Key takeaways

  • Getting approved for a credit card can be a fairly quick process — sometimes taking just seconds. Other times, it can be much slower, with issuers making you wait up to 30 days.
  • Once approved, you’ll typically receive your card within a week, though some issuers will get it to you earlier or later than that.
  • If you need a credit card quickly, you can look into issuers that offer instant approval and can overnight your card to you — or better, provide you with a virtual card that you can start using immediately.

Usually, you can find a credit card you really want, apply for the card online and receive approval for your new card all on the same day.

But this isn’t always the case, and you’ll also have to wait a while to receive your credit card after you’re approved. This guide goes over the average length of time it takes to be approved for a credit card, when yours could arrive in the mail and everything else you should expect.

How long does it take to get approved for a credit card?

Getting approved for a credit card can take as little as 60 seconds, once you fill out an online application and hit “submit.” However, it may take a few days, or even a few weeks, to receive an email from a card issuer that actually tells you whether you’re approved or not. Per federal guidelines, credit issuers are required to send you a notice of your approval or denial within 30 days at the absolute latest.

Speedy credit approvals usually take place when your credit application is completely filled out and your credit score and income are sufficient to qualify without any question. But if card issuers reach out to you for more information, such as proof of your income or another claim, they’ll typically take longer to make a decision. If you don’t provide this additional information, you likely won’t get approved.

How credit approval works

When you apply for a credit card, the card issuer will consider the information you submitted in your application. It will take a look at your:

  • Updated credit report
  • Credit history
  • Credit score
  • Income information
  • Other debt obligations (such as your housing payment or rent)

It’ll also consider how you’ve handled credit in the past, using factors like your payment history.

Credit card issuers see their approval process as proprietary information, so there are no hard and fast rules that let you know whether you’ll be approved or declined for your credit card. Your best bet is to make sure your credit score is in good shape and listed accurately on your application.

Preapproval: the credit-saving secret weapon

Some credit cards let you provide some basic information and become preapproved or prequalified online. This extra step allows you to gauge your ability to be approved for a credit card, without filling out a full application or enduring a hard inquiry on your credit report. Getting preapproved can be useful if you’re trying to decide if you should apply, but you’re not entirely sure you want to.

You may also receive prequalified or preapproved credit card offers in the mail, which means that a card issuer has run a preliminary assessment of your credit (a soft inquiry) to see if you are a likely candidate. Preapproval does not mean you’re guaranteed approval for the credit card in question, although it’s a good indicator. You still have to formally apply and meet the card issuer’s criteria.

How long does it take to receive your card?

So that’s how long it takes to get approved for a credit card, but when will you actually receive yours? Once again, this depends on the credit card you applied for and some factors beyond your control, like potential delays with the mail.

The following chart details the average time it takes to receive a credit card from major issuers:

Issuer New Card Replacement Card Card Services
American Express 7 to 10 business days Free next-day shipping 1-800-297-8500
Bank of America Within 10 business days 4 to 6 business days 1-800-732-9194
Capital One 7 to 10 business days 4 to 6 business days 1-800-227-4825
Chase 7 to 10 business days 3 to 5 business days 1-800-432-3117
Citi 7 to 10 days 4 to 7 business days 1-800-950-5114
Discover 7 to 10 business days 3 to 7 business days 1-800-347-2683
Wells Fargo 7 to 10 business days 5 to 7 calendar days 1-800-642-4720

Also, keep in mind that some card issuers, like American Express, may offer you a virtual credit card number that can be entered into a mobile wallet. These virtual card numbers let you use your new credit card instantly after approval.

How to get a credit card faster

If you’re looking to get a credit card and you want to get it fast, there are a few things you can do to speed up the process so you can start utilizing your credit as soon as possible, such as:

Look for instant approval

To save time during the approval process, you may want to consider an “instant approval” credit card that can shave a few days off the process of getting a credit card. With instant approval credit cards, the issuer alerts the applicant of whether they are approved within seconds of submitting their application.

Those who are having trouble getting their hands on new credit may not want to wait days to find out they’re approved, just to start the process over with a different issuer. An instant approval credit card may save a decent amount of time.

Expedited shipping

While the timeline varies by the credit card issuer (as shown above), if you really want to gain access to your physical card faster, you may be able to pay an extra fee in exchange for expedited shipping. It can take seven to 10 business days for a new credit card to be processed, packaged and shipped. If expedited shipping is an option, you may be able to get your card in the mail sooner.

This is especially common when you call to replace a lost or stolen credit card. Issuers will often send you a new card in one or two business days, at no charge.

Go digital

With access to the internet, you can make plenty of purchases from home without an actual physical credit card available. After approving an applicant for a new credit card, some issuers provide their customers with a credit card number immediately that can be used for online purchases. These credit card numbers can also be added to digital wallets.

Apply for an instant use card

Instant-use credit cards are different from instant approval credit cards but also provide fast access to credit. While the approval time may not be instant, with an instant use credit card, you’ll be given your credit card number right away (online or on the credit card issuer’s mobile app) and can start using it to make purchases digitally.

The following popular issuers offer instant use credit cards:

  • American Express
  • Apple
  • Bank of America
  • Capital One
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Synchrony Bank

What to do after you get your credit card

After you receive your physical card in the mail, you will want to activate it before you are able to swipe it. Activating your credit card is simple: Call the number listed on the card and set your pin. This is also the perfect time to get organized by downloading your credit card issuer’s app so you can manage your credit card in the palm of your hand. Within the app, you can monitor your spending, enroll in autopay, activate rewards and more.

The bottom line

Many factors play a role in how quickly an issuer is able to approve you for a new credit card. It’s crucial that you take your time when filling out a new credit card application because you could be making the process more difficult than it needs to be.

If you’re denied a credit card, the issuer is required to notify you within a 30-day period. While getting denied a credit card isn’t ideal, you can take this as an opportunity to review your financial background so you can set some goals to improve your credit situation. Once you feel confident about your approval odds, check out Bankrate’s free CardMatch tool to help you find the best credit card for your spending habits and lifestyle.