Credit Cards You Can Use Instantly After Approval

Usually you have to wait for a card to arrive by mail before you can use your account. But in these cases, you can start immediately.
Credit Cards You Can Use Instantly After Approval

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Usually you have to wait for a card to arrive by mail before you can use your account. But in these cases, you can start immediately.

With some credit cards, you don't have to wait for a piece of plastic to arrive in the mail before making your first purchase.

Some major issuers now offer ways to instantly use credit cards. And at least one — American Express — offers access to credit card numbers immediately after approval on all of its consumer credit and charge cards. Cards associated with certain brands — such as store cards, airline cards and hotel cards — also commonly offer instant access to credit.

Here's a list of credit cards that you can use immediately after being approved for them:

Nerdy tip: There's a difference between "instant approval" credit cards and credit cards that offer "instant use upon approval." Instant approval is common among major issuers, but instant access to that credit line after approval is harder to find.

Top credit cards you can use instantly after approval

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Our pick for: Intro APR

Why we like it

American Express Blue Cash Preferred Credit Card
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The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express comes with a solid 0% APR offer: 0% intro APR on Purchases for 12 months, and then the ongoing APR of 14.74%-24.74% Variable APR. And it starts with a good welcome offer: Earn a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months. Terms Apply.The annual fee is $0 intro for the first year, then $95. Plus, it offers an industry-leading 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in spending per year, 6% cash back on streaming subscriptions, such as Netflix, HBO Now and Audible; 3% on transit and gas at U.S. gas stations; and 1% on all other purchases. Terms apply (see rates and fees).

How to use it instantly

Eligible cardholders will be able to get an instant card number immediately after being approved online. The number can be used anywhere American Express is accepted where a physical card isn't required. Eligibility for an instant card number is based on AmEx's ability to instantly verify your identity. Instant card numbers are available only on online AmEx applications, not through applications processed by phone.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Our pick for: Travel

Why we like it

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
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The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a popular card for frequent travelers seeking perks without the big price tag of ultra-premium cards. Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. You’ll also earn 5 points per $1 on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®; 3 points per $1 spent on dining (including takeout and delivery), online grocery purchases and select streaming services; 2 points per $1 spent on other travel purchases and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else. Points are worth 1.25 cents each when redeemed for travel through Chase. Other perks include a $50 annual credit on hotel stays purchased through Chase, travel insurance and the ability to transfer points to airline and hotel partners.

How to use it instantly

Upon approval, you can add the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to your digital wallet to use when shopping in person or online, where digital wallets are accepted. Chase-issued cards are compatible with a number of well-known digital wallets, including Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay.

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card

Our pick for: No-annual-fee travel

Why we like it

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card
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The Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card earns 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining purchases, and 1.5 points per $1 spent on everything else. It has a $95 annual fee, but it comes with up to $200 in travel statement credit rewards, plus this bonus for new cardholders: Receive 50,000 online bonus points - a $500 value - after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.. If you're a member of the bank's Preferred Rewards program, your rewards will get a 25% to 75% boost depending on the balances in your eligible accounts.

How to use it instantly

You'll need to have at least one existing account with Bank of America®, and open the new card through a targeted promotion in the bank's mobile app in order to qualify for an instant card number. If you meet these qualifications, you can add your new card information to a digital wallet until your physical card arrives. This isn't an option if you apply through the app but don't click on one of the targeted promotions.

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

Our pick for: A store card

Why we like it

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
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The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card offers a high 5% rewards rate on purchases at both Amazon and Whole Foods Market; 2% at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores; and 1% everywhere else. Rewards are worth 1 cent each and can be redeemed toward eligible Amazon.com purchases, or for cash back, either as a statement credit or a deposit into an eligible checking or savings account. The card has a $0, but you must be an Amazon Prime member to qualify.

How to use it instantly

Once approved for the card, you'll be able to access the card from your Amazon account and use it to cover purchases there. (You'll have to wait for the physical card to show up to use it on other purchases.)

Our pick for: An airline card

Why we like it

Chase United Airlines Mileage Plus Credit Card
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Want to book a flight while earning a big sign-up bonus and valuable airline benefits at the same time? The United℠ Explorer Card allows you to do just that. It comes with a large sign-up bonus: Earn up to 70,000 bonus miles. Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, earn an additional 10,000 miles after you spend $6,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months your account is open. And if you apply for this card before taking a United-operated flight, you could also take advantage of its other benefits during your trip, including two one-time-use passes to United Club lounges, a free checked-bag benefit, and 25% back on in-flight purchases.

You'll earn 2 miles per dollar spent on purchases from United and on restaurant purchases and hotel accommodations purchased directly with the hotel, and 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases. The card also comes with a credit that covers the application fee for Global Entry or TSA Precheck, which renews every four years and is worth up to $100. The annual fee is $0 intro for the first year, then $95.

How to use it instantly

Once approved, you'll be able to access the card from your MileagePlus account with United Airlines and use it to cover United purchases. (You'll have to wait for the physical card to show up to use it on other purchases.)

Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa®

Our pick for: Flexibility

Why we like it

Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa
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The Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa®, issued by Sutton Bank, is a unique credit card/personal loan hybrid product that earns cash-back rewards. The $0-annual-fee card earns 3% cash back on home, auto and health purchases, and 1% back on everything else. You can either use it as a credit card anywhere Visa is accepted, or you can choose to use it as a personal loan, where funds are sent to your bank account and you pay back the loan over a set period of time at a fixed interest rate.

How to use it instantly

After you're approved for the card, sign in to your account online and you can access your temporary virtual card. This temporary card number will be different from the card number on your permanent physical card, but you can use it until that physical card arrives in the mail.

SoFi Credit Card

Our pick for: SoFi customers

Why we like it

SoFi Credit Card
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On the surface, the SoFi Credit Card looks like a straightforward cash-back credit card, but it has some unique options. If you're a SoFi customer, you can redeem your rewards toward investing, cryptocurrency, saving or paying down an eligible loan with SoFi — in which case, you'll earn an effective 2-3% back. (Other redemption options, like statement credits, redeem at a lower rate.) Another distinctive feature: Once you make 12 on-time payments, the APR decreases by 1%.

How to use it instantly

Newly approved cardholders can add the card to an eligible digital wallet and begin using it right away without having to wait for the physical card to arrive in the mail.

Other notable options

Many popular "co-branded" credit cards — whether store cards or cards that are offered in partnership with another kind of business — offer instant credit access. Here are some notable examples:

  • The Apple Card, issued by Goldman Sachs, can be used immediately through Apple Pay after approval.

  • With the Bilt Rewards Mastercard, issued by Wells Fargo, cardholders can instantly find their new card number in the Bilt Rewards app for use online or anywhere you don't need a physical credit card.

  • Cardless, a credit card provider that partners with various pro sports franchises, has a mobile app that allows for instant access to a virtual card number upon approval.

  • The Digital First Card, from Deserve, lets those who are approved use the card instantly through Apple Pay.

  • The HMBradley credit card, issued by Hatch Bank, lets you add your card to your Apple Wallet, Samsung Pay or Google Wallet instantly upon approval.

  • The PayPal Cashback Mastercard®, issued by Synchrony Bank, can be used for purchases processed through PayPal right away.

  • Upon approval for the Rakuten Cash Back Visa credit card, also issued by Synchrony, you'll receive a card number that can be used instantly online or anywhere that doesn't require a physical credit card.

  • In addition to the Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa® mentioned above, Upgrade also offers the Upgrade Visa® Card with Cash Rewards, which also gives immediate access to a virtual product option. Both cards are issued by Sutton Bank.

  • The Venmo Credit Card issued by Synchrony, can be used instantly upon approval. The card lives within the Venmo app and can be added to some digital wallets (with the exception of Apple Pay).

Major issuers and their policies on instant credit access

NerdWallet's survey of issuers found that while many of them offer some form of instant access to credit, American Express has by far the most comprehensive such policy. With AmEx, all consumer cards give you access to an instant card number that you can use almost anywhere, as long as the issuer can instantly verify your identity.

Other issuers either didn't offer instant access to credit or made it available on a more limited basis. The following list is accurate as of March 2022:

American Express

An instant card number upon account approval is available on all American Express U.S. consumer credit and charge cards, including co-branded cards, according to the issuer. AmEx prepaid cards don't offer this feature, AmEx notes. Eligibility is based on American Express’ ability to instantly validate your identity. If you are eligible for an instant card number, you will receive one that you can use virtually anywhere AmEx is accepted, and a physical card will not be required. An instant card number is available only when you apply online through American Express via a desktop or mobile device, AmEx says. It's not available on applications made by phone.

Bank of America®

Eligible existing customers who open a new credit card through a targeted promotion via the issuer's mobile app can view and add their new card information to a digital wallet while they are waiting to receive the physical card in the mail, according to Bank of America®. This option is available only to those who already have at least one account with Bank of America®. Currently, this isn't an option if you apply through the app without clicking on one of the targeted promotions.

Barclays

The following cards do not offer instant credit upon approval, according to Barclays:

But the issuer notes that several of its other co-branded cards do offer instant credit under certain circumstances. A sampling:

  • The Frontier Airlines World Mastercard® offers instant credit upon approval toward your Frontier purchase when you apply while booking a flight or other travel through the site.

  • The Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard® offers instant credit upon approval when you apply while booking a flight or other travel through the site.

  • The Holland America Line Rewards Visa® Card offers instant credit upon approval when you apply while booking a cruise or when you apply onboard.

  • The JetBlue Card offers instant credit upon approval toward your JetBlue purchase when you apply while booking a flight or vacation through the site.

  • The NFL Extra Points Credit Card offers instant credit upon approval toward your purchase when you apply at NFLShop.com or PackersProShop.com.

  • Priceline VIP Rewards™ Visa® Card offers instant credit upon approval toward your purchase when you apply while booking travel through the site.

  • The Princess Cruises Rewards Visa® Card offers instant credit upon approval when you apply while booking a cruise or when you apply onboard.

  • The Carnival World Mastercard offers instant credit upon approval when you apply while booking a cruise or when you apply onboard.

  • The Diamond Resorts World Mastercard offers instant credit upon approval when you apply while visiting one of Diamond’s resorts.

  • The RCI Elite Rewards Mastercard offers instant credit upon approval when you apply while visiting one the resorts in the RCI affiliate network.

  • The Bluegreen Rewards Mastercard offers instant credit upon approval when you apply while visiting one of Bluegreen’s resorts.

  • The Choice Privileges Visa Signature Card offers instant credit upon approval toward your purchase when you apply while booking travel through the site.

Capital One

Customers that already have a Capital One account can get instant access to cards after applying if they meet certain criteria and the issuer is able to sufficiently verify their identity, according to Capital One. Those who are eligible can only access their Capital One card information instantly through the Capital One app, the issuer notes.

The Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard® also offers instant access to credit through the Walmart app for Walmart purchases made online and in-store.

Chase

Many Chase cards can be immediately added to digital wallets such as Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay upon approval, so you can shop in person or online wherever your digital wallet is accepted. This also includes many co-branded Chase airline and hotel cards.

Citi

Citi did not provide information on the availability of instant credit on its cards. In general, it doesn't offer instant access to credit, but there are exceptions. For example, it's possible to get instant access to the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi. If you're approved right away, you'll get access to a temporary barcode linked to your account that can only be used for Costco purchases.

Discover

Discover does not offer instant card numbers upon approval for its credit cards, the issuer confirms.

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo does not offer instant card numbers upon approval for its credit cards, the issuer confirms.


To view rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, see this page.

Information related to the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card and the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of these cards.

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