How to lock your credit

Woman using cell phone to lock her creditImage: Woman using cell phone to lock her credit

In a Nutshell

If you want to help prevent others from opening fraudulent financial accounts in your name, you might want to lock your credit. A credit lock keeps new creditors from accessing your credit reports and gives you more control than a credit freeze.
Editorial Note: Intuit Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our third-party advertisers don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. Information about financial products not offered on Credit Karma is collected independently. Our content is accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted.

Locking your credit helps prevent unauthorized access to your credit reports and may be easier and faster than a credit freeze.

Here’s how to lock your credit at each of the three major credit bureaus:

How do you lock your credit at each bureau?

Unlike a credit freeze, which you can add and remove from your account as needed, a credit lock requires you to enroll in a program. To make a credit lock most effective, enroll in the programs at all three of the major consumer credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Locking your credit costs nothing at Equifax and TransUnion if you enroll in their separate locking programs, but if you choose to use their joint program that locks both at once — and also includes credit monitoring — there’s a fee. There’s no free option from Experian, but its credit lock program also comes with additional features like credit monitoring that may make the cost worth it to you.

To enroll in a credit locking program, you’ll fill out an online form that requires personal information like your name, address and Social Security number, and then you’ll answer some identity-verification questions.

Here’s how each bureau’s credit locking program works and how to enroll.

How to lock your credit report at Equifax

Equifax’s credit lock program is called Lock & Alert™, and it’s free. Once enrolled via the Equifax website, users can lock their credit themselves on the app or the website, without additional help from Equifax.

If you want to apply for new credit, or a new employer or landlord needs to run your credit, you can temporarily unlock your credit report just as easily.

How to lock your credit report at Experian

Experian’s program, CreditLock, is offered as part of a larger service, Experian CreditWorksSM Premium. It costs $24.99 a month.

The program comes with other perks, like credit monitoring for all three bureaus, monthly FICO® credit scores and reports for all three bureaus, up to $1 million in identity theft insurance, and a dedicated agent to help you if you think you’re a victim of fraud or identity theft. You can enroll on Experian’s website.

How to lock your credit report at TransUnion

TransUnion’s credit lock program is called TrueIdentity, and it’s also free. Like with Equifax, you can lock and unlock your credit quickly on a smartphone or computer.

The program also gives you access to your TransUnion® credit report, free monitoring alerts and up to $25,000 in identity theft insurance. TransUnion also has a premium product, called TransUnion Credit Monitoring, that allows you to lock your credit reports with both TransUnion and Equifax — but it costs $29.95 a month. You can sign up for the free TrueIdentity program on TransUnion’s website.

Pros and cons of locking your credit

Pros of locking your credit

  • A credit lock can reduce your chances of becoming an identity theft victim, since lenders can’t check your credit reports while they’re locked.
  • You can lock and unlock your reports yourself at any time, making it faster than a freeze if you need to authorize a legitimate credit check.
  • TransUnion and Equifax allow you to lock and unlock your credit for free.

Cons of locking your credit

  • If you want the highest level of credit-report protection available with a credit lock, you’d need to enroll in a credit lock program at all three major consumer credit bureaus.
  • It costs money to lock your credit at Experian.

Bottom line

Locking your credit is a simple and effective way to help keep others from fraudulently opening new credit cards or taking out loans in your name. It’s also faster to put in place and lift than a credit freeze and is free at two of the major credit bureaus.

But if you want the peace of mind of having it locked at all three, you’ll have to pay for it.

Need to reach out directly to the credit bureaus? We’ve put together a guide on how to contact each major credit bureau.

About the author: Emily Starbuck Gerson is a full-time freelance writer in San Antonio who’s been covering personal finance since 2007. She has written for numerous national publications and enjoys helping people make better decisions … Read more.