If you have a good credit history, you might be able to have a new credit card in your hands in as little as one day. Certain card issuers offer immediate application and approval over the telephone, and may agree to send you the new card by overnight express delivery. The process may take longer if you have a low credit score. It's important to fully understand the credit card terms before applying, because pitfalls might await.
A Phone Call Away
The fastest process involves a phone call to the card issuer during which you verbally apply and then receive an instant decision. The application taker will use an automated system to verify your information, including your credit score, Social Security number, personal and financial data. Several websites list credit card issuers that offer instant-approval cards, many with low annual fees. With expedited shipping, you'll have the card the next day, but you can use certain features even before then. For example, you might be able to arrange a balance transfer from another credit card before receiving your new card.
A Cautious View
It's important to understand the terms of a credit card that promises instant approval. Some of these are prepaid or secured cards in which you first deposit money or maintain a minimum balance in your bank account. If you mistakenly apply for a debit card instead of a credit card, you can access your own cash but the card won't do anything to improve your credit rating. Also, check a card's annual and penalty fees, credit limits and interest rates to ensure it is the right fit and that you're getting a good deal. If you have poor credit, the issuer might require a co-signer, and this could delay your receipt of the new card.
Strategies for Raising Your Credit Score
An instant credit card is almost never available to an applicant with a low credit score unless it is somehow secured, and these cards might have very low credit limits. For example, as of 2015 persons with poor credit could apply for a Mid America Bank Total Visa Credit Card with an initial credit limit of $300. However, you can take steps to improve your credit score and perhaps gain access to unsecured credit cards. Helpful actions include paying off any past-due credit card balances, making full payments on time and checking your credit report for errors. Three major credit bureaus in the U.S. issue credit reports and scores, and they are obligated to respond to your requests for corrections or explanations.
Getting the Right Secured Card
Some issuers of secured credit cards do not report your transactions to the credit bureaus, which means using these cards does nothing to improve your credit score. The card issuer will reveal its reporting procedures, but you may have to ask. It's unrealistic to expect your credit score to suddenly and significantly improve through the use of a secured credit card. However, over a period of months, or possibly a year or two, you should see an improvement in your credit score, according to Credit Karma, a provider of free credit scores.
Eric Bank is a senior business, finance and real estate writer, freelancing since 2002. He has written thousands of articles about business, finance, insurance, real estate, investing, annuities, taxes, credit repair, accounting and student loans. Eric writes articles, blogs and SEO-friendly website content for dozens of clients worldwide, including get.com, badcredit.org and valuepenguin.com. Eric holds two Master's Degrees -- in Business Administration and in Finance. His website is ericbank.com.