Credit cards can be used as soon as they are received and activated. If you get a card in the mail, you'll call the number provided or go to the issuer's website to activate it. In some cases, you may be able access the credit line before receiving the card.
One of the allures of applying for credit cards online, or in person, is the ability to get a quick decision. People with high credit scores and strong credit histories may receive instant approval and be able to make charges right away. When receiving a physical card through the mail, however, you typically have to activate the card to use it. This helps keep unauthorized users from intercepting your mail, grabbing the card and making charges. You'll need to input personal information like the last four digits of your Social Security number, date of birth and mother's maiden name. Other security measures may be in place as well.
Store Cards and Credit Lines
Store credit cards often are promoted as a way of accessing discounts for a specific promotion. In these cases, the sales clerk will take your information and call in the request for credit, or you'll fill out an application online if you're doing your shopping on the web. If you get approved instantly, your discount will be applied to the requested purchase and you'll receive the card in the mail at a later date. If your credit isn't strong enough to make a quick decision, or if you're not approved, you'll learn the decision later through the mail. The same principal is true for stores that issue lines of credit rather than a physical card. You can usually start drawing against that line of credit as soon as your application is approved.