Credit Lock vs. Credit Freeze: What’s the Difference?

Credit lock vs. credit freeze: What's the difference?
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Money expert Clark Howard has long been a proponent of credit freezes as the number one way to protect yourself and your finances from criminals. But many companies continue to push credit lock services. So, you may be wondering what the difference between the two is and if a credit lock is the same as a credit freeze.

The Difference Between a Credit Lock and a Credit Freeze

Despite having similar names, a credit lock and credit freeze have some key differences. Let’s talk about some things that distinguish a credit lock from a credit freeze.

One of the main differences between a credit lock and credit freeze is that the former is most commonly operated by an anti-fraud or other financial services company. It could be a company like LifeLock or an entity like Credit Karma, which recently introduced a beta credit lock program (for TransUnion only).

A credit freeze, on the other hand, is typically initiated by the consumer directly with the credit reporting agency. Here’s a side-by-side table of some of the differences between a credit lock and credit freeze:

Credit Lock vs. Credit Freeze: The Differences

Credit lock Credit freeze
Prevents others from accessing your credit information Prevents others from accessing your credit information and opening new credit in your name
Costs money with 2 out of the 3 major credit bureaus Free of charge with all 3 bureaus
Programs run by credit bureaus, anti-fraud services Administered by credit bureaus only
Governed only by policies of the respective bureaus Governed by federal law
Not clear who is liable for any losses Losses legally protected

A credit lock is a program that consumers can enroll in with each of the three major credit-reporting bureaus. That means Experian, TransUnion and Equifax all have different credit lock programs. The bureaus often bundle these credit locks with other services for a fee. But again, you can freeze your credit — which offers stronger protections that credit locks — with the credit bureaus.

Credit Lock vs. Credit Freeze: Why a Credit Freeze Is Better

Clark says a credit freeze is a better option than a credit lock.

“A credit freeze allows you to seal your credit reports and use a personal identification number (PIN) that only you know and can use to temporarily ‘thaw’ your credit when legitimate applications for credit and services need to be processed,” he says. “The added layer of security means that thieves can’t establish new credit in your name even if they are able to obtain your personal information.”

Best of all, credit freezes are now free with all three major credit bureaus — no need to pay for the “extras” that come with the bundles mentioned above.

Instead, Clark recommends that you sign up for credit monitoring via Credit Karma or Credit Sesame. It’s 100% free, too!

Follow These Two Steps to Protect Your Identity:

  1. Sign up for an account with Credit Karma or Credit Sesame to get free credit monitoring and notifications of suspicious activity
  2. Freeze your credit with all three main credit bureaus

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