How to unfreeze credit if you lose your PIN

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Whether you’ve set up a credit freeze with TransUnion, Experian, Equifax or all three bureaus, you may be worried about what will happen if you lose your PIN before you’re ready to unfreeze your credit. Don’t worry, it’s still possible to unfreeze your credit even if you lose your PIN.

In some cases you don’t even need a PIN to freeze and unfreeze your credit. If you have a TransUnion credit freeze and you lose your PIN, for example, it’s still relatively easy to thaw your credit account and give banks and lenders access to your credit history.

When do you need a PIN to unfreeze your credit?

Two of the three major credit bureaus have recently changed their policies related to security freezes and PINs. As of 2018, if you’re unfreezing your credit reports online through Equifax or TransUnion, you won’t need a PIN at all. You’ll only need to enter your account username and password.

However, you will need a PIN if you’re unfreezing your Experian credit report. You’ll also need one if you want to thaw out your Equifax or TransUnion credit report over the phone — though it is possible to thaw an Equifax credit freeze over the phone without a PIN, as we’ll explain below.

How to unfreeze credit without a PIN

If you don’t have the PIN required to lift your credit freeze, there are still steps you can take to access your account and remove the freeze on your credit. Here’s how each of the three credit bureaus can help you lift a credit freeze with a lost PIN.

Equifax

You don’t necessarily need a PIN to freeze or unfreeze your credit with Equifax — instead, you can use an online myEquifax account to freeze and thaw your credit report. If you set up your Equifax credit freeze without getting a PIN, you can unlock your freeze without a PIN as well.

Equifax provides three ways for you to lift your credit freeze without a PIN:

  • Online through myEquifax. Simply log into your myEquifax account with your username and password to lift your credit freeze.
  • Over the phone. Call 888-298-0045 to answer basic identity-verification questions and lift your credit freeze.
  • By mail. Send Equifax a freeze request form, along with copies of items that prove your identity (like a driver’s license or utility bill), to place or lift a credit freeze.

Experian

Experian still provides PINs to consumers who want to freeze their credit. When you use the Experian Freeze Center to freeze your credit, you can either choose your own PIN or have a PIN assigned to you.

An Experian PIN is between 5 and 10 digits, and you’ll need your PIN if you want to thaw your credit report with Experian — but if you freeze your credit and lose the PIN, you can use Experian’s online PIN request form to get your PIN sent to you.

Once you fill out the PIN request form, it does not take long to get your PIN from Experian. Assuming you answer the identity verification questions correctly, you’ll receive your PIN immediately.

If you have additional questions about lifting an Experian security freeze, need help with a lost PIN or don’t want to use the online form, call 888-397-3742.

TransUnion

Like Equifax, TransUnion allows you to create an online account through which you can freeze and unfreeze your credit (you can also download the myTransUnion mobile app through Apple or Google Play). Unlike Equifax, TransUnion still asks you to create a 6-digit PIN during the credit freeze process. However, you only need to provide this PIN if you want to call TransUnion at 888-909-8872 to lift your credit freeze by phone.

You do not need a PIN to unfreeze your TransUnion credit report online — you can still unfreeze your credit as long as you have the name and password to access your TransUnion account. If you lose your TransUnion PIN and want to keep your account extra-secure, simply log into your TransUnion online account and create a new PIN. You do not need to provide your old PIN before creating a new one, and you can set up a new PIN as often as you want.

How to keep track of your PIN

If you’re worried about losing your PIN, there are many ways to store it securely. According to Russell Schrader, former executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, common PIN storage options include using a password manager, hiding it in your phone, writing it down on a piece of paper and putting it in a desk or keeping it in a document with other passwords that’s stored on an external hard drive. Schrader explains the goal is to make it so that if somebody stumbles upon your PIN, they don’t know what it is.

Since Experian and TransUnion both allow you to create your own PIN, you can choose numbers that are easy for you to remember but difficult for others to guess. Instead of choosing your birthday, for example, use the birthday of a favorite fictional character. Anything that makes your PIN a little more memorable can help.

Should you unfreeze your credit temporarily?

If you want to lift a credit freeze on your Equifax, Experian or TransUnion credit reports, you have two options: you can either create a temporary credit freeze lift, which removes the credit freeze for a limited amount of time, or you can thaw your credit permanently.

Many people choose to unfreeze their credit temporarily. This gives banks and lenders enough time to perform credit inquiries — which are essential steps in getting mortgages, car loans and credit cards — without leaving your credit report unfrozen for so long that it could fall into the wrong hands.

A temporary credit thaw also means you don’t have to worry about remembering to re-freeze your credit. After the designated time period ends, the credit bureau will automatically put a freeze back on your credit report. That way, you can unfreeze your credit for a few weeks and know that it will be securely frozen once the time limit is up.

Some people want a more permanent credit thaw. If you’re moving to a new city, for example, everyone from landlords to utility companies might want to check your credit history. This process could go on for a few months, so you might decide to unfreeze your credit long-term. Just remember to re-freeze your credit once you’re settled in.