Freezing Your Credit

In the age of paperless transactions, identify theft is something that virtually all of us are susceptible to. If your identity is stolen, the consequences can be severe, and in some cases, can take years to recover from. One way to be proactive against fraud and defend yourself from identity theft, is to freeze your credit report with each of the three major credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. 

Placing a credit freeze on your credit report will stop identity thieves from being able to open new accounts, lines of credit, or make any large purchases in your name, regardless of whether or not they have your Social Security number or any other sensitive information. 

What a credit freeze means

A credit freeze is a process that shuts off access to your credit reports at your request. Without your verified consent, your delicate information cannot be acquired. This means that if someone were to attempt to apply for credit in your name, your report would come up as “frozen,” and therefore the creditor would not be able to see the information needed for the application to be approved.

You can unfreeze your credit at any time by using a PIN or a password. 

Reasons to freeze your credit

It might be a good idea to freeze your credit if you’re experiencing any of the following situations:

  • Your data has been compromised in a data breach: It happens. If you’ve been a victim of a data breach and personal information related to your identity has been leaked or made vulnerable to cyber criminals, a credit freeze can offer you some extra protection. 
  • You have reason to think you’ve been a victim of identity theft: Perhaps you’ve checked your credit recently and noticed open accounts that you don’t recognize. Maybe you’ve been getting phone calls from collections agencies requesting payments from accounts you know you didn’t open. While a credit freeze won’t be able to stop them from using accounts a thief has already opened, it can stop them from opening any more. 
  • You want to protect your child from identity theft: According to the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, parents and legally guardians of children 16 years old and younger have the right to open a credit account for their child with the sole purpose of putting a freeze on it to protect them from identity theft. 

How to freeze your credit 

The process of freezing your credit is simple but does require a few steps. You will need to get in touch with each of the three major credit bureaus one by one and request a credit freeze:

  • Experian: Contact by phone at 800-349-9960 or go to their website.
  • Equifax: Contact by phone at 888-397-3742 or go to their website.
  • TransUnion: Contact by phone at 888-909-8872 or go to their website.  

The credit bureaus will ask you for your Social Security number, your date of birth and other information to verify your identity.

Once you freeze your credit, your file will be unattainable even if a thief has sensitive information such as your social security number or date of birth. If you need to use your credit file, you can unfreeze your credit report at any time. 

How to unfreeze your credit

Once you’ve frozen your credit file, it will be remain blocked until you decide that you would like to unfreeze it. You will need to unfreeze your credit report in order to open a new line of credit or make a major purchase. 

Unfreezing your credit file is simple. All you will need to do is go online to each credit bureau website and use the personal identification number (PIN) that you used to place the freeze on the account. If you don’t want to complete this task online, you can also unfreeze your credit file over the phone or through postal mail. 

When the unfreezing process is done online or by phone, it is completed within minutes of submitting the request. However, if you send your request via mail, it will take much longer. 

Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to unfreeze your credit through all three of the major credit bureaus if you don’t want to. For instance, let’s say you plan to apply for credit somewhere. You can ask the creditor which credit bureau it will go through to pull up your report, and only unfreeze that one credit bureau. 

You may also have the option to unfreeze for a specific amount of time. Once the time is up, your credit file will automatically freeze again. 

Credit freeze pros and cons

There are a few reasons why you might want to freeze your credit in this day and age, but just like with anything else, there are pros and cons to credit freezing. Here is a general breakdown of the benefits and downfalls of putting a freeze on your credit report:

Pros:

  • It prevents thieves from opening new lines of credit: With a credit freeze placed on your account, no one will be able to open a new line of credit or any other type of account requiring a credit check using your personal data. Anyone trying to commit fraud will be stopped in their tracks as soon as lenders notice that the report is frozen. 
  • It won’t affect your credit score: Freezing your credit report will not damage your credit score. Additionally, if you’ve been a victim of identity theft, freezing your credit report could actually protect your credit score from being damaged due to fraud. 
  • It’s free: It used to be the case that some credit freezes would cost a fee, but that is no longer the way it works. 

Cons

  • It requires some effort: Putting a credit freeze on your credit report takes some effort. You will need to get in touch with all three credit bureaus. 
  • You will need to remember your PINs: A PIN is required to lift or freeze your credit report. If you lose it, you will need to jump through extra hoops to create a new one.

