Identity theft and financial fraud are concerns that many people face today. To safeguard your credit and personal information, it’s essential to take precautions. Two common methods are credit freeze and credit lock. These terms are often used interchangeably as both offer security against unauthorized access to your credit report and personal data. However, they are two different things. Here is what you need to know.
Credit freeze: A total halt
A credit freeze limits who can view your credit report. This step helps protect against identity theft by making it tough for others to open accounts in your name. During this freeze period, obtaining a new credit card is not possible. You can lift this freeze whenever you choose. This action has no negative effect on your credit score; you can still check your credit report.
How do you freeze/unfreeze your credit?
Follow these steps to freeze or unfreeze your credit-
- Initiate a request for a credit freeze with a credit bureau
- Provide your personal information for identity confirmation
- Once your identity is verified, you will receive a unique PIN. Use this PIN when you want to manage your credit freeze or initiate an unfreeze in the future
Additional identity verification is an alternative if you forget or cannot provide the PIN to unfreeze your account later. The credit freeze process typically takes from one to a maximum of 24 hours and is free of cost.
Credit lock: A temporary shield
Credit lock also restricts access to your credit report but is more user-friendly. You are offered more flexibility as it allows you to lock and unlock your credit information easily when necessary. This feature can be convenient if you anticipate applying for credit shortly.
How to lock/unlock credit?
First, download your credit bureau’s app or visit its website. After that-
- Log in using your username and password
- Click on the lock/unlock feature
- Initiate the action you desire with a simple tap
- You can lock/unlock credit in real-time through your smartphone. This quick process also lets you unlock your credit data rapidly when a bank or lender needs access to your credit file for your new credit card or loan application.
The difference between credit freeze vs credit lock simplified
|Key features||Credit freeze||Credit lock|
|Access||Request to bureau needed||Instant access lets you turn the credit lock on and off|
|Fees||Free service||There is a cost incurred|
|Trigger to use||When you think your credit report and personal information might be at risk||As a preventive measure to keep your credit report and personal data safe|
|Time required||Activation and deactivation can take from 1 hour to up to 24 hours||Instant activation and deactivation via a smartphone app or website|
|Protection||Password or PIN||Username and password|
|Application process||The process needs credit bureau approval via an email or calls to generate a PIN to freeze/unfreeze||Simple process through the app or website|
Credit freeze or credit lock – Which one to choose?
Your credit card eligibility can be affected when your credit is frozen, as a creditor needs to access your credit history when you apply for new credit. In such a situation, lifting the freeze may require some time. However, this option offers robust security without fees. It’s a good choice if you prefer added protection over quick, real-time changes.
On the other hand, Credit Lock could serve you better if you value convenience and are willing to pay a fee for quicker, app-based control over your credit report.
Both credit freeze and credit lock offer valuable ways to protect your credit data. The choice between the two largely depends on your personal needs and the level of convenience you desire. So, choose wisely to protect your credit information effectively.