Guide to instant use credit cards

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When you apply for a traditional credit card, you can normally expect to receive your card in the mail within around 10 business days. But, one type of credit card—the instant use credit card—doesn’t make you wait. Credit cards you can use instantly can be incredibly useful for consumers who need access to credit now, or those who find something they want to buy and hope to finance it on the spot.

If you need instant credit and you’re wondering how these types of offers work, keep reading to learn more.

What is an instant use credit card?

With an instant use credit card, you can apply, get approved and begin using your line of credit within minutes or the same day. You’ll typically be mailed a physical credit card after the fact, but it depends on the type of instant use credit card you get.

Many instant use credit cards are store cards, or closed-loop credit cards that only work with a specific retailer. However, plenty of other brands, including airlines, also offer instant use credit cards you can apply for and utilize right away.

How do instant credit card numbers work?

Some card issuers, including American Express, offer instant credit card numbers to eligible applicants. When you apply for an American Express credit card and are approved, your instant credit card number is given to you, and you can use it to shop online and also begin using your cardholder benefits right away.

You can also add instant credit card numbers to a digital wallet like Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay, which would allow you to pay with your mobile device in person, too.

With instant credit card numbers, you’ll still receive a credit card in the mail.

Benefits of instant use credit cards

The reality is, credit cards you can use instantly can come in handy in more ways than one. First, many brands offer special discounts and deals to consumers who apply for their instant use credit cards. In the case of an instant use card from Kohl’s, for example, you’re often given 30 percent off your first purchase. If you’re making a large purchase from Kohl’s when you apply, this discount could easily save you hundreds.

Instant use credit cards can also help you accrue rewards sooner, which can be worthwhile if you’re making a large purchase. Even if you will be receiving a credit card in the mail later on, having access to a card number or line of credit now can help you begin earning points or miles from the first dollar.

Credit cards you can use instantly also help consumers fund a large purchase they can’t cover in cash. For example, an instant use credit card offered by a furniture store could help you finance a new living room set. Likewise, an instant use credit card from a home improvement store could help you finance a new set of appliances in one fell swoop.

Some instant use credit cards even offer a line of credit and special financing offers, including 0 percent APR for a limited time.

Best credit cards you can use instantly

When it comes to instant credit cards, the right one for you can depend on why you need it. With that being said, here are a few of the top instant use credit cards for most consumers to consider:

Best for cash back: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

With the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, you’ll earn 6 percent back on up to $6,000 (then 1 percent) in U.S. supermarket spending each year, as well as select U.S. streaming services. You’ll also earn 3 percent back on transit, 3 percent on U.S. gas station purchases and 1 percent back on other purchases. A $95 annual fee applies.

In terms of instant use, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express comes with an instant card number for eligible applicants, which can be used to make purchases online or for mobile wallet purchases right away.

Best for earning Amex Membership Rewards: American Express® Gold Card

The American Express® Gold Card lets new cardholders earn 35,000 American Express Membership Rewards points when they spend $4,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. Cardholders also earn 4x points on up to $25,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each year (then 1x), 4x points on dining, 3x points on airfare and 1x points on other purchases. A $250 annual fee applies, but cardholders receive perks like a $100 airline fee credit each year and a $120 dining credit good for select restaurants.

The American Express® Gold Card comes with a virtual card number you can use right away provided you’re eligible.

Best for Apple purchases: Apple Card

If you want to purchase a new iPad or an Apple Watch or shop anywhere else, you can apply for the Apple Card to earn rewards on your spending instantly. This card doesn’t come with an annual fee or any hidden fees, yet you’ll earn 3 percent back with select merchants (including Apple) on purchases made through Apple Pay, 2 percent back when you use your card to pay elsewhere with Apple Pay and 1 percent back on other purchases.

With the Apple Card, you can receive a virtual card number and add it to Apple Pay right away.

Best store card option: Capital One® Walmart Rewards® Card

The Capital One® Walmart Rewards® Card is ideal for Walmart shoppers who want to earn rewards on everything they buy. This card lets you rack up 5 percent back on Walmart.com, including pickup and delivery, 2 percent back on Walmart in-store purchases, restaurants and travel and 1 percent back on other purchases. When you apply, you can also qualify for 5 percent back in Walmart physical stores for 12 months when you use Walmart Pay. This card doesn’t charge an annual fee.

When you apply for this card, you can instantly use your card and card number using the Walmart app and Walmart Pay.

Issuer policies on instant credit

Some credit card issuers make it easy to use your credit card right away, while others don’t offer a single instant use credit card at all. Here is a rundown of issuer policies on instant use credit cards as well as the card options from some of them:

American Express

American Express offers instant card numbers for consumers they deem “eligible.” According to Amex, however, your eligibility is based on their “ability to authenticate you.” This means you will likely be able to get an instant card number if you are able to answer security questions or get on the phone if required.

American Express instant card numbers are available on all American Express credit cards and charge cards.

Bank of America

Bank of America offers instant card numbers that can be added to your mobile wallet when you apply for one of their credit cards using their mobile app. This means you could apply for a card like the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card, add it to your mobile wallet and use it to make purchases right away.

Barclays

Barclays offers several instant use credit cards, most of which are co-branded with airlines or other travel brands. For example, the Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard® and the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard® are two of their instant use cards, along with the Uber Visa Card.

Capital One

Capital One offers one instant use credit card, the Capital One® Walmart Rewards® Card. You can get an instant card number and add it to Walmart Pay, then use it to shop that day.

Chase

Chase co-branded airline and hotel credit cards can be instant use, along with their co-branded Amazon credit cards. However, you will not receive an instant card number. Instead, Chase will provide the card number directly to the partner brand, whether that’s Amazon.com or Southwest Airlines.

Citi

While not all of Citi’s credit cards are instantly available for use, they do offer some cards that fall into this category. For example, the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi can be used instantly if you apply and are approved in the store. Citi’s co-branded American Airlines credit cards can also be instantly usable once you’re approved.

Discover

Discover does not offer any instant use credit cards.

Goldman Sachs

The Apple Card is an instant use credit card offered by Goldman Sachs. This card comes with an instant card number you can add to Apple Pay and use in-person or online.

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo credit cards do not come with instant card numbers, nor do they allow instant use.

How long does it take for a credit card to arrive in the mail?

While many credit card issuers suggest their cards should arrive in the mail within up to 10 business days, some card issuers have their products delivered sooner. For example, American Express says you’ll receive your card in the mail within 3 to 5 days of account approval.