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7 Things to Do When You Get a New Credit Card

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A mysterious, non-descript envelope finds its way into your mailbox one day. It weighs a bit more than other letters, so you open it up to find a shiny new credit card. Perhaps you have recently opened a new account, or maybe it is a replacement for a card that has been lost, stolen, or has simply expired.

So What’s Next?

1. Match the card up with an account. First, you want to determine if the card is for a new account or if it’s a replacement card for an existing account. If you can’t figure out which account the card is for, it’s possible that someone ordered a card in your name without your permission (perhaps planning to steal it from the mailbox), and that you may have been the victim of identity theft. If this seems like a possibility, call the card issuer. It’s also a good idea to pull your credit reports periodically to check for unauthorized accounts. If you monitor your credit score and it changes unexpectedly, that’s a good sign to check your reports. (You can get your credit score for free on Credit.com, updated monthly.)

2. Activate the card. Call the number on the card, or go to the card issuer’s website to activate the credit card. The telephone number and website address will be printed on a sticker on the front of the card. Activating the card lets the issuer know that it has been received safely and that it’s ready for use.

3. Destroy any old cards. If the card you received is a replacement card for one that has expired, you will want to find and destroy the old card. You will also want to update any automatic payments that you’ve set up using the old card’s number (if it has changed) and expiration date.

4. Sign the back of your card. There is a long-running debate about whether it is better to sign the back of your card, leave it blank, or write something like “See ID.” The short answer is that you should go ahead and sign it. For more information about this issue, see Should You Sign Your Credit Card?

5. Configure your account online. With your new card ready to go, this is a great time to go online and make sure it is configured correctly. Consider the following questions: Does the card issuer have your correct contact information? Would you like to change the payment due date? Do you need to set up any email or text alerts for charges, payments or due dates?

6. Reacquaint yourself with the card’s terms, conditions, rewards and benefits. Along with your new card, you will probably receive some written information about it. This pamphlet, often called a guide to benefits, will offer information on any perks and benefits the card offers. For example, it might feature travel insurance or purchase protection policies that you can use. Cards co-branded with airline and hotel programs typically include discounts or priority access when traveling. Since these benefits change from year to year, now is a good time to see what your new card currently offers.

7. Put the card in a safe place. If you plan on using this card often, then you will want to add it to your collection in your wallet or purse. If the card is just going to be used at home, while traveling or for special purposes, it is best to put it in your safe or another secure place in your home or office. What you don’t want to do is just leave it out in the house, the office, or worst, in your car. Doing so is a good way to lose your card or have it stolen.

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