It can’t stop thieves from accessing your existing accounts: Credit freezes can only stop fraudsters from opening new accounts using your information. If you’ve already been a victim of identity theft, a credit freeze can’t block thieves from committing fraud with your current accounts. This means that thieves can still make a purchase using a credit card they stole from you.

Freezing Your Credit is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Average credit card interest rates: Week of January 27, 2021

The average credit card interest rate is 16.11%.

The national average credit card APR rose Wednesday to its highest point in nearly nine months, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

U.S. Bank revised several credit card APRs this week, causing the national average card APR to increase for the first time in weeks. Among the 100 cards tracked weekly by CreditCards.com, for example, three U.S. Bank cards advertised new offers, including two business cards.

For example, U.S. Bank hiked the lowest possible APRs on the U.S Bank Business Cash Rewards World Elite™ Mastercard® and the U.S. Bank Business Platinum card by 2 percentage points, causing both cards’ APRs to exceed pre-pandemic levels for the first time in months.

A year ago, for example, the lowest available APR on the Business Edge Cash Rewards card was 13.74%. It’s now 13.99%.

Meanwhile, the minimum APR on the Business Platinum card was 11.74% last January. Today, the best rate new cardholders can get is 11.99%.

U.S. Bank also increased the maximum APR on the Platinum card by an even larger margin this week, hiking the card’s maximum APR by 3 percentage points. Applicants may now receive an APR as high as 20.99%, up from a previous high of 17.99%.

U.S. Bank customers who want to transfer a balance are also contending with higher rates this week. The U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card offers one of the longest balance transfer periods on the market, giving cardholders 20 months to repay an old balance. But once the card’s interest-free period expires, it will grow significantly more expensive.

The card’s minimum APR rose by half a percentage point, while its maximum rate climbed by 2 percentage points. As a result, the best rate new cardholders can expect is now 14.49%, while those with lower scores may get hit with an APR as high as 24.49%.

Average card APRs are likely to remain unusually low for a long time

Despite this week’s rate hike, average rates on new card offers are still near three-year-lows­­—and are unlikely to rise much higher anytime soon.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, only a handful of issuers have been willing to make big changes to brand-new offers. U.S. Bank has been among the most active lenders this year. However, most card issuers tracked by CreditCards.com haven’t touched card offers in months. As a result, the national average card APR has remained within striking distance of 16% since March.

APRs on most card offers tumbled dramatically last spring after most credit card issuers matched the Federal Reserve March 2020 rate cuts. A small number of issuers have reversed at least some of those rate cuts. But the majority of cards tracked by CreditCards.com continue to advertise the same unusually low APR they’ve advertised since spring.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is also taking a wait-and-see approach to consumer lending rates, making it even less likely that cardholders will see a big rate increase in the near future.

On Jan. 27, 2021, the central bank announced that it will again leave its benchmark interest rate near zero. It also signaled that rates will likely remain low for some time since the U.S. economy is still relatively weak.

The economy has struggled so far to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic, making it unlikely that the Fed will increase rates any time soon. As a result, most U.S. credit card holders can expect lower rates for months and possibly years to come. As long as the Fed keeps rates near rock bottom, most lenders are also likely to keep interest rates unusually low.

*All information about the U.S Bank Business Cash Rewards card, the Business Platinum and the Visa Platinum has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. This offer is no longer available on our site.

CreditCards.com’s Weekly Rate Report

Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 16.11% 16.05% 16.03%
Low interest 12.88% 12.77% 12.83%
Cash back 15.91% 15.85% 16.09%
Balance transfer 13.93% 13.85% 13.93%
Business 14.22% 13.91% 13.91%
Student 16.12% 16.12% 16.12%
Airline 15.56% 15.53% 15.48%
Rewards 15.80% 15.76% 15.82%
Instant approval 18.47% 18.38% 18.65%
Bad credit 25.30% 25.30% 24.43%
Methodology: The national average credit card APR is comprised of 100 of the most popular credit cards in the country, including cards from dozens of leading U.S. issuers and representing every card category listed above. (Introductory, or teaser, rates are not included in the calculation.)
Source: CreditCards.com
Updated: January 27, 2021

Historic interest rates by card type

Some credit cards charge even higher rates, on average. The type of rate you get will depend in part on the category of credit card you own. For example, even the best travel credit cards often charge higher rates than basic, low interest credit cards.

