The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Sunday, May 9, 2021

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.

Discover it® Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

GOOD CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
4.9/5.0
  • 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.
  • Redeem cash back in any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • #1 Most Trusted Credit Card according to Investor’s Business Daily.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR
$0
Good/Excellent
GOOD CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • 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—including flights, vacation rentals, car rentals and more. Plus transfer your miles to over 15+ 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
Chase Freedom Flex℠ Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

GOOD CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on 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%.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.
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

+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
★★★★★
4.6
OVERALL RATING
4.0/5.0
  • 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
★★★★★
4.6
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
More Rewards American Express® Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

FAIR CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.6
OVERALL RATING
4.5/5.0
  • Earn 10,000 bonus points (a $100 value) when you spend $1,000 within 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 3X points at restaurants and on food delivery, 3X points at supermarkets, 3X points on gas and transit, and 1X points on everything else
  • No annual fee, no balance transfer fee, no foreign transaction fees, and no cash advance fees
  • Points can be redeemed for cash, travel, gift cards, and merchandise
  • Cardholders get roadside assistance plus up to 25% off car rentals with car rental loss & damage insurance included
  • Must be a member of Navy Federal Credit Union to qualify
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
9.65% to 18.00% (variable)
$0
Average to Good

+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.

Merrick Bank Double Your Line™ Platinum Visa® Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.1/5.0
  • Credit lines range from $500-$1,250 which double to $1,000-$2,500 after your account qualifies. No security deposit required.
  • Double your credit line by making at least your minimum payment on time each month for the first 7 months your account is open.
  • See if you are pre-approved within minutes, without affecting your credit score.
  • Build or rebuild your credit. As you pay your bill every month, we report to all three major credit reporting agencies.
  • Get 100% U.S.-based customer service & get your FICO® Credit Score for free each month.
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen. Access your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Get help staying on track with Auto Pay and account alerts.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
19.45% - 28.45% Variable
$0-$72
See website for Details*
BAD CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.6
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
Surge Mastercard® Review

at Celtic Bank'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.6
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
24.99% – 29.99% (Variable)
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
★★★★★
4.6
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
NO/LIMITED CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.6
OVERALL RATING
4.0/5.0
  • 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
Discover it® Student Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

NO/LIMITED CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.6
OVERALL RATING
4.5/5.0
  • 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.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • Earn rewards while building your credit history that can help you after graduation. And, get your free Credit Scorecard that includes your FICO® Credit Score and important details that help make up your score.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Refer-a-Friend: Once you become a Discover it® Student cardmember, you can earn a statement credit each time you refer a friend and they’re approved. Over half a million students got Discover Cards from their friends' recommendations.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 6 months
10.99% for 6 months
12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR
$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
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • 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%.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.
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 Flex℠ Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on 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%.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.
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
4.7/5.0
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 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, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.99% - 22.99% Variable
$95
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
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
4.9/5.0
  • 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.
  • Redeem cash back in any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • #1 Most Trusted Credit Card according to Investor’s Business Daily.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR
$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: Only Discover will automatically match 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.
  • New! 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.
  • No Blackout Dates. Simply pay for travel purchases like airlines, hotels, rental cars, and more with your Discover it® Miles card.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 14 months
10.99% Intro APR for 14 months
11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR
$0
Good/Excellent
Discover it® chrome Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • 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. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Earn cash back on your next road trip with 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.
  • Redeem your cash back for any amount, any time. Cash rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. Based Customer Service available any time.
  • 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 14 months
0% for 14 months
11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR
$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.

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