Many companies require you to activate a credit card, especially one you have just obtained. They may even require activation or “pinning” at a bank location of your ATM card. When you activate the card, you usually go through several minutes of over the phone providing of information, including checks of your home phone number, possibly the last four digits of your Social Security number, and occasionally other security checks. Typically, these requirements are meant as protective measures, and they also signify that you agree to the terms as provided by the credit card. There are a few circumstances where you shouldn’t activate a card.
Some companies have a deadline on the time in which you can activate a credit card. You may want to note how much time you have before the number or account will be considered outdated, which means you may have to reapply to get another card. Also, if you do apply for a credit card and haven’t received one within four to six weeks of approved application, you should call the company to which you applied and let them know. If someone has stolen your card and already activated it, the company will usually not hold you responsible for any charges.
When you get a renewed credit or ATM card, you may not need to activate it. An ATM card may have the same pin as your old one, and a renewed credit card with a new expiration date is often sent as a matter of course. Most companies will let you know if you have to activate a card that represents a renewal of your account, usually with a sticker on the front or back of the card and various literature sent with the card.
A few companies allow for merchant activation of cards. This means that as soon as you use the credit card, it is considered active. If you obtain a card to use for emergencies only, and merchant activation is the only means to activate it, you may want to call the credit card company to let them know you’ve accepted their terms, but that you don’t plan to use the card right away. Again, cards that remain inactive and aren’t used right away may be voided if you don’t indicate you want to keep them.