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How to Get Instant Approval on Credit Cards
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Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card details updated Sept. 9, 2021
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.
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
Many credit cards that boast instant approval are often targeted toward people with bad credit or no credit.
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:
- Discover it® Secured Credit Card
- OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
- Costco Anywhere Visa® Business 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 The 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 LendingTree, 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 2022) 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® credit 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 Credit 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.
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:
FAQs on instant approval credit cards
What are instant approval credit cards?
With instant approval credit cards, you can usually receive an approval, denial or request for more information response within minutes of submitting your card application. If the issuer requests additional information from you, it may take several days to evaluate your application.
How do instant approval credit cards work?
When you apply for an instant approval credit card online, the issuer will run a preliminary credit check. If you appear to be eligible for the card, the issuer will grant you conditional approval while they perform a more in-depth review of your credit history and establish your full credit line.
We should note, instant approval credit cards are typically designed for individuals with good to excellent credit. Therefore, the higher your credit score, the better your chances are of being approved for an instant approval credit card.
What if my application is declined?
If your application for an instant approval credit card has been declined, we suggest reviewing the card’s eligibility requirements and contacting the issuer for more details on your denial.
We don’t recommend applying for a different card right away, since that can negatively impact your credit score. In fact, each time you apply for a new credit card, a hard inquiry appears on your credit report, which lowers your score by a few points each time and stays on your credit report for two years (although the negative impact lessens over time).
Instead, you may want to use a pre-approval tool — which several issuers offer — to see if you prequalify for an offer before completing an application. Note that if you are prequalified, your chances of approval are high, but not guaranteed until the issuer conducts a more thorough check of your application and credit history.
What is an instant credit card number?
Select issuers, such as American Express, provide instant credit card numbers to eligible card members immediately upon approval. This allows you to shop online and take advantage of card benefits right away, instead of waiting for a physical card to arrive in the mail.
What are ‘guaranteed approval’ credit cards?
Designed for consumers with bad or no credit, “guaranteed approval” credit cards do not check your credit history when deciding whether to approve or deny you. Although the name implies that approval is automatically guaranteed, there are factors that can lead to a denial. For example, if you don’t meet the age requirement, your identity can’t be verified or you don’t have an eligible bank account, you may be denied.
The information related to the Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card by Citi, The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express, and the Apple Credit Card has been independently collected by LendingTree and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuers of these cards prior to publication. Terms apply to American Express credit card offers. See americanexpress.com for more information.