Instant credit cards are credit cards that cardholders can start using immediately after approval, before the physical card arrives by mail. While many credit cards offer the possibility of instant approval, instant credit cards that can be used right away are few and far between. In fact, there’s only one credit card company that offers the possibility of instant use on all of its cards: American Express.
Below, you can learn more about instant credit cards and how they work. You’ll find information on credit cards you can use instantly after approval, as well as credit cards that only offer instant approval but not instant use. In addition, there’s a helpful list of tips to give you the best chance of getting an instant credit card.
Instant credit cards work just like regular credit cards, but you can use them sooner. When you submit an application for the card, you receive a decision right away (or within a few minutes). Then, once you’ve received instant approval, the card’s issuer immediately gives you the card’s information, which includes the card number, expiration date and security code. Depending on the issuer, you might see this information on the same page as your approval notification, or you might have to log in to your online account or the issuer’s mobile app to see it.
Key Facts About How Instant Credit Cards Work
- No credit card guarantees instant approval, but most offer the possibility. Far fewer cards can be used instantly after approval, though.
- Since you will only have the card’s information but not the physical card, you can only use it for purchases online and over the phone.
- You will typically get your physical credit card in the mail around 7 to 10 business days after approval.
When an instant credit card is a store card or a co-branded credit card, things can work a little differently. Sometimes, you will immediately be able to make one purchase from the partnered merchant using the card’s credit line but won’t be able to use it again until the card arrives by mail.
A number of different credit card issuers offer instant credit cards you can use right away, but most only offer this capability on certain cards. It’s actually quite rare to be able to use a credit card the same day you get approved for it. And even if a card offers this feature, there’s no guarantee you’ll actually be approved instantly and receive your card information right away.
Issuers That Offer Instant Credit Cards
- American Express: All American Express cards offer the chance to see your card information immediately after approval.
- Barclays: On certain co-branded credit cards, cardholders can use the card to make their first transaction with the partnered merchant after approval, but have to wait for the physical card for further purchases.
- Bank of America: Existing cardholders who apply for a new card through a targeted offer on the Bank of America mobile app may be able to view their card information in any digital wallets linked to their BofA card account before the card arrives.
- Capital One: Existing cardholders may be able to see account information for a new Capital Credit card through the Capital One mobile app before the card arrives.
- Chase: On certain co-branded credit cards, cardholders can use the card to make their first transaction with the partnered merchant after approval, but have to wait for the physical card for further purchases.
- Citibank: If you’re instantly approved for one of the Costco co-branded cards, you can get a temporary paper card that you can scan while checking out at Costco. This paper is linked to your account and functions like the credit card until you receive the plastic version.
- Synchrony Bank: On certain store cards, cardholders can use the card to make their first transaction with the partnered merchant after approval, but have to wait for the physical card for further purchases.
While only a small number of credit cards offer instant use after approval, most credit cards offer the chance for instant approval. Many people get approved for a credit card right away and then just have to wait seven to 10 business days for the card to arrive by mail (or fewer if the issuer offers expedited shipping).
You can check out WalletHub’s listing of the best instant approval credit cards to see the top offers on the market that offer the chance for (but don’t guarantee) instant approval.
- Apply with issuers that explicitly offer instant use. Since true instant credit cards are few and far between, you’ll need to actively seek out issuers that offer them (and in most cases, only certain cards from those issuers).
- Apply online. You can’t instantly use a card without getting instant approval. And you’ll likely only get instant approval if you apply online, rather than by phone or by mail.
- Consider co-branded/store cards. If you shop often with a certain merchant, it may be worth getting that merchant’s co-branded or store card. Some of these cards let you make a purchase with the merchant right away after you’re approved online or at the register.
- Apply for cards whose requirements you exceed. The higher your credit score, income and other financial details are above the issuer’s requirements, the easier it is for the issuer to determine if you are qualified. That boosts your chances of instant approval.
- Get another card from the same issuer. In some cases, like with Capital One and Bank of America, the only way to have a chance of instant credit card use is to be an existing cardholder.