After the Equifax data breach exposed the personal information of more than 145 million Americans, money expert Clark Howard urged everyone to freeze their credit to lock out the criminals.
But what happens when you try to switch to a cheaper cell phone plan with a security freeze in place?
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Unfreeze your credit before switching cell phone providers
Melissa Angle, an employee of Fans 1st Media who works closely with Team Clark, saw a Sprint deal on ClarkDeals.com that let you Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) for a free year of service.
She went to Sprint’s website to make the switch, but that’s where she ran into a roadblock.
“When I was unable to process the order online, it asked me to call. After several minutes on the phone with a very confused rep, she said she would need to transfer me to the Credit Services department,” Melissa recalled. “Oh! I forgot my credit had been frozen!”
The big national carriers are likely to run a credit check, but it’s not necessary for prepaid plans — so call ahead and ask!
Most creditors need to see your credit report before they approve a new account, which is why you have to temporarily thaw your credit to let them access the file.
Here are the links to “unfreeze” your credit with Equifax, Experian and TransUnion:
To thaw your credit, you’ll need the PIN (personal identification number) that you got when you initiated the freeze.
If you can find out which credit reporting agency the business will contact, you can save a few dollars by lifting the freeze only with that one bureau.
Here’s a state-by-state breakdown of security freeze fees.
There are other times when you may need to lift a credit freeze, including applying for a loan, renting an apartment, applying for a job or switching insurance providers.
This is how Experian explains it:
Security freezes are designed to prevent a credit reporting company from releasing your credit report without your consent. However, you should be aware that using a security freeze to take control over who is allowed access to the personal and financial information in your file may delay, interfere with or prohibit the timely approval of any subsequent request or application you make regarding a new loan, credit, mortgage, insurance, government services or payments, rental housing, employment, investment, license, cellular telephone, utilities, digital signature, Internet credit card transaction or other services, including an extension of credit at point of sale.
Clark has had a credit freeze in place for about a decade and has only lifted it half a dozen times. He says it’s quick and easy!
If you thaw your credit to switch cell phone providers — or for any other reason — Clark says it’s a good time to get other business done, like shopping for a better deal on car insurance.
Before re-freezing your credit, he also suggests that you sign up for free credit monitoring with CreditKarma.com.
RELATED: Credit Freeze Guide: The best way to protect yourself against identity theft!