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How long after buying a prepaid card do I have to wait until I can start using it?

How quickly you can use your card depends on where you purchased your card, and if you are required to activate or register it. 

Prepaid cards are sold at retail stores, online, over the phone, and at some banks and credit unions. If you buy your card at a retail store or at a bank or credit union branch, you may be able to start using it for purchases right away. If you purchase your card online or over the phone, you may be issued a virtual card or you may have to wait to get a physical card in the mail. 

Your card might limit certain features, such as ATM withdrawals and adding more money to your card, until you successfully register your card. You may also need to register your card in order to obtain protections in case of errors, loss, or theft, and for the money on your card to be eligible for deposit insurance. Your prepaid account provider will ask you for certain personal information as part of the registration process. Once you successfully register your card, you should be able to use all of the card’s features.  

After registration, the provider may send you a new permanent card with your name on it. Activate the permanent card (if required) and get rid of the temporary card by cutting it up or shredding it. 

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Prepaid cards and other prepaid accounts

If you’re considering getting a prepaid card or account, we have information that can help you choose the right one for you. We also help you understand your rights.

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