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This article was last updated Dec 03, 2018. 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 denial. While pretty much all credit cards offer an instant decision, that doesn’t mean everyone who applies gets approved.
When you apply for a credit card, there are various requirements issuers set in order to determine your eligibility, such as income, credit score, housing payments and more. No two applicants are the same, so one person may receive an instant approval while another may have to wait several days for a decision if the issuer needs to obtain more information.
However, there are certain steps you can take to increase the chances of your application being instantly approved. We’ll review those steps, provide more information on whether instant approval credit cards are worthwhile and list better alternatives below.
Note: Some instant approval credit cards immediately provide your credit card number if you’re approved online or over the phone, so you can begin using it right away. The availability of this feature varies by issuer and applicant.
How to increase your chances of instant approval
As mentioned earlier, instant approval doesn’t mean guaranteed approval. However, 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 income you bring in annually, therefore, it’s key to have a stable source of income. While you can include income from alimony, child support, interest, dividends and other sources, they 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 our site, we list the credit requirements for each card, so you can get a good idea of which cards you may qualify for. You should only consider cards for which you meet or exceed the credit requirements — we advise against applying for cards that are out of your credit range since you’ll have slim chances of approval and can end up hurting your credit score if denied when the issuer does a hard pull of your credit. That means if you have good credit, stick to cards that are for good, fair and bad credit — it isn’t the smartest choice to apply for cards requiring excellent credit.
- 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. As a result, before you apply for a new credit card, you’ll need to thaw or unlock your credit report to allow the issuer to review your files.
- Don’t apply for credit too often. Having multiple inquiries on your credit report in a short period of time isn’t the best thing. Issuers may consider you a risk if they see too many applications or new account openings within a short period of time. A good idea is to only apply for credit sporadically.
- Review your credit report for accuracy. The simple act of checking your credit report for inaccuracies can help you bridge the gap to a higher credit score. There are numerous ways for you to access your credit report for free, making it relatively hassle-free to check you report. We recommend going to annualcreditreport.com — the only site authorized by the federal law — to access your report from the three credit bureaus. Every year, you can receive one free copy of your report from each bureau (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) and it’s a good idea to check one report every four months. If you find inaccurate information on your report that might be holding your score down artificially, you can dispute it.
Instant approval credit cards
Most credit cards that boast instant approval are often targeted toward people with no credit or bad credit. For example, First Premier offers the First PREMIER® Bank Credit Card that states online you can receive a decision in “as little as 60 seconds” and the Total VISA® Credit Card states “a fast application process with a response provided in seconds.” These instant approvals may seem tempting if you’re in need of credit fast, but a closer look at the terms show cards laden with numerous fees, outweighing the potential benefit of an instant approval.
Other common instant approval credit cards include store cards. Many store cards provide instant approvals at the point of sale. So, when you check out at a store like Lord & Taylor, you may be asked to apply for the Lord & Taylor Credit Card and can fill out the application while you check out. You’ll typically be approved or denied in seconds. If approved, you can use your card right away for whatever you’re purchasing (as long as the cost is within your credit limit). Store cards can also provide store-specific perks, making them all the more tempting, but beware the cards are characterized by high APRs and low credit limits that aren’t ideal for people who carry balances month to month.
Alternatives to instant approval credit cards
While an instant approval credit card may initially seem like a good idea, you should consider the fees associated with the card prior to applying. It’s always a good idea to compare offers and shop around before settling on a card.
If you’re looking to build credit, a better alternative to instant approval credit cards are secured cards. A secured card can help consumers with little or no credit history or assist those who need to rebuild their credit. However, a secured card does require you to make a deposit that typically becomes your credit limit. Note: In some cases, you may be able to access a higher credit limit without an additional deposit. Don’t worry about losing your deposit — it’s completely refundable as long as your account is in good standing and you’ve paid off your balance.
While a secured card can be a good alternative, if you’re in need of money it’s not really the most helpful since you need to deposit money in order to receive credit. If that’s the case, consider borrowing from family or friends, which is discussed more in the next section.
Borrow from family or friends
If you’re considering instant approval credit cards because you need credit fast, you can always consider asking a family member or friend for a loan. While it may be awkward, you can save money compared with a fee-laden instant approval credit card. Plus, you won’t be charged interest as you repay your loan. Keep in mind if you do borrow money from family or friends, try to repay them in a reasonable amount of time to avoid any strain on your relationship.