The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Sunday, August 9, 2020

21 Credit Cards with Instant Approval by Category

Credit Cards With Instant Approval By Category

credit card advice

Eric Bank
By: Eric Bank
Posted: January 29, 2020

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.

Surge Mastercard® Review

at Celtic Bank'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.1/5.0
  • All credit types welcome to apply!
  • Free access to your Vantage 3.0 score From TransUnion* (When you sign up for e-statements)
  • Monthly reporting to the three major credit bureaus
  • See if you’re Pre-Qualified without impacting your credit score
  • Fast and easy application process; results in seconds
  • Free online account access 24/7
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
See website for Details
N/A
25.90% - 29.99%
See website for Details
Bad, Poor Credit

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • No annual fee
  • Unlike a prepaid card, there is regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
  • Accepted at millions of locations worldwide
  • Make the minimum required security deposit and you'll get an initial credit line of $200. Plus, deposit more money before your account opens to get a higher credit line
  • Access to an authorized bank account is required to make your $49, $99 or $200 refundable security deposit
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months with no additional deposit needed
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Limited, Bad
Indigo® Unsecured Mastercard® - Prior Bankruptcy is Okay Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • Pre-qualifying today will not affect your credit score
  • Less than perfect credit histories can qualify, even with prior bankruptcy!
  • Mobile friendly online access from anywhere
  • Fraud protection for stolen or lost cards
  • Account history is reported to the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.9%
$0 - $99
Fair/Good

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

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

3.8/5.0
  • Pay no annual fee
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
  • Check out quickly and securely with a contactless card, without touching a terminal or handing your card to a cashier. Just hover your card over a contactless reader, wait for the confirmation, and you're all set.
  • Pay by check, online or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.5/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Earn cash rewards without signing up for rotating categories
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • No limit to how much cash back you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$39
Average, Fair, Limited
Surge Mastercard® Review

at Celtic Bank'ssecure website

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.1/5.0
  • All credit types welcome to apply!
  • Free access to your Vantage 3.0 score From TransUnion* (When you sign up for e-statements)
  • Monthly reporting to the three major credit bureaus
  • See if you’re Pre-Qualified without impacting your credit score
  • Fast and easy application process; results in seconds
  • Free online account access 24/7
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
See website for Details
N/A
25.90% - 29.99%
See website for Details
Bad, Poor Credit

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

5.0/5.0
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No annual fee.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
N/A
14.99% - 23.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn cash back twice. Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • 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 a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
0% for 18 months
13.99% - 23.99% (variable)
$0
Excellent/Good
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card Review

at Bank Of America'ssecure website

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • 3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings
  • 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • You’ll earn 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then earn 1%
  • There's no annual fee and your cash rewards don't expire. Each month, as you plan for future purchases, you can change your 3% choice category online or through our mobile app.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 Billing Cycles
0% Intro APR for 15 Billing Cycles (for balance transfers made in the first 60 days)
13.99% - 23.99% (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

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That's 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.99% - 22.99% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card Review

at Bank Of America'ssecure website

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere, every time and no expiration on points
  • Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees while earning points to use for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars or baggage fees
  • Introductory 0%† APR for your first 12 billing cycles for purchases.  After that, a Variable APR that's currently 14.99% to 22.99% will apply.
  • 25,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening – which can be redeemed for a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Preferred Rewards members earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase
  • That means you could earn up to 2.62 points for every $1 you spend, everywhere, every time.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 12 billing cycles
N/A
14.99% - 22.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • New Offer! Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases - with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more - your points don't expire as long as your account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.99% - 20.99% Variable
$95
Good/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.

0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • No Late Fees, No Penalty Rate, and No Annual Fee... Ever
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months from date of first transfer. All transfers must be completed in first 4 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • If you transfer a balance with this offer, after your 0% Intro purchase APR expires, both new purchases and unpaid purchase balances will automatically accrue interest until all balances, including your transferred balances, are paid in full
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
0% for 21 months
14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months from date of first transfer. After that, the variable APR will be 13.74% - 23.74%, based on your creditworthiness. All transfers must be completed in first 4 months.
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 13.74% - 23.74%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • If you transfer a balance with this offer, after your 0% Intro purchase APR expires, both new purchases and unpaid purchase balances will automatically accrue interest until all balances, including your transferred balance, are paid in full.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
  • Get free access to your FICO® score online.
  • With Citi Entertainment℠, get special access to purchase tickets to thousands of events, including concerts, sporting events, dining experiences and more.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
0% for 21 months
13.74% - 23.74% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn cash back twice. Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • 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 a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
0% for 18 months
13.99% - 23.99% (variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

By transferring your balances to one card, you simplify your monthly payment schedule and perhaps reduce your monthly minimum payments. The period of 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.

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.2/5.0
  • Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. Pay on time to boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month
  • Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • You can help build your credit with responsible use of a card like this
  • Get Eno®, your Capital One® assistant, to manage your account via text, receive alerts, and shop safer online
  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (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

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • New Offer! Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases - with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more - your points don't expire as long as your account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.99% - 20.99% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent
Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BUSINESS CARD RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year
  • Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other card purchases with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases
  • Chase is not an affiliate partner with CardRates and does not review editorial content on our site
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 12 months
N/A 12 months
13.24% - 19.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

BUSINESS CARD RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase made for your business
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • No Annual Fee
  • Chase is not an affiliate partner with CardRates and does not review editorial content on our site
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 12 months
N/A 12 months
13.24% - 19.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

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 Numbers

Some 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.

CardRates’ reviews undergo a thorough editorial integrity process to ensure that content is not compromised by advertiser influence.

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