Here's How Long It Typically Takes To Get Approved For A Credit Card

With a certain few exceptions, like airline-branded credit cards promoted during flights and store- branded cards (which you should avoid) at checkout counters, most consumers will find themselves applying for their next credit card online. It's always a tenuous situation as you carefully input all your highly sensitive personal and financial information and then finally click or tap that dreaded "submit" button. 


The good news is that many consumers will find themselves approved for a new credit card almost instantly, though the new card will typically take about a week or two to arrive in regular mail. Other card applicants, meanwhile, may be notified that a human underwriter needs to verify their identity and/or review their credit report more carefully. Still other applicants will need to provide additional information before a decision can be reached. All told, applicants can expect to get approved for a new credit card in anywhere from a few seconds to up to about two weeks. Let's break down what determines whether you'll breeze through or be stuck waiting.

Instant credit card approvals

If you have an excellent credit history and commensurate high credit score — along with sustainable debt-to-income metrics — it's possible to be approved for a new credit card instantly. Once approved, most issuers ship credit cards via regular first-class mail, though some ultra-premium rewards cards, such as the Platinum Card® from American Express, will dispatch more quickly and arrive in two to three days. Expedited shipping might also be available for less illustrious cards, though likely at an extra cost.


A somewhat recent development in the credit card approval process is instant access to the newly- minted card via a virtual account number. The virtual account number permits use of the card online and in digital wallets while the applicant waits for their physical credit card to arrive. Interestingly, some users will likely want to continue using their virtual card number even after they receive the physical credit card because it's a randomly generated number — not the actual credit card number — which is more secure for shopping online.

Resolving application questions

If your card application is not approved instantly, you'll probably see a message like "application pending" or "application under review." While that's not exactly the best outcome, it's not a reason to panic either. What this likely means is your application will be reviewed by a human underwriter. That review could be a result of a marginally acceptable credit score or perhaps you've applied for or opened several new accounts in a short period of time, which could be a sign of financial distress.


Another common reason for a delayed approval is if the card issuer needs to verify something on your application, such as income, assets, or proof of identity. Overcoming this hurdle might involve providing copies of your pay stubs or account statements that can confirm what you've stated to be accurate. Other times, the delay stems from a simple mistake or a typo on the application, like an incorrect mailing address, that can be resolved by providing a document such as a utility bill.

Finally, your credit reports from the major credit reporting agencies might be frozen as either a proactive security precaution or as a result of recent fraud. You'll need to unlock them so the card issuer can access and view your credit reports to reach a decision on your application. Similarly, credit reports with a fraud alert will require the applicant to confirm the credit card application is legitimate and intentional. Generally speaking, these actions can take one day or as long as two weeks to resolve.


If your application is declined

While credit card applicants are in "pending review" limbo, anxious types can check the status of their approval by visiting a page on the card issuer's website or by phone. In either case, you'll need to provide a few pieces of personal information, such as your ZIP code or the last four digits of your Social Security number, to prove it's a legitimate, authorized inquiry. In some cases, applicants may be able to reach out to the card issuer to discuss the application rather than waiting to be contacted, which may speed up the approval process.


If your application is denied, you may still qualify for a different type of credit card designed for applicants with risky credit. Such credit cards may carry higher interest rates, charge significant fees, require a security deposit, or a combination of all three. Still, these so-called "instant approval" cards are a great way to get back on the path toward rebuilding a good credit history and improving your credit score.