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Each issuer has its own card activation process, but it’s usually as simple as logging in to your online account or calling an activation line.
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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.
Jump to issuer-specific instructions with the table below, or read on for a bit of background information on credit card activation.
|American Express||Credit One|
|Bank of America||Discover|
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.
You may need to have the following pieces of information handy when you call or go online to activate a credit card:
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 allows you to activate your new Amex credit card by:
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:
To activate a Bank of America credit card:
You can activate a Barclays credit card in two ways:
You can activate your Capital One credit card by:
Most Chase credit cards are on the Visa network, but you can activate any of them online or by phone:
You can activate your Citi credit card:
You can only activate Credit One credit cards by:
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!
Like many issuers, you can activate a Discover credit card in a few ways:
You can also reach Indigo’s customer service department at 1-866-946-9545.
To activate your USAA credit card:
Activate your Wells Fargo credit card by:
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.
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.
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.
Ellen Sirull is a writer with over 15 years of experience, covering topics from personal finance to identity protection to credit and credit cards. Her work has been featured on CNBC, New York Daily News, Fox News, Yahoo! Finance, AOL Finance, Experian and the Identity Theft Resource Center. She enjoys spending time with her family and traveling as much as possible and is always thinking about how best to invest her own money for retirement and her family’s well-being.
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