The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Friday, October 7, 2022

21 Credit Cards with Instant Approval by Category

Credit Cards With Instant Approval By Category

credit card advice

Eric Bank

Written by: Eric Bank

Eric Bank

Eric Bank has been covering business and financial topics since 1985, specializing in taking complex subject matters and explaining them in simple terms for consumer audiences. In addition to his work on CardRates.com, Eric has appeared regularly on Credible.com, eHow, WiseBread, The Nest, Get.com, Zacks, Chron and dozens of other outlets. A former software engineer, Eric holds an M.B.A. from New York University and an M.S. in finance from DePaul University.

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Edited by: Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian brings more than 30 years of editing and journalism experience. She has written and edited for major news organizations, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Times, and she previously served as an adjunct instructor at the University of Florida. Today, she edits all CardRates content for clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.

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Advertiser Disclosure

Here is our roundup of credit cards with instant approval by category. It turns out that most credit cards can give you an instant approval decision when you apply online.

Sometimes, they will tell you that they need more information and will send a decision soon — in a matter of hours or days. Of course, sometimes the issuer will decline your application, but may offer an alternative card that better suits you.

Bad Credit | Fair Credit | Cash Back | Miles | Balance Transfer | Students | Business
FAQs & Ranking Methodology

Credit Cards for Bad Credit with Instant Approval

In general, a bad FICO credit score is below 580 on a range of 300 to 850. About 16% of applicants fall into this category.

You can still get a credit card while having bad credit, but your choices are limited. The cards listed below are geared toward consumers who have bad credit.

PREMIER Bankcard® Mastercard® Credit Card Review

at PREMIER Bankcard®'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

  • Don’t let a low FICO score stop you from applying – we approve applications others may not.
  • You don’t need good credit to apply.
  • Just complete the short application and find out in 60 seconds if you’re approved.
  • When you need assistance our award-winning US-based Customer Service agents are there to help.
  • FICO scores are used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any PREMIER Bankcard® product.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
See Provider Website
See Provider Website
Fair/Poor
PREMIER Bankcard® Grey Credit Card Review

at PREMIER Bankcard®'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

  • You don’t need good credit to apply.
  • We help people with bad credit, every day.
  • Just complete the short application and find out in 60 seconds if you’re approved.
  • You can build* or rebuild your credit: apply for a PREMIER Bankcard credit card, keep your balance low, and pay all your monthly bills on time.
  • Don’t let a low FICO score stop you from applying – we approve applications others may not.
  • FICO scores are used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any PREMIER Bankcard® product.
  • *Build credit by keeping your balance low and paying all your bills on time every month.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
See Provider Website
See Provider Website
Fair/Poor
Surge Mastercard® Review

at Celtic Bank'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

  • Up to $1,000 credit limit doubles up to $2,000! (Simply make your first 6 monthly minimum payments on time)
  • All credit types welcome to apply!
  • Free access to your Vantage 3.0 score From Experian* (When you sign up for e-statements)
  • Initial Credit Limit of $300 – $1,000* (subject to available credit)
  • Monthly reporting to the three major credit bureaus
  • See if you’re Pre-Qualified without impacting your credit score
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
See website for Details
See website for Details
24.99% – 29.99% (Variable)
See website for Details
See website for Details*

The credit limits on these cards are low, and you can expect higher-than-average APRs. You may also face hefty fees, which can include annual, application, cash advance, and management fees.

Nonetheless, these cards can help you build your credit score so that eventually you may qualify for a less expensive card with a higher credit limit.

Credit Cards for Fair Credit with Instant Approval

The FICO range for fair credit is generally considered to be 580 to 669. About 17% of applicants fall into this subprime category.

As you can see below, the universe of credit cards expands when you go from having bad to fair credit.

