Credit Freezes Will Soon Be Free

As of September 21, 2018, you’ll be able to freeze your credit file for free.

By , Attorney

On May 24, 2018, President Trump signed the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155) into law. The most frequently-mentioned part of the law rolled back regulations that the Dodd-Frank Act imposed on banks. But another part of the new law—one that hasn't been widely discussed—will soon make credit freezes free for all customers who request one.

What's a Credit Freeze?

If you're a victim of identity theft, placing a credit freeze on your files at the three major credit reporting bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—is normally the best way to prevent a thief from opening up new accounts in your name. A credit freeze prevents a credit reporting bureau from releasing your credit information to a third party, which effectively prevents an identity thief from getting a new loan or opening a credit card in your name. If you want to open a line of credit yourself, you have to lift the freeze. (To get a checklist of the recovery steps you should take if your identity has been stolen, see Stolen Identity? Take These Recovery Steps.)

Freezing your credit generally provides better protection than using a credit lock or placing a fraud alert on your accounts. (To learn why a credit freeze is typically a better option for guarding your credit, see What's the Difference Between a Credit Freeze and a Credit Lock? and The Difference Between a Credit Freeze and a Fraud Alert.)

How Much Does a Credit Freeze Currently Cost?

Under current state laws, most people have to pay a fee to place or lift a credit freeze. The cost is usually between $2 and $10. Though, in some states and usually under certain circumstances—like if you're over age 65—the credit bureaus can't charge for freezing or unfreezing a credit file.

Because you currently need to place a freeze on your credit report at all three credit rating agencies to adequately protect your credit if you're the victim of identity theft—and typically pay a fee at each of them—placing and lifting freezes can be costly.

The new legislation, however, makes adding and removing a freeze free for everyone.

When You'll Be Able to Freeze Your Credit for Free

The new law that makes freezing and unfreezing your credit report free will go into effect on September 21, 2018, which is 120 days after the president signed the bill.

Effective date: September 21, 2018