CreditCards.com has been calculating average rates for a wide variety of credit card categories, including student cards, balance transfer cards, cash back cards and more, since 2007.

How to get a low credit card interest rate

Your odds of getting approved for a card’s lowest rate will increase the more you improve your credit score. Some factors that influence your credit card APR will be out of your control, such as the length of time you’ve been handling credit.

However, even if you’re new to credit or are rebuilding your score, there are steps you can take to ensure a lower APR. For example:

  1. Pay your bills on time. The single most important factor influencing your credit score – and your ability to win a lower rate – is your track record of making on-time payments. Lenders are more likely to trust you with a competitive APR – and other positive terms, such as a big credit limit – if you have a lengthy history of paying your bills on time.
  2. Keep your balances low. Lenders also want to see that you are responsible with your credit and don’t overcharge. As a result, credit scores take into account the amount of credit you’re using, compared to how much credit you’ve been given. This is known as your credit utilization ratio. Typically, the lower your ratio, the better. For example, personal finance experts often recommend that you keep your balances well below 30% of your total credit limit.
  3. Build a lengthy and diverse credit history. Lenders also like to see that you’ve been successfully using credit for a long time and have experience with different types of credit, including revolving credit and installment loans. As a result, credit scores, such as the FICO score and VantageScore, factor in the average length of your credit history and the types of loans you’ve handled (which is known as your credit mix). To keep your credit history as long as possible, continue to use your oldest credit card so your lender doesn’t close it.
  4. Call your lender. If you’ve successfully owned a credit card for a long time, you may be able to convince your lender to lower your interest rate – especially if you have excellent credit. Reach out to your lender and ask if they’d be willing to negotiate a lower APR.
  5. Monitor your credit report. Check your credit reports regularly to make sure you’re being accurately scored. The last thing you want is for a mistake or unauthorized account to drag down your credit score. You have the right to check your credit reports from each major credit bureau (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) once per year for free through AnnualCreditReport.com.

Source: creditcards.com

How and When to Talk to a Credit Bureau

Two women wearing pink smile at a phone while drinking coffee in a cafe against a gray wall.

Your credit score can have a huge impact on your life—for better or worse. In many ways, the three major credit bureaus are the keepers of your credit score. They’re responsible for maintaining credit reports, which means you may need to contact them about the information included on yours. While this may seem daunting, it’s really not complicated.

Read on to learn about when to contact a credit bureau and how to do it. Contact information and tips have been provided for each of the three credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion—to make it as simple as possible.

When to Contact a Credit Bureau

Anytime you notice inaccuracies on your credit report, you should immediately contact the credit bureau. This can include misspelled names, incorrect address information, unreported salary changes or erroneous employment information.

Here are some other reasons why you might need to contact a credit bureau:

  • There are credit cards, collections missed payments or anything else on your report that you don’t recognize.
  • You’re in credit disputes with your credit card issuer or financial institution. You can address this with the credit bureaus, which are required to investigate.

For help talking to the credit bureaus and starting a credit repair plan, you can work with a professional credit repair agency. They offer credit monitoring, credit repair services and text alerts so you don’t miss a thing.

Get Credit Repair Help
  • You want to get a hard inquiry removed from your history, especially if it’s an unauthorized inquiry.
  • An account is missing from your report.
  • You want to remove inaccurate or unfair collection accounts from your report. Keep in mind that if you can’t dispute them successfully, these accounts can stay on your account for a number of years.
  • You want to request a free annual credit report.
  • You want to put a temporary freeze or lock on your credit file.
  • You notice any sign of fraud on your credit report.

Information to Gather before You Call

You want to have the right information on hand when you call a credit bureau. Prepare yourself by collecting the following information in advance, just in case:

  • Your name, address, Social Security number and date of birth
  • A copy of your annual credit report
  • Evidence of the inaccuracies or errors, if relevant
  • Personal financial information, such as your mortgage information, depending on the reported issue
  • Any other supporting documentation

Credit Bureau Contact Information

Because there are so many potential reasons to contact a credit bureau—general inquiries, disputes and credit freezes, for example—there are many different phone numbers and online contact forms to wade through. If you call the wrong number, you may simply be told they cannot help you and directed to call a different number, wasting precious time and energy.

To help you avoid that frustration, we’ve gathered several ways you can contact the credit bureaus for common inquiries here.

