So, you’ve received a new credit card in the mail. What to do next? In this post I share a series of steps I take each time a new card comes into my life and wallet. Here’s the punch list:
- Activate the card – By phone or online. Whichever’s easier. Many banks offer both options. While obvious, it’s step #1 nonetheless.
- Confirm signup bonus and terms – Here you’ll want to call the customer service number on the back of your card to be sure the bank is giving you the actual offer you applied for. While not common, you can sometimes miss out on thousands of points. For example, you may have signed up for an offer of 60K points for a 3K spend in 3 months; while the actual offer you receive may be 40K points for a 2K spend. If what the bank tells you differs than what you expect, it can be helpful to have a screenshot of the offer you applied for to send in as proof. Then let the bank adjust your offer.
- Lower your credit limit – While on the line with customer service, you may want to lower your credit limit if you’ve been given, say, more than 5K. While having a high line of credit for one card can help your credit score (if you use only a small percent of it), it may limit the number of cards you can receive with a given bank. Banks want to limit their total liability, so lower credit lines may result in more card approvals (and thus more signup bonuses).
- Go postal – Get the postal mailing address for sending in payments. My bank requires this information for Bill Pay. Yours may as well.
- Add a new payee and do a test bill pay – Next, set-up a new payee for the card and do a test bill pay to ensure it works. I suggest a one dollar payment. Then check in a few days to see if the payment posted.
- Update your spreadsheet – I record that the card is now active and also the credit line.
- Establish online access – If you’ve not already, establish online access to the card by either creating a new account (if it’s a new bank for you) or linking the card to an existing account (if it doesn’t automatically appear).
Following these 7 steps is part of my routine. I also find it helpful to write the steps on paper with check-boxes next to each item, updating the list as I go. This way nothing’s forgotten. Happy checkboxing!