Instant approval credit cards can be defined in two different ways:
1. You get approved today and can instantly begin using your new credit line. (Yay! No waiting!)
2. You get approved today but don’t get the card until later. (Not bad.)
Only one of the major credit card issuers gives you the possibility of both instant approval and same-day card usage. Three other credit card companies claim they might give you an instant decision on your application, allowing you to know if you’ve been approved or whether you should apply elsewhere.
Those companies are:
- American Express – Offers the possibility of instant approval as well as the ability to use the card today. Almost every American Express credit card and charge card application includes the message “Get a decision in as little as 30 seconds.” And, most cards offer the possibility of an “Instant Card Number” that you can use until your physical card arrives. Instant Card Numbers are issued if American Express feels it has the “ability to instantly validate your identity.” (No word on how exactly they validate your identity.)
- Bank of America – Most Bank of America credit cards have the message “Get a response in as little as 60 seconds” on their online applications.
- Barclays – “Get an instant response” when you apply for one of the credit cards this bank issues, including the NFL credit card, Uber Visa, Priceline credit card, JetBlue, Wyndham, more.
- Capital One – Within the FAQ section of their site we found this statement: “You will often get a response in 60 seconds.”
“As little as…”
Notice that none of the card companies listed above guarantees instant approval or even that you will receive an instant decision, but they’d like you to know that you could. In our experience, the better your credit history, the more likely it is that you will receive instant approval, although you still won’t actually get your card and be able to use it for one or two weeks. If your credit is bad, you might have to wait on a decision, or your instant decision may be a quick “NO”.
Apply and Use Your Card Today
If your idea of instant approval means you get to start making purchases the same day you apply, store-branded and catalog credit cards are much more likely to give you this instant access to your credit line. Many retail stores are so eager to sign you up they will get you approved while you are standing at the checkout counter (or sitting at your computer).
Cards offering instant approval that let you use the card today include:
- The Walmart Credit Card promotes “Save $25 when you spend $75 today.”
- The JCPenney Credit Card has a promotion “Save 20% Today” tied to its credit card application page, suggesting instant approval.
- The Macy’s Credit Card says you can “save 20% today & tomorrow” when you open an account.
- The Nordstrom Credit Card encourages you with this message: “If approved, you can sign in to access your card online and start shopping right away.”
- Best Buy says “Apply today, shop today” in their Best Buy credit card marketing materials, so instant approval and immediate use is definitely possible.
- The Amazon.com Store Card says you can get an “instant credit decision in as little as 15 seconds.”
- GAP Credit Card – You won’t see “instant approval” marketed on their website, but anyone who’s ever shopped at GAP, Banana Republic, Old Navy, or Athleta knows that these stores usually offer an immediate discount if you sign up and are approved for the card while in the store. At last check, that discount was 20%. (This instant approval is likely offered online as well.)
- Sephora Credit Card – On this card’s online application page, you’ll see this message: “Earn 15% off your first Sephora purchase when you open and use either Sephora Credit Card today.”
- Williams Sonoma Credit Card – You’ll get 20% off your order today when you open and use a Williams Sonoma Visa or store credit card, so that obviously means that instant approval is their goal.
Whether being approved for a credit card in an instant is really in your best interests is of course debatable, but it definitely can be done.