If you have a credit freeze in place to protect yourself from identity theft, you may be wondering: how long does it take to unfreeze my credit so I can apply for a mortgage or a job? Here's what you need to know about the unfreezing process and how long you can expect it to take.
The timeline for lifting a credit freeze—sometimes known as a security freeze—depends on how you request it. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the three major credit bureaus are required to lift a freeze within one hour if the request is made online or by phone. If you mail your request, they are required to lift the freeze within three business days of receiving your request. (Mail is the required method if you are requesting a credit freeze for a minor child.)
Ways to Unfreeze
Each credit bureau has its own process for unfreezing credit reports. You may need to have the PIN you received when you initially froze your credit.
Unfreezing Your Credit With Equifax
- Online - You'll need to create a MyEquifax account if you haven't already. You can unfreeze your credit, check the status of your request, or initiate a new credit freeze if necessary.
- By phone - Call 1-888-298-0045.
- By mail - You'll need to download this form from Equifax. Equifax will lift the freeze once your identity is verified. Mail to Equifax Information Services LLC, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348.
Unfreezing Your Credit With Experian
- Online - You don't need to create an account; there's a simple form you can complete online.
- By phone - Call 1-888-397-3742.
- By mail - Mail to Experian Security Freeze, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013.
Unfreezing Your Credit With TransUnion
- Online - You'll need to create an online account with TransUnion or go through the myTransUnion app.
- By phone - Call 1-888-909-8872.
- By mail - Mail your written request to TransUnion LLC, P.O. Box 160, Woodlyn, PA 19094.
Unfreezing your credit at one credit bureau won't unfreeze it at the other two. Unless you know which one your lender plans to contact, you'll need to make the request at each bureau to ensure there are no glitches when you apply for a loan.
Is There a Way to Speed Up the Process?
An hour isn’t long, but if you have an urgent need for a credit thaw because you're vying for a coveted apartment rental or applying for a loan to pay for an emergency vet bill, you may be able to speed things up by explaining the circumstances to a phone representative at the credit bureau. If you need to send in your request, you can pay extra for overnight mail.
You may also be able to prepare ahead of time to minimize any delays or problems. TransUnion, for instance, allows you to schedule the end of a credit freeze 15 days in advance.
The Bottom Line
Unfreezing your credit is quick and free, but there are a few things to remember.
- You can specify how long you want the freeze to be lifted—a day, week or more—or you can do it indefinitely. (As long as you know roughly how long your loan applications will take to process, setting a timeframe is a good way to give yourself time to apply to multiple lenders to get the best rate.)
- If you opt for a temporary lift and know which credit bureau your lender will contact, you can save time by making your request at that bureau only. If you don’t know, make sure to contact all three bureaus.
- Don’t confuse a credit freeze with a credit lock. A lock is similar but it can be applied or removed almost instantly either online or through a mobile app offered by the credit bureaus. Unlike a freeze, its protections aren’t guaranteed by law and there may be a fee.
- A credit freeze only prevents a thief from opening a new account in your name. It doesn’t prevent him or her from making charges to your existing accounts. You still need to monitor all bank, credit card, and insurance statements for fraudulent transactions.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How soon after freezing my credit can I unfreeze it?
Freezing and unfreezing your credit can be done as often as you like, but keep in mind that it can take up to an hour for each process to occur. If you freeze your credit and then realize you need to unfreeze it, wait at least an hour to ensure that your credit is fully frozen.
How can I unfreeze my credit if I forgot my code?
If you forget your PIN, you can either learn it or update it by logging into your account with the credit agency. Once you're logged in, look for prompts like "request a personal identification number" (Experian) or "manage PIN" (Transunion) to complete this request.
How long does a credit freeze last if I don't request an unfreeze?
A credit freeze typically lasts until you remove it.