By allowing access to your new line of credit right away, instant use credit cards can help fund large purchases, earn sign-up bonuses, get discounts on shopping carts and more.
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The Bank of America content was last updated on January 18, 2023.
These days, most consumers learn whether they’ve been approved for a credit card in just a few seconds, but it can take more than a week before the card arrives in the mail. If you are hoping to use your new credit card to fund a big purchase or cover an emergency expense, that waiting period can be more than a little frustrating.
Luckily, many credit card issuers are now offering instant use credit cards that you can use as soon as you are approved. Many retail credit cards, including the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi and the Capital One Walmart Rewards® Mastercard®, allow verified cardholders to begin using their new credit accounts immediately, which can be a huge help if you’re about to make a big Costco or Walmart purchase.
How do instant credit card numbers work?
Your instant credit card number will be identical to the number on the card you receive in the mail. The only difference is that you gain access to your instant number as soon as your application is approved, instead of having to wait for your card to arrive.
Once you have your instant credit card number, you can begin using it to make purchases. Since you won’t have a physical credit card to tap, dip or swipe, your instant number will only be good for online purchases — unless, of course, you enter your new credit card number into your mobile wallet and use your phone to make in-person purchases at participating retailers.
How long does it take for a credit card to arrive in the mail?
Once you’ve been approved for a credit card, it should take between seven and 10 business days for it to arrive in the mail. Some issuers offer expedited delivery on request, so consider asking for it if you need your card as quickly as possible.
Benefits of instant use credit cards
There are a lot of reasons to consider applying for an instant use credit card. With an instant use card, you can:
- Cover expenses in an emergency: If you have an immediate need, an instant use credit card can give you access to credit right away.
- Take advantage of card perks faster: If your card offers perks like coupons or free checked bags, you’ll be able to take advantage of those perks as soon as you are approved.
- Begin earning your sign-up bonus: If you’re about to make a series of expensive purchases — like home renovations or vacation travel — an instant use credit card can help ensure that all of those big expenses go toward a sign-up bonus.
- Get a discount on a large shopping cart: If your shopping cart is larger than usual due to holiday shopping, back-to-school shopping or other seasonal spending, a retail credit card that offers instant approval can often get you a discount on everything you’re about to purchase.
Top instant use credit card picks by issuer
So, which credit cards offer instant access?
The following guide walks you through what you need to know about instant use credit cards, including how they work, which issuers offer them and when you should consider applying for an instant approval card.
All American Express consumer credit cards, including co-branded credit cards, offer instant access — though American Express will need to verify your identity before issuing your instant credit card number.
Top picks for instant use cards from American Express
|Rewards rate||Welcome bonus||Annual fee|
|American Express Cash Magnet® Card*||$200 statement credit if you spend $2,000 in the first six months||$0|
|Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express||$200 statement credit after you spend $2,000 in purchases within the first six months of card membership||$0|
|Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express||$250 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first six months of card membership||$95 ($0 in first year)|
Bank of America
If you are an existing Bank of America mobile customer and you apply for a Bank of America credit card through the Bank of America mobile app and get approved, you can instantly upload your new credit card into your mobile wallet.
The Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card, issued by Bank of America, also offers instant credit on approval when you apply for the card while booking an Alaska Airlines flight. (You can use this instant credit only for Alaska Airlines.)
Top picks for instant use cards from Bank of America
|Rewards rate||Sign-up bonus||Annual fee|
|Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card||$200 online cash rewards if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days||$0|
|Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit Card||$200 online cash rewards if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days||$0|
|Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card||25,000 online bonus points if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days (worth $250 in travel statement credits)||$0|
|Alaska Airlines Visa credit card||Limited time offer: Earn 70,000 bonus miles plus Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare from $122 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $23) after you spend $3,000 within the first 90 days of opening your account||$95|
The Capital One Walmart Rewards® Mastercard® offers instant access, including a one-time shopping pass when you apply and are approved for the card at a Walmart location. Cardholders can also load their new cards into Walmart Pay to make purchases in-store or online without having to wait for their cards to arrive in the mail.
Citi did not respond to a request for confirmation, but other sources suggest that some of Citi’s co-branded credit cards, including its American Airlines AAdvantage credit cards, offer instant access.
The Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi also reportedly offers instant access if you apply in-store.
Top picks for instant use cards from Citi
|Rewards rate||Sign-up bonus||Annual fee|
|American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card||$50 statement credit and 10,000 bonus miles if you spend $500 in the first 3 months||$0|
|Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi||None||No annual fee with your paid Costco membership ($60)|
Chase offers instant access on certain co-branded credit cards. Customers won’t receive the account number immediately, but Chase will send the information directly to the co-brand partner.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card and the United Explorer Card, for example, offer instant credit on approval when you apply for the card while booking a flight, according to the issuer.
Top picks for instant use cards from Chase
|Rewards rate||Sign-up bonus||Annual fee|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card||Limited time offer: Earn Companion Pass® (good through 2/28/24) plus 30,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening||$149|
|United Explorer Card||Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 total in the first 3 months||$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95|
|Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card||60,000 points after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months||$0|
By allowing you to access your new line of credit right away, instant use credit cards can help you fund large purchases, earn sign-up bonuses, get discounts in shopping carts and more. If your instant use credit card includes additional benefits like free checked bags, you’ll be able to access those perks instantly as well. Instant use cards also help you cover the gap between when your application is approved and when your credit card arrives in the mail, which is important when you want to start using your new line of credit as soon as possible.
*All information about the American Express Cash Magnet Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer.
The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.