The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Monday, November 30, 2020

How Long Does It Take to Get a Credit Card?

How Long Does It Take To Get A Credit Card

credit card advice

Adam West
By: Adam West
Updated: June 18, 2020
Advertiser Disclosure

After extensive searching, countless comparisons, and laborious decision-making, you finally did it. You finally chose a credit card. It took work — there are dozens of options simply for cash back cards alone — but you’re confident you made the right choice.

Now, all you need to do is apply and wait for your shiny new card to show up. But after so much agonizing over just the right card, it’s hard to remain patient. When is it going to come? Just how long does it take to get a credit card?

Not that long ago, when paper applications were the norm, the whole process — from application to card activation — could take weeks. Today, thanks to the wonder of the internet and digital applications, getting your credit card can be quicker than you think. In the following article, we’ll dive into the modern application and approval process as well as look at some of our top choices for credit cards for a wide range of credit scores.

Approval | Shipping

Approval Can Take Minutes with the Right Card

While you can still use an old-school paper application to apply for a credit card, online applications are the name of the game these days. Almost every credit card issuer offers online applications, which can be reached through the issuer’s website. Most online applications take only a few minutes to fill out and can provide a response in less than a minute.

Of course, near-instant responses aren’t always the case, as anyone who has received a “pending” notice knows all too well. Reasons for a pending application can be as varied as the applicants themselves, but often occur if your credit profile is on the borderline of acceptance for the card and needs a manual overview.

Depending on the reason your application decision couldn’t be made by the computer when you applied, responses can take days, up to weeks, to come in the mail. You can limit the chance of a pending application by being sure you fit the general credit requirements of the card you select.

Good Credit | Fair Credit | Poor Credit | No/Limited Credit

Best Cards for Good Credit

Consumers with good credit are the least likely to experience a credit-related “pending” application, but it can still happen if you apply for a credit card that expects excellent credit instead. Other reasons your application response may be delayed include too many recent accounts (think Chase’s 5/24 Rule) or too little credit history.

In many cases, calling the card’s application customer service line can help you determine the reason your application didn’t receive an immediate response. In the case your credit profile just didn’t quite make the cut, don’t worry; there are plenty of other options for good-credit consumers who want a solid credit card.

GOOD CREDIT 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.
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
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
GOOD CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
5.0
OVERALL RATING
4.9/5.0
  • Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 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 $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®
  • Redeem on travel—from vacation rentals to car rentals and more. Plus transfer your miles to over 10+ travel loyalty programs
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.24% - 24.49% (Variable)
$95
Excellent, Good
Blue Cash Preferred® Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

GOOD CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
4.9/5.0
  • Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year on purchases (then 1%). Also earn 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
  • Earn 3% cash back on transit, including U.S. gas stations, taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses, and more. All other purchases earn 1% cash back.
  • Access to Global Assist Hotline - 24/7 medical, legal, financial and other select emergency assistance and coordination services
  • 0% intro APR for 12 months from the date of account opening
  • $95 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
N/A
13.99% - 23.99% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

+See More Cards for Good Credit

Best Cards for Fair Credit

Those with fair credit are some of the most likely to wind up with a “pending” notice, particularly when applying for prime credit cards that usually cater to good credit or better. A low credit score, too much existing debt, a very limited credit history, or a too-recent negative mark could all contribute to an applicant needing to wait longer to receive a decision.

In addition to being sure to apply for cards that are friendly to fair-credit applicants, like those below, you can also check for pre-qualification offers to judge your chances of approval. While pre-qualifying for a credit card won’t guarantee acceptance (let alone immediate acceptance), it can be a good indicator of whether you’ll be approved when you apply.

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

+See More Cards for Fair Credit

Best Cards for Poor Credit

At the bottom of the credit score totem pole, poor-credit consumers aren’t necessarily the most likely to get a pending application — but they are the most likely to be flat-out rejected. With poor credit, your credit card options are generally going to be restricted to subprime unsecured credit cards and secured credit cards.

Which card you select when you have bad credit will likely depend on your means at the time. If you can put forward a decent deposit, a secured credit card will typically offer much lower fees and interest rates than a subprime card, and deposits are fully refundable. That said, subprime unsecured credit cards will often require less money up front.

BAD CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.8
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
Bank of America® Cash Back Secured Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.5/5.0
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then earn 1%
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • A minimum refundable security deposit of $300 (maximum of $4,900) is required to open this account
  • Access your FICO® Score updated monthly for free, within your Mobile Banking app or in Online Banking
  • Optional overdraft protection option helps prevent declined purchases, returned checks or other overdrafts when you link your eligible Bank of America® checking account to your credit card. Transfer fees may apply.
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
23.99% Variable
$0
Bad/Limited
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

+See More Cards for Poor Credit

Best Cards for No/Limited Credit

Consumers who have yet to establish a credit history will have many of the same issues faced by those with fair credit, especially when applying for unsecured cards in the prime market. If you’re not worried about rewards, then no-frills entry-level credit cards are the best bet to establish credit.

If you’re in the market for rewards, however, there are some good secured credit card options, as well as several student cards that offer cash back rewards with no (or small) annual fees. Don’t expect rock-bottom APRs or big-dollar signup bonuses at this point; focus on building your credit the right way to unlock better cards down the road.

NO/LIMITED 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
Surge Mastercard® Review

at Celtic Bank'ssecure website

NO/LIMITED 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
NO/LIMITED CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.7
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

+See More Cards for No/Limited Credit

Shipping Usually Takes 7 to 10 Days

Once your application has officially been approved, the real wait begins as your card makes it way to your mailbox. And that wait can last more than a week — between seven and 10 days, to be specific.

That’s because your approved application not only has to travel through the bank’s system so a new account can be created, but also because, well, your actual card has to be created. The EMV chip needs to be programmed with your information and inserted into the plastic (or, in some cases, metal) card, and your name imprinted or etched into the surface. After that, you still have to wait for the card to be prepared for shipping and sent through the U.S. Postal Service or another carrier of the card issuer’s choice.

In the case that you simply can’t wait a week for your new card to arrive, you may have the option to request expedited shipping — but it will likely cost you, as the majority of issuers will charge a fee for expedited shipping. Want your card lickety-split without the fee? These issuers will quick-time your card without charging a premium for the privilege.

Chase | Discover

Best Chase Credit Cards

A popular purveyor of consumer credit cards, Chase’s catalog of card options includes a range of rewards cards and a collection of co-branded options. And you can have any of those cards expedited for free simply by submitting a request, either through a secure online message or by calling Chase customer service at 1-800-432-3117.

EXPERT'S 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.
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
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
Chase Freedom FlexSM Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
4.9/5.0
  • 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 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
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
EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • Earn 50,000 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®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
16.99%-23.99% Variable
$550
Good/Excellent

+See More Chase Credit Cards

Best Discover Credit Cards

The Discover it® cards are hugely popular for its quarterly rotating cash back bonus categories that can help cardholders earn tons of rewards in useful purchase categories. And getting your new Discover card is the quickest of all, as Discover expedites new cards as a matter of course, no fees required.

+See More Discover Credit Cards

Patience Can Be Key

Waiting sucks. After all the time and effort we tend to put into making decisions, the wait for the results can feel interminable. But, as with most things in life, patience can go a long way in the credit card process, whether it’s patience with a pending application or simply being patient as you wait for your card to arrive.

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