What to do when you get a new credit card

As soon as you get that shiny new credit card, do the following:

  1. Activate the card. Call the 800 number on the sticker and answer the IVR prompts or convince the human that you’re real.
  2. Sign the card.
  3. If you haven’t already, call customer service and opt out of everything: phone, mail and email solicitations; list sharing; affiliate sharing. Be sure to opt out of “SuperChecks” or balance transfer checks. You’ll probably still get one or two of these. Ugh. Ask if there’s anything else you can be opted out of.
  4. Sign up for electronic billing.
  5. Set up email and text alerts to remind you when your bill is due; when you’ve hit a certain spending threshold; etc.
  6. Add the new credit card to your personal finance software (mint.com, Quicken, etc.) Enter the username and password you used in step (4), when you set up your account on the card’s web site.
  7. Set up online bill payment. Do one of both of these, as your card allows:
    • Log in to your bank’s web site, and add the credit card as a bill/payee.
    • On your credit card’s web site, add your bank account. Then, come bank in 2-3 days and confirm the deposit amounts to prove ownership of the account.

    Once you’ve done this, make a small test payment — say, $10. That way, you can be sure payments will work properly in a month, when it’s time to pay your bill. You don’t want to find out something went wrong 24 hours before payment is due.

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