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Applying for a credit card is usually quick and easy. But waiting for the approval and arrival of the physical card can take a bit of time.
While some credit cards offer instant approval and use, that isn’t always the case – and you may run into issues that slow the process down.
Here’s a look at the credit card timeline, from the time you complete an application until you receive the card.
How long does credit card approval take?
In many cases, you can get approved for a credit card about a minute after you apply online or while you are waiting in an in-store payment queue.
“Many issuers have an instant approval process where you can get approval within minutes,” says Gerri Detweiler, director of education for Nav, which helps business owners manage credit. “The approval time has definitely decreased as issuers have become more efficient in evaluating and approving applications.”
It might not come as a surprise if you are already receiving pre-approved offers from credit card issuers because you have a high credit score.
“For most credit cards, the decision was made before you even applied,” says John Ulzheimer, a credit expert who previously worked at FICO and Equifax credit bureau. “Card issuers have their criteria in place. So when you apply, your credit quality and application information either meets or does not meet the criteria. As such, the decision is virtually real-time and you will probably receive a card within a few weeks. “
Why are credit card approvals delayed?
Even if your credit score is high, the approval of your credit card may be delayed due to the fraud protection of your credit report.
“Before applying for new credit, a consumer must lift a credit freeze in advance or obtain a single-use PIN that he can provide to the lender from whom he is making the request so that the lender can access the report”, says Rod Griffin, senior director of public education and advocacy at the Experian credit bureau.
Bypassing a fraud or security alert can lengthen the approval process because the lender must first verify your identity. The credit card issuer may call you to confirm your credit information and whether you have applied for the card before the application can be accepted.
An issuer may also take longer to approve your request if:
- You are asking for an unusually high credit limit.
- The information in your application is different from that in your credit report.
- You already have a large line of credit with the bank.
How to check the status of the credit card application
Most major credit card issuers allow you to check the status of your application online, while a few require you to call. If you call, ask what you can do to speed up the approval process.
- American Express: You can check the status of American Express card applications online.
- Barclays: Check the status of your Barclays request here by entering your name, postal code, email address and the last four digits of your social security number.
- Capital one: You can call 800-903-9177 to check the status of your request and you will be notified in writing within seven to 10 business days.
- Hunt: You can verify your app by calling 800-432-3117 or by logging into Chase’s website.
- Citi: Check the status of your Citi request online by entering your Application ID and Postal Code or Primary Phone Number, Postal Code, and Month and Year of Birth.
- Discover: Call the state phone number for the Discover app at 800-347-3085 or check online.
How fast can you get a credit card?
Expect to receive your card in the mail within seven to 10 business days of approval. If you want to get your physical card as soon as possible after it’s been approved, check with the issuer to see if you can get it sent out faster.
“Issuers can provide expedited shipping for your card – sometimes for free and sometimes for a fee,” says Detweiler.
“Once you’re approved for a card, don’t be surprised if the account shows up on your credit reports before you even get your card,” says Ulzheimer. “The wheels of credit are changing rapidly, especially in the credit card world, where it is so competitive.”
Can a credit card be used immediately?
When you’re instantly approved for a retail credit card, maybe you can use it right away. This quick turnaround time is less common with other types of credit cards, but there are exceptions. “Some issuers may provide you with a card number that you can use immediately, even before your card arrives,” says Detweiler.
If you want immediate access to a new credit card, consider these options:
- American Express offers an instant card number for use in a digital wallet or online.
- After being approved for a Apple Card and accept your offer, you can use it immediately through your Apple Pay digital wallet.
- You may be able to use a new Bank of America card in a digital wallet before the physical card arrives in the mail. This option is open to authenticated and verified Bank of America customers who have applied for their card through the issuer’s mobile app.
- Corporate credit card issuers Brex and Divvy offer virtual cards after approval.
How fast can you get a secured credit card?
While it is easier to get approved for a secured credit card, the process of accessing the card can take longer than for a conventional unsecured card. This is because secure cards, which target people who create or rebuild their credit, require you to offer a security deposit in the event of a default on the card.
Even if you are immediately approved for a secure card, the application will not be complete – and the card will not be shipped to you – until you submit the security deposit.
Most issuers require you to allow them to withdraw the security deposit from your bank account after approval. Although Detweiler indicates that some issuers may give you more time to fund the deposit.
What happens if your credit card application is refused?
If your credit card application is denied, the lender will send you a letter explaining why you were not approved. The Federal Trade Commission requires that the issuer let you know which credit report influenced their decision. If a credit score was considered as part of the decision, you will also receive this information. You will be able to receive a free credit report so that you can review the information and dispute it if necessary.
“If you’re denied, you can try calling the issuer’s review service, where you may be able to provide additional documentation or an explanation that might help you get approval,” says Detweiler. Most credit card issuers allow you to call them and request a review.