Instant Approval Credit Cards: How They Work

By Dan Miller · October 17, 2022 · 7 minute read

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Instant Approval Credit Cards: How They Work

When you apply for a credit card, there are a few things that can happen. You may be instantly denied, or you may receive a notice that the card issuer needs more time to evaluate your application. Another possibility is that you’re instantly approved for the credit card.

When you receive an instant approval for a credit card, you can rest easy knowing that you’ll get the credit card and any applicable welcome bonus. In some cases, credit card issuers will allow you to have instant access to your credit card number. That can be useful if you want to make an immediate and time-sensitive purchase.

What Is an Instant Approval Credit Card?

An instant approval credit card is a credit card that guarantees a decision about your application within a matter of minutes. Once you submit your application, the credit card issuer will instantly let you know if you’ve been approved or denied for the card.

Not all credit card issuers do instant approvals, and it’s possible to not receive an instant approval even if you have excellent credit and income. For some issuers and certain credit cards, when you’re instantly approved, you also receive your credit card number and everything else you need to make a purchase with the card right away.

How Instant Approval Credit Cards Work

When you apply for a new credit card, the card issuer will conduct a hard pull of your credit report and review your credit history, income, and other financial information. They will use this information to decide whether or not to approve you for a card.

If they have enough information on your credit report to approve you automatically, you may be instantly approved. In other cases, a credit analyst may need to review your application before making a decision. This will impact how long it takes to get a credit card.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score

Instant Approval vs Pre-qualified Offers

Many credit card issuers also allow you to pre-qualify for a credit card. When a lender pre-qualifies you for a credit card, they usually take your basic information and do a soft pull on your credit report, as opposed to the hard inquiry done for formal approval of your application. This soft pull allows them to see a limited amount of information about you, which may be enough for them to pre-qualify you.

Being pre-qualified does not mean that you’ll necessarily be approved when you fill out the complete application. In contrast, when you receive an instant approval, that means that you’ve actually been approved for the card.

Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit

Pros and Cons of Instant Approval Credit Cards

Fast credit cards approval has some obvious upsides, but there are also some possible downsides to take into consideration as well:



You know right away when you are approved You may not be instantly approved, even with good credit and income
You may be able to access your card information instantly Instant access to your credit card number may tempt you to spend more

When to Consider an Instant Approval Credit Card

The only time it may be worth it to go out of your way to go for an instant approval card is if you have a large purchase that you need to make within the next day or two. In that case, being able to secure a big signup bonus on a new card or get a card with an introductory 0% APR offer may be worthwhile, given how credit cards work.

When possible, however, it’s better to manage your credit cards and credit card applications so that you don’t have to depend on instant credit card approval.

When to Skip an Instant Approval Credit Card

In most non-emergency cases, it doesn’t make sense to go out of your way to find an instant approval credit card. Instead, review the different credit cards that are out there and find the best card for you — regardless of whether you might be instantly approved.

Choosing a credit card that’s right for you might earn you hundreds of dollars or more in rewards. In the end, it may be worth more than getting the card information a few days earlier.

Choosing an Instant Approval Credit Card

It’s not always possible to determine whether any particular card will give you instant approval. Some card issuers (including American Express) publicly state that they offer instant credit card numbers to eligible cardholders.

That being said, receiving instant approval (and an instant credit card number) is contingent on the information on your credit report and the credit card requirements of the card issuer itself. In other words, instant credit card approval and use is not something that can be guaranteed.

Increasing Your Chances of Approval

While there isn’t always a guarantee of getting instant credit card approval, there are a few things you can do to help increase your chances of getting approved immediately.

Provide Information About Your Income

Most credit card applications ask about your total household income. Providing accurate income information can help the credit card issuer understand your financial situation and possibly approve you instantly.

Remember, one of the key credit card rules is that you should be truthful. If an issuer finds out that you were dishonest on your application, they may close your account.

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

Check Your Credit Reports

Another great idea if you’re hoping to secure instant approval on a credit card is to check your credit report. Keep your eye out for any incorrect or inconsistent information. If there’s incorrect negative information on your credit report, it may prevent you from being instantly approved for a credit card.

In general, it’s a wise financial move to regularly review the information on your credit report at least on a yearly basis.

Apply for the Right Instant Approval Credit Card

You’ll also want to be realistic about your approval odds for the credit card you’re looking at. If your credit isn’t that great, you might not want to try applying for an instant approval credit card that requires excellent credit (meaning a score of 800+). It’s more important to try to apply for a card that you’re likely to get approved for than one that might offer instant approval.

Alternatives to Instant Approval Credit Cards

One alternative to an instant approval credit card is to just apply for the best credit card for you, regardless of whether you might be instantly approved. You might also look at virtual credit cards, where you can get a temporary, randomly generated credit card number that’s linked back to your actual credit card account.

If you are in need of fast funding, there are other options to explore there, too. Some online lenders offer funding the same day you apply and get approved for a loan. You might also consider tapping into your emergency fund, which you then can replenish once you’ve addressed your need for fast cash.

The Takeaway

When you apply for a credit card, it’s possible the credit card issuer may instantly approve you. In other cases, they may need more time to decide whether or not to approve your application. If you are instantly approved, you may also be able to have immediate access to your card number and other credit card details. Instant approval credit cards with instant use can be useful if you have an immediate need to make a large purchase and want to do it on a new credit card.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.


What credit score do I need for an instant approval credit card?

There isn’t a single credit score you’ll need to be approved for an instant approval credit card. Instead, each credit card has its own criteria for approval. When choosing a credit card, it’s important to select a credit card that matches your credit profile. If you have fair or worse credit, you shouldn’t apply for a credit card that requires excellent credit — you’ll likely be denied.

What is the difference between instant approval and instant use of credit cards?

When you apply for a credit card, you may be instantly approved if the card issuer has enough information to make an automatic decision. If you’re instantly approved, some issuers allow you to have instant access to your credit card number and account.

Does an instant approval credit card guarantee you’ll be approved?

There’s no guarantee you’ll get approved when you apply for a credit card, and the same goes for instant approval credit cards. Whether you’re approved will depend on your financial specifics and the credit card requirements. Even if you’re pre-qualified or pre-approved, that does not guarantee that you’ll be approved when you go through the formal application process.

What if my application for an instant approval credit card gets declined?

If your instant approval credit card application is denied, you may still eventually be approved for the card. It may just mean that the issuer needs additional information or more time to determine if they can extend credit to you.

Photo credit: iStock/PeopleImages

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.


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