The first iPhone had to be hooked up to iTunes to be activated. They should be activated at the store for you unless she ordered it as a replacement, in which case yes, she needs to hook it up to iTunes to activate it for you. It's VERY simple.
As far as the credit card goes, she needs to put one on so when she makes purchases it'll justy charge they card. Also, the credit/debit card is used to verify identity. Hope this helps!
I found a cool trick to avoid having my actual credit card info stored with apple. I had an old Visa gift card that had .15 dolars left on it. I used that information along with a fake address and i was able to create an Apple account. If i need to i can then put money on my gift card as needed to purchase the goodies from apple.