A fairly plain-looking envelope arrives in the post. You open it, finding a brand new credit card tucked away inside. Following the instructions attached to the card, you activate it, thereby making it ready to use.

The process is practically a financial rite of passage. Someone applies for a credit card, gets their approval, activates the card, then begins using the credit that’s been granted them. It’s been happening for over five decades, and the steps involved have remained relatively unchanged throughout recent history.

While many of us have activated a credit card (or are anxiously anticipating their first credit card), the actual reasoning behind card activation sometimes comes into question. Why do we need to go through these steps, especially when so many people say that activation isn’t even necessary to use the card?

Why Do I Need to Activate My New Credit Card?

The primary reason why card activations are still around is verification. When a card is activated, it tells the issuer that the customer has received the card and acknowledged its issuance.

What activation does not do is activate the account associated with the card. The credit line is established before the card is sent, and if the card has already made it to your mailbox, then you can be sure that a line of credit already exists and there’s an open account. The activation process is tied to the card only.

Does Card Activation Help with Security?

Yes and no. While some card issuers will not allow a line of credit to be used until the associated card is activated, this isn’t always the case. This has become more common in the age of instant gratification wherein consumers want to be able to use their new line of credit without waiting for a card in the mail. Banks commonly make it possible for customers to use their new credit line for things like online shopping as soon as they’re approved – regardless of whether or not the card has been received.

So How Do I Activate My Credit Card?

In many cases, your new card will include activation instructions on a printed sticker. (Normally the process is simple enough; you’ll typically need to call or visit a website and provide some information.)

If your new card didn’t include activation instructions, we have provided activation walkthroughs for nearly all major Canadian credit cards on our website.