@Ray7: I don't own an iDevice myself but that's not what I have heard from owners or read in the media (I've seen several stories like that). (Although apparently that's changed now.) I'd be interested to know how the policy of requiring someone to use a card to buy an iDevice and then holding their card details on file would stand up to UK data protection legislation which requires that (I know they did this in the UK too...)
Even if Apple was prepared to break UK law in such a blatantly obvious way, I don't think it would make much difference here: an active iAccount needs an id and an email address to set up, neither of which is asked for in the shop. (They can send you a receipt through email, but this doesn't tie you to an account and it's not compulsory). The credit card alone isn't enough for them to secretly set up an online store account for you.
And I have bought an iPod Touch and an iPad fairly recently from our local Apple Store
I suspect active simply means that the expiry date on Apple's file hasn't lapsed.
Well, they apparently have one of the most active online shops in the UK so I suspect 'active' means that it has seen card activity in the last three months.