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Best instant approval credit cards

No need to wait to start shopping.

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If you've had a last-minute expense and needed extra money fast, you've probably realized that applying for -- and getting -- a standard credit card can take a while. Even after your application is accepted, you still need to wait for the card to arrive in the mail. Instant approval credit cards can save you considerable time. And some companies even provide you with the credit card number and charging privileges as soon as you're approved.

Read more: Best rewards credit card for 2021

It's important to do your research before you apply to make sure which card is right for you. The following credit cards were selected based on speed of approval, card features, low fees and the types of credit profiles most likely to get approved. 

Best instant approval credit card overall

Card Highlights
Intro BonusN/A
APR8.99% -29.99% APR
Recommended Credit Excellent/Good
Reward Rates
  • Unlimited cash back on payments - 3% on Home, Auto and Health categories
  • 1% on everything else
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Additional Details
Foreign Transaction Fees $0
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Unlimited cash back on payments - 3% on Home, Auto and Health categories
  • 1% on everything else

Our Take

If you need a card right away for an upcoming expense, the Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa* is available to use as soon as you're approved. For the ultimate flexibility, this card is a combination of credit card and line of credit to cover unexpected expenses, with monthly payments deducted automatically from your bank account. Plus, you'll earn cash back as you go. Once you're approved, all you need to do is sign into your Upgrade account to find your virtual card number. You can use the number for online purchases until your physical card arrives by mail.

Best instant approval credit card for rebuilding credit

Card Highlights
Intro BonusN/A
APR23.99% Variable
Recommended Credit Bad Credit
Reward Rates
  • Earn 1% cash back rewards on eligible gas, grocery purchases and mobile phone, internet, cable and satellite TV services. Terms apply.
Annual Fee$75 for the first year. After that, $99 annually ($8.25 per month)
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Additional Details
Foreign Transaction Fees Either $1 or 3% of each purchase in U.S. dollars, whichever is greater.
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn 1% cash back rewards on eligible gas, grocery purchases and mobile phone, internet, cable and satellite TV services. Terms apply.

Our Take

The Credit One Bank Platinum Visa for Rebuilding Credit* is meant for individuals with less-than-stellar credit who'd like to improve their credit standing. This means that the majority of applicants have a good chance of getting good news right away. New card holders typically start off with small credit limits (based on their credit score). Credit One will periodically review accounts and increase credit limits based on payment history. When you're approved for the Credit One Bank Platinum Visa for Rebuilding Credit, you can start making payments through Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay, as well as manage your card directly from the mobile app.

Best introductory APR instant approval credit card

See Rates and Fees Terms Apply
Card Highlights
Intro BonusEarn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the Card in the first 6 months of Card membership, up to $150 back. Plus, earn $100 back after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months of card membership. You will receive cash back in the form of statement credits.
APR13.99%-23.99% Variable
Recommended Credit Excellent, Good
Reward Rates
  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%)
  • 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores
  • 1% Cash Back on other purchases
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APR0% on Purchases for 15 months
Additional Details
Balance Transfer Fee N/A
Late Payment Fee Up to $40
Foreign Transaction Fees 2.7% of each transaction after conversion to US dollars.
Penalty APR 29.99% Variable
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%)
  • 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores
  • 1% Cash Back on other purchases

Our Take

American Express can provide you with nearly instant approval as long as your identity can be properly verified. The Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express is a good instant-approval option when you need to make a major purchase or pay for an emergency. You'll get an introductory interest-free period of 15 months on purchases (13.99% to 23.99% variable APR thereafter), which will come in handy to pay back an unexpected expense over time without wiping out your emergency fund. Once you're approved, you can access your card number by logging into your account. 

