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Smart Money

How to Unfreeze Your Credit

A credit freeze can have some benefits, but you may need to unfreeze it quickly. Learn more about the process and timeline when it comes to unfreezing your credit.

Rachel Velez • July 14, 2022

In This Article

  1. What does it mean to unfreeze your credit?
  2. How do you unfreeze credit at all three major credit bureaus?
  3. Reasons to unfreeze your credit
  4. How long does it take to unfreeze credit?
  5. Options for unfreezing your credit
  6. FAQs
  7. Final thoughts

With a record number of data breaches making the news over the last couple of years, you may be worried that your personal data is being compromised, which may give identity thieves easy access to your sensitive financial information and credit.

This is why some people decide to freeze their credit. A credit freeze protects your personal information and data by making it inaccessible to others without your consent.

A credit freeze isn’t permanent, and you can unfreeze your credit just as easily as you froze it initially. Quickly unfreezing your credit will come in handy when you want to open a new credit card, finance a car, or apply for a mortgage

Here’s what you need to know about unfreezing your credit and how long you can expect it to take. 

What does it mean to unfreeze your credit?

Unfreezing your credit is about giving creditors access again to your credit report, assuming you’ve already made the move to do a credit freeze. Freezing your credit provides added security by limiting who can view your credit report, like new creditors or lenders. 

However, freezing your credit may limit legitimate creditors from accessing your report. If you needed to apply for credit and had a freeze on your credit, you would need to take steps to unfreeze it first before moving forward with any credit applications. 

How do you unfreeze credit at all three major credit bureaus?

The only way to place or remove a credit freeze on your credit reports is to contact each of the 3 major credit bureaus individually. Unfreezing your credit is free and can be fast and easy, as long as you have carefully safeguarded your account passwords or PINs. 

You can request to unfreeze your credit online, by phone, or by mail. To place a freeze or lift a freeze on your credit, information such as your name, address, birth date, and Social Security number is required. 

Here’s a rundown of how it works at Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion:

How to unfreeze credit with Equifax

You can unfreeze your credit report with Equifax online, by phone, or by mail.

Online: Sign up for or log in to your myEquifax account. Request the unfreeze by verifying your personal information, such as your Social Security number. You don’t need a PIN when you unfreeze your credit online.

By phone: Call 800-349-9960. (You’ll need to provide basic information and the 10-digit PIN you were assigned.)

By mail: Complete and send in this form, marking that you want to unfreeze your credit. Along with the basic info, you’ll need to provide proof of identification, proof of address, and the PIN you were assigned. 

Send the request to:

Equifax Information Services LLC

P.O. Box 105788

Atlanta, GA 30348-5788

How to unfreeze credit with Experian

You can unfreeze your credit report with Experian in similar ways: online, by phone, or by mail. Experian is the only credit bureau that still requires a PIN to unfreeze your credit online, and it offers a single-use PIN that helps ensure your information is only seen by a creditor you approve of.

Online: Fill out the form to remove a security freeze. You’ll need the 5 –10 digit PIN that was given to you when you first put a freeze on your credit. 

By phone: Call 888-397-3742.

By mail: Send a letter to Experian requesting to unfreeze your credit report. Your request must include personal information, such as your:

  • Full name with middle initial
  • Birthdate
  • Social Security number
  • Complete addresses for the past 2 years
  • A copy of government-issued ID
  • A copy of your bank statement or utility bill

Send the request to:

Experian Security Freeze

P.O. Box 9554

Allen, TX 75013

How to unfreeze credit with TransUnion

You can unfreeze your credit report with TransUnion also online, by phone, or by mail. For unfreezing your TransUnion credit report online, you may need to sign up for a new account with a username and password, but you no longer need a PIN.

Online: Visit TransUnion’s Credit Freeze page, and click on the “Unfreeze” button. Create an account or log in to an existing account. 

By phone: Call 888-909-8872.

By mail: Send a letter to TransUnion requesting to unfreeze your credit report. As with the other bureaus, your request must include personal information, such as your:

  • Full name with middle initial
  • Birthdate
  • Social Security number
  • Complete addresses for the past 2 years
  • A copy of government-issued ID
  • A copy of your bank statement or utility bill

Send the request to:

TransUnion

P.O. Box 160

Woodlyn, PA 19094

Reasons to unfreeze your credit

Your credit report comes in handy for a lot of life’s major events. If you are about to apply for a mortgage, purchase or lease a car, or to open a new line of credit. You’ll have to unfreeze your credit temporarily to let lenders access your credit report and evaluate your approval odds.