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • No annual or hidden fees. See if you're approved in seconds
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
  • Help build your credit through responsible use of a card like this
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Monitor your credit score with CreditWise from Capital One. It's free for everyone
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with online banking from your desktop or smartphone, with Capital One's mobile app
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
28.49% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.5/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories or limits to how much you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account. It's that simple
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
  • Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
28.49% (Variable)
$39
Average, Fair, Limited
Fortiva® Mastercard® Credit Card Review

at Fortiva'ssecure website

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

  • With the Fortiva® Mastercard® Credit Card, you earn up to a 3% cash back reward
  • Make contactless payments through Mobile Wallet
  • Periodic Credit Increase Reviews
  • Free access to your Vantage 3.0 score from Equifax†
  • † Your credit score will be available in your online account 60 days after your account is opened. (Registration required) The free VantageScore 3.0 credit score provided by Equifax is for educational purposes only and may not be used by The Bank of Missouri (the issuer of this card) or other creditors to make credit decisions.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
29.99% OR 36% (V)
As low as $85
Fair

Relative to the cards for bad credit consumers, these tend to have higher credit limits, lower costs, and some even provide rewards. All the cards listed here will give you an instant decision when you apply online.

You should ascertain your credit score before applying so you apply for a card in the right category.

Cash Back Cards with Instant Approval

Cash back cards are popular because, well, who doesn’t love cash? These cards generally have a base reward level of $1 to $1.50 for each dollar spent on purchases.

Below are our top three choices of cash back cards.

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!
  • Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year).
  • After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. You can choose to receive a statement credit or direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open!
  • Enjoy 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 17.24% - 25.99%.
  • No annual fee - You won't have to pay an annual fee for all the great features that come with your Freedom Unlimited® card
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months
17.24% - 25.99% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • For a limited time, earn $200 cash back after spending $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening.
  • Balance Transfer Only Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 16.99% - 26.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back. Intro APR does not apply to purchases.
  • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
  • There is an intro balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer (minimum $5) completed within the first 4 months of account opening. After that, your fee will be 5% of each transfer (minimum $5).
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
0% Intro APR Period 18 months on Balance Transfers
16.99% - 26.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

Additional Disclosure: Citi is a CardRates advertiser.

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • One-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months; 17.99%-27.99% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
17.99% - 27.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

Some also offer higher reward levels for purchases at specific types of merchants. The schemes for higher rewards generally fall into two types.

The first is tiered rewards, with one or more elevated reward levels permanently linked to specific merchant types. The second uses a quarterly rotating set of favored merchants that provide high rewards as long as you activate the category each quarter. Cards often limit the cash back on the higher reward levels to a specific amount of purchases per quarter.

Air Miles Cards with Instant Approval

If you are a frequent flyer, air miles cards may be just the ticket. Instead of cash back, they offer air miles you can use to book your next flight, or your next hotel stay.

The better cards allow you to use your miles to book flights with no blackout dates. See our favorites below.

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Enjoy two complimentary visits per year to Capital One Lounges or to 100+ Plaza Premium Lounges through our Partner Lounge Network
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
18.99% - 26.99% (Variable)
$95
Excellent, Good
Discover it® Miles Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • UNLIMITED BONUS: Only Discover gives you an unlimited match of all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles.  There’s no signing up, no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a Miles-for-Miles match.
  • Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase - with no annual fee.
  • Redeem Miles to pay any part of your monthly bill, including your minimum payment.
  • Turn Miles into cash in any amount, any time. Or redeem as a statement credit for travel purchases like airfare, hotels, rideshares, gas stations, restaurants and more with no blackout dates. However you redeem, Miles keep the same value. And Miles never expire.
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases. Then 14.99% to 25.99% Standard Variable Purchase APR will apply.
  • NEW! Discover helps remove your personal information from select people-search websites. Activate by mobile app for free.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 months
0% Intro APR for 15 months
14.99% - 25.99% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
19.99% - 26.99% (Variable)
$395
Excellent

These cards often provide signup bonuses in which you can earn a mother lode of miles when you spend the specified amount on purchases during the first three months after opening the account. Some allow you to transfer your miles to their travel partners’ reward programs on a 1:1 basis.

Generally, you can also redeem your miles for reduced-rate or free stays at selected hotels.

Balance Transfer Cards with Instant Approval

A balance transfer is a way to consolidate your credit card debt to one card. The cards reviewed here all provide a period after account opening in which you will be charged 0% interest on balance transfers for a specified number of months.

A one-time fee may apply, generally around 3% for each transfer.

