How Do Instant Credit Cards Work?

It can take a long time to open a new credit card, depending on if you apply online or face-to-face, what type of card you want and who issuing the card. Some cards are instant approval, meaning that you can use your card to make purchases in a matter of minutes. In some cases, you may be approved quickly but not able to use the card before it arrives.

How can you tell if the card you are applying for is an Instant Credit Card? You'll find below a list and background information on instant credit cards, which allow you to start shopping immediately after you are approved.

Instant Approval Credit Cards vs. Instant Use Cards

It's important to know the difference between instant approval, and instant use before you start looking at cards that can be used instantly. You can be approved instantly for a credit account, but this does not mean that you can immediately use it.

It may be necessary to wait until the card arrives in the post. A card that allows instant use, on the contrary, lets you pay for your purchases as soon you are approved.

John Ulzheimer is a credit expert with experience at Equifax and FICO. He says that approvals can be granted in a matter of minutes unless there are unusual circumstances, such as a fraud alert or a frozen credit report. Expect to wait a few extra days in these scenarios. You may need to contact the credit bureaus or work with your card issuer to clear an item from your report or unfreeze it.

Approvals are instant if there's nothing out of the ordinary. Ulzheimer says that online credit card applications are usually approved quickly if you meet the requirements. This method is the fastest, as you are essentially feeding all of your information directly into a system that processes applications. It can take longer to apply over the phone, or in person. This is because a person must input your entire information. Sending a snail mail application with a printed form is the slowest.

Some cards can be used immediately after approval, while others have restrictions on how they are initially usable.

What credit cards can you use instantly?

There are some issuers that offer instant-use cards, but they have limitations.

Discover the best way to buy

According to a spokesperson for the company, Discover has offered instant credit since April 20,22. Approved and eligible applicants can register in real-time, download the Discover application and add the card into their digital wallet. However, this function isn't available for cards that are secured.

Some Discover Cards with Instant Credit Access include:

Discover it Chrome

Capital One

A spokesperson said that the majority of new Capital One customers will be able to access a virtual card immediately before receiving their physical card in the mail. Once a customer has been approved for a Capital One credit card, they can begin shopping using the virtual card found in the Capital One app.

Capital One Cards with Virtual Card Access include:

Capital One Quicksilver Credit Card Cash Reward.

American Express

All American Express consumer cards offer an instant card number. All of its products can be used instantly, as long as your identity is verified. Customers will receive an account number if everything is in order. They can then use it online or add it to a digital wallet.

You may be limited in your credit limit if you can't authenticate your information.

The following American Express cards have instant card numbers:


Chase Spend Instantly allows you to add your new card into your digital wallet even before it arrives. This way, you can make purchases online or in stores. The Spend Instantly feature is not available on the IHG Rewards Traveler and IHG Rewards Premier credit cards, Aeroplan, Chase Freedom Flex card, Amazon Rewards, Amazon Prime Card, Disney Premiere, Disney Rewards, or Chase business credit cards.

Chase cards that offer Spend Instantly include the following:

Chase Sapphire Preferred card


Citi cardholders can use their credit instantly. However, there are a few things to keep in mind. Citi spokesperson says that you will only have one opportunity to write down your temporary account details when you apply. You'll need to wait until your card arrives by mail if you lose or miss the temporary account information. To begin with, you will only be able access a small portion of your total credit limit.

Citi Cards with Instant Card Number include:

Costco Anywhere Visa card by Citi

Synchrony Bank

Synchrony Bank offers a variety of store cards and health-related credit cards. Once a customer has been approved for credit, they are given a Synchrony Bank account number that can be used immediately.

Synchrony Bank will make an exception if your card is cobranded. This means that it is a retail card which is also part of Mastercard or Visa's network. The card is approved and can be used at the retailer, but not outside the store until the physical card arrives.

What credit cards are more likely to offer instant access?

Some cards have a reputation for being more flexible and offering instant credit. Ulzheimer says that retail store cards are the most common instant-use card. He says that the retail card instant scenario was designed to be strategic. The retailer wanted you to benefit from the newfound capacity you have while still in the shop.

The clerk will ask you if you would like to apply at the checkout and the purchase will be directly added to the card.

Each issuer has a different application process for general credit cards. If you are approved quickly and your credit history is not hampered by problems, such as a credit lock, then it's more likely that you will be able use the instant card features. Ulzheimer says that applying from a preapproved card offer will increase your chances.

Instant credit is a perk, but consider other factors

Apps and digital wallets have made it common for consumers to expect everything instantly. You may have to wait up to a week before you are able use your credit card.

Instant access may influence your decision, but is not the most significant factor. Other features will have greater impact on your wallet, or long-term effects, such as annual percentage rate, fee and rewards.