An entity may need access to your credit report:

  • If you’re applying for a new job and an employer needs to screen applicants
  • If you’re trying to rent a place to live and a landlord needs to vet tenants
  • If you’re getting insurance and the insurer needs access to your credit information during the underwriting process
  • If a government agency needs access to your credit information for child support payments or tax-related purposes

Unfreezing credit for another person

You can obtain a credit freeze for people who might not be able to handle their own finances, such as an elderly family member or a child. If you have a valid power of attorney for another person’s financial affairs, you can request a lift on their credit freeze.

How long does it take to unfreeze credit?

The avenue you decide to use to unfreeze your credit will ultimately determine how long the process will take. Here’s how long it usually takes to unfreeze your credit online, by phone, or by mail: 

  • Online: According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the 3 major credit bureaus are required to unfreeze your credit no later than one hour after they receive your online request. 
  • Phone: Similar to unfreezing your credit online, credit bureaus are required to also unfreeze your credit no later than one hour after you call in a request.
  • Mail: If you choose to mail in a request, each credit bureau has up to 3 business days from the date of receiving it to lift the credit freeze. 

How long should you unfreeze your credit for?

You should usually unfreeze your credit for only as long as you need to. This can range from a day or two to a month or more. The length of time to unfreeze your credit ultimately depends on the type of credit you’re looking to apply for. 

For instance, it might take less than a day for you to open a new credit card, so you can then freeze your credit again within a couple of days. Whatever length of time that you need, make sure it’s limited if you’re concerned about data breaches or having your information accessed without your permission. A long unfrozen period could make your credit susceptible to the same risks that the freeze was intended to prevent in the first place. 

Options for unfreezing your credit

There are 2 main ways to unfreeze your credit: a temporary lift or a permanent lift. Here’s how each option works:

How to temporarily unfreeze credit 

When you have a temporary lift, creditors or companies are able to access your credit reports but only within a specific date range that you provide. Using a temporary lift is a common choice as you can set the desired date range and the lift will automatically expire. Once the temporary lift expires, the credit freeze is reversed — you don’t have to remember to do anything! You might do this if you’re shopping for a mortgage, a car loan, or applying for a credit card. If you’re applying for a loan, you may be able to ask the lender which credit bureau will be used and then only unfreeze that one.

How to permanently unfreeze credit

You can also choose to permanently unfreeze your credit. Just keep in mind that a permanent lift may leave your credit more vulnerable to fraudulent activity or identity theft. For this reason, if you’re at all worried about the security of your information, it’s recommended to go with a temporary lift instead of a permanent removal. You can always place a freeze again in the future, but when your credit is unfrozen, it can open you up to potential fraud.

FAQs

How much does it cost to unfreeze my credit?

Due to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, federal law requires that both freezing and unfreezing your credit be free of charge to all consumers.

Will unfreezing my credit help my credit score?

The act of freezing or unfreezing your credit won’t affect your credit score. This doesn’t mean that your credit score can’t change while it’s frozen. There are many inputs that go into your credit score and can cause fluctuations including your amount of debt and the timeliness of your credit card payments on time.

How long does a credit freeze last if I don't request an unfreeze?

A credit freeze typically lasts until you lift it. But in a few states, like Pennsylvania, Kentucky, South Dakota, and Nebraska, a credit freeze will expire after 7 years.

Can I apply for credit when my credit report is frozen?

When applying for new credit, you’ll have to unfreeze your credit to allow creditors to access your credit history. Even a soft credit pull requires that your credit be unfrozen. A soft credit check is when a creditor checks your score without lowering it, and a hard check is when your score can be affected. But, it’s free and easy to unfreeze your credit before applying for a new credit card or loan.

How soon after freezing my credit can I unfreeze it?

Freezing and unfreezing your credit can be done as often as you like, but remember that it usually takes an hour for the process to go through when submitting a request by phone or online. There’s no limit to how many times you can unfreeze your credit. 

Final thoughts

Knowing how to unfreeze — and freeze — your credit are important life skills. Keeping your financial records organized and important account information handy will make these actions easy. And, remember, even when your credit is still frozen, it’s a good idea to still monitor your credit reports for unusual or fraudulent activity to protect your finances.

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