Typically, a person can use a credit card immediately after activating it; however, many cards actually allow a consumer to use a card prior to activation as of 2015, according to CreditCards.com. This ease of use presents a risk in that someone could steal a card in the mail.
The notion that a consumer always can't use a card before activation is a myth, according to CreditCards.com. Most banks allow new card holders to use their pre-activated cards for low-risk purchases at a minimum. Among top brands, Discover and Wells Fargo require activation before use. However, Capital One and Bank of America allow small purchases.