6 Min Read | December 30, 2022

How to Unfreeze Credit for Free

It’s time to unfreeze your credit, but you’re not sure exactly what to do. Here’s how to unfreeze for free at all 3 credit bureaus.

Unfreeze Credit for free


Unfreezing credit is necessary in many situations – like taking out a mortgage, getting a new credit card account, or applying for a job.

It’s free to do online, by phone, or via U.S. mail.

If you ask which credit bureau is going to be used in the process, you may only have to unfreeze that one instead of all three.

Let’s say you’ve frozen your credit to protect yourself from identity thieves and other fraudsters who might look to profit from your good name (and excellent credit history). But now, that small SUV is calling your name. Or maybe you’re applying to refinance your mortgage. How do you unfreeze your credit to allow these transactions? 


Unfreezing your credit for free can be fast and easy at all three major credit reporting agencies, as long as you have carefully preserved your account passwords. It was for me – and it can be for you, too. The process for unfreezing credit, the time it takes, and its for-free nature are all stipulated in the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, which went into effect in September 2018.1 


This article provides step-by-step instruction for how to unfreeze your credit, drawn from my experience doing so at all three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Note that the steps provided were accurate as of November 2022, and navigation on external websites is subject to change.

First Things First: What Does ‘Unfreeze Credit’ Mean?

Unfreezing credit is about restoring access to your credit report, assuming you’ve already chosen to do a credit freeze (which the credit bureaus generally refer to as a “security freeze”). Some people are confused about credit freezes. Many think it means freezing their current credit card accounts – which would be a major pain for most Americans – rather than freezing access to reports about their credit history. So, they miss the point that credit freezes are about protecting you from the cost and disruption to your life that can happen when identity thieves attempt to open new accounts in your name. Freezing your credit does not protect you against criminals who might steal from your existing credit card, bank accounts, etc.

Why Would I Want to Unfreeze Credit?

You’ll want to at least temporarily unfreeze access to your credit report for many big steps in life. Your credit report is obviously important if you’re trying to buy a house or a car, or to open a new credit card account. Other purposes are less obvious. 

  • American society is very credit-oriented – cumulative household debt rose to $16.15 trillion during the second quarter of 2022, according to the Federal Reserve.2
  • The extensive credit report information used to support all that borrowing can be valuable for many other purposes.
  • Employers use it in screening job applicants, landlords use it to vet tenants, and insurers use it in the underwriting process, to name just a few.

Do you need to unfreeze your credit for a background check? It’s a good bet. Technically, the 2018 law has you covered, listing a few exclusions such as background checks. But in reality, experts – such as the New Hampshire Department of Justice – say you still have to unfreeze, and the Federal Trade Commission does not list exclusions.3,4

How to Unfreeze Your Credit Fast and Free

The unfreezing process is pretty similar at all three credit bureaus. And it can be fast and easy if you’ve safeguarded your account logins and passwords (many people apparently don’t, leading to frustration later). 

  • You can unfreeze your credit online (fastest), by phone, or by mail (takes longest).
  • The law requires a credit bureau to remove a freeze within one hour if the request is made online or by phone, or three business days after receipt if it’s made by mail.
  • Still, online is faster than phone because it is far less time-consuming than using an automated phone system.

Unfreezing Credit at TransUnion

For the purpose of this article, I went online to temporarily unfreeze my credit for three days at TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. It took roughly a minute at TransUnion: 

  • TransUnion used two-factor authentication during login, sending a six-digit code to my email address that I had to enter into the login page.
  • After logging in, I clicked “credit freeze” in the top navigation bar.
  • The credit freeze page told me “Your report is frozen” at the top and offered options to “Remove Freeze” or “Temporarily Lift Freeze.” I chose the latter.
  • Next, I was presented with a form to choose the start date and end date for my temporary unfreeze, which I did. 
  • Click, and done! A confirmation page showed me the unfreeze start and stop dates.

Unfreezing Credit at Equifax

At Equifax, I was initially confused because back when I originated my credit freeze in October 2017, Equifax didn’t require freezers to establish an account. The new process requires you to establish an account, similar to TransUnion:

  • It only took a few minutes (and the typical personal information – address, social security number, email address, date of birth, etc.) to set up my account.
  • Once logged into my Equifax account, I experienced the same steps as at TransUnion, and the same minute was all the time I spent choosing a temporary lift and its start/end dates.
  • Et voila! 

Unfreezing Credit at Experian

My Experian online experience was essentially identical to Equifax, because the last time I lifted a freeze at Experian the company had not yet shifted to requiring accounts instead of PINs. Experian asked for the same information during account setup, and asked me five or six multiple-choice questions about my past borrowing to make sure I was who I claimed. Once logged in, the Experian process for unfreezing was the same as the others, though the words and site behavior were slightly different:

  • Instead of options to “lift” or “temporarily remove” my freeze, I clicked a button to “Schedule a thaw.”
  • A panel slid from the right side of the browser to ask if I wanted to temporarily thaw my credit; I clicked yes.
  • I chose the start and end dates, at which point two things happened at once: A message appeared at the bottom of the panel saying “Success. Your thaw was successfully scheduled” and the main part of the page on the left changed its display from “Your file is frozen” to “Your file is unfrozen” and “It will automatically freeze on [end date].”

Do I Have to Unfreeze at All Three Credit Bureaus?

Not necessarily! Whoever is looking to review your credit report, that organization probably gets its reports from only one of the three agencies. I’ve had good luck on this front. Once, a car dealer told me it would be Experian. The second time I unfroze, it was narrowed down to Experian and TransUnion. Don’t expect anyone to tell you this as a matter of course – you have to ask. In both cases, the people I asked were clearly agitated by the question, thinking it meant there would be delays getting my report. But it happened instantly. 

The Takeaway

Learning how to unfreeze your credit for free can be as important as learning how to freeze your credit in the first place – especially if you ever want to get a mortgage or a new credit card, buy insurance, or take numerous other big steps in life. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be a time-consuming process, as long as you safeguard your account information and PINs.

Mike Azzara

Mike Azzara has covered technology and financial services issues for more than 30 years as a writer, editor, publisher, consultant, and analyst for media brands, startups, and established corporations.


All Credit Intel content is written by freelance authors and commissioned and paid for by American Express. 

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