Equifax Phone Numbers

Reason to Contact

Phone Number

Availability

General inquiries

866-640-2273

 

Service cancellation

866-243-8181

8 a.m. to 3 a.m. (ET)
7 days a week

Request a copy of your credit report

866-349-5191

8 a.m. to midnight (ET)
7 days a week

Fraud alert

800-525-6285

8 a.m. to midnight (ET)
7 days a week

Credit dispute

866-349-5191

8 a.m. to midnight (ET)
7 days a week

Credit freeze

888-298-0045

8 a.m. to midnight (ET)
7 days a week

2017 data breach

888-548-7878

8 a.m. to midnight (ET)
7 days a week

Opt out of mailing lists

888-567-8688

 

 

If you don’t like talking on the phone, Equifax also offers live chat support. You can chat with a member of their customer support team between 8 a.m. and midnight (ET), Monday through Friday.


TransUnion Phone Numbers

Reason to Contact

Phone Number

Availability

General inquiries

833-395-6938

8 a.m. to 11 p.m. (ET)
Monday–Friday

Credit dispute

833-395-6941

8 a.m to 11:00 p.m. (ET)

Monday–Friday

Credit freeze

888-909-8872

8 a.m. to 11 p.m. (ET)

Fraud alert

800-680-7289

8 a.m.to 11 p.m. (ET)

Free annual report

877-322-8228

 

Haven’t received your report

800-888-4213
800-916-8800 (to speak to a representative)

 

Manage your subscription

833-806-1626

8 a.m. to 9 p.m. (ET)

Monday–Friday

 

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET)
Saturday–Sunday

Technical support

833-806-1626

8 a.m. to 9 pm. (ET)

Monday–Friday

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET)
Saturday–Sunday


Experian Phone Numbers

Reason to Contact

 Phone Number

Availability

Experian membership

479-343-6239

6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (PT)
Monday–Friday

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PT)
Saturday–Sunday

Free credit report

888-397-3742

 

Credit dispute

866-200-6020

 

Fraud alert

888-397-3742

 

Credit freeze

888-397-3742

 

Cancel membership

479-343-6239

 

ProtectMyID subscription

866-960-6943

 

Opt out of prescreened offers

888-567-8688

 


Alternatives to Calling Credit Bureaus

Not all experts think calling a credit bureau is the best approach. Don Petersen, an attorney at Howard Lewis & Peterson, PC, in Utah, recommends calling a bureau for only basic administrative questions—such as updating an address or asking if a recent data breach has affected you.

For most other issues, Petersen advises his clients to write to credit bureaus or submit disputes online. This provides you with an official record of your request.

If you do prefer to call a credit bureau, take notes during the call and follow up in writing after the telephone conversation. In your follow-up letter, you should include the name of the representative you spoke with as well as details of what transpired in your conversation.

Send important requests—especially disputes—through certified mail. This allows you to track the letter and ensure that the credit bureau responds in a timely manner. Never send original copies of documents, as the bureaus may not return anything you send.

Equifax Mailing Addresses

Reason for Contact

Address

Credit dispute

Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256

Request a copy of your credit report

Equifax Disclosure Department
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

Fraud alert

Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 105069
Atlanta, GA 30348-5069

Credit freeze

Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348-5788


TransUnion Mailing Addresses

Reason to Contact

Address

Credit freeze

TransUnion
P.O. Box 160
Woodlyn, PA 19094

Credit dispute

TransUnion Consumer Solutions
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016-2000

Fraud alert

TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016

Request credit report

TransUnion LLC
Consumer Disclosure Center
P.O. Box 1000
Chester, PA 19016


Experian Mailing Addresses

Reason to Contact

Address

Credit dispute

Experian Dispute Department
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013

Credit freeze

Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013

Privacy

Chief Privacy Officer
Compliance Department
Experian
475 Anton Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Report a relative’s death

Experian
P.O. Box 9701
Allen, TX 75013


Track Your Credit

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have the right to obtain a free copy of all three reports once each year. These free reports can be accessed on the government-mandated site operated by the big three credit bureaus, AnnualCreditReport.com.

You can also sign up for the free credit report card offered by Credit.com, which provides a snapshot of your credit as well as the ability to dig deeper into the elements that affect your credit score. When you sign up, you’ll also get regular emails with tips and tricks for keeping your credit healthy.

Sign Up Now

The post How and When to Talk to a Credit Bureau appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com