A guide to instant approval credit cards: What to consider

Don’t like waiting for an answer about your credit card application? A credit card that offers so-called instant approval may allow you to find out whether you’re approved or denied within minutes of applying. 

But what exactly is instant approval? And what do you need to consider before applying? Here are a few things to know. 

Key takeaways

  • There’s no official “instant approval credit card” category because instant approval has to do with the application process. 
  • Even if you’re approved instantly, you may need to wait for the physical credit card to arrive before using the account.
  • Card issuers each have their own processes and requirements when it comes to applications.
  • Before applying, it may help to consider factors like your credit scores and credit history, whether the credit card issuer offers instant approval and whether you can use your new credit account immediately following approval.
  • Applying for any credit card usually results in a hard inquiry, which can temporarily affect your credit scores.

See if you’re pre-approved

Check for pre-approval offers with no risk to your credit score.

Get started

What does instant approval mean, and how does it work?

Instant approval is almost exactly what it sounds like: The credit card issuer provides an approval decision soon after you complete and submit your application. The issuer could approve or deny your application in seconds or minutes. Or it could ask for additional information. That could make a decision take longer.

Despite its name, instant approval is more about getting a decision quickly. In other words, instant approval doesn’t mean guaranteed approval. 

If you’re looking for more of an indicator about whether your application might be approved or denied, you might want to consider getting pre-approved for credit card offers, which doesn’t affect your credit scores.

What are instant approval credit cards?

Instant approval may allow you to get approved for a new credit account quickly after applying—often within minutes or the same day. 

And if you’re approved, what’s next? In most cases, your credit card issuer will mail you a physical card. For example, you can expect to receive your Capital One card within approximately seven to 10 business days after approval.

Can I use my credit card before it arrives?

Some credit cards let you access your card details as soon as you’re approved. These are often known as instant use credit cards. If you have an instant use card, you might be able to start using it in minutes. If not, you may have to wait for your card to arrive in the mail before you can use it.

With certain credit cards, you can access your account by using a virtual credit card number or adding your card information to a digital wallet.

Which credit cards offer instant approval?

There isn’t necessarily a category of credit cards known as instant approval cards. But some cards offer the possibility of instant approval. 

Whether you get instant approval can depend on a few different factors:

  • What you apply for: If you know your credit scores and target a card designed for your credit level, you could improve your chances of being approved.
  • How you apply: If you apply for the card online, you may get a quicker decision than if you apply in person or over the phone.
  • What information you submit: By providing all the information the lender needs to assess your application, you could avoid delays. The process could take longer if the lender needs more information.

What to consider before applying for instant approval credit cards

Thinking about applying for a credit card with instant approval? Here are a few points to consider before applying:

Know the difference between instant approval, pre-approval and pre-qualification

Instant approval, pre-qualification and pre-approval aren’t the same. Think of being pre-approved as an informal check that gives you an idea of whether you’ll be eligible for a credit card. Credit card issuers typically use soft credit pulls during the pre-approval and pre-qualification processes, which won’t impact your credit scores. On the other hand, formally applying—and an instant approval decision—typically involves a hard inquiry, which can temporarily affect your credit scores.

Determine whether the credit card issuer offers instant approval

Not every credit card issuer offers an instant approval option for every card. And even if they do, it may not be literally instantaneous. For example, Capital One says it often can take 60 seconds to approve or deny online or phone credit card applications. And your card issuer could need more information after you’ve applied. That would delay any approval or denial.

One other thing to remember: Instant approval doesn’t mean guaranteed approval. Think of it more as an instant reply. An application can still be denied if it doesn’t satisfy the lender’s credit policies.

Keep an eye out for instant approval vs. instant use credit cards

The terms may be similar, but instant approval and instant use are two different concepts. 

With instant approval, you might still have to wait to receive your card before you can use the account. But an instant use card lets you use your credit card account as soon as you’re approved.

Learn how your credit scores can affect your instant approval chances

Higher credit scores may make you more likely to get approval. Lower scores or a thin credit file could limit your eligibility for certain credit cards. These factors might also affect your interest rate and credit limit. Knowing your credit scores can help you figure out which cards suit your credit level.

How to apply for instant approval credit cards

The application process for instant approval may not be much different from the process for any other credit card. It’s common for people to use an online application, but card issuers may also accept applications via mail and phone. Be sure to carefully review credit card offers to see what terms fit your needs and finances. 

You might also look for lenders that deliver instant use cards. In those cases, credit card numbers are delivered digitally upon approval. And they can be used to make purchases sooner.

Instant approval credit card FAQ

Still have questions about instant approval credit cards? Here are answers to a few you may have:

If you’re looking for fast access to a line of credit, instant approval credit cards could be a place to start. Instant approval credit cards can expedite the process and help you use a new credit card quicker. 

But remember: Instant approval doesn’t necessarily mean instant use. You should check with your card issuer to see whether you’re able to start using your card immediately. And keep in mind that applying for a credit card typically results in a hard credit check, which can lower your credit scores.

Each card issuer may have its own approval process. But once you apply for instant approval, the card issuer typically performs a preliminary credit check to see whether you meet the basic requirements. From there, you might receive conditional approval while the issuer reviews your credit information more, or the card issuer may ask for additional information. And when you apply for a credit card, it typically results in a hard pull of your credit report. 

If you are applying for any credit card, the card issuer will typically conduct a hard pull on your credit report, which can temporarily lower your credit scores. 

Before applying, you could consider tools like Capital One pre-approval to help you see cards that you may be eligible for, with no impact to your credit scores.

Instant approval has to do with the application process. Ultimately, perks, rewards and benefits are different from card to card.

Rewards credit cards may feature cash back rewards, travel rewards or other incentives. These cards might also come with annual fees, so be sure to do your research before applying. And remember that applying for multiple credit cards in a short period can negatively affect your credit scores.

Instant approval credit cards in a nutshell

Cards that offer instant approval could be a good option if you need quick or instant access to new credit. Just remember, it’s not always instantaneous. It doesn’t always result in approval. And if it involves a hard inquiry, it could temporarily affect your credit scores. 

If you want to check offers without affecting your credit scores, try the Capital One pre-approval process and compare offers to find the best credit card for you.

Related Content