Can you use an unactivated debit card?

Unactivated Debit cards might still work:

If a new card arrives at your door unactivated, that doesn’t mean it won’t work. Unactivated cards may be used to make purchases. This may vary between issuing banks.

The bank may let a customer make X amount of purchases before activation is required. That’s just the bank trying to make the transition process to a new card account easier.

For example, while all new Bank of America cards need to be activated, as per spokeswoman Betty Riess, unactivated cards may work for some small value transactions.

All cards normally need to be activated, whether online, via mobile app or by calling the phone number listed on your new card materials. It’s about balancing security with convenience.

The same goes for American Express cards, which are all sent out with an activation request to help verify that cardholders have received their plastic and to reduce fraud risks.

Now, if you try to use a brand new credit card prior to activation and it doesn’t work, don’t be surprised. Some banks, such as Navy Federal Credit Union, have set up new card accounts so no transactions will be approved until the card is activated.

Some debit cards may arrive active:

While most cards arriving will need manual activation at some point, there are some instances in which credit cards may be delivered pre-activated.

To find out whether your new card will arrive pre-activated or not, contact the card issuing bank.


An unactivated debit card may not be used most of the times but some banks do allow limited usage by certain banks.