What you need to know about instant use credit cards

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.

American Express Cash Magnet® Card*: Best flat-rate cash back card

  • Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card: Best flat-rate travel rewards card
  • Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Best for groceries and gas
  • American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card: Best for introductory airline rewards
  • Apple Card: Best for online shopping
  • Capital One Walmart Rewards Mastercard: Best for Walmart shopping
  • 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

    CardMatch for a welcome bonus of up to 75,000 points on the American Express® Gold Card and 150,000 points on the The Platinum Card® from American Express. When you see the “preapproved” banner in CardMatch instead of “prequalified”, you have even better chances of getting the card. Additionally, you may be able to get preapproved for the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express or Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. Head over to CardMatch to check offers you qualify for without any impact to your credit.

    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

    Rewards rate

    Welcome bonus

    Annual fee

    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
    • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%
    • 2% cash back on U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    • $100 statement credit if you spend $2,000 in the first six months
    • 20% back on Amazon.com purchases in first six months, up to $150 back
    $0
    Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
    • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%
    • 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions
    • 3% cash back on U.S. gas stations and transit
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    • $150 statement credit if you spend $3,000 in the first six months
    • 20% back on Amazon.com purchases in first six months, up to $200 back
    $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

    Rewards rate

    Sign-up bonus

    Annual fee

    Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card
    • 3% cash back in the category of your choice
    • 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
    • $2,500 combined spend limit on 3% and 2% cash back categories per quarter
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    $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
    • 3 miles per dollar on Alaska Airlines purchases
    • 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases
    • 40,000 miles and Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) if you spend $2,000 or more in the first 90 days
    • 25,000 miles after spending $8,000 or more on purchases within the first six months of account opening
    $75

    Barclays

    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

    Rewards rate

    Sign-up bonus

    Annual fee

    Frontier Airlines World Mastercard
    • 5 miles per dollar on purchases made at flyfrontier.com
    • 3 miles per dollar on restaurant purchases
    • 1 mile per dollar on other purchases
    50,000 bonus miles if you pay the annual fee and spend $500 within the first 90 days $79
    JetBlue Card
    • 3 points per dollar on JetBlue purchases
    • 2 points per dollar at restaurants and grocery stores
    • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
    10,000 bonus points if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days $0

    Capital One

    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

    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

    Rewards rate

    Sign-up bonus

    Annual fee

    American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card
    • 2 miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases and grocery stores
    • 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases
    • 25% savings on inflight food and beverage purchases on American Airlines flights when using your 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
    • 4% cash back on gas, for the first $7,000 in purchases (1% thereafter)
    • 3% cash back on restaurant and eligible travel purchases
    • 2% cash back on Costco purchases
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    None No annual fee with your paid Costco membership ($60)

    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 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
    • 3 points per dollar on supermarket, gas, transit, restaurant and food delivery purchases
    • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
    15,000 bonus points (a $150 value) when you spend $2,000 within 90 days of account opening $0
    Go Rewards card
    • 3 points per dollar on restaurant purchases
    • 2 points per dollar on gas purchases
    • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
    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
    • 3 points per dollar on travel purchases
    • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
    • Receive statement credits up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
    • 40,000 bonus points (a $400 value) when you spend $3,000 within 90 days of account opening
    • Free Amazon Prime membership for one year (a $130 value)
    $49

    Synchrony

    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
    • 3% cash back on qualifying purchases made through Rakuten.com, In-Store Cash Back offers, Rakuten Hotels and Rakuten travel
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    $10 cash back after your first purchase $0

    USAA

    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
    • 3 points per dollar on dining
    • 2 points per dollar on gas and groceries
    • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
    2,500 bonus points after your first qualifying purchase $0

    U.S. Bank

    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.

    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 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 the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card, 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.

    Source: creditcards.com