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A guide to activating a credit card

When your new credit card arrives, you’ll need to activate it before you can use it. Not sure how to activate a credit card? Check out our simple guide to the credit card activation process and find out how to check if your credit card is active.

When your new credit card arrives, you’ll need to activate it before you can use it. Not sure how to activate a credit card? Check out our simple guide to the credit card activation process and find out how to check if your credit card is active.

Written by
Alex Hasty
Insurance comparison and finance expert
Last Updated
14 SEPTEMBER 2023
2 min read
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Why do I need to activate my credit card?

You need to activate your credit card for security purposes. Activating your card tells your bank or credit card provider that you’re the correct cardholder and it hasn’t ended up in the wrong hands.

You’ll normally need to activate any new credit card you receive in the post. Even if it’s a replacement for an existing card, some banks and providers will still require it to be activated.  

How do I activate a new credit card?

To activate your new credit card you’ll need the credit card number and your date of birth.

You can either activate your card via online banking, mobile banking, phoning the card provider directly or in person at the nearest branch of your bank.

How to activate a new credit card online?

If you already have an online bank account with the provider, then your credit card will have been added to your account. Simply log in and go through the activation steps. If you don’t have an online account, you’ll need to set one up, then log in and enter your personal information to activate your card.  

How to activate a credit card using a mobile banking app

If your bank or credit card provider offers mobile banking, you should be able to quickly activate your new credit card through their app, by logging in and following the activation steps. If you have any trouble, many banking apps offer an in-app chat function that can help point you in the right direction.

You’ll normally need to be registered for digital banking before you can sign up to your bank’s app. Once the app is downloaded, you’ll have to complete some security steps to prove your identity and set up your account before you can activate your card.

How to set up a credit card over the phone?

The number you need to call should be on the back of your credit card. Many providers offer a 24-hour automated phone line that will ensure your card is activated in just a few minutes. 

How to activate a credit card at an ATM

To activate contactless payments on your credit card, you’ll need to use your PIN either at an ATM or in store before you can make your first contactless payment using your card.

Note that you’ll still need to activate your credit card first, for security purposes, using your credit card number and your date of birth. You can normally do this either online, through mobile banking or over the phone.

How long do I have to activate a credit card?

That depends on the credit card issuer, so you should read your terms carefully.

Once you’ve activated your card, you’ll also need to make sure that you’ve signed the back before using it to keep it secure.

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

Typically, you can use your card almost immediately after you’ve activated it. If you’re having problems using your card, then it’s best to contact the provider to ensure it’s definitely been activated. 

What happens if you don’t activate a credit card?

If you don’t activate your credit card, you won’t be able to use it to make a card payment or withdraw cash from an ATM. However, your credit card account will still be open.

This means you’ll still owe any credit card fees, like an annual fee. Having too many lines of credit left open could also impact your credit score.

How do I know if my credit card is still active?

You can check whether your credit card is still active via online banking or by calling the card provider. If your credit card is no longer active, it will be declined when you try to use it.

Your credit card can be deactivated for a number of reasons.

  • You haven’t used it for a few months or years, so the credit card provider has deactivated it.
  • Your purchasing privileges have been suspended due to you making late repayments.
  • It’s expired, and you haven’t received a replacement card (you’ll need to pick this up with the card provider).

If your card is deactivated, you’ll have less credit available to you. That will increase your credit card utilisation ratio and could have a negative impact on your credit score. So, it’s a good idea to stay on top of any credit card accounts you have open.

Looking for a credit card?

Compare credit cards quickly and easily. Use our eligibility checker to find out which cards you’re likely to be approved for without affecting credit score.

The content written in this article is for information purposes only and should not be taken as financial advice. If you require support on the products discussed here, please speak to your bank/lender or seek the advice of an independent professional financial advisor. We also have more information on our Customer Support Hub.

Looking for a credit card?

Compare credit cards quickly and easily. Use our eligibility checker to find out which cards you’re likely to be accepted for without affecting your credit score.

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Alex Hasty - Insurance comparison and finance expert

At Compare the Market, Alex has had roles as Commercial Associate Director, Director of Trading and Director of Growth. He’s currently responsible for the development and execution of Comparethemarket’s longer-term strategic options, ensuring the right breadth of products and services that meet customer needs.

Learn more about Alex