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How to Activate a Credit Card

Mary Gormandy White
Woman with credit card and mobile phone

While activation instructions aren't identical for all credit cards, the procedure does tend to be similar. It's quick and easy to activate a credit card. You'll simply need to follow a series of basic steps to confirm to the issuing financial institution that you received the card.

1. Find Instructions Specific to Your Card

When card issuers send out credit cards, they include specific activation instructions with the card. If there is a sticker affixed to the card, this is where you will find activation instructions. If there is no sticker on the card, check any paperwork included in the envelope in which the card was sent.

If your card does not have a sticker and you cannot locate instructions on the paperwork, you will need to reach out to the card issuer to move forward. You may be able to do this online, or you may need to call customer service.

  • Online: You can do an online search for activation instructions using the name of your card issuer paired with the word "activation." Chances are you will find a website that you can use to move forward. For example, Citi and Bank of America have activation instructions online for this purpose.
  • Customer service: You can also use the 1-800 number on the back of the card, though you will need to explain to the representative that the card has not yet been activated and that you do not have access to the original instructions.

2. Gather Key Information

When you activate your credit card, you will need to have the card itself within easy reach, as you will need to enter the full account number into the card issuer's system. You will also need to be prepared to provide some personally identifying information about yourself, assuming you are the cardholder. For example, you may be required to enter your billing zip code, the last 4 digits of your social security number, or your home phone number.

3. Follow Activation Instructions

Regardless of which of the above options you used to find the activation instructions, you will need to follow them in order to activate your card. Some accounts may require telephone activation while others allow you to activate your card via the card issuer's website.

  • Telephone activation: This will involve calling a dedicated phone number and entering required details into the system.
  • Online activation: If you are able to activate your card online, you will need to visit the specific link provided by the card issuer and follow the on-screen instructions. You will probably also need to set up an online account. Depending on how your card issuer's website works, you may have to set up your account before you can activate your card, or you may need to wait until after your card has been activated.

4. Submit Information

Once you have provided all necessary information, submit your activation request in the method prescribed by the voice activated system or the website you are using.

5. Verify Activation

Wait until you receive a system-generated notification that your card has been activated to end the call or leave the web page.

6. Remove Sticker

If your credit card had an activation sticker on it, remove the sticker and dispose of it properly.

7. File Paperwork

Chances are that your card arrived in an envelope that includes paperwork with important details, such as account terms and conditions or rewards program details. Place that paperwork in a secure location with your other financial documents.

8. Sign Card

After your card has been activated, you will need to sign the back of the card in order to be able to use it for face-to-face transactions.

9. Store Card Securely

Store your activated credit card in a secure place, such as your wallet or an in-home safe, where you will be able to access it easily when you need to use it.

Use Your Credit Card Responsibly

Once your credit card has been activated, it is important to use it responsibly. Use your account wisely to avoid the pitfalls of credit card debt and take steps to protect yourself against identity theft. It is far too easy for criminals to access credit card information.

How to Activate a Credit Card