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When you want to get a new credit card, it’s understandable that you want to get it as soon as possible. The good news is credit card approval tend to happen pretty quickly these days — many online applications can give you an answer within about a minute. However, there’s no guarantee it’ll happen that way. If you’re looking for an instant approval credit card, there are a few things you need to know.
What Is an Instant Approval Credit Card?
The first thing you need to know is getting approved for a credit card is never a guarantee. Even credit cards that are marketed as instant approval or guaranteed approval will have some minimum requirements you’ll have to meet.
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An “instant approval credit card,” or a “guaranteed approval credit card,” may refer to a variety of things. You may see those terms on credit card applications that don’t require a credit check, an online form for credit card pre-approval or an application for a prepaid card, which is in fact a debit card, meaning it won’t help you build credit.
What to Watch Out for With Instant Approval Credit Cards
Many credit cards that advertise themselves as instant or guaranteed approval have a lot of fees, aren’t widely accepted or don’t report to the major credit reporting agencies, which means they won’t help you build credit. (You can learn more about what a good credit score is.) So when you’re looking at credit cards, be sure to read the terms and conditions so you are aware of any fees you may incur, understand where you can use your card, know what it takes to qualify for the card and know whether or not your card activity will be reported to the credit bureaus.
How Long Does it Take to Get Approved for a Credit Card?
While digital credit card applications and underwriting algorithms make it possible to get near-instant approval, speed is never guaranteed. It’s possible a credit card issuer may want to do an additional review of your application after you’ve submitted it online, after which they’ll inform you of their decision by mail. That process can take a few days or a couple of weeks.
How Do You Get Approved for a Credit Card?
Credit card companies will look at a variety of factors when deciding whether or not to approve you, including your credit history, income and whether you rent or own your home. You’ll have to provide your Social Security number or taxpayer identification number so they can check your credit history for things like your existing debt obligations and how often you’ve applied for credit in the last several months.
How to Increase Your Chances of Getting a Credit Card
There are credit cards for people with all types of credit scores. As always, the credit card offers with the best features, lowest interest rates and richest rewards are reserved for consumers with good or excellent credit. While getting rejected for a credit card won’t hurt your credit score, it doesn’t make sense to apply for a credit card you’re not qualified for, because applying for a credit card tends to generate a hard inquiry on your credit report. Hard inquiries have a slightly negative effect on your credit score, so apply for new credit sparingly.
By checking your credit score before you apply for a credit card, you can get a good idea of what credit cards you might qualify for. You can check two of your credit scores for free on our site and you can use that information to help you find a credit card.
How to Choose a Credit Card
What type of card features you choose depends on how you plan to use them. If you pay your balance in full, you may want to opt for a card with rewards. And if you have some big purchases coming up, you may want to apply for a card with a low interest rate or low introductory rate to minimize finance charges as you pay down the card balance. If you’re trying to build credit for the first time or need to make a comeback from a past full of credit problems, a secured credit card may be your best bet. No matter what you’re looking for, you can use our credit card hub to help you figure out what card makes the most sense for you.
It’s also a good idea to check your credit reports before applying for any type of new credit. You can get your free annual copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies.
Lucy Lazarony contributed reporting.
This article has been updated. It was originally published September 30, 2014.