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Published: Aug 25, 2022 7 min read
Dollar Scholar banner featuring illustrations of credit cards frozen inside ice cubes

This is an excerpt from Dollar Scholar, the Money newsletter where news editor Julia Glum teaches you the modern money lessons you NEED to know. Don't miss the next issue! Sign up at money.com/subscribe and join our community of 160,000+ Scholars.

It’s incredibly hot and my window AC unit is doing absolutely nothing to help, so I’m gonna give you a gift: my favorite frozen margarita recipe.

It originated from the Vitamix cookbook, but I can confirm it works just as well in a regular blender or even a Magic Bullet, if that’s all you’ve got. I’ve tweaked it to perfection. It makes four servings — or, like, two, if you’re as sweaty as I am right now.

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup tequila (at least)
  • ½ cup triple sec
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lime
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 bag of frozen strawberries (16 oz.)
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 6 cups ice cubes
  • sugar or salt for rims

The instructions:

  1. Peel your orange, lime and lemon. Try to remove most of the white stuff, but if you leave a little because you get tired it’s fine. Cut them into smaller pieces (quarters, wedges, whatever).
  2. Throw all the ingredients into your blender. Blend, gradually increasing the speed, until everything is well-mixed and sloshy. It’ll probably take about a minute.
  3. Open the lid and taste it with a spoon. Consider whether you should add a little more tequila. (You should.)
  4. Add a little more tequila. Blend again. Worry that your neighbors are getting annoyed with all your noisy blending. Get your cups ready with sugar or salt rims.
  5. Pour into cups. Kick back, relax and sip your perfectly fruity frozen margarita. If you still need to cool down, think about other frozen things: Olaf, Han Solo in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, credit…

…actually, let’s dive into that last one.

Should I freeze my credit?

Brittney Castro, a certified financial planner who works with Mint, tells me that freezing my credit is a security measure — “no random creditors can pull up your credit file and access it,” she says. “You would have to give them access.”

As longtime Scholars know, credit is kind of a big deal. Lenders check my credit history and scores whenever I apply for a new line of credit, a broad category that can include anything from a new credit card to a car loan to a mortgage. If my credit is frozen, lenders can’t see it… and therefore won’t move forward.

This is useful when it’s not actually me applying — aka in the event of identity theft. And that's startlingly common: The Federal Trade Commission received more than 363,000 reports of new-account credit card fraud in 2021.

“There are so many scams out there these days where people get access to your personal information and they try to take out credit in your name,” says Claire Mork, director of financial planning at Edelman Financial Engines. But if my credit were frozen, she adds, they wouldn’t be able to fraudulently get a loan using my data.

Colleen McCreary, consumer financial advocate and chief people officer at Credit Karma, writes in an email that a credit freeze won’t protect me in situations where criminals already gained access to my accounts (like if a hacker stole my bank login credentials).

However, freezing my credit is a smart move any time I’m worried about my identity being exposed. That can be as small as my wallet getting stolen or as big as my data being leaked in a major breach.

“We absolutely recommend clients do this if they don't anticipate taking a loan out any time soon,” McCreary says. “The same goes for others in your family, especially those who are more vulnerable to identity theft, like elderly parents, grandparents or kids.”

Oh, and did I mention it’s free?

Freezing credit used to cost money. U.S. PIRG, a federation of consumer interest groups, reported in 2017 that only eight states gave residents the option to freeze their credit without paying.

But after the colossal Equifax breach that exposed 147 million people’s private data, Congress made it a legal requirement that Americans can freeze (and unfreeze) their credit free of charge. All I have to do is reach out to the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — and ask.

That leads me to the biggest con of freezing my credit: It’s inconvenient.

Castro tells me that I may have to individually request a freeze with each of the bureaus. Each will likely have me make an account, as well as give me a PIN I’ll have to keep track of. Crucially, I’ll also have to plan ahead for unfreezing my credit.

“Having a credit freeze can delay your applications for jobs, cell phone service or any other situation that requires a credit check since you have to lift the freeze each time, and it can take a few days for your credit freeze to thaw,” McCreary says.

One final note: It’s important to note that my credit scores can, and do, change while on ice. The freeze itself doesn’t hurt my scores, but if I start missing payments, the numbers will drop just the same.

The bottom line

Freezing my credit is a way to protect myself. Though it can be a hassle, it’s probably worth it in SOS situations to avoid identity theft.

“It’s such a pain to correct those issues,” Mork says. “The amount of work you have to do to fix that . . . why put yourself potentially through that?"

More from Money:

How Many Credit Cards Is Too Many Credit Cards?

Do I Have to Keep My First Credit Card Open Forever?

Is It a Good Idea to Put My Bills on Autopay?