If you have frozen your credit it is important to understand when you might need to unfreeze credit. Like freezing, to unfreeze credit you will need to allow up to three days for the process to be completed. There are legal requirements for credit bureaus to respond to a request to freeze or unfreeze credit within a certain period of time. Unfortunately, there are several life events that will require you to unfreeze credit. We have broken down some of the most common below to give you a good idea when and when not to unfreeze credit.
Applying for a Loan or Credit Account
Applying for a loan or line of credit will, of course, require that you unfreeze credit at the three major bureaus. If you are going to apply for a loan or a new credit card, you will need to build in a few days into the planning process to unfreeze credit.
One of the biggest downsides to freezing credit is that you will be unable to take advantage of impulse offers for new credit. When you are checking out at the register of a department store and they ask, “would you like to save an extra 15% by opening a store credit card?” you will not be able to accept the offer. To unfreeze credit you will need to allow up to three days for the credit bureaus to process the request. This is both good and bad. On the good side, identity thieves won’t be able to impersonate you and open unauthorized credit accounts. On the bad side, you will miss out on these exclusive offers at the register.
Renting or Buying a House
If you are considering renting or buying a house you will need to unfreeze credit to allow a credit check to be performed. Buying or renting a house is typically a multi-day process in general so you should have plenty of time to unfreeze credit before the landlord or mortgage company executes a credit inquiry.
Getting a New Job
Applying for a new job will likely include a credit inquiry along with a background check. Credit checks by a potential employer are quite standard and can be used to identify potential issues with a new hire. Think ahead when applying for new jobs so you can get through the process easily and without hassle. You can usually inquire when the employer will request the credit check so you can get a headstart on the unfreezing process.
After a Credit Bureau Breach Unfreeze Credit
If your credit is frozen and the credit bureau gets breached, I wish this was an unlikely scenario, you should unfreeze and refreeze your credit to get a new PIN. A breach of any magnitude at a credit bureau could expose the PIN you have. This PIN is the only thing standing between you and the credit bureau. If an attacker has access to your PIN, they could unfreeze credit without your knowledge.
Otherwise, Leave it Frozen
If you are not in any of the above situations, you should just leave your credit frozen. This is the safest possible configuration. Leaving your credit unfrozen is akin to leaving your front door and windows unlocked while you go on vacation. To the casual observer your house may look safe, but to a thief who wants to steal from you, very minor effort can result in full access to your life. This is why we recommend, if you aren’t buying something large, applying for a new line of credit, or getting a new job, just leave your credit frozen and safe.
If you need to freeze or unfreeze credit, we have provided guides for each of the credit bureaus.
- Setting up an Equifax Security Freeze
- Setting up an Experian Credit Freeze
- Setting up a TransUnion Credit Freeze