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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.
Jan. 6, 2020
Credit Card Basics, Credit Cards, Rewards Credit Cards, Travel Credit Cards
Credit Cards You Can Use Instantly After Approval
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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.

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card

Our pick for: A big sign-up bonus

Why we like it

The Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card packs a big sign-up bonus: Receive 50,000 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 about to drop some serious cash, putting your purchases on this card could help you meet that spending requirement faster. The card offers 2 points for every dollar spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points per dollar spent on all other purchases. It comes with a credit for up to $100 for TSA Precheck or Global Entry application fees and an annual credit of up to $100 for airline incidental fees, such as checked-bag fees or select airport lounge fees. The annual fee is $95.

How to use it instantly

As with all Bank of America® consumer credit cards, instant credit access is available to those who already have an account with the bank and apply through the app. When you do so, and if you’re approved, you’ll be able to add your new card information to a digital wallet while you wait to receive the physical card in the mail.

» MORE: Full review of the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Our pick for: Rewards on groceries

Why we like it

The Blue 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% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 12 months, and then the ongoing APR of 14.49% - 25.49% 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.

» MORE: How an AmEx card’s instant credit access helped me fix my roof

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.

» MORE: Full review of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

Our pick for: 0% intro APR

Why we like it

The Amex 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.)

» MORE: Full review of the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard®

Our pick for: A store card

Why we like it

The Capital 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.

» MORE: How to get the most out of the Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard®

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.

» MORE: Full review of the Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard®

United℠ Explorer Card

Our pick for: An airline card

Why we like it

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: Limited time offer! Earn up to 65,000 Bonus Miles: 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus earn an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 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.)

» MORE: Full review of the United℠ Explorer Card

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 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.

Eligible existing customers who open a new credit card 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®.
The following cards do not offer instant credit upon approval, according to Barclays:

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.

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.

Certain co-branded Chase cards can be used instantly, according to the issuer. Customers won’t immediately receive the account number, but instead, Chase will supply it directly to the co-brand partner, Chase notes.

According to the issuer, this feature is available on cards associated with the following brands:

· Marriott.
· British Airways.
· United Airlines.
· Southwest Airlines.
· Amazon.
· Disney.

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

 

» MORE: How soon can I get my new credit card?

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.

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