Once you get a new credit card you have to activate it before you use it. Here’s how to activate a credit card from a major issuer.
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If you’ve ever received a new credit card and tried to use it but have been told it’s not working, you might have forgotten one important step — to activate it.
Once you get your card, you must activate it in order to use it. Different issuers offer cardholders various ways to activate their credit cards, but you can typically get it done via a phone call or online. Read on to find out what information you’ll need to activate your card.
You’ll need to give personal information to activate your card
When you’re ready to activate your credit card, you’ll need to provide information, including some personal data.
You will generally need the following information to complete your activation:
- Your card number and card verification value, or CVV, which is found on the back of your card
- Your name, birthdate, Social Security number and ZIP code
Once you’ve gathered your information, you’re good to go — whether you choose to activate online, via phone or through an app.
How to activate your card online
To activate your card online, visit the website that is provided either on a sticker on the card or in the information packet you received with the card. Fill out whatever information the website asks for regarding the credit card and click “submit.” Typically you will receive a confirmation that the card is activated — if you don’t, just call the company to confirm. Sign the back of your new card, and you’re all set.
How to activate your card by phone
If you choose to call your issuer to activate your card, the process is simple and takes only a few minutes. To make things easier, call from the phone number you gave on the application.
Every issuer’s process is fairly similar — you will be asked for some or all of the information listed above, and once you provide it you will receive confirmation that your card is ready to use. Just sign the back of it and start spending.
How to activate your card via an app
Many issuers also allow cardholders to activate cards via an app on their smartphones. First, download the app from Google Play (for Android) or the App Store (for iPhone). Use your phone’s camera to scan your card when the app prompts you. Enter any other information the app asks for and you’re done.
Now that you know what to expect when you use these three methods, locate your issuer below to find out the ways it enables customers to activate.
How to activate your American Express card
You have three choices to activate your American Express credit card:
- Visit the Amex website and enter your information as the prompts come up.
- Call the number on the back of your card and provide the customer service rep with the necessary information.
- Download and use the American Express app from the App Store (for iPhone) or Google Play (for Android).
How to activate your Apple Card
Because the physical Apple Card does not have any numbers, CVV, expiration date or signature on it, you must activate it via your Wallet. Here’s how:
- If you have a compatible iPhone, all you need to do is open the new card, wake up your iPhone and follow the prompts inside your Wallet, then tap “Activate.”
- If you threw away your card’s packaging, open your Wallet and tap “Apple Card,” then tap the “more” button. Tap “Card Details,” and then tap “Activate Your Card” under the Titanium card. Next, tap “Having trouble activating your card” and then “Do Not Have Card Packaging,” and follow the instructions on the screen.
How to activate your Bank of America card
There are three ways to activate a Bank of America credit card:
- The fastest way to activate your BofA card is to visit the bank’s website and use your online banking ID and passcode to enroll your new credit card account.
- Call the issuer’s activation line at 800-276-9939.
- Download and use the BofA banking app from the App Store (for iPhone) or Google Play (for Android).
How to activate your Barclays card
Barclays offers cardholders two ways to activate:
- Visit the issuer’s website.
- Activate via phone at 877-408-8866.
How to activate your Capital One card
You can activate your Capital One credit card three ways:
- Visit the bank’s website and use your online banking ID and passcode to enroll your new credit card account.
- Call the issuer’s activation line at 800-227-4825.
- Download and use the Capital One banking app from the App Store (for iPhone) or Google Play (for Android).
How to activate your Chase card
There are two ways to activate your Chase credit card:
- You can sign into your existing Chase account or create a new one on the bank’s website.
- Call the number on the back of your credit card.
How to activate your Citi card
Citi offers three ways to activate a card:
- Visit the bank’s website to activate.
- Download and use the Citi banking app from the App Store (for iPhone) or Google Play (for Android).
- Call the number on the back of your card.
- Send a text from your registered mobile phone number — ACT [space] [last 4 digits of your card number] — to 6058 and you will get a text back immediately telling you that the card has been registered.
How to activate your Credit One Bank
There is one way only to activate your Credit One Bank card:
- Within 14 days of receiving your new card, call the phone number on the sticker on the front of it.
How to activate your Discover card
Discover gives its cardholders two ways to activate its cards:
- Visit the bank’s website to activate.
- Call the issuer’s customer service line at 800-347-2683.
How to activate your Wells Fargo card
Wells Fargo offers three ways to activate its cards:
- Visit the bank’s website and sign into or create a new account.
- Call the issuer at 800-642-4720.
- Download and use the Wells Fargo banking app from the App Store (for iPhone) or Google Play (for Android).
How long after activating a credit card can I use it?
You can use your card immediately after activation. Whether you choose to activate online or by phone is up to you, but doing it online will offer you the opportunity to log into your credit card account and see your credit limit.
What happens if I don’t activate a credit card?
If you don’t activate a credit card and don’t use it, your account may ultimately be closed due to inactivity. It may not be an issue if you decide you don’t want the card after all, though you likely incurred a hard inquiry on your credit report when you applied for it. If your account has been closed and you still want the card, contact your issuer to find out if it can be reopened.
Keep your credit card safe once you activate
Once you activate your new credit card you’ll want to keep it as safe and secure as possible.
You already know to sign it immediately after activating it, but there are other ways to protect it.
- First, turn on “suspicious activity” alerts. If the issuer detects anything odd on your account — such as a very large purchase if you typically don’t make them, or a purchase out of state — it will contact you immediately to verify the purchase.
- Never share your credit card information, and keep your contact information current with the issuer. That way, it can notify you if it spots any fraudulent activity on the card.
- Check your account frequently to see if there have been any unauthorized purchases on it. If you spot any, contact the issuer right away to report it.
- Last, use the card for online purchases only on secure sites and never when you’re on public Wi-Fi, and never let an online merchant store your credit card number for future purchases.
Once you activate your new credit card, you’re good to go: Let the shopping begin, but use it responsibly. After you activate it, be sure to take the steps above to protect yourself against credit card fraud and identity theft — you’ll likely sleep better at night knowing you’ve cut down significantly on your chances of becoming a victim.
The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.