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How to activate your new credit card

After you've applied and been approved for a credit card offer, your new card should arrive in the mail within 7-10 business days. Your credit card will arrive in a sealed envelope (usually with a copy of your cardholder agreement) and instructions on how to verify receipt of the card. If required, you may also receive a set of instructions for activating the card.

If your credit card requires activation, you may have various activation methods to choose from, such as over the phone or through your credit issuer's mobile app. Your credit card may also come with a cardholder agreement that you should read carefully to learn more about your interest rate, available perks and rewards, and information on how to enroll in an online account, set up autopay and alert messaging.

How do I activate a credit card?

There are two common methods that you may use to verify or activate your card within minutes:

1. Call the number on the card

Look for a sticker on your credit card that contains instructions on how to activate your card. There will be an option for activating your card over the phone by dialing a toll-free number and following instructions from an automated voice operator. You may be instructed to input your credit card number over the phone or a secured PIN to complete the verification process.

2. Activate online

The sticker on your credit card may include a secured website link to activate your card. Once you're on the website, you'll have to follow a set of directions, which may include verifying your credit card number and security questions.

How long after activating a credit card can I use it?

You can typically begin using your credit card immediately after verifying receipt or activating the card.

What happens if I don't activate a credit card?

If you don't confirm activation on a new credit card, the account will still be open. Since the credit card isn't being used, effects to your credit score from payment history will be minimal to non-existent. However, the credit limit you were approved for will be allotted into the portion of your credit score's debt-to-income ratio (30% of your score) that keeps track of your current debt and available credit. So, even if you don't activate and use a new credit card, it'll still affect your overall credit score. If your credit card charges an annual fee, the annual fee will still be in effect even if you don't activate the card.

What is the easiest way to activate a credit card?

There are two main methods for activating a new credit card. If you value convenience and want to activate your card quickly, you may want to opt for activating your card over the phone or online. Remember to read over your cardmember agreement when you activate the card so that you can be aware of any finalized interest rate details and learn about any reward programs you can enroll in. This is also a good time to enroll in an automated payment schedule or sign up for an online credit card or mobile app account. Keep in mind that if you don't activate a credit card, this doesn't mean that the card isn't affecting your credit score.