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This article was last updated Aug 13, 2020. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.
An instant approval credit card provides applicants with an immediate decision on the status of their credit card application — whether it’s an approval or a denial. This can be especially helpful if you find yourself in need of immediate access to credit due to an unexpected expense, such as a home repair or medical emergency.
We explain what you need to know about instant approval credit cards, including what types of credit cards offer them and how to increase your chances of being approved (instead of rejected) for that new card.
- What is an instant approval credit card?
- How to increase your chances of instant approval
- Instant approval credit cards
- Alternatives to instant approval credit cards
Instant approval cards shouldn’t be confused with cards that offer instant card numbers (see below) however. Once going through the regular approval process, some issuers, such as American Express, provide new cardholders with their account number that can be used immediately for purchases before the physical card arrives in the mail.
What is an instant approval credit card?
With an instant approval credit card, you can typically receive a response to your application within minutes. But whether you’re approved or denied will depend on various requirements set by the issuer, such as income, credit score, housing payments and more.
Just know that no two applicants are the same, so while one person may receive an instant response, another may have to wait several days for a decision if the issuer needs to obtain more information.
Instant approval credit cards
For example, First Premier offers the First PREMIER® Bank Credit Card, which states online that you can receive a decision in “as little as 60 seconds,” while the Total VISA® Credit Card states that it has “a fast application process with a response provided in seconds.”
Some additional cards that offer instant approval:
2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically
Credit line will equal your security deposit of $200 or more*
No annual fee, no late fee on your first late payment. No penalty APR*
- No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
- It's a real credit card. You can build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, debit and prepaid cards can't help you build a credit history.
- Establish your credit line by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200 after being approved. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
- Automatic reviews starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
- Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
- Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score
- INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
- Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
- See Rates & Fees
See additional details for Discover it® Secured
Build credit quickly. OpenSky reports to all 3 major credit bureaus.
$200 - $3,000 Credit Line*
- No credit check necessary to apply. OpenSky believes in giving an opportunity to everyone.
- The refundable* deposit you provide becomes your credit line limit on your Visa card. Choose it yourself, from as low as $200.
- Build credit quickly. OpenSky reports to all 3 major credit bureaus.
- 99% of our customers who started without a credit score earned a credit score record with the credit bureaus in as little as 6 months.
- We have a Facebook community of people just like you; there is a forum for shared experiences, and insights from others on our Facebook Fan page. (Search “OpenSky Card” in Facebook.)
- *View our Cardholder Agreement located at the bottom of the application page for details of the card
See additional details for OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
4% cash back on eligible gas for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter, 3% on restaurants & travel, 2% at Costco & Costco.com, 1% on all other purchases
0% fee for transactions while traveling abroad
$0 annual fee
- Discover one of Citi's best cash back rewards cards designed exclusively for Costco members
- 4% cash back on eligible gas for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter
- 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases
- 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com
- 1% cash back on all other purchases
- No annual fee with your paid Costco membership and enjoy no foreign transaction fees on purchases
- Receive an annual credit card reward certificate, which is redeemable for cash or merchandise at U.S. Costco warehouses, including Puerto Rico
- The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.24%. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
See additional details for Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
These instant approvals may seem tempting if you’re in need of credit fast, but a closer look at the terms show that some of these cards may come laden with numerous fees, such as set-up fees, maintenance fees and annual fees — outweighing the potential benefit of an instant approval. Or, they may require a security deposit of at least $200 that will serve as your credit line.
Another common type of instant approval credit card is a store credit card. Many retail cards provide instant approvals at the point of sale. So when you check out at a retailer, such as Home Depot, you may be asked to apply for a Home Depot Consumer Credit Card on the spot.
After completing an application, you’ll typically receive a response right away. If approved, you can use your card account details for whatever you’re purchasing (as long as the cost is within your credit limit) and the physical card will arrive by mail.
Just know, many store cards typically come with high APRs, low credit limits and can only be used at that specific retailer.
How to increase your chances of instant approval
While instant approval doesn’t mean guaranteed approval, there are steps you can take to increase your chances of being quickly approved for a credit card:
Have a steady source of income. During the application process, you’ll be asked how much you bring in annually — therefore, it’s key to have a stable income source. While you may include income from alimony, child support, interest, dividends or other sources, those sources most likely won’t be as sustainable as income from a paycheck.
