What’s the difference between a credit freeze and credit lock?

Credit Freeze:

  • Credit bureaus are mandated by federal law to offer them.
  • Free and easy to get from each credit bureau, without special conditions.
  • Can be lifted online or by phone – use PIN to change status.
  • Potentially time-consuming if you lose your PIN (must order new one by mail).

Credit Lock:

  • Offered voluntarily by each credit bureau – free from Equifax & TransUnion and for a fee as part of monthly monitoring service from Experian.
  • Can be lifted with an phone app.
  • Relatively quick to regain access if you forget a password.

Note: Unlike a credit freeze which you can add and remove from your account as needed, a credit lock requires you to enroll in a program. To make a credit lock most effective, you will need to enroll in the programs at all three of the major consumer credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. However, once you obtain a credit freeze from one of these three credit bureaus, they must notify the other two about your freeze.

Considering a credit freeze?

A credit freeze blocks information on your credit report from creditors and can help prevent identity theft. It makes it much harder for a hacker or criminal to use your personal and confidential information to steal your assets. When your credit report is frozen, it cannot be viewed – even if a creditor asks for it while reviewing your credit history by name and social security number.

You can get a FREE credit freeze at the following credit bureau links:


If you are applying for loan or looking for a new job or apartment, your credit report may need to be reviewed, so you will need to lift the freeze at that time.

See this article from NerdWallet for more information:  https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/finance/how-to-freeze-credit

Lastly, I did an interview on this issue on WVOX Radio in 2019, check it out: https://soundcloud.com/jimmaisano/nerdwallet-interview-wvox

Jim Maisano

Jim serves as the Westchester County Consumer Protection Director