Discover it® Balance Transfer Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • NEW! Discover helps remove your personal information from select people-search websites. Activate by mobile app for free.
  • Every $1 you earn in cash back is $1 you can redeem.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click "Apply Now" to see terms and conditions.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 6 months
0% Intro APR for 18 months
14.99% - 25.99% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good

0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • Start off strong with 0% Intro APR for 18 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers. A variable APR of 17.24% - 25.99% on balance transfers and purchases after the introductory period ends.
  • Lower your interest rate by 2% each year. Automatically be considered for an APR reduction when you pay on time, and spend at least $1000 on your card by your next account anniversary.
  • Raise your credit limit. Get an automatic, one-time review for a higher credit limit when you pay on time, and spend $500 in your first six months.
  • All for no annual fee - You won't have to pay an annual fee for all the great features that come with your Slate Edge℠ card
  • Keep tabs on your credit health - Chase Credit Journey helps you monitor your credit with free access to your latest score, real-time alerts, and more
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 18 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 18 months
17.24% - 25.99% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • For a limited time, get a special 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 20 billing cycles. After that, the APR is variable, currently 15.99%-25.99%.
  • Enjoy Cellphone Protection Coverage of up to $1,200 annually when you pay your monthly cellphone bill with your card
  • View your credit score anytime, anywhere in the mobile app or online banking. It's easy to enroll, easy to use, and free to U.S. Bank customers.
  • Fraud Protection detects and notifies you of any unusual card activity to help prevent fraud
  • Choose your payment due date
  • $0 Annual Fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 20 billing cycles
0% for 20 billing cycles
15.99% - 25.99% Variable
$0
Excellent Credit

By transferring your balances to one card, you simplify your monthly payment schedule and perhaps reduce your monthly minimum payments. The period of introductory 0% interest is your opportunity to eliminate balances on your other cards.

However, do not close these other credit card accounts because doing so will reduce the age of your credit history and thereby hurt your credit score.

Student Cards with Instant Approval

Students are singled out for a credit card category because they frequently lack credit history. For many students, these cards will be the first cards they own.

That’s an important audience for issuers, who would like to build brand loyalty starting at an early age. The hope is that after the students enter the workforce, they will apply for a fancier credit card from the same issuer.

Discover it® Student Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • No credit score required to apply.
  • NEW! Discover helps remove your personal information from select people-search websites. Activate by mobile app for free.
  • No annual fee and build your credit with responsible use.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 15.99% - 24.99% applies.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 6 months
10.99% Intro APR for 6 months
15.99% - 24.99% Variable APR
$0
Fair/New to Credit

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn $100 when you spend $100 in the first three months
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Enjoy no annual fee, foreign transaction fees, or hidden fees
  • Lock your card in the Capital One Mobile app if it's misplaced, lost or stolen
  • Earn up to $500 a year by referring friends and family when they're approved for a Capital One credit card
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.99% - 27.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), with 1% on all other purchases
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn $100 when you spend $100 in the first three months
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Enjoy no annual fee, foreign transaction fees, or hidden fees
  • Lock your card in the Capital One Mobile app if it's misplaced, lost or stolen
  • Earn up to $500 a year by referring friends and family when they're approved for a Capital One credit card
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.99% - 27.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

The perks on these cards vary. Some offer items like good-grade rewards, Cashback Match, and/or elevated reward levels on merchant categories favored by students, such as gas stations and restaurants.

You’ll also notice that many offer reasonable APRs given that students often have thin credit reports.

Business Cards with Instant Approval

If you’re a business owner, these credit cards allow you to build rewards from your own purchases and the purchases of employees. Most issuers will provide free cards to employees who earn rewards for the owner.

This can be especially lucrative when you have employees who frequently travel and therefore rack up rewards for flights, hotel stays, restaurant dining, and car rentals.

BUSINESS CARD RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase made for your business
  • No Annual Fee
  • Redeem rewards for cash back, gift cards, travel and more through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn rewards faster with employee cards at no additional cost. Set individual spending limits for greater control.
  • With Fraud Protection your card transactions will be monitored for possible signs of fraudulent activity using real-time fraud monitoring.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 12 months
N/A 12 months
15.49% - 21.49% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

BUSINESS CARD RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • 0% Intro APR for the first 12 months; 18.99% - 26.99% variable APR after that
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back for your business on every purchase, everywhere — with no limits or category restrictions
  • No annual fee
  • Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • Rewards won't expire for the life of the account
  • Redeem your cash back rewards for any amount
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
N/A
18.99% - 26.99% (Variable)
$0
Good

BUSINESS CARD RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • Earn a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles – equal to $500 in travel – once you spend $4,500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, everywhere, no limits or category restrictions, and miles won't expire for the life of the account
  • Transfer your miles to 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Redeem your miles instantly for any travel-related purchases, from flights and hotels to ride-sharing services
  • Fly through security with one statement credit for either the $85 TSA PreCheck® application fee or the $100 Global Entry application fee
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
23.99% (Variable)
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Excellent, Good

Business credit cards may offer elevated tiered or quarterly rewards in addition to their base reward level. Their benefits are usually geared to business expenses, such as supplies, travel, travel insurance, and dining.

