While wait times can vary by issuer, the longest you’ll have to wait for a new card is 10 business days. If you have big plans for that card, you may be able to get that expedited. Here’s what you need to know.
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When you apply for a credit card, your new account is opened upon approval. But in many cases, you won’t be able to use the card until you receive it in the mail.
That likely won’t be a problem for most credit card users. But if you have a specific plan for the card – like a balance transfer or rewards travel – and you’re on a tight deadline, you’ll need to know what to expect.
While wait time for a new card can vary between card issuers, the longest you’ll have to wait is 10 business days. In most cases, you’ll get the card sooner. You may even be able to have it expedited.
Here’s what you need to know about when to apply, how to speed it up and why it’s important.
How long does it take to get a credit card approval?
If your credit is good enough to get approved for a credit card and there’s no reason for a card issuer to earmark your application for further review, you’ll typically get an approval notification within seconds of submitting your application.
If you don’t get approved right away, reach out to customer service. It’s possible you were denied, but it could also be that the card issuer needs some more information to complete the application. Remember, kindness will go a long way, even if you’re stressed about getting your card.
Preapproval can speed things up
If you have any doubt that your credit will make the grade, though, consider getting prequalified before you apply. After all, being preapproved for a credit card doesn’t mean you’ll be approved. Getting prequalified can speed up the process and won’t ding your credit. You can get an immediate idea if you’ll qualify for a card by using CardMatch.
It’s also easy to prequalify directly with the issuer. Credit card companies will usually perform a soft pull to check your recent payment history and debt, then notify you if you’re eligible to apply.
Once your account has been approved, how soon you receive your card and can start using it varies from issuer to issuer. “Some will expedite if you request it,” says Chane Steiner, CEO of Crediful, “but you may be charged a fee depending on the issuer.”
How long does it take to get a credit card from a major issuer?
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If you find you’re waiting beyond these estimated ranges, don’t hesitate to follow up.
“If it’s taking longer than expected, be sure to call the issuer to let them know,” says Steiner. “They can send a new one and ensure that no charges were made on the other card.”
How to time your application just right
If you need your credit card to pay for a big purchase or prepare for a trip, it’s important to have a strategy in place to make sure you get your card on time. Plan to apply at least a couple weeks before you need the card.
American Express cards can be an exception to this rule because you can typically get instant access to your card number upon approval. But that’s not guaranteed, so it’s best to apply in advance there as well.
If you’re planning a trip and want to use a new sign-up bonus to cover part of the cost, more advance planning may be required. Many credit card issuers offer welcome bonuses to encourage you to apply and start using your new card. To qualify for the sign-up bonus, you’ll typically get three months (90 days) to meet a minimum spending requirement.
“You’ll want to give yourself the full three months to earn that bonus,” says Beverly Harzog, credit card expert for U.S. News. “From the card issuer’s perspective, your account is opened when you’re approved.” In other words, the clock starts ticking when you’re approved, not when you receive or activate the card.
On top of that, you may need lead time to book your trip. “You should be planning at least six to seven months out on a trip if you want to use a sign-up bonus to pay for part of the expenses,” says credit specialist Brett Holzhauer. “The airline or hotel may run out of space to accommodate customers using points to pay, and award rates may skyrocket as the date approaches.”
If you’re too late for that, all is not lost if you’re flexible with your card choice. Some credit cards, including the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card, allow you to redeem rewards for travel retroactively.
Instead of booking directly with points or miles, you can use these cards to book travel through a third-party merchant. Then you’ll have a set period during which you can redeem your rewards for those eligible travel purchases.
In many cases, it might not matter how long it takes for you to get your credit card. But if you have a specific plan for the card and you’re on a deadline, it’s important to plan in advance to avoid running out of time.
Even if you don’t need the card for something specific, keep track of the days just in case the card gets lost in the mail, and you need to request a replacement.
The Bank of America content was last updated on March 3, 2020.
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