Step-by-Step Guide: After You Receive Your New Card (2021)
- Activate the card and make sure you can manage it online. After you receive your card, you'll need to activate it. You should do this online, rather than over the phone, so you can make sure it is also added to your online account with the issuing bank. If it is your first card from a new bank, make sure to setup a new account, as part of activating it. To complete the next step, you'll need to be online anyway.
- Set up automatic payments. After activating your card, the next thing you should do is set up automatic payments to pay the full-balance every month. When your credit card payment is due, the payment amount will automatically be pulled directly from your bank account. That way, there is no risk that you will make a late payment, requiring you to pay interest and penalties and damaging your credit rating. This is particularly important for a card that you are planning to keep for its benefits but won’t be using regularly—as future charges are more likely to slip through the cracks.
- Just be warned that with some credit cards, it can take up to two billing cycles before automatic payments kick-in. When you set up the account, pay attention to see if they provide you with a delayed start date. If they do, you will need to remember to pay manually for the first one or two months. Bank of America and few smaller credit card companies annoyingly won’t let you set up automatic payments until after you have received your first bill. If so, set up an appointment (on your phone’s calendar) to remind you to set up automatic payments later.
- Enroll in any benefits that require enrollment. This is primarily relevant for the more expensive American Express cards. You won't receive many of their "automatic" credits if you don't enroll first. You need to go to the "Benefits" section. Do this NOW. If you don't, you risk making a mistake later, such as spending money on airline incidentals and not receiving credit. There is some benefit to holding off before committing yourself to a particular airline, but if you do, be extra careful you remember to enroll before taking advantage of the benefit.
- Add an appointment (to your phone’s calendar) to help make sure you meet the initial spending requirement. Set an appointment for about 3 weeks before the deadline for completing the spending requirement. The drop-dead date is based on the date your application was accepted, not the date you received your card.
- Add an additional appointment to remember to cancel, downgrade, or get a retention bonus for the card. This appointment should be set a few weeks before the anniversary date of your new card (about a year from now).
- (optional) Add the card to your credit card spreadsheet. Particularly if you're planning on collecting signup bonuses, it is helpful to keep track of all your cards. Sometime in the future, you are likely to want to check the date you signed up for, or got rid of, a card.
- (Optional) Call the credit card company. If you are willing to take some extra time to optimize your cards, call the credit card company after you receive the card and reconfirm the details of your signup bonus, including the exact date when you need to meet the initial spending requirement (and the exact date when the annual fee will next be charged on the card).
- (optional) Add an authorized cardholder (when there is a bonus). Some credit card companies will give you extra points if you add an authorized cardholder to your account. Bonuses are often available on Chase cards. Offers on other cards tend to come and go. You can do a quick web search with "bonus points authorized user" and the name of the credit card. If you don't already share finances with someone, you might want to add a friend (who you would completely trust not to user their version of your card). Note that you can usually add your kids as authorized cardholders, as well.
If you’ve already set up other cards from the same credit card company, your bank account information should already be on file and setting up automatic payments should only take a few clicks. Otherwise, you’ll need to enter the checking account information that you can find on your checks.
If you know that you are only going to use the credit card for a month or two (until you’ve met the initial spending requirement), turning on automatic payments isn't as critical. You could just pay the bill manually. However, we recommend to always set up automatic payments to eliminate the chance of any unpaid stray credit card charges.
If you aren't comfortable with having your bills paid automatically, you just need to spend a little extra effort to make sure you aren't late with any of your payments.
Another key benefit that requires enrollment are Priority Pass memberships. You'll need to activate your membership online and if the lounge doesn't accept electronic membership cards, you'll need to wait a couple of weeks to receive your card.
If you just received a card with quarterly bonuses, you'll want to immediately activate those. You may also want to claim any rental car elite status. Hotel status should happen automatically, except in the case of the Platinum Card.
It is helpful to add the terms of the signup offer to the appointment, so that it is easy to re-check how much you need to spend.
When the time comes, you’ll get a reminder on your phone and you can double-check you’ve met the requirement. If it looks like you are coming up short, don’t panic, you can usually take some steps to shift some spending around and close the gap. For some ideas, see Tips to Easily Meet the Initial Spending Requirements of New Credit Cards.
We like to re-evaluate each of our cards every year and make sure we are continuing to get enough value from the card to justify the annual fee. If we aren’t, we can cancel the card or “downgrade” it to a no-annual-fee card. Or possibly get a “retention” offer that makes it worthwhile to keep the card for another year.
While you have them on the phone, ask them to reduce the cash advance limit to $0. Not every credit card company will do this, but if they do, you eliminate any risk that you will unexpectedly be charged high fees and interest, if the credit card company decides to treat some purchases (such as a gift card) as a cash advance.
Typically, you should just call the customer service number on the back of your card. However, if you are having difficulty getting what you need, you might want to call the company using one of the backdoor telephone numbers compiled by the myFico forums.
If you are interested in adding an authorized cardholder and there is no bonus available, you should wait (if you can). A promotional offer might become available later.
Spend enough to earn the signup bonus
- Shift all your spending to your new card, until you’ve met the initial spending requirement. Once you get your card, you should use it for ALL your spending, until you’ve spent enough to qualify for the bonus. You may be tempted to occasionally use other cards that earn higher rewards for certain purchases. You can do that if you want, just make sure that you aren’t going to have any problem meeting your new card’s spending requirement before the deadline. Personally, we’d rather keep things simple, stick to the new card for all our spending, and get the requirement out-of-the-way as quickly as possible.
- Switch automatic credit card payments to your new card. Switch your default payment on Amazon. If you automatically pay your insurance, gym, utilities, and other bills with your credit card, switch them over to your new card. If not, start paying them this way to make it easier to meet the spending requirement for your current and future cards. You probably want to keep paying your cell phone bill with a card that provides free cell phone insurance.
- Avoid using the card for purchases that may eventually get refunded. If you are planning to spend "just enough" to meet the spending requirement, any refund will drop your spending below the required amount. This is a pain to track and could occur after it is too late to make some additional purchases. Ideally, you would use a different card for any purchases you might return or especially any travel arrangements you might wind up cancelling (since this can happen months later).
- Use one of several approaches to track the sending on your new card, so you know when to stop. Shifting all your spending to your new card and setting up a notification to take emergency action (if necessary) will ensure you spend enough to receive the signup bonus.
If you are having any trouble spending enough, see our Tips to Easily Meet the Initial Spending Requirements of New Credit Cards.
However, you also want to make sure to stop using the card once you’ve already spent enough. This lets you shift your spending to another new card or to whichever of your existing cards earns the highest reward rate.
There are several different approaches that you can take. They differ in the amount of effort involved and how quickly you will know that you’ve met the spending requirement. Choose the one that works for you. Track Your Initial Spending on Your New Credit Card.
(optional) Enroll your new card in any credit-card-linked dining and shopping programs you are using
These programs give you bonus rewards whenever you use your credit card at a participating restaurant or merchant.
With a few of these programs, if you've already set up your credit card company, any new credit cards you get from that bank are automatically added. If they don't, or this is your first card from a new credit card company, you'll need to add the card manually.
- If you will be using your card for restaurant spending, register it for your favorite Reward Network Dining Program, in the Pei app, and with any other Dining Program you use. If it is a Visa card, add it to your Uber app to take of Visa's local offers.
- To set your card up for extra shopping rewards, make sure it is added to the Pei app and to Rakuten, Payce, and any other shopping programs that you use.
- If you have a Visa Business card, register it for Visa Savings Edge. If you have a Mastercard Business card, register it for Mastercard’s Easy Savings.
- If you are not expecting to use your card for ongoing spending spending, you won't miss out on much by not bothering to register for these programs just for the initial spending required to earn the signup bonus.
For cards that you are planning to keep
Make sure to use each card at least a couple times per year. If you never use your card, the credit card company might cancel it—sometimes without any warning.
This isn’t an issue for many of your cards—you will naturally use them throughout the year. However, there are a few cards that come with benefits that don’t require any actual spending. For example, there is really no reason to put any spending on one of the IHG cards (which give you a free hotel night certificate every year). If you don’t occasionally make some charges on the card, Chase may eventually cancel it.
You don’t have to spend very much, just make sure to make a few charges per year. An easy approach is to periodically add a small credit to your Amazon account with each of your cards that you want to keep and don't normally use for any spending. Visit the Reload Your Balance page and enter a small amount (like $1) into the "Enter the amount" box. This credit will be automatically applied to your next Amazon purchase.
Assuming you’ve set up automatic payments, you don’t need to worry about the hassles of remembering to pay the credit card bill.
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