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

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A credit freeze is the best way to protect your financial information from criminals looking to defraud you, says money expert Clark Howard. But instead of freezing your credit, many companies promote locking it.

You may be wondering whether a credit lock is the same as a credit freeze. They’re not.

In this article, I’ll explain the difference between a credit lock and a credit freeze and why Clark thinks one is clearly better than the other.

The Difference Between a Credit Lock and a Credit Freeze

Despite having similar names, a credit lock and a credit freeze do totally different things.

Credit locks are typically administered by private companies. You’ve probably seen commercials for LifeLock. Other companies offer locking services too: Credit Karma has a beta credit lock program (for TransUnion only).

Credit locking is a service that almost always costs money, usually in the form of a subscription. The paid services promise to protect your credit information, though their methods differ from company to company.

A credit freeze is something you initiate directly with one (or all) of the major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.

The credit reporting bureaus offer credit lock services, too. To clear up any confusion, here’s a side-by-side table 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 informationPrevents others from accessing your credit information and/or opening new credit in your name
Typically costs money with anti-fraud companies and 2 out of the 3 major credit bureaus.Free of charge with all 3 bureaus
Run by credit bureaus and paid anti-fraud services Administered by credit bureaus only
Governed only by policies of the respective companies Governed by federal law
Not clear who is liable for any losses Losses legally protected

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

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

“A credit freeze allows you to seal your credit reports, so only you can 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.”

Unlike credit locks, credit freezes are free.

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Final Thoughts

Clark advises you not to pay for credit locks and the redundant “extras” that companies bundle with them.

“It is absolutely ridiculous that still, after all of the scandals, the credit bureaus still try to get into our wallets,” says Clark. “They make plenty of money building dossiers on us and selling our information over and over again. I hate it.”

Instead, he recommends that you follow these steps to protect your finances:

  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.

Just by following those two simple steps, you will bolster your protection against fraud and identity theft for FREE!

More Credit Resources From Clark.com:

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