Woman stands by her luggage in a hotel room with a credit card and mobile phone in her hands

Instant Approval Credit Card

Last Updated: October 14, 2021
5 min read

Applications for instant approval credit cards are approved or denied quickly, often within a few minutes. Instant approval is a convenient way to speed up the credit card application process, but like any credit card application, approval is not guaranteed. If you are approved, typically you’ll receive your new card with a new card number and terms within 5-7 days.

1. Applying for a credit card with instant approval

When you apply for an instant approval card online, the credit card company will run a preliminary credit check. Generally, the higher your credit score is, the more likely you are to be approved for the card.

Creditors typically determine your creditworthiness by examining your prior credit card usage and income, and by verifying that you meet their age and residency requirements. Depending upon whether you meet their criteria, you’ll be approved or denied. Keep in mind, credit is not the only factor considered when choosing to approve you; your application may be sent for further review if there are outstanding questions about your application (address, SSN, etc.).

2. What you need to know before applying for an instant approval credit card 

If you’re considering applying for an instant approval credit card, keep these points in mind:

  • Your credit history matters: Your credit score is a three-digit number based on the information in your credit history. Credit scores usually fall into various categories — according to FICO, borrowers with poor credit typically have a credit score of 580 or below, those with good credit have scores ranging from 670-739, and those with excellent credit generally have a credit score of 800 or higher. Generally speaking, to receive an instant approval, you need to have good to excellent credit. If that’s not you — for example, if you’re a student with a limited credit history — you still have plenty of options, such as the Discover it® Secured Credit Card or the Discover it® Student Cash Back Credit Card.
  • Shop around: While you can get a decision quickly, it’s important to take your time to shop around and compare instant approval offers. To ensure you find the best credit card for you, always read the fine print and research the features and benefits of the card before you apply.

3. Does instant approval mean I can use my credit card right away?

You won’t have immediate access to the card if approved: While the approval process varies by issuer, an instant approval does not mean you have immediate access to the credit card. Typically you will have to wait 5-7 days to receive your new credit card and terms.

4. Are online instant approval credit card applications safe? 

Providing your personal financial information through a website can be unnerving, but credit card companies use data encryption to help keep your personal financial information safe.

Keep in mind that it’s always a good idea to apply for the credit card directly through the credit card issuer’s website, and to look for additional safety notifications like verified security badge. Always make sure the website has “https” (as opposed to just http — the “s” is for secure) at the start of the URL.

Similarly, you can help to protect your card number when using your credit card online by making sure you see the same safety signals — for example, the verified security badge — before checking out. In addition, be sure to monitor your credit card accounts by checking them regularly; once a month is a good rule of thumb — more often is even better. And if you’re going to make an online purchase that requires you to enter your credit card number, try to refrain from doing so at the office, or while using a public hotspot. Save those purchases for when you’re at home and on a more secure WiFi network.

5. What seniors should know about instant approval credit cards

When it comes to applying for an instant approval credit card, a good credit history is just as important for seniors as it is for other applicants. And though you may think being debt-free would be an advantage — if you’ve paid off your home and you rarely use credit, for example — lenders may not see it that way.

When you don’t use credit, your credit history dwindles and credit bureaus may lack information to evaluate your creditworthiness. So even if you think you have a terrific long-term credit history, getting instant credit card approval requires current, positive credit activity.

On the other hand, seniors’ credit scores can be negatively impacted when debt builds up and credit reports reveal missed payments or other red flags. That could lead to instant rejection instead of instant approval because the report could signal risk for lenders.

These days, everything from renting an apartment and having the power turned on to getting a loan or applying for a credit card could require a credit check. You can check your credit report for free once a year with each of the three major credit bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com.

6. Can anyone get instant approval for a credit card? 

If you have good-to-excellent credit, congratulations — you stand a higher chance of receiving instant approval. But if your credit score is too low (or non-existent), you may have some work to do to get your credit score in shape.

Increasing your chances of instant approval

  • Commit to making timely monthly payments
  • Pay down other credit card balances
  • Limit use of your credit lines for several months before applying for a new credit card
  • Sign up for a service that helps you keep an eye on your credit score which can tell you what may be helping and hurting your score every 30 days

Check whether you’re pre-approved for a credit card

While there is no such thing as a guaranteed approval for a credit card, there is a way to make more informed decisions and review card offers before you apply: pre-approval.

We recommend using an online pre-approval tool like Discover’s. Here’s how it works: You submit a brief form that asks you to provide some basic personal and financial information. The card issuer will use that information to look up offers that you may qualify for. You can review the offers and decide whether or not you want to apply for the card. If you are hesitant to apply for a card right away, using a pre-approval online tool like Discover’s allows you to research offers that align with your basic financial information with no impact to your credit score. Taking the time to research before you apply can help you find a low-interest or rewards card offering instant approval. Once you get approved, you’ll soon have a new card in your wallet rewarding you for everyday purchases from gas to groceries.

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