Pay attention to credit score requirements. Depending on what credit score you have, you may have better odds of applying for one card over another. On CompareCards, we list the credit requirements for each card — such as poor, fair or excellent — so you can get a good idea of which cards you may qualify for.
According to FICO, here are the ranges your credit score can fall into:
- Exceptional: 800 to 850
- Very good: 740 to 799
- Good: 670 to 739
- Fair: 580 to 669
- Poor: 300 to 579
Make sure your credit reports aren’t frozen or locked. You may have frozen or locked your credit report to prevent fraud as a result of the Equifax breach or other data breaches over the past few years. If so, before you apply for a new credit card, you’ll need to thaw or unlock your credit reports to allow the issuer access to your files.
Don’t apply for credit too often. Each time you apply for a new line of credit, a hard inquiry appears on your credit reports. Hard inquiries lower your credit score by a few points each time they occur and remain on your credit for two years, although the negative impact lessens over time. Additionally, having multiple inquiries on your credit report in a short period of time may signal to lenders that you’re a high-risk consumer. Therefore, it’s best to only apply for credit sporadically.
Review your credit report for accuracy. The simple act of checking your credit report for legitimate errors, such as an incorrect late payment, can help bridge the gap to a higher credit score. There are numerous ways to access your credit report for free. For example, you can view your Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports for free once a year (or weekly, through April 2021) at annualcreditreport.com or by calling 877-322-8228.
Alternatives to instant approval credit cards
If you want access to instant credit, but not the fees typically associated with instant approval credit cards, you may want to consider these alternatives:
Credit cards with instant numbers
As mentioned earlier, there are issuers that offer instant access to your credit card number once you are approved, such as:
- American Express provides cardholders access to their credit card number immediately after being approved for the card. So instead of waiting several days for your physical credit card to arrive in the mail, you’ll receive your credit card number online or by email — and you can start making purchases right away. Just know that you may not have access to your full credit line until your physical card arrives.
American Express offers this feature for all of its consumer cards, including the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card and The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express.
- The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® card is the only card issued by Bank of America that offers instant access to your credit card number upon approval. According to the site, after completing the application, you will “get a response in as little as 60 seconds.” If approved, you can begin using your card and earning rewards on Alaska Airlines purchases immediately.
- With the Apple Card, once you receive an approval, you must first accept your initial credit limit and APR offer, then you can start using your card to make purchases with Apple Pay.
$300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.*
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 and 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
1% back on other purchases*
- Limited Time Offer: Earn a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months. Offer Expires 12/10/2020
- Limited Time Offer: $0 introductory annual fee for one year, then $95. Offer Expires 12/10/2020
- 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 at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more).
- 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
- Plan It® gives the option to select purchases of $100 or more to split up into monthly payments with a fixed fee and no interest.
- Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees
See additional details for Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Earn Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in the first 3 months.
Earn 2 Miles on every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta, eligible U.S. purchases for advertising in select media, eligible U.S. shipping purchases, and every eligible dollar spent on dining at restaurants. Earn 1 Mile on every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
Priority Boarding and 20% savings on eligible in-flight purchases*
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in the first 3 months. Offer ends 10/28/20.
- Additionally, take $100 off your next Delta flight – after you spend $10,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you will earn a $100 Delta Flight Credit to use toward future travel.
- Earn 2 Miles on every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta, on every dollar spent on eligible U.S. purchases for advertising in select media, on every dollar spent on eligible U.S. shipping purchases, on every eligible dollar spent on dining at restaurants. Earn 1 Mile on every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
- Check or stow your bag with ease: First Checked Bag Free + Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding.
- Pay no foreign transaction fees when you travel overseas.
- $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99.
- Terms and limitations apply
- See Rates & Fees
See additional details for Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card
See if you prequalify for a credit card
If you want to increase your chances of instantly being approved for a credit card application, you may want to see if you prequalify — or are preapproved — before completing the application.
Several issuers offer tools to let you know which credit cards you might prequalify or get preapproved for by performing a soft pull of your credit (which won’t have a negative impact).
For example, with Discover, you can fill out an online form with basic personal information, including your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, income and whether or not you are a student. Once the form is submitted, Discover will show you which credit card offers you are preapproved for. But keep in mind, preapproved offers are not guaranteed, and you still need to complete the application process to receive a final approval decision.
Here are some issuers that let you check to see if you prequalify or are preapproved for a credit card offer: