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.
Many 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.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Our pick for: Rewards on groceries
Why we like itBlue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers an industry-leading 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in spending per year, making it a standout option for those who often cook at home. You’ll also earn 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. It also comes with a 0% APR offer: 0% APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 12.99% - 23.99% Variable APR. And it starts with a good welcome offer: $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months. Terms Apply. The annual fee is $95.
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.
Amex EveryDay® Credit Card
Our pick for: 0% intro APR
Why we like itAmex EveryDay® Credit Card is an excellent choice if you need a good 0% intro APR period, fast. It offers an intro 0% Intro on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 14.49% - 25.49% Variable APR. While you’re making big purchases, you might also be able to snag the card’s welcome offer: Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. Terms Apply. The $0-annual-fee card earns 2 points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Terms apply.
How to use it instantly
Since it’s an American Express card, it works the same way as the aforementioned Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. (See above.)
Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard®
Our pick for: A store card
Why we like itCapital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard® offers solid rewards on top of Walmart’s low prices, earning an unlimited 5% back on purchases at Walmart.com (including Walmart grocery pickup and delivery); 2% back on Walmart purchases in-store, at restaurants and on travel; and 1% back everywhere else. While it doesn’t feature a traditional sign-up bonus, it does offer a first-year incentive: Earn 5% back on purchases in Walmart stores when you use this card in Walmart Pay for the first 12 months after approval. Walmart Pay is a digital wallet that you can use at checkout via your mobile phone. The card’s annual fee is $0.
How to use it instantly
Once approved, you’ll get temporary shopping pass credentials, which you can add to the Walmart Pay section of the Walmart app. (You’ll need to set up an online account with Walmart if you don’t already have one.) From there, you can use the app to make Walmart purchases with your card online or in-store. This temporary pass is valid for 10 days.
United℠ Explorer Card
Our pick for: An airline card
Why we like itUnited℠ Explorer Card allows you to do just that. It comes with a large sign-up bonus: Limited-time offer! Earn 60,000 Bonus Miles after $3,000 in purchases in the first three months from account opening. 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.)
Issuer policies on instant credit
Overall, NerdWallet’s survey of issuers found that many of them offer some form of instant access to credit. The main takeaways:
- American Express offers the most comprehensive access to instant credit. With AmEx, all consumer credit cards and charge 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.
- Store cards and other cards associated with certain brands often feature instant access to credit, too. For example, the United℠ Explorer Card, issued by Chase, can be used for United Airlines purchases before the card arrives. Similarly, the PayPal Cashback Mastercard®, issued by Synchrony Bank, can be used for purchases processed through PayPal right away, and the Apple Card, issued by Goldman Sachs, can be used immediately through Apple Pay after approval.
The following list was independently confirmed by NerdWallet and is current as of December 2019.
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.
But the issuer notes that several of its co-branded cards do offer instant credit under certain circumstances. A sampling:
- The Barclaycard Financing Visa® will give instant credit when you apply online or in an Apple store.
- 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.
- The Priceline 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 Uber Credit Card offers instant credit upon approval when you add it as the primary method of payment to your Uber account.
- The Carnival™ 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 Wyndham Rewards® Visa® With No Annual Fee offers instant credit upon approval when you apply while visiting a Wyndham Vacation Club resort.
- The Choice Privileges® Visa® Card offers instant credit upon approval toward your purchase when you apply while booking travel through the site.
The Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard® also offers instant access to credit through the Walmart app for Walmart purchases made online and in-store.
According to the issuer, this feature is available on cards associated with the following brands:
· British Airways.
· United Airlines.
· Southwest Airlines.
Information related to the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card and The Priceline Rewards™ Visa® Card has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuers of these cards.