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


Money expert Clark Howard has long been a proponent of freezing your credit as the best way to protect some of your financial information from criminals. Instead of freezing it, many companies promote locking your credit.

You may be wondering if 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 says that 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 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). And credit locking is a service that almost always costs money, usually in the form of a subscription. For that subscription, the paid services promise to protect your credit information, though how that’s done is different 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 information Prevents 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 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.

Final Thoughts

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


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!

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