Freezing your credit report to manage credit inquiries (or how to get use out of TransUnion)

I currently reside in New Jersey. Hard-core Experian country. Amex, Chase and Citi always pull Experian for credit card applications. Bank of America, Barclays, Capital One and US Bank sometimes pull Equifax or, rarely, TransUnion.

I learned this the hard way about 2 quarters into my NJ residency when I suddenly had a ton of inquiries on my Experian report and nothing elsewhere, making it difficult to get new credit cards.

So I began searching finance forums and asking the experts what to do, coming across the freeze method.

Each of the major credit bureaus have a Security Center where you can place a security freeze:

The rules vary by state of your residency. Generally it is free to place a freeze, and then minimal cost to remove a freeze either temporarily or permanently. In my case, Experian is $4.95 to temporarily or permanently remove the freeze.

You can also request, for free, a one-time use pin to allow access to your report.

So I froze Experian and decided to let it sit for 1 year, no excuses, no matter how good the offer.

When applying for a credit card, if an attempt to pull the frozen report is made, you do not receive any special notification from the credit card company or the credit bureau. You typically get a “needs more processing” or “additional review” message.

You can then immediately call the credit card company reconsideration line, the agent will typically say something like, “We could not access your credit report, is there a security freeze on it?”

I do not give any explanation, I just say something like, “Oh yes, my Experian is frozen, could you pull a different report/Equifax/TransUnion?” No one has ever asked me for more detail.

From my experience and others, Amex and Citi do not agree to pull other reports, if they want a specific report, they want that report. Your option is to give up or get a free, single-use, temporary pin from the security center, and give it to the agent. This is good for that great offer you can’t pass up, but does preclude auto-approval for applications that you prefer to not call attention to, such as multiple applications for the same card. I used a pin this past August for the Starwood Amex 30k offer, which was in the 13th-month of my freeze.

Chase and Bank of America I have the most experience with and their agents have always agreed to pull alternate reports. Other credit card companies have initially pulled my non-Experian reports so have not been an issue.

What does this accomplish?

By pulling other reports, credit card companies will still see all your outstanding accounts, loans, etc, so your credit must be good. They just won’t see all the credit inquiries from other reports, and many systems flag multiple recent inquiries. This also means the impact to your credit score of inquiries will be spread among reports. My Experian score is still 20-30 points lower than my other reports, but was 40-50 when I started the freeze a year ago.

I have seen reports of people determined to force TransUnion but freezing both Experian and Equifax. I have not bothered since I have gotten a good mix of both.

Is this ethical?

I do not see any ethical concern. There is no requirement that you meet specific criteria for a free, Equifax describes it:

You may place, temporarily lift or remove a security freeze on your Equifax credit file under state law or the Equifax voluntary security freeze program. A security freeze is designed to prevent the information in your Equifax credit file from being reported to others, such as credit grantors and other companies, except those exempted by law or those for whom you contacted us and requested that we temporarily lift the security freeze or those that access during a period of time when you requested we temporarily lift the security freeze.

I would not misrepresent to a credit card company why I have the freeze, but as noted above, they have never asked why I have a freeze.

There are, however, ways, differing by state, to get free security freeze services by claiming to be a victim of identify theft. It would be quite unethical, and open to legal liability, to try this as it typically requires a law enforcement agency report as evidence. That would be really stupid to try to save $4.95.

Next…

Next post I will illustrate how I used my Experian freeze in my recent ‘11 approved, 2 pending‘ applications.

 

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30 Comments on "Freezing your credit report to manage credit inquiries (or how to get use out of TransUnion)"

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AK
Guest

I froze Experia last month after my last set of apps. Good to hear about Chase and BofA pulling others.

Jimmy @TravelByPoints
Guest

Very informative and helpful post. Thanks!

Michael
Guest

Thanks for the post – I’ll have to use these tips in the future. LA is the worst! Everything is Experian except for Barclays and sometimes Discover (from my experience Citi, Chase, BoA, US Bank, AND Amex)

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[…] year credit card churn, 11 Approved, 2 Pending, and follow-up posts Barclays credit cards 101 and Freezing your credit report to manage credit inquiries. I flew to China for business on Tuesday, I do not let my personal mobile phone roam so am not sure […]

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[…] my post on Freezing you credit report, I noted that my Experian report is frozen, meaning that Amex and Citi were out of the picture, […]

Scottman
Guest

How many inquiries did you have before freezing? I have 17 right now on Experian.

Rapid Travel Chai
Guest

@Scottman – I froze mine over a year ago at 12, which when I asked around and from my own experience was already in the ‘red alert’ zone so 17 I would assume is problematic for new approvals. The freezing process is not difficult, and only cost is $4.95 to lift or free for a one-time use pin to give to a card company.

