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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.
Feb. 8, 2019
Credit Card Basics, Credit Cards, Rewards Credit Cards, Travel Credit Cards
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How soon can you start using that new credit card you just got approved for? It depends.

The application and approval process for a new card may take only a few minutes, but it can take several days before you receive the physical card in the mail. Typically only then can you start charging purchases to the account.

But there are exceptions. Many co-branded credit cards — which are partnerships between a merchant and an issuing bank — will allow you to use your new line of credit right away at the specific merchant where you applied for it. In rarer cases, even a few general-purpose credit cards from large issuers will grant you immediate access to your credit line via an instant card number.

Below are major issuers’ policies on instant credit access, plus some reasons why you might want it.

Who issues instant credit?

The following list was independently confirmed by NerdWallet with a representative at each issuer and is accurate as of February 2019.

Alliant Credit Union does not offer instant card numbers upon approval for its cards.
An instant card number upon account approval is available on all American Express U.S. consumer cards, including co-branded cards. The only exception is for prepaid cards.
Customers who apply and are approved for a credit card via the Bank of America® mobile app can upload it immediately to their digital wallet.
The following cards do not offer instant credit upon approval:

But several of Barclays’ co-branded cards do offer instant credit under certain circumstances. A sampling:

Capital One did not provide information on the availability of instant credit on its cards.
Per a Chase spokesperson: “None of our cards offer instant credit card numbers. Some of our cards offer instant credit — think of the ability to use your co-brand card right away after you get approved through an online retailer or for a flight — but we do not provide the number until you get the card in the mail.”

Chase would not specify which such cards offered this feature.

Citi did not provide information on the availability of instant credit on its cards.
Discover does not offer instant card numbers upon approval for its cards.
Navy Federal Credit Union does not offer instant card numbers upon approval for its cards.
U.S. Bank did not provide information on the availability of instant credit on its cards.
Wells Fargo does not offer instant card numbers upon approval for its cards.

 

What’s the rush?

There are a few reasons why you might want to use a new credit line instantly:

  • Emergency/immediate need: You have to purchase something right now, and the new account is the best fit. Maybe it’s a roof repair, or some other large expense, and the card features a nice long 0% intro APR offer to help you finance it. Or perhaps you need to buy airline tickets in a jiffy, and a co-branded airline card offers bonus rewards or other perks you’d like to take advantage of. In such cases, being able to use the card immediately is ideal.
  • Sign-up bonus deadline: Credit cards that offer a welcome bonus also set a time limit in which to earn it. That deadline generally begins as soon as your account is open and not when you actually receive your card (which, again, usually takes at least a few days). The sooner you can start using your new card, the greater the likelihood you’ll spend enough in time to get the sign-up bonus.
  • Upfront discount or perks: Nearly all co-branded credit cards offer some type of perk for spending on the card within the brand. It might be store rewards or a discount on merchandise. With many of these kinds of cards, instant credit is available along the “booking path,” which is when a customer is shopping online or at a brick-and-mortar location and is given an opportunity to apply for a co-branded card on the spot. In this scenario, if you’re approved, you often can use your new line of credit to complete the purchase (and secure your perk).

Information related to the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard®, The Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite MasterCard®, the JetBlue Card, the NFL Extra Points Credit Card, and The Priceline Rewards™ Visa® Card has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of these cards.

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