How to Activate a Credit Card: Step By Step Instructions
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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|
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 allows you to activate your new Amex credit card by:
- Visiting americanexpress.com/confirmcard
- Downloading or logging in to the American Express app on your mobile device on the App Store or Google Play
- Texting MEMBER to 86509 on iOS and Android phones (message and data rates may apply)
- Calling the number on the back of your card
Activating a Corporate Amex Card
Activating a Prepaid Amex Card
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
You can activate a Barclays credit card in two ways:
You can activate your Capital One credit card by:
- Enrolling in or logging in to your Capital One online account
- Using the Capital One mobile app for iOS or Android
- Calling 1-800-227-4825
Most Chase credit cards are on the Visa network, but you can activate any of them online or by phone:
- Sign in to or create your Chase account, then verify the card you wish to activate
- Call 1-800-432-3117 for personal credit cards
- Call 1-888-269-8690 for business credit cards
You can activate your Citi credit card:
- With the Citi mobile app from the App Store or Google Play
- By calling the number on the back of the card
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!
Like many issuers, you can activate a Discover credit card in a few ways:
- Online (we’re currently unable to link directly to the Discover website)
- 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
- 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.
To activate your USAA credit card:
- Visit this Capital One activation page and follow the instructions
- Enroll or log in to your Capital One online account
- Use the Capital One mobile app for iOS or Android
- Call the activation number that came with your new card, or 1-800-227-4825
Activate your Wells Fargo credit card by:
- Signing in to your account or creating a new one online
- Calling 1-877-294-6933 from the phone number attached to your account
- Using the Wells Fargo mobile app from the App Store, Google Play, or Amazon Appstore
Activating a New Credit Card in Your Mobile Wallet
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.
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:
- If you’re trying to figure out which credit card will be right for you, find some of the best cards here.
- If you applied for a new card and haven’t heard back, you may want to check the status of your credit card application.
- Find out what happens if you didn’t activate your credit card. It most likely won’t be usable, but if it’s lost it can put you at risk for identity theft.
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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