Scottman
Guest

Thanks @RTC. I’m in California and everything is Experian. I guess if I won’t have any problems with Chase, I’ll feel better.

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[…] said that I could not be found either because of address change or credit report freeze. I have my Experian frozen and if that is any indicator, I am not going to unfreeze for just a Discover so will not be […]

E
Guest

I didn’t have any luck getting Chase to pull something other than Experian (frozen) here in CA for a Chase Ink Plus card.

If I don’t pursue this, would the application simply just die out and have no effect on me whatsoever?

Thanks

Rapid Travel Chai
Guest

@E – I believe so, yes. Disappointing to hear your experience.

Rik
Guest

I applied for the US Bank one recently and got pulled by Experian 🙁 Live in NJ so you know how disheartening that can feel!

Wendy
Guest

I am also living in NJ. I tried your strategy and froze experian (have 11-12 hard pulls with them). However, Chase told me they have to pull my Experian because if this is the report they pulled for my last Chase card application, they will need to pull the same bureau again.

Does that make sense? Do you think wait and call another representative will help?

Thank you!

Rapid Travel Chai
Guest

@Wendy – has not happened to me, try again and good luck, give a plausible reason for the freeze such as correcting an inaccuracy and emphasize your presumably good record with Chase.

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[…] by US Bank, Freezing ISA/ARS Bureaus for the Club Carlson Visa (Hack My Trip). Also see my post on freezing credit reports, critical in Experian-heavy states link CA, NJ, NY and […]

andreas
Guest

I applied for a discover card with frozen EQ and EX, thought they would pull TU based on credit pulls database. Does anybody know whether discover accepts a one time PIN? I should just call them but I’m waiting for other cards to be auto approved.

Will
Guest

is the Freeze on Experian instant? I like to put a freeze in the middle of AOR? Thanks

Rapid Travel Chai
Guest

@Will – I think it is fast, a few times I have done the same, given it 10 minutes and been ok.

medellinfein
Guest

Thanks for the great article 🙂

You mention capital one in the first paragraph, but you never say whether they approve to you for a new card with 1/more reports frozen or not.

I am tempted by the new venture card offer for 50,000 points, but I’d like to avoid 3 hard pulls…

Rapid Travel Chai
Guest

@medellinfein – I wish I knew but I have not tried Cap One myself or heard confirmed reports, of people trying it with a freeze. If it works, please let me know, I am tempted as well, for the personal and business cards.

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[…] In a number of states nearly all major credit card issuers pull Experian credit reports. This becomes problematic as credit inquiries stack up on Experian, lowering the score and, of course, showing too many inquiries. One method to balance inquiries among the 3 credit bureaus has been to freeze the Experian report. […]

Mr. Cool
Guest

trying it now.
experian is asking for $5.00 to create the free, not to remove it. probably an additional fee to remove the freeze too?

Mr. Cool
Guest

another advice request please…
i was denied for the us bank carlson biz account. how long is a prudent amount of time to wait before reapplying in your opinion/experience?
thanks!

Rapid Travel Chai
Guest

@Mr. Cool – the security freeze may differ by state, for sure it differs by state when unfreezing, but thought it was always free to freeze. Try it here: https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html.

For US Bank there are too few reports to seemingly little consistency. My own experience is a year is enough to get new cards but not 30 days as I learned this week. Somewhere in between, I guess.

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[…] with just EQ. For those in total Experian territory, I cannot more highly recommend this method: http://boardingarea.com/rapidtravelc…of-transunion/ Amex and Citi still require the EXP unfreeze PIN to proceed, but whatever pulls you can shift to […]

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[…] can be done for a variety of purposes, including managing the number of pulls with each bureau. http://rapidtravelchai.boardingarea….of-transunion/ 2. New accounts will still be reported and recorded bureau when frozen (though obviously not pulls […]

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[…] for new Alaska Airlines and Virgin Atlantic cards and they went to auto-rejection because my Experian credit report is frozen and that is the one they pull for my state. I called the old numbers, such as those listed here, […]

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[…] reports. Some have had success with them agreeing to pull a different credit report (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), but other attempts have not been successful (1, 2, 3). Chase will allow you to give them a […]

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[…] metoo. Here is a report that Chase will allow TU pull: http://rapidtravelchai.boardingarea….of-transunion/ Perhaps a sequenced App-o-rama on May 8: 1,2: BofA and Chase (TU HPs) 3: Thaw Experian 4: Citi […]

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[…] EX before applying for this upcoming CSR card, if you are already over 5/24? reference link: http://rapidtravelchai.boardingarea….of-transunion/ wonder if this approach is still workable or […]