What You Should Know About Instant Approval Credit Cards

If you need a new line of credit fast and have strong financial credentials, you could get approved for a new credit card in minutes — or less. But an instant approval doesn’t mean you’ll have access to the credit line right away. Here’s a look at instant approval credit cards and how to get one.

What Are Instant Approval Credit Cards?

With instant approval credit cards, you have the opportunity to get approved for a card shortly after you submit an application. Unfortunately, you won’t always get a decision right away. While one person may be instantly approved for a credit card, someone else may have to wait longer to hear from the issuer. You usually have a better chance at getting an immediate decision if your credit and financial situation is clear-cut.

[Read: The Best Low-Interest Credit Cards of 2018.]

You may receive a pending application status if the issuer needs more information or if a credit analyst needs to take a second look at your application before approving or denying you.

For example, Chase offers instant approval cards but doesn’t always make an immediate decision. If you aren’t instantly approved or denied, Chase lets you know that your application status is pending. Typically, Chase notifies you of its decision by mail within 30 days of your application date.

Types of Credit Cards That Offer Instant Approval

Store credit cards are a perennial example of instant approval credit cards. With store credit cards, you typically apply at the point of sale and are approved or denied instantly so you can make the transaction. However, store credit cards may have high interest rates and may only allow you to make purchases with a particular brand.

Today, it’s common for credit cards to offer instant approval, thanks to online applications and approval algorithms, says Ashley Dull, editor-in-chief of CardRates.com. Issuers that may offer a chance of instant approval include American Express, Barclays, Chase, Capital One and Citi.

Secured credit cards may offer instant approval but require you to put a deposit down. Often, your credit limit matches your deposit, which means you may not get access to much, if any, credit by applying for an instant approval secured credit card. Prepaid debit cards are sometimes marketed as instant approval cards, too, but they only allow you to spend the money you put on the card and don’t extend a line of credit.

Are Instant Approval and Guaranteed Approval Cards The Same Thing?

Guaranteed approval credit cards are sometimes confused with instant approval credit cards. Just because a credit card offers a chance of an instant approval does not mean you’re guaranteed to get approved.

But despite their name, guaranteed approval credit cards don’t offer a complete guarantee you’ll get approved either. If you read the terms and conditions on credit cards that claim to guarantee approval, you may find a list of requirements that you must meet. For example, issuers may require a bank account to get approved, says Dull.

The Appeal of Instant Approval Credit Cards

Instant approval credit cards may be helpful if you’re in a financial bind and need quick access to credit. “Some issuers give you the credit card number and information you would need to start making purchases right away,” says Dull.

For example, you can get instant access to your Capital One credit card information by downloading the Capital One mobile app on your phone. You can then make online purchases or add the credit card to your mobile wallet and start using it in stores.

Other issuers — like Bank of America, Citi, Chase, Discover and Wells Fargo — may require you to wait until you receive your card in the mail, despite instant approval. If you need the card faster, some issuers may offer the option to expedite the delivery of your card, sometimes for a fee.

Being able to use a credit card immediately could be helpful if you’re trying to spend enough to qualify for a sign-up bonus in a limited amount of time. Credit cards may take a week or two to arrive if they’re processed at regular speed. Every day your card isn’t in your hands is one less day you can apply your purchases toward earning your bonus.

[Read: The Best Credit Card Sign-up Bonus Offers of 2018.]

Approval Requirements for Instant Approval Credit Cards

As with most credit decisions, the higher your credit score is, the more likely you’ll be approved for a credit card, if all other factors are equal. “When applying for any type loan, whether that’s a home loan or a credit card, having good credit is a benefit,” says Jeff Bielski, vice president of marketing at Discover.

Even so, you can get approved for some instant approval credit cards, such as secured credit cards, with bad credit or no credit at all. Whenever you’re considering a particular credit card, make sure you look at the fine print to see if the issuer lists any minimum requirements, says Dull.

For example, you can research where your credit score should fall for the card you want. If your credit score comes up short, you can take certain steps to boost it. “Some tangible actions consumers can take to improve their score are things like paying bills on time, having a positive credit history and keeping their credit utilization at a manageable ratio,” says Bielski.

Another option is seeing if you’re preapproved for the credit card you desire.

The Difference Between Preapproval and Instant Approval

Instant approval only refers to the possibility of receiving an instant decision on your full credit card application. Preapproval, on the other hand, allows you to see if you have a good chance of getting approved for a credit card without a full application and a hard pull put on your credit report.

Some issuers allow you to enter your information to see which credit cards you’re preapproved for right on their website, says Dull. A preapproval only uses a soft credit pull, which will not negatively affect your credit score.

A preapproval is not a guarantee that you’ll be approved for the card. The issuer may still need to evaluate the noncredit-related information on your application, such as your income and employment history, before verifying whether you’re approved.

Applying For an Instant Approval Credit Card

If you want an instant decision, fill out the application online or apply over the phone — mail applications don’t offer instant approval. Once you submit your application, you should quickly learn whether you application was approved, denied or is pending. If you’re approved, expect to get the card within a couple weeks, depending on the issuer’s policy.

[Read: The Best Starter Cards for Building Your Credit.]

If you don’t get immediate good news, you may be able to find out why by calling the issuer’s application status phone number and asking to speak with the reconsideration department. If you’re denied, it could be a typo on your application that needs to be corrected. A pending decision may mean the credit card issuer has a few more questions for you. In these cases, you may be able to get a pending or denied application changed to an approved application.

Other times, the issuer may have already given you the maximum amount of credit it’s willing to extend. In this case, the issuer may be able to approve your application by moving credit from another credit card with the same issuer to your new account.

However, a pending application may lead to a firm denial. If this is the case, you may receive a written notice stating why you were denied, if such notice is required by law. Read why you were denied and work on correcting those factors before you consider applying again.

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