Credit Cards Credit Cards 101 10 Things to Do With Your New Credit Card By LaToya Irby LaToya Irby Facebook Twitter LaToya Irby is a credit expert who has been covering credit and debt management for The Balance for more than a dozen years. She's been quoted in USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, and the Associated Press, and her work has been cited in several books. learn about our editorial policies Updated on March 31, 2022 Reviewed by Pamela Rodriguez Getting a new credit card is exciting, and if it’s your first credit card, then you’re probably ecstatic. Before you make your first purchase or even put the card in your wallet, there are some things you should do with your new credit card. Activate Your New Credit Card mother image / Digital Image / Getty Most new credit cards have a sticker on the front with instructions for activating the card. It’s an easy process. Just call the 1-800 number and follow the prompts. Typically, you’ll have to enter the credit card number (or maybe just the last four of the account number), the last four of your social security number, billing zip code, and maybe your telephone number. Make sure you call from your home phone—or the phone number that you put on your application. Note Beware of sales pitches for add-on services, especially for credit card protection plans or credit monitoring. Read the Terms and File Them Away The terms and conditions is a lengthy document that you may not want to read all in one sitting. Luckily, with new credit cards, issuers are required to include the most important pricing details on a single piece of paper. Those details include fees, interest rates, and other pricing features. Rewards credit cards will also come with a benefits guide that you'll want to reference to learn more about taking advantage of the benefits and perks of your credit card. Know Your Credit Limits Most credit cards have a credit limit—the maximum amount you can charge on your credit card without incurring a fee or triggering the penalty rate. You’ll also have a cash advance limit that may be less than the limit for balance transfers and purchases. Be sure to know your credit limit so you can keep your spending below the limit. Downloading the credit card issuer's smartphone app will let you quickly and easily check your balance and available credit on the go. Note Some credit cards don’t come with a preset spending limit. However, these cards do limit your maximum purchase amount based on your income, payment history, spending patterns, and other factors. Pay Attention to Promotional Rates If your new credit card came with a promotional interest rate, make sure you know when it expires. By law, promotional rates must last at least six months, but many credit card issuers offer promotional periods up to 20 months. No matter the length of your promotional period, you'll maximize the benefit if you pay off your balance completely before the promotional period ends. Note Some promotional programs, i.e. deferred interest promotions, will actually backdate the interest if you haven’t paid the full balance by the end of the promotional deal. Learn Your Rewards Program Get to know your new credit card's reward program. With some credit cards, earning rewards is as simple as swiping your card for purchase. But other credit cards may require you to register before you start earning. Or, you may only earn rewards for certain purchases. Discover it, for example, lets you earn 5% cashback in categories that change every few months and you have to sign up to participate. Write Down the Customer Service Number If your card is ever lost or stolen, you’ll need to contact your credit card issuer immediately to avoid liability for fraudulent charges. However, with your card missing, you won’t have access to the customer service number unless you save it now. Write down the customer service number and store it in a safe place, separate from your credit card. Note We don't suggest you write down your credit card number unless you plan to store it in an extremely safe place, like a safe or safe deposit box. Create Your Online Account Being able to access your credit card account from the internet makes life easier, especially when you conduct more business online than off. You can conveniently check your balance, make payments, and monitor your account activity. All the major credit card issuers let you register your account online and some have extra perks with the online account, like payment planners or spending analyzers. Your credit card issuer may even have a smartphone app that makes it easier to access your account anytime and anywhere. Decide If You Want Paperless Statements Paperless statements or e-billing is another option offered by most major credit card issuers. Instead of getting a paper statement in the mail, you’d get an email letting you know your statement is ready. Then, you can log on to your online account to view your statement and make your payment. Visit your credit card issuer’s site to see if paperless billing is available and to sign up. Keep in mind that once you sign up for paperless billing you will no longer get a statement in the mail. Consider Autopay If you’re the type to forget that the bills are due every month or you would like the ease of not having to worry about your payment, you may be able to set up autopay for your new credit card. With automatic payments, you can set up a payment amount and date that your payments will be made every month. Be aware that things can go wrong with autopay. For example, you have to confirm the scheduled payment is at least the minimum payment due to avoid late charges. And, you’ll have to be sure to cancel payment when you have a $0 balance. Note If autopay isn't available through your credit card issuer, you may be able to set it up with your bank. Store the Card in a Safe Place Protect your new credit card from loss and theft by putting it in a safe place, like your purse or wallet, and be sure to put it back after each use. If you created a PIN for your credit card, memorize it and but never write your PIN on your credit card or store the PIN in the same place as your card. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Bank of America. "Understanding Your Credit Limit and How to Use It." American Express. "No Pre-Set Spending Limit on Purchases." Citigroup Inc. "Credit Card Balance Transfers 101." Discover Bank. "Discover it Cash Back Credit Card."