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How Long Does It Take to Get a Credit Card?

How Long Does It Take to Get a Credit Card?
Jason Steele

Jason Steele

Updated June 21, 2022
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
Credit cards allow you to make purchases instantly – one quick tap or swipe and you’re on your way. Actually getting a credit card, however, isn’t always so fast. The entire process – from applying to having a card in hand – typically takes at least seven to 10 business days. If there are any hiccups along the way, it can take considerably longer. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to speed up the process. Read on for everything you need to know about how long it takes to get a new credit card.

How Credit Approval Works

There are several ways to apply for a credit card – online, by phone, by mail, or in person. Whichever way you go, you'll need to supply some basic personal information, including your name, address, employment status, income, and Social Security number. The card issuer will then look at your credit scores and your debt-to-income ratio (how much debt you have compared to how much you earn). They will also look for any red flags on your credit report, such as delinquent accounts, bankruptcies, or late payments, that suggest you may not manage credit responsibly.In most cases, these credit checks are automated, which means they can be done very quickly. In fact, if you apply for a credit card online and meet the issuer’s credit card requirements, you can often get approved within a few minutes. If your credit scores are on the border of the issuer’s minimum requirements, however, the issuer may choose to manually review your application. If so, this can add a week or so to the approval process. If you apply over the phone or in person, you may also be able to get approved within a few minutes. If you apply by mail, approval could take at least two weeks. The key to a fast approval is to make sure your credit history looks good and your scores are sufficient to qualify for the card. Credit card issuers typically specify the credit score range that is required to qualify for a certain credit card. You can get a free copy of your credit report by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com and get your FICO® score for free through Experian.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Credit Card?

Once approved for a new account, it typically takes anywhere from seven to 10 business days to receive your card in the mail. You may also have an option for “rush" delivery for an additional fee. In some cases, a card issuer may offer you a credit card number that can be entered into a mobile wallet. If you are eligible, you could use your virtual card number for purchases instantly after approval (more on this below).After you receive your physical card in the mail, you typically need to activate the card before you can use it. This is quick and easy – you simply go online or call the number listed on the card’s sticker. This is also a good time to check the card's fees and terms and payment due date.Recommended: Reading Your Credit Card Statement 

How to Get a Credit Card Faster

If you’re eager to get a credit card as quickly as possible, there are a few things you can do to speed up the application, approval, and/or delivery process.

Get Preapproved

If you receive a credit card offer in the mail, it typically means that you have been preapproved for that card. Card issuers ask the major consumer credit bureaus for the names and addresses of consumers who live in a certain area and have credit scores within a certain range. They then send out offers to qualified potential customers.You can also apply for preapproval (also called prequalification) by providing some basic information on the card issuer's website or, if you’re not sure, which card you want, on a credit card comparison site. This allows you to gauge your ability to be approved for a credit card without filling out a full application or undergoing a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can temporarily lower your credit scores by a few points. The credit card preapproval process involves a soft credit inquiry, which means it won’t have any effect on your credit scores. Once you receive notice of being preapproved, you aren’t guaranteed to have your application approved, but it’s much more likely that it will be. If you decide to apply for the card, the issuer will look at some additional factors, such as your income, and will do a hard credit check.

Look for Instant Approval

Many credit cards offer “instant approval” for qualified applicants. To increase the chances of getting approval instantly, check your credit score to make sure it meets the issuer’s requirements. Also be sure to fill out the application completely and accurately. Any mistakes in your application (even a typo) can gum up the works and turn an “instant” approval into a lengthy process. Also, if you’ve recently moved, make sure that you’ve updated your address for any existing accounts with the card issuer. Otherwise, your application could be flagged as a fraudulent attempt to open a new account in your name. 

Expedited Shipping

While it can easily take a week or more to get your card via snail mail, some credit card issuers offer expedited shipping, even overnight delivery. In some cases, the issuer will offer this service for free (often to existing account holders). In other, they will charge a small fee. It can be worth calling customer support to find out whether expediting a new card is possible and what the potential cost would be. 

Apply for an Instant-Use Card

While the names sound almost identical, an instant-use card is not the same thing as an instant-approval card. You may not get approved instantly for this type of card. However, once you do, you will have access to your account immediately. How? The card issuer gives you your credit card number right away. You can then use it to make online purchases. You may also be able to add the number to your digital wallet. Issuers that now offer instant-use credit cards include:
  • American Express
  • Apple
  • Bank of America
  • Capital One
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Synchrony Bank
Recommended: All You Need to Know About Contactless Credit Cards and Payments   

Compare Credit Card Options With Lantern

A number of factors affect how long it takes to get a credit card, including your credit profile, how you apply, whether you’ve already been pre-approved, and how the card gets delivered. If you’re on the hunt for a new credit card and want to streamline the process, Lantern by SoFi can help. With our online marketplace, you can quickly shop different types of cards (including credit-building cards and cards for poor credit) and compare credit card offers and all in one place.
Photo credit: iStock/Luke Chan
The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website on credit (https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/credit-and-loans)SOLC0222060

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About the Author

Jason Steele

Jason Steele

Jason Steele has been writing about credit cards and award travel since 2008. One of the nation's leading experts in this field, he has contributed to dozens of personal finance and travel outlets and has been widely quoted in the mainstream media.
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