By allowing access to your new line of credit right away, instant use credit cards can help fund large purchases, earn sign-up bonuses, get discounts on shopping carts and more.
The Bank of America content was last updated on September 15, 2021.
These days, most people learn whether they’ve been approved for a credit card in just a few seconds – but it can take more than a week before the card 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 you can use as soon as you are approved. Many retail credit cards, including the Apple Credit Card, the Capital One Walmart Rewards® Mastercard® and the Target Redcard, allow verified cardholders to begin using their new credit accounts immediately, which can be a huge help if you’re about to make a big Apple, Walmart or Target 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?
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.
Top picks for instant use cards from American Express
|American Express Cash Magnet® Card||1.5% cash back on all purchases||$150 statement credit if you spend $1,000 in the first three months||$0|
|Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express||$0|
|Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express||$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95|
Bank of America
If you are an existing Bank of America mobile customer, and 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, issued by Bank of America, also offers instant credit on approval when you apply for the card while booking an Alaska Airlines flight. (You can use this instant credit only for Alaska Airlines.)
Top picks for instant use cards from Bank of America
|Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card||$200 online cash rewards if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days||$0|
|Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit Card||1.5% cash back on all purchases||$200 online cash rewards if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days||$0|
|Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card||1.5 points per dollar on all purchases||25,000 online bonus points if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days (worth $250 in travel statement credits)||$0|
|Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card||$75|
Numerous Barclays credit cards offer instant access, including many popular co-branded credit cards. The Frontier Airlines World Mastercard and the JetBlue card, for example, both offer instant credit upon approval when you apply while booking a flight or other travel through the respective airline site.
Top picks for instant use cards from Barclays
|Frontier Airlines World Mastercard||50,000 bonus miles if you pay the annual fee and spend $500 within the first 90 days||$79|
|JetBlue Card||10,000 bonus points if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days||$0|
The Capital One Walmart Rewards® Mastercard® offers instant access, including a one-time shopping pass when you apply and are approved for the card at a Walmart location. Cardholders can also load their new credit cards into Walmart Pay to make purchases in-store or online without having to wait for their cards to arrive in the mail.
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.
Top picks for instant use cards from Citi
|American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card||$50 statement credit and 10,000 bonus miles if you spend $500 in the first three months||$0|
|Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi||None||No annual fee with your paid Costco membership ($60)|
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 Navy Federal Credit Union Go Rewards credit card and the Navy Federal Credit Union Visa Signature Flagship Rewards card. Within 24 hours of approval, cardholders will receive an email explaining how to access their credit cards digitally.
Top picks for instant use cards from Navy Federal Credit Union
|Rewards rate||Sign-up bonus||Annual fee|
|Navy Federal More Rewards American Express card||15,000 bonus points (a $150 value) when you spend $2,000 within 90 days of account opening||$0|
|Go Rewards card||20,000 bonus points (a $200 value) when you spend $3,000 in within 90 days of account opening||$0|
|Visa Signature Flagship Rewards card||$49|
Synchrony credit cards that are not part of the Mastercard or Visa network (primarily retail cards that can be used only in-store) offer instant access – as do the eBay Mastercard, the PayPal Cashback Mastercard and the Rakuten Cash Back Visa Credit Card.
Top picks for instant use cards from Synchrony
|Rewards rate||Sign-up bonus||Annual fee|
|PayPal Cashback Mastercard||2% cash back on every purchase||None||$0|
|Rakuten Cash Back Visa Credit Card||$10 cash back after your first purchase||$0|
All USAA credit cards offer instant access to a $1,000 credit limit, which can be increased once your card arrives via mail.
Top picks for instant use cards from USAA
|Rewards rate||Sign-up bonus||Annual fee|
|USAA® Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card||1.5% cash back on all purchases||None||$0|
|USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card||2,500 bonus points after your first qualifying purchase||$0|
The recently launched U.S. Bank Altitude Go Card offers instant access to your card number so you can add it to your preferred mobile wallet.
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 seven and 10 business days for your card to arrive in the mail. Some credit issuers offer expedited delivery on request, so consider asking for it 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.
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 in 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 want to start using your new line of credit as soon as possible.
*All information about USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card, USAA Rewards American Express Card and the American Express Cash Magnet Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer.