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 and terms within 5-7 days.

1. How the Instant Approval Process Works

2. What You Need to Know Before You Apply

3. Find Out If You’re Pre-Approved Before Applying

4. Is It Safe To Apply For an Instant Approval Credit Card?

5. What Seniors Should Know About Instant Approval Credit Cards

6. Tips to Increase Your Chances of Instant Approval

1. How the Instant Approval Process Works

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.

Once the credit card company receives your score, if you appear to be eligible they usually issue a “conditional approval” for the card while they perform a more thorough credit check. 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.

2. What You Need to Know Before You Apply

There are a few key points to keep in mind if you’re considering applying for an instant approval credit card:

  • Your credit history matters: Generally, 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 prepaid, secure and instant approval student credit cards.
  • 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.
  • You won’t have immediate access to the card if approved: While the approval process varies by issuers, 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.

3. Find Out If You’re Pre-Approved Before Applying

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.

4. Is It Safe to Apply for an Instant Approval Credit Card?

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 a padlock or 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.

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. Tips to Increase Your Chances of Instant Approval

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. Here are a few things you can do that may improve your credit score over time:

  • 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 monitor your credit score, like the Discover Credit Scorecard, which can tell you what may be helping and hurting your score every 30 days.

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.

Originally published February 17, 2015

Updated July 2020, 2020

Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.