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Instant use credit cards

Some credit cards let you make purchases before your card arrives in the mail

Summary

By allowing you to access your new line of credit right away, instant use credit cards can help you fund large purchases, earn sign-up bonuses, get discounts on shopping carts and more.

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These days, most people learn whether they’ve been approved for a credit card in just a few seconds – but it can take over a week before it arrives in the mail. If you are hoping to use your new credit card to fund a big purchase or cover an emergency expense, that waiting period can be more than a little frustrating.

Luckily, many credit card issuers are now offering instant use credit cards that can be used as soon as you are approved. Many retail credit cards, including the Apple Card, the Capital One® Walmart Rewards Mastercard and the Uber Visa Card, allow verified cardholders to begin using their new credit accounts immediately, which can be a huge help if you’re about to book an Uber or make a big Apple or Walmart purchase.

Here’s what you need to know about instant use credit cards, including how they work, which issuers offer them and when you should consider applying for an instant approval card.

How do instant credit card numbers work?

Instant credit card numbers are just like credit card numbers. In fact, your instant credit card number will be identical to the number on the card you receive in the mail. The only difference is that you gain access to your instant credit card number as soon as your application is approved, instead of having to wait for your card to arrive.

Once you have your instant credit card number, you can begin using it to make purchases. Since you won’t have a physical credit card to tap, dip or swipe, your instant credit card number will only be good for online purchases – unless, of course, you enter your new credit card number into your mobile wallet and use your phone to make in-person purchases at participating retailers.

Which credit cards offer instant access?

American Express

All American Express consumer credit cards, including co-branded credit cards, offer instant access – though American Express will need to verify your identity before issuing your instant credit card number.

Bank of America

If you apply for a Bank of America credit card through the Bank of America mobile app and get approved, you can instantly upload your new credit card into your mobile wallet.

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card, which is issued by Bank of America, also offers instant access, whether you apply through the app or not.

Barclays

Numerous Barclays credit cards offer instant access, including:

  • Barclaycard Financing Visa: instant credit availability when you apply online or in an Apple store
  • Frontier Airlines World Mastercard: instant credit upon approval toward your Frontier purchase when you apply while booking a flight or other travel through the site
  • Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard: instant credit upon approval when you apply while booking a flight or other travel through the site
  • Holland America Line Rewards Visa Card: instant credit upon approval when you apply while booking a cruise or when you apply onboard
  • JetBlue Card: instant credit upon approval toward your JetBlue purchase when you apply while booking a flight or vacation through the site
  • NFL Extra Points Credit Card: instant credit upon approval toward your purchase when you apply at an NFL shop
  • Priceline Rewards Visa Card: instant credit upon approval toward your purchase when you apply while booking travel through the site
  • Princess Cruises Rewards Visa Card: instant credit upon approval when you apply while booking a cruise or when you apply onboard
  • Uber Visa Card: instant credit upon approval when you add it as the primary method of payment to your Uber account

Capital One

The Capital One® Walmart Rewards Mastercard offers instant access, including a one-time shopping pass when the card is approved at a Walmart location. Cardholders can also load their new credit card into Walmart Pay to make purchases in-store or online, without having to wait for their card to arrive in the mail.

Citi

Citi did not respond to request for confirmation, but other sources suggest that some of Citi’s co-branded credit cards, including its American Airlines AAdvantage credit cards and AT&T cards, offer instant access.

The Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi also reportedly offers instant access if you apply in-store.

Goldman Sachs

The Apple Card offers instant access upon approval, and you can immediately use your card with Apple Pay or the Wallet app.

Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal Credit Union offers digital instant issuance for all of its credit cards, including the Navy Federal More Rewards American Express card, the Go Rewards card and the Visa Signature Flagship Rewards card. Within 24 hours of approval, cardholders will receive an email explaining how to access their credit card digitally.

Synchrony

Synchrony credit cards that are not part of the Mastercard or Visa network (primarily retail cards that can only be used in-store) offer instant access – as do the eBay Mastercard, the PayPal Cashback Mastercard and the Rakuten Cash Back Visa Credit Card.

USAA

All USAA credit cards offer instant access to a $1,000 credit limit, which can be increased once your card arrives via mail.

Store cards and instant approval

Many retail credit cards, such as the Target Redcard, offer instant approval. These cards allow you to start shopping right away – whether you’re shopping in person or online. These store cards generally offer discounts, cash back or similar rewards on retail purchases, making them good options if you’re a fan of a particular retailer or brand.

When you go through the checkout process (either in store or online), and you’re asked if you’d like to consider signing up for a store card in exchange for a discount on your purchases, those tend to be instant approval cards. If your credit request is approved, you’ll be able to use the card to purchase the items that are currently in your shopping cart. In some cases, your application will require additional review and you won’t be able to use your card right away, but in most cases the approval decision will only take a few seconds.

How long does it take for a credit card to arrive in the mail?

Once you’ve been approved for a credit card, it should take between 7 and 10 business days for your card to arrive in the mail. Some credit issuers offer expedited delivery on request, so consider asking for expedited delivery if you need your card as quickly as possible.

Benefits of instant use credit cards

There are a lot of reasons to consider applying for an instant approval credit card. With an instant use credit card, you can:

  • Cover expenses in an emergency: If you have an immediate need, an instant use credit card can give you access to credit right away.
  • Take advantage of card perks faster: If your card offers perks like coupons or free checked bags, you’ll be able to take advantage of those perks as soon as you are approved.
  • Begin earning your sign-up bonus: If you’re about to make a series of expensive purchases – like home renovations or vacation travel – an instant use credit card can help ensure that all of those big expenses go toward a sign-up bonus.
  • Get a discount on a large shopping cart: If your shopping cart is larger than usual due to holiday shopping, back-to-school shopping or other seasonal spending, a retail credit card that offers instant approval can often get you a discount on everything you’re about to purchase.

Bottom line

By allowing you to access your new line of credit right away, instant use credit cards can help you fund large purchases, earn sign-up bonuses, get discounts on shopping carts and more. If your instant use credit card includes additional benefits like free checked bags, you’ll be able to access those perks instantly as well.

Instant use credit cards also help you cover the gap between when your application is approved and when your credit card arrives in the mail – which is important when you’re hoping to start using your new line of credit as soon as possible.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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Credit Card Rate Report Updated: May 27th, 2020
Business
14.03%
Airline
15.50%
Cash Back
16.06%
Reward
15.82%
Student
16.05%

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