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We're the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a U.S. government agency that makes sure banks, lenders, and other financial companies treat you fairly.

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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. 

You can purchase a prepaid card at a retail locations, online, over the phone, or from some banks and credit unions. If you buy your card at a retail location or at a bank or credit union, you may be able to start using it for purchases right away, or right after you activate it. If you purchase your card online or over the phone, you may then 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 making ATM withdrawals and being able to add more money to your card, until you successfully register your card. 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 permanent card with  your name on it. Activate (if required) and use your personalized card when it arrives. Get rid of the temporary card by cutting it up or shredding it. 

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The content on this page provides general consumer information. It is not legal advice or regulatory guidance. The CFPB updates this information periodically. This information may include links or references to third-party resources or content. We do not endorse the third-party or guarantee the accuracy of this third-party information. There may be other resources that also serve your needs.