How to Activate a Credit Card: Step By Step Instructions

Ellen Sirull

Ellen Sirull | Blog

May 28, 2019

Your fancy new card just arrived in the mail, and you’re itching to break it in. But wait, there’s one last step to take: activating.

Most major credit card issuers make it pretty easy for you to activate a credit card online or by phone. Here’s an issuer-by-issuer breakdown on how to activate and use your new card.

Activating a New Credit Card

When you apply for a new card and are accepted, you’ll usually receive the physical card via standard mail within 7–10 days.

It can sometimes arrive sooner, and you may be able to request expedited shipping from the card issuer. If one of your credit cards is lost or stolen and you request a new one, you’ll need to activate that card once you receive it.

Most of the time, your credit card will arrive in a nondescript white envelope (standard or large), with a sticker on the front of the card showing you a phone number and potentially a website for activating.

After activating online or by phone, your new card will usually be ready for use immediately.

Take note that your account is probably open even if you don’t activate your card, because when applying you usually agree that you want the account if approved.

Information to Have When Activating a Credit Card

You may need to have the following pieces of information handy when you call or go online to activate a credit card:

  • Your credit card number
  • The security code on the front or back of your card (often called the card identification number (CID) or card verification value (CVV))
  • Full name, Social Security number, zip code, and/or date of birth
  • Your account number with the issuer (if different than the card number; not usually necessary)

The information you’ll need varies by issuer, and can depend on whether you already have another account with the company as well (you may need to confirm less information if you’re logged in to your account).

If you’re calling to activate a new card, call from the phone number associated with your credit card account to avoid having to provide additional information.

American Express

American Express allows you to activate your new Amex credit card by:

Activating an American Express credit card.

Activating a Corporate Amex Card

Activating a Prepaid Amex Card

If you have a prepaid American Express® Serve® (Review) card, you need to:

Activating an Amex Gift Card

If your American Express gift card requires activation, follow the instructions on the card. Amex recommends that you note the following information in case your gift card is lost or stolen:

  • Gift card number
  • Four-digit Card Identification Code (CID) on the front of the card
  • Three-digit Card Security Code (CSC) on the back of the card
  • Customer service phone number

Bank of America

To activate a Bank of America credit card:

  • Sign in to your existing BofA online banking account or enroll in a new account on the BofA website
  • Download or log in to the Bank of America mobile banking app on iOS or Android
  • Call BofA’s credit card activation line at 1-800-276-9939

Barclays

You can activate a Barclays credit card in two ways:

Activating a Barclays credit card.

Capital One

You can activate your Capital One credit card by:

Chase

Most Chase credit cards are on the Visa network, but you can activate any of them online or by phone:

Activating a Chase credit card.

Citi

You can activate your Citi credit card:

Credit One

You can only activate Credit One credit cards by:

  • Calling the phone number on the sticker on the front of the card; Credit One’s website indicates you must activate your card within 14 days of receiving it

Credit One’s general customer service number is 1-877-825-3242.

We don’t usually recommend using Credit One credit cards, as they tend to have high fees and we’ve received many complaints about poor customer support. Don’t get Credit One confused with Capital One!

Discover

Like many issuers, you can activate a Discover credit card in a few ways:

  • Online
  • Calling the number on the sticker on the front of the card from the phone number associated with your account
  • Calling 1-800-347-2683

Activating a Discover credit card.

Indigo

To activate your Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® (Review):

  • Call the number on the sticker on the front of the card

You can also reach Indigo’s customer service department at 1-866-946-9545.

USAA

To activate your USAA credit card:

Activating a USAA credit card.

Walmart

You can activate your Walmart® Credit Card (Review) or Walmart® Mastercard (Review) online or by phone:

Wells Fargo

Activate your Wells Fargo credit card by:

Activating a New Credit Card in Your Mobile Wallet

If you use a mobile wallet, like Apple Pay or Google Pay, you can add a new card there once it’s been activated. Replacement cards will usually update automatically in the app.

Sometimes if you’re replacing a credit card that is already in your mobile wallet, the new card may automatically appear there (where it can be used for purchases) even before you receive your new physical card.

Apple Pay and Google Pay.

What If I Don’t Receive My New Credit Card?

If you’ve been approved for a new credit card and haven’t received it after about 21 days, you should contact your credit card issuer to ensure it hasn’t been activated by someone else who is using your card to commit fraud.

It may have also been lost in the mail, so the company might need to issue you another card.

Getting a New Credit Card

Some additional things to know about getting a new card:

Ready to learn more about credit and credit cards? Find more topics like this in the Insider Academy.
Was this helpful?

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by bank advertisers. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers' responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

  • Kamal Joshi

    Many clients are having trouble while activating Capital One card and they are facing an error saying capitalone com activate.
    The Capital One Financial Corporation is a unique bank corporation. Which also had some expertise in credits cards and the provision of various saving and banking services.

The Insider

Sean Messier
2019 List of “Major” Credit Card Companies and How to Get Their Cards
Sean Messier | Jul 15, 2019

Learn about what types of credit cards are considered "major" credit cards, and the difference between credit card issuers and credit card networks.

Read More
Brendan Harkness
Best High Limit Credit Cards: Spend More, Earn More, Do More
Brendan Harkness | Jul 10, 2019

Your credit limits depend on your credit scores and your income, but some cards are known for giving higher limits. See all the best high limit cards here.

Read More
Brendan Harkness
The Best Military Credit Cards: Low APRs, Waived Annual Fees, and More
Brendan Harkness | Jul 08, 2019

Members of the military have access to special credit card terms. Under the SCRA, interest rates are capped, and some issuers also waive annual fees.

Read More