JUST ACTIVATE THE CARDS. Once upon a time, telephone activation of a credit card was easy: ring the 1-800 number, enter the account number, enter a few digits of a social security number (probably a misuse of a number that's NOT supposed to be used for identification, see the old cards for details), be advised to sign the card and remove the paper tape.

No more. Ring Discover and get quizzed about what changes would induce you to use the card more (bigger cash-back bonuses and interest-free cash advances). Or ring Amoco, which under BP auspices has sold the credit card operation to Chase, and wait for someone to ask you the name of the bank you use to make payments on the account, as a prelude to offering Chase services.

If there's anybody at Amoco or Discover that's reading this site, hear this. I can get along without your cards. I am giving preference to those card issuers that don't play twenty questions with me. And enough unsolicited credit card offers arrive in my mailbox each month that I can fire credit card companies at will.

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