The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Wednesday, December 11, 2019

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: September 18, 2019

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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.

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.

Discover it® Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

GOOD CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
5.0
OVERALL RATING
5.0/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
13.49% - 24.49% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent
GOOD CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
5.0
OVERALL RATING
5.0/5.0
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49 - 25.24%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5
  • 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
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months
16.49% - 25.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent
GOOD CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
5.0
OVERALL RATING
4.9/5.0
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day.
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.49% - 24.74% (Variable)
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Excellent, Good

+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
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
  • Pay by check, online or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
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
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • 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
Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® Review

at Credit One'ssecure website

FAIR CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.7
OVERALL RATING
3.8/5.0
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability
  • Qualified applicants will receive a card with a competitive APR and no annual fee along with 1% cash back rewards on all purchases, terms apply
  • View updates to your Experian credit score with free online access, terms apply
  • Make paying your bill easier with the ability to choose your payment due date, terms apply
  • Access your account on-the-go with the Credit One Bank mobile app
  • Never miss an account update with customizable text and email alerts
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
19.74%-25.74% Variable
$0 - $99
Fair

+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
★★★★★
4.7
OVERALL RATING
4.0/5.0
  • No annual fee, and all the credit building benefits with responsible card use
  • Unlike a prepaid card, it builds credit when used responsibly, with regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
  • Access to an authorized bank account is required to make your $49, $99 or $200 refundable security deposit
  • 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
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time with no additional deposit needed
  • Easily manage your account 24/7 with online access, by phone or using our mobile app
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Limited, Bad
Fingerhut Credit Account Review

at Fingerhut'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.7
OVERALL RATING
4.0/5.0
  • Easy application! Get a credit decision in seconds.
  • Build your credit history – Fingerhut reports to all 3 major credit bureaus
  • Use your line of credit to shop thousands of items from great brands like Samsung, KitchenAid, and DeWalt
  • Not an access card
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
See Issuers Website
$0
Poor Credit
Total Visa® Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.5
OVERALL RATING
3.5/5.0
  • Checking Account Required
  • Fast and easy application process; response provided in seconds
  • A genuine Visa credit card accepted by merchants nationwide across the USA and online
  • Manageable monthly payments
  • If approved, simply pay a Program Fee to open your account and access your available credit
  • Reports monthly to all three major credit bureaus
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
See Terms
See Terms
Fair, Bad 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
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
  • Pay by check, online or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited
Discover it® Student Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

NO/LIMITED CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.7
OVERALL RATING
4.5/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 6 months
10.99% for 6 months
19.49% Variable
$0
Fair/New to Credit
Discover it® Student chrome Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

NO/LIMITED CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.6
OVERALL RATING
4.0/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 6 months
10.99% for 6 months
19.49% Variable
$0
Fair/New to Credit

+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 $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49 - 25.24%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5
  • 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
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months
16.49% - 25.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent
EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
5.0
OVERALL RATING
5.0/5.0
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • 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!
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49 - 25.24%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
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
16.49% - 25.24% 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®
  • Named "Best Premium Travel Credit Card" for 2018 by MONEY® Magazine
  • $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 & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • 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
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
18.49% - 25.49% Variable
$450
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.

Discover it® Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
5.0
OVERALL RATING
5.0/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
13.49% - 24.49% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent
Discover it® Balance Transfer Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
4.9/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 6 months
0% for 18 months
13.49% - 24.49% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent
Discover it® Miles Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • UNLIMITED BONUS: Discover will match ALL the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. That’s $700 towards travel! The more you earn, the more you get.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases - with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates. Simply pay for travel purchases like airlines, hotels, rental cars, and more with your Discover it® Miles card.
  • Miles Pay You Back. Easily redeem Miles as a statement credit for travel purchases. Or get cash.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
10.99% for 14 months
13.49% - 24.49% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

+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.