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This article was last updated Apr 12, 2019. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.
Imagine you’re just hours away from booking a vacation and are planning to spend hundreds of dollars on airplane tickets, prepaid hotels, car rentals and more. It’s the perfect opportunity to rack up rewards on a brand-new travel card and earn a monster sign-up bonus. Do you really have to wait around for a physical card to come in the mail before you can use it?
Depending on the issuer, you may not have to wait at all. A small number of card issuers will let you make charges on a new card right away, using instant account numbers that you receive via your mobile phone or computer.
American Express, for example, offers an instant card number as soon as you’re approved. That way, you can start earning rewards and accessing benefits immediately– such as car rental insurance and trip protection – that typically require you to charge your travel purchases to your card in order to be protected.
Similarly, Bank of America offers instant details to customers who apply for certain cards, such as the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card, through the bank’s mobile app and are approved for instant credit. It also offers instant card numbers on select co-branded cards.
50,000 bonus points – a $500 value – after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases, 1.5 points per $1 spent on all other purchases
Get up to $200 in combined airline incidental and airport expedited screening statement credits
- Receive 50,000 bonus points - a $500 value - after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
- Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all other purchases
- If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase
- No limit to the points you can earn and your points don't expire
- Redeem for cash back as a statement credit, deposit into eligible Bank of America® accounts, credit to eligible Merrill accounts, or gift cards or purchases at the Bank of America Travel Center
- Get up to $200 in combined airline incidental and airport expedited screening statement credits + valuable travel insurance protections
- No Foreign Transaction Fees
- Low $95 annual fee
See additional details for Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card
What do you mean I have to wait?
Not every issuer offers instant numbers, though – which can seem outdated at a time when instant gratification is commonplace, says CompareCards Senior Industry Analyst Matt Schulz.
It may be especially frustrating to consumers who are used to applying for retail cards at checkout and are allowed to use them right away. “The idea of having to wait a week or two to get a physical credit card just comes off as kind of unnecessarily old school to a lot of people,” said Schulz.
There may also be situations where you need to use your new card right away and don’t have time to wait. For example, if an appliance breaks down, you may prefer financing it with a lower rate card that offers a long-term 0% introductory APR rather than a store’s high-APR credit card. Or, if you’re just hours away from purchasing something that you know could earn a lot of bonus points, you may not want to miss out earning those rewards.
Some issuers may be reluctant to issue instant credit card numbers for security reasons, suggests Schulz.
“Any time things move too quickly and are too easily attainable, it opens the possibility of more fraud,” he said. However, card issuers are becoming increasingly sophisticated at combating scammers, he adds. “So I would suspect that we’ll see more and more cards go to instant use in the near future.”
Which major card issuers offer instant card numbers?
Right now, just a handful of major issuers offer instant credit card numbers. However, most only offer them on select cards, such as their co-branded credit cards. American Express®, by contrast, offers them on all its U.S. cards to eligible applicants.
Some cards may not let you charge your full credit limit until you get your physical card, so you’ll have to watch what you purchase. For example, USAA offers only partial access to your credit limit until you’ve activated your physical card.
|Card Issuer||Instant card number provided?|
|American Express®||Yes, on all cards|
|Bank of America®||Available on select co-branded cards and on some Bank of America rewards cards, such as the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card - $200 Cash Rewards Offer and the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card, when you apply through the Bank of America mobile app.|
|Barclays||Available on some co-branded cards, such as the Uber Visa Card*.|
|Citibank||In some cases, new cardholders may be able to get an instant card number on a Citibank card.|
|Navy Federal Credit Union||No; it does offer instant debit cards.|
|USAA||Available on Visa-branded USAA cards.|
Instant card numbers can be a great tool when you need to purchase something immediately and don’t have time to wait for a card to arrive in the mail. They not only give you the ability to take advantage of certain benefits — such as travel protection or rewards earnings — right away; they also give you more time to meet your card’s spending threshold and earn a sign-up bonus.
Just be sure you know what you’re getting into before you apply, says Schulz. Urgency can work against you if it encourages you to apply for a card you haven’t fully researched, he noted. “Just because somebody offers you a card that you can use right now doesn’t mean it’s a good decision for you.”
*The information related to this offer has been collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.