Here’s a list of reports on which issuers will allow freezes:
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).
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) .
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.
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 (1, 2 3). Yet another recent 2021 report indicates that even Equifax can now be frozen.
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.
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.
Will usually pull Experian, if that’s frozen they will usually agree to pull a different report (1).
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.
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.
Here are some other useful credit card posts from our site, broken down by card issuer:
- List of Churnable Credit Cards
- Which Card Issuers Will Match a Higher Signup Bonus on Request?
- View Your Pre-Approved & Pre-Qualified Credit Card Offers for each card issuer
- Best Downgrade Options and Rules for Each Credit Card Issuer
- Rules For Reallocating Your Credit Limit for Each Credit Card Issuer
- Which Credit Card Companies Do A Hard Pull For A Credit Limit Increase?
- Which Card Issuers Combine Multiple Credit Pulls/Inquiries
- Which Credit Card Issuers Offer Expedited Shipping of the card?
- Credit Card Reconsideration Line Telephone Numbers by issuer
- Retention Bonus Rules & Tips for Each Card Issuer
- How Many Credit Cards Can You Have With Each Card Issuer?
- Annual Fee Refund Rules For Each Card Issuer