Activating and registering a credit card are two separate actions. One makes it possible to actually use the card, while the other provides online access to a suite of card information and tools. Both are important.

Activating vs. Registering Credit Cards

Activating a credit card is the process that makes a card ready for use. When a customer receives their new credit card in the mail, there should be a sticker or sheet included that provides a phone number or URL to be used for activation. It is the cardholder’s responsibility to activate the card before using it.

Registering a card refers to creating an online account and logging on to the credit card’s online dashboard for the first time. Actually using the card for purchases will not generally require online registration. Activities like viewing a statement online or setting up automated payments will require registration.

Benefits of Registering Your Card

When you register credit cards online, you gain access to a number of tools associated with card management and budgeting. Discover cardmembers who register credit cards for the Account Center have 24/7 access to account summaries, statements, online bill pay, and messaging.

Setting up Auto Pay

One way to never miss a credit card payment is to set up automatic payments through your issuer’s website. Cardholders can opt to link their payment directly to a bank account so that when their monthly due date comes around they won’t have to manually enter the required information.

Payment options can be customized, too. Whether you want to pay the minimum owed or cover the balance in full every month, just enter your preference and auto pay will do the rest.

Tracking Points and Cashback

If your credit card offers points or cashback rewards on spending, an online portal can provide updates on just how much you’ve earned. Having access to this information means that you’ll know when you have enough points to book a getaway or convert points to consumer goods. You can also see which categories are earning points, allowing you to make more purchases in those categories — and earn more points — if you so choose.

Tracking Your Credit Score

Some major issuers provide free credit scores on their portals, which is useful if you’re working on improving your credit and would like to see how it changes with your spending and payment behavior. Credit scores are important to credit issuers and lenders when making credit-related decisions, so it’s the score you’ll want to keep your eye on.

Updating Information, Freezing Card

An issuer’s online portal will often allow cardholders to update important card information like addresses and status of card. If you misplace your card, for example, issuers may allow you to put a temporary hold on your credit card while you search for it. If you’re sure it’s gone, you may be able to cancel the card through the portal, also alerting your issuer to send a new one in its place.

Activating Your Card

Activating your credit card is usually a pretty simple process. Most new cards will come with a sticker attached that provides instructions, typically with two options: to activate by phone or to activate online.

By Phone

Activating by phone involves calling one of the issuer’s customer service representatives and relaying some personal information — so they know that the correct person received the card. Be sure to have your card in-hand in case they ask for any verification data.


Most cards will also allow activation online, which, for some cardholders, may be faster than activating by phone. Issuers traditionally provide a custom URL meant for card activation, and activating this way will require much of the same verification data asked via phone, such as the last 4 digits of your Social Security number, portion of your account number, etc.

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Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.