You’ve just hit the “Apply Now” button for a new credit card, and now you’re wondering, “When will my credit card arrive?”
The answer is it depends. Some credit card companies have strict approval criteria that must be met before they send out the card. And though you may get approved for certain credit cards almost immediately after applying online, receiving a physical copy can still take some time.
Let’s dive into these approval processes so you have a realistic timeline for when to expect your credit card in the mail.
How long does it take to get approved for a credit card?
How long it takes to get approved for a credit card depends on a few factors, including the credit card type and whether you apply online, by mail, phone, or in person.
You should receive a response within 30 days, as credit card issuers must legally respond within that time frame.1
If you’re anxiously waiting for your credit card approval or need a new credit card as soon as possible, here’s a quick breakdown of what you can expect depending on your situation:
- If you apply online, approval can often happen within minutes.
- You may also get a decision within minutes if you provide accurate and complete information in your in-person or phone application.
- Mail-in applications can take much longer – sometimes more than a week.
- While online applications generally offer the fastest approval, missing or inaccurate information could slow the process and require a manual review. Double-check your information before applying to prevent any delays.
- Having a decent credit score could also speed up the approval process. Check out some of the best cards to build credit if your FICO® score is less than ideal.†
Research credit cards beforehand to ensure you fit the criteria for approval so you don’t spend time filling out an application only to receive a rejection letter.
How does credit card approval work?
A lot goes on behind the scenes to help credit card issuers determine whether you’re a creditworthy and dependable customer. Here’s how the credit card approval process works:
- Application submission: The credit card approval process begins with you completing and submitting an application, either online, through the phone, by mail, or in person. If you’re wondering, “How long do credit card applications take?” The good news is that it’s relatively fast, and you may be able to complete the application within a few minutes if you apply online.
- Credit report review: Once you apply, the credit card issuer checks your credit report by performing a hard inquiry. Every hard inquiry can briefly drop your credit score by a few points, so avoid applying for multiple credit cards simultaneously. You may also want to check a card’s credit requirements before applying to prevent unnecessary score drops.
- Automated assessment: If you apply for a credit card online, your application typically goes through an automated system that checks your financial history, including your credit scores, income, payment history, and existing debt. Since these systems are highly automated, the approval time can be within minutes. If you submit accurate information, phone or in-person applications could also be approved quickly.
- Manual underwriter review: Sometimes, applications may be marked as “pending” or “under review” if you nearly qualify. In this case, your application will go through a manual underwriter review, which can take up to a week or so, depending on your situation.
4 quick ways to get a credit card
Waiting for your credit card to arrive in the mail can feel like a waste of time, especially when you’re eager to start making purchases with your new credit line. Consider the following options to speed up the process.
1. Seek instant approval options
Some credit card companies offer instant approval options so you can start earning rewards and building credit faster. While instant approval options can give you an answer on whether your application is successful, you may still have to wait a few days before the piece of plastic arrives in the mail. Also, instant approval does not mean guaranteed approval. Your application can still be denied if you fail to satisfy the eligibility requirements.
2. Opt for faster shipping
Once your application has been approved, most credit card companies will mail your card to you. The time it takes for your card to arrive can vary, but it’s generally around seven-to-ten business days, sometimes up to two weeks.
If you want to start tapping your credit line sooner, consider opting for expedited card delivery. Depending on the financial institution or credit card company, you may have to pay extra for this service. Still, you could potentially receive your card in fewer business days if this option is available.
3. Use virtual cards
Virtual credit cards can replace physical cards for some purchases by providing almost the same function, allowing you to shop online and in-store via a digital wallet. Plus, not carrying a physical card can be liberating since you won’t worry about misplacing it.
If you plan to solely access your credit line online or via a digital wallet, consider applying for an entirely virtual credit card.
When you apply for a virtual credit card, you typically go through the same review process that you would with a tangible one. Besides your credit score, the financial institution or credit card company may consider factors like income, debt obligations, and living expenses to assess your eligibility.
If you sign up with Chime, you’ll get a temporary card that you can use immediately for digital and online purchases. You can view your temporary card number in the Chime app before your physical card arrives.
4. Apply for instant use cards
Once your application is approved, some financial institutions or credit card companies may immediately provide you with an instant card number, expiration date, and three-digit code. To access your credit line, you can add this information to a digital wallet like Apple Pay or Google Pay.
What to do once you get approved for a credit card
Congratulations! Your new piece of plastic has arrived in the mail. But before you start swiping, there’s one step you can’t skip: activating your card.
Activating your credit card is a necessary security measure to ensure the credit card has reached the right person. Without credit card activation, anyone could easily access and use your credit card.
If you apply for Credit Builder, expect your card to arrive in seven to ten business days. Here’s how to apply and activate your card:
Issuers make it straightforward to activate a credit card by phone or online. Plus, most credit cards come with a welcome letter explaining the activation process.
If you choose to activate over the phone, you can call a toll-free number and follow instructions from an automated voice operator. You may also activate a credit card on the issuer’s app or website.
Improve your credit and stay on top of it
While credit card approvals could happen within minutes, your application may still be rejected if your credit score falls short of the minimum requirements.