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What happens if you don’t activate a credit card?

Your card might not be active, but your account is likely open.

If you’ve changed your mind about a recent credit card application, you might consider simply not activating your credit card once it arrives in the mail. Though there’s a certain level of safety in not activating the card, that doesn’t mean you won’t have a credit card account, which can leave you vulnerable in certain circumstances.

What happens if you don’t activate a credit card?

If you don’t activate your credit card, you nor anyone else who possess the card can use that credit card to make purchases. However, a credit card is simply a way to access your credit account. In most cases, when you are approved for a credit card, your credit account is opened well before you receive your credit card — usually once you’re approved.

This means that your account remains open until you decide to close it, even if you don’t activate your credit card.

Inactivated cards and security

Choosing to not activate your credit card and ignoring the account you’ve opened may compromise your credit security. That’s because it’s possible to access a card without physically touching it.

Think about how many issuers let you access your account and use your credit the moment you’re approved. New digital payment methods mean you could continue to access your credit account without touching your physical card. The Apple Card is a great recent example.

Will not activating my credit card hurt my credit score?

Failing to activate your credit card will have no direct impact on your credit score. The hard pull your issuer performed on your credit history prior to approving your application is the main factor affecting your credit score, but you’ll receive that hard pull whether you choose to use the card or not.

How long do I have to activate my credit card?

Generally, the amount of time you have to activate a credit card depends on the issuer. What’s more, the definition of “activate” can also vary between issuers. Fortunately, there are many ways to activate a card including calling the number on the card itself, activating it through your online banking portal and even using your bank’s mobile app.

With some issuers, if you fail to “activate” within a certain period of time, your card could be permanently deactivated so it’s useless. Other credit cards have no activation time limit — though they can’t be used beforehand.

Should I cancel my credit card instead?

Unfortunately, you can’t cancel your credit card application and canceling your credit card account won’t erase the hard credit pull performed on your account. But you can close your account without incurring further credit score hits without any problem.

However, one perk of keeping the account open is the increased credit limit it offers. Even if you never use the account, its very presence can help improve your credit utilization and increase your average account age, giving your credit score a boost.

Compare credit cards

If you’ve decided the card you’ve applied for isn’t for you, compare other credit cards that might offer the rates and perks that better suit your needs. Just remember not to apply too soon if you want to avoid dinging your credit score too quickly.

Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Purchase Interest Rate Annual Fee Min. Credit Score Description
RBC ION Visa
3,500 points
1.5 points per $1 spent
20.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get 3,500 Avion points when you get approved for the card.
Neo Credit Mastercard
Get $25.00 + up to 15% cash back
Up to 5% cash back
19.99% - 29.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 600
Get $25 when you sign up for the Neo Financial Mastercard. Plus, earn bonuses like 15% cashback on your first purchase at most partners, and earn an average of 5% cashback at partner stores and at least 1% cashback guaranteed.
Tangerine World Mastercard
10% cash back
Up to 2% cash back
19.95%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 600
Earn 10% cash back (up to $100) when you spend $1,000 in the first 2 months. Valid until April 30, 2024. Plus, get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first 6 months.
American Express Cobalt Card
15,000 points
Up to 5x points per $1 spent
20.99%
$155.88
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Earn up to 15,000 Membership Rewards points in your first year. Earn 1,250 Membership Rewards points for each monthly billing period in which you spend $750 in purchases. That’s up to $150 towards a weekend getaway or concert tickets.
BMO CashBack Mastercard
5% cash back
Up to 3% cash back
20.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get 5% cash back on all eligible purchases in the first three months of card membership (up to max. spend of $2,500). Plus, get a rate of 0.99% on balance transfers for 9 months. A 2% fee applies to transferred balances.
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Name Product Balance Transfer Rate Balance Transfer Fee Purchase Interest Rate Annual Fee call to action Min. Credit Score Description
Tangerine World Mastercard
1.95% for the first 6 months (then 19.95%)
3%
19.95%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 600
Earn 10% cash back (up to $100) when you spend $1,000 in the first 2 months. Valid until April 30, 2024. Plus, get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first 6 months.
BMO CashBack Mastercard
0.99% for the first 9 months (then 22.99%)
2%
20.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get 5% cash back on all eligible purchases in the first three months of card membership (up to max. spend of $2,500). Plus, get a rate of 0.99% on balance transfers for 9 months. A 2% fee applies to transferred balances.
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
1.95% for the first 6 months (then 19.95%)
1%
19.95%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 600
Earn 10% cash back (up to $100) when you spend $1,000 in the first 2 months. Valid until April 30, 2024. Plus, get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first 6 months.
BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard
0.99% for the first 9 months (then 15.99%)
2%
13.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($29 thereafter)
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get a rate of 0.99% on balance transfers for 9 months with a 2% transfer fee. Plus, get the $29 annual fee waived in the first year.
Scotiabank Value Visa Card
0% for the first 6 months (then 12.99%)
N/A
12.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($29 thereafter)
Min. recommended credit score: 670
Get a 0% introductory interest rate on balance transfers for the first 6 months. Plus, pay no annual fee in the first year. Apply by October 31, 2024.
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Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Purchase Interest Rate Annual Fee Min. Credit Score Description
RBC ION Visa
3,500 points
1.5 points per $1 spent
20.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get 3,500 Avion points when you get approved for the card.
American Express Cobalt Card
15,000 points
Up to 5x points per $1 spent
20.99%
$155.88
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Earn up to 15,000 Membership Rewards points in your first year. Earn 1,250 Membership Rewards points for each monthly billing period in which you spend $750 in purchases. That’s up to $150 towards a weekend getaway or concert tickets.
RBC ION+ Visa
7,000 points
3 points per $1 spent
20.99%
$48
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get up to 7,000 welcome points. Get 3,500 points on approval and earn 3,500 bonus points when you spend $500 in your first 3 months.
BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard
90,000 points
Up to 5x points per $1 spent
20.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($150 thereafter)
Min. recommended credit score: 760
Get up to 90,000 points and get the $150 annual fee waived in the first year.
BMO eclipse Visa Infinite Privilege
120,000 points
5 points per $1 spent
20.99%
$499
Min. recommended credit score: 760
Get up to 120,000 welcome points in your first year.
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Name Product Welcome Offer Cash Back Rate Purchase Interest Rate Annual Fee call to action Min. Credit Score Reward Description
Scotia Momentum Visa Card
2.99% balance transfer for 6 months
Up to 2% cash back
19.99%
$39
Min. recommended credit score: 670
Earn 2% cash back on all eligible gas station, grocery store and drug store purchases and on recurring bill payments (up to a $25,000 annual spend), and earn 1% cash back on all other eligible purchases (and on all eligible purchases once the $25,000 annual spend is reached).
Scotia Momentum No-Fee Visa Card
Up to 5% cash back
1% cash back
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 650
Get 1% cash back on all eligible gas station, grocery store and drug store purchases and recurring bill payments, and get 0.5% cash back on all other eligible purchases.
BMO CashBack Mastercard For Students
5% cash back
Up to 3% cash back
20.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Earn 3% cash back on groceries, 1% on recurring bill payments and 0.5% on all other eligible purchases.
BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard
Up to 10% cash back
1% cash back
20.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($120 thereafter)
Min. recommended credit score: 760
Earn 5% cash back on groceries, 4% on transit including ride sharing, taxis and public transportation, 3% on gas and electric vehicle charging, 2% on recurring bill payments and 1% unlimited cash back on all eligible purchases.
SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express
$400 in statement credits
Up to 4% cash back
20.99%
$119.88
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Earn 4% cash back on eligible gas station purchases in Canada, 4% cash back on eligible grocery store purchases in Canada (up to $1,200 cash back annually), and 2% cash back on all other purchases.
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Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Purchase Interest Rate Annual Fee Min. Credit Score Description
RBC ION Visa
3,500 points
1.5 points per $1 spent
20.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get 3,500 Avion points when you get approved for the card.
Neo Credit Mastercard
Get $25.00 + up to 15% cash back
Up to 5% cash back
19.99% - 29.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 600
Get $25 when you sign up for the Neo Financial Mastercard. Plus, earn bonuses like 15% cashback on your first purchase at most partners, and earn an average of 5% cashback at partner stores and at least 1% cashback guaranteed.
Tangerine World Mastercard
10% cash back
Up to 2% cash back
19.95%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 600
Earn 10% cash back (up to $100) when you spend $1,000 in the first 2 months. Valid until April 30, 2024. Plus, get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first 6 months.
BMO CashBack Mastercard
5% cash back
Up to 3% cash back
20.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get 5% cash back on all eligible purchases in the first three months of card membership (up to max. spend of $2,500). Plus, get a rate of 0.99% on balance transfers for 9 months. A 2% fee applies to transferred balances.
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
10% cash back
Up to 2% cash back
19.95%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 600
Earn 10% cash back (up to $100) when you spend $1,000 in the first 2 months. Valid until April 30, 2024. Plus, get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first 6 months.
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Name Product Purchase Interest Rate Cash Advance Rate Annual Fee Minimum Income call to action Reward
BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard
13.99%
15.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($29 thereafter)
N/A
Take advantage of an introductory balance transfer offer, annual fee waiver in the first year, and low purchase and cash advance interest rates.
Get a rate of 0.99% on balance transfers for 9 months with a 2% transfer fee. Plus, get the $29 annual fee waived in the first year.
Scotiabank Value Visa Card
12.99%
12.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($29 thereafter)
$12,000
Get a 0% introductory interest rate on balance transfers for the first 6 months. Plus, pay no annual fee in the first year. Apply by October 31, 2024.
Get a 0% introductory interest rate on balance transfers for the first 6 months. Plus, pay no annual fee in the first year. Apply by October 31, 2024.
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Bottom line

There’s nothing wrong with not activating a credit card once you’ve received it. Just remember that not activating a card doesn’t mean your credit account doesn’t exist — or that, in some cases, your credit card can’t be used — which can cause some security concerns.

If you choose not to activate your card because it wasn’t a good fit for you, compare other credit cards to find one that better suits your financial needs.

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