How to Activate Your Credit Card: Step By Step Instructions by Issuer

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.

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 activation.

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

American Express allows you to activate your new Amex credit card by:

  • Visiting their website
  • 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

  • Go online to confirm your card
  • Call 1-800-362-6033

Activating a Prepaid Amex Card

If you have a prepaid American Express® Serve® (Review) card, you need to:

  • Register and activate your card online

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:

  • Visiting their website
  • Call 1-877-408-8866

Capital One

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:

  • Online
  • With the Citi mobile app from the App Store or Google Play
  • By calling the number on the back of the card

Credit One

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.


Like many issuers, you can activate a Discover credit card in a few ways:

  • Online
  • 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


To activate your Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® (Review):

  • 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:

  • Log in to your USAA online account and select the card you’d like to activate
  • Call 1-210-531-8722


To activate the Walmart Rewards Mastercard (Review) or the Walmart Rewards Card (Review), which are both issued by Capital One, you can:

  • Visit the 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

Wells Fargo

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

If you use a mobile wallet, like Apple Pay or Google Pay, you can add a new card there once it’s been activated. Replacement cards will usually update automatically in the app.

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.
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