Some cards single out business-to-business services, such as phone, internet, and cable, for higher rewards. Business cards often offer rewards in the form of miles or points.

Which Credit Cards Have Instant Approval?

The 21 credit cards in this review all offer an instant approval decision for a wide range of consumers, including the credit-challenged, students, frequent travelers, consolidators, and businesses.

Logos for Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion

Each bureau assigns you a credit score, so you should know all three.

Your credit score is one of the key determinants as to whether you will receive instant approval. That means you should know your credit scores from the three major credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.

You need all three because each credit bureau independently assigns you a score, and those scores can differ based on the unique information available to each bureau.

As we show, there are instant-approval credit cards for each credit type, from poor to exceptional. To increase the chances of approval, you can first research to find which of the three bureaus your credit card issuer uses in your state.

For example, you’ll find that Discover favors Equifax, Capital One pulls credit reports from all three bureaus, and Chase prefers Experian (although in some states it favors TransUnion).

Knowing which credit bureau your card uses is useful because it allows you to focus on cleaning up your credit report from that bureau first. By “clean up,” we mean remove errors that hurt your score.

You can attempt this yourself or hire a credit repair company to do the work for you. Several credit repair services can offer expert help for a reasonable fee.

Can I Use a Credit Card Immediately After Approval?

We recently reviewed 27 credit cards that offer same-day use. These cards allow you to use your account even before you receive the physical card.

Until the card arrives, you’re limited to card-not-present (CNP) purchases, either over the phone or online. This is usually implemented using virtual account numbers.

A virtual account number is cooked up by the credit card issuer and bears no relationship to your actual number. Most are one-time use only, but some can be reused.

Typically, you go online to a merchant and enter the virtual card number as you would the actual number. Single-use virtual cards limit the damage fraudsters can inflict if they happen to steal the virtual number.

Eno Virtual NumbersSome issuers offer virtual account numbers on all their cards. For example, you can use the Eno® feature to generate virtual Capital One card numbers.

Another issuer of virtual cards is Citibank, which offers this service on select Citi® cards. In addition, American Express offers its vPayment virtual card service, but only on business cards. Bank of America recently discontinued its ShopSafe® program that provided virtual cards.

Another alternative is to use a third-party service, such as Privacy, that issues virtual card numbers. You can limit a virtual number to a specific merchant, for specific dates, with pre-set spending caps. This keeps your card from being exposed to fraud at a different merchant and limits the damage the fraudster can do.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Credit Card in the Mail?

Typically, it will take seven to 10 days after approval to receive a credit card in your mailbox. That length of time is necessary to create the card, mail it, and wait for delivery. The issuers save money by using standard mail instead of one of the expedited services.

The major credit card issuers have created extremely efficient operations, which means that they can usually print your card and get it in the mail by the next business day. Some exceptions may take longer.

For example, some issuers offer heavy credit cards made of metal and other non-plastic materials. It may require more time to create one of these heavyweight cards.

Issuer Shipping Times

Discover is an issuer that has semi-expedited its card mailing service by using Priority Mail. You can expect to receive your Discover Card in three to five business days after approval.

This is an automatic feature that applies to all cards issued by Discover. In addition, the issuer will replace lost or stolen cards using overnight shipping.

Some other credit card issuers offer overnight shipping for lost, stolen, or damaged cards. They may offer the service for free or may charge a fee.

One example is Chase, which offers free overnight shipping if you ask for it. You can then expect the card to arrive in one to two days.

Capital One sometimes will provide expedited shipping, but it may require you to plead your case.

Ranking Methodology

Our rankings of the best credit cards with instant approval are categorized by credit score requirements, rewards offered, and special qualifying criteria, such as being a student or owning a business. We evaluated each card’s likelihood of approval for poor credit applicants, the ability to rebuild credit with responsible use, APRs and annual fees, 0% promotional periods, and other criteria relevant to this article.

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