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

Best instant approval card for travel

Card Highlights
Intro BonusGet 50,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) with this offer. To qualify, make purchases of $2,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account.
APR15.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases
Recommended Credit Excellent/Good
Reward Rates
  • Earn unlimited 3 miles for every $1 spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases.
  • Unlimited 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
Annual Fee$75
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Additional Details
Balance Transfer Fee Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
Balance Transfer APR15.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on balance transfers
Late Payment Fee Up to $40
Foreign Transaction Fees None
Penalty APR up to 29.99% APR
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn unlimited 3 miles for every $1 spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases.
  • Unlimited 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

Our Take

Travelers will appreciate the perks that come with the Alaska Airlines Visa® Credit Card* including 50,000 bonus miles and Alaska's companion fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after spending $2,000 in the first 90 days, which gets you a round-trip ticket to many destinations. You also receive one Alaska Airlines' companion fare per card anniversary year for $121 (plus taxes and fees) and one free checked bag for you and up to six guests on the reservation. You won't be limited to Alaska Airlines for redemption either. You can use your miles with any travel partner in the Oneworld Alliance. If you fit Bank of America's credit profile, you'll likely receive your new credit card number along with approval right away. 

Best instant approval credit card for below-average credit

Card Highlights
Intro BonusN/A
APR26.99% (Variable)
Recommended Credit Limited, Bad
Reward RatesN/A
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APRN/A
Balance Transfer Fee $0 at this Transfer APR
Balance Transfer APR26.99% (Variable)
Late Payment Fee Up to $40
Foreign Transaction Fees None
Penalty APR None

Our Take

Most instant approval credit cards make a decision fast, but the decision may not always be in your favor. It's especially true if your credit score falls below a Good rating. A secured credit card -- a card requiring a security deposit in exchange for a credit account -- may be the best option. The Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card* is designed for anyone with fair or below-average credit and offers low security deposit requirements. 

Most secured cards expect you to provide 100% of the credit limit in the form of a security deposit. Capital One may only require as little as $49 or $99 to get a $200 initial credit line. If you maintain your card account in good standing, Capital One may automatically consider you for a higher credit line in as little as six months. If approved, you may be able to log into the app to grab your new card number and start making purchases right away.

Best instant approval credit card for Amazon

Card Highlights
Intro BonusUp to $150 Amazon Gift Card instantly upon approval
APR14.24% to 22.24% Variable
Recommended Credit N/A
Reward Rates
  • 5% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market with eligible Prime membership*
  • 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores*
  • 1% back on all other purchases*
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Additional Details
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Balance Transfer APR14.24% to 22.24% Variable
Late Payment Fee Up to $39
Foreign Transaction Fees None
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • 5% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market with eligible Prime membership*
  • 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores*
  • 1% back on all other purchases*

Our Take

The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card is an excellent choice for shoppers who want to earn cash-back rewards that can be applied to purchases, transferred to a bank account or applied as a statement credit. Once you're approved, you'll see the credit card in your Amazon account and ready to use at checkout. You'll need to wait for the physical card before you can shop at retail stores, but considering how much is available through Amazon or Whole Foods online, you may be able to purchase what you need without the mail carrier holding you up.

Best instant approval card for iPhone users

Card Highlights
Intro BonusN/A
APR10.99% to 21.99% (Variable)
Recommended Credit N/A
Reward Rates
  • Apple Card gives you unlimited 3% Daily Cash back on everything you buy at Apple
  • With every purchase you make using your Apple Card with Apple Pay, you get 2% Daily Cash back
Annual Fee$0
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Apple Card gives you unlimited 3% Daily Cash back on everything you buy at Apple
  • With every purchase you make using your Apple Card with Apple Pay, you get 2% Daily Cash back

Our Take

The Apple Card is a Mastercard issued by Goldman Sachs. According to Apple, the card "lives on your iPhone." As long as you're using Apple Pay, you won't need the physical version of the credit card, although one will follow in the mail. Daily Cash gives you cash back on your purchases the same day of the transaction. You'll find that the cash balance is available in the card app for payments or to send to a friend. You can find out if you're preapproved for the Apple Card without a dent in your credit score before you formally apply. If you get the green light, you can use the card right away through Apple Pay.

FAQs

What credit score do I need for instant approval?

Credit cards are not one-size-fits-all products. There are instant approval cards available for everyone -- from someone starting out with no credit to individuals with excellent credit. This credit card guide includes credit requirements for the cards reviewed so you can gauge your likelihood of approval ahead of time.

What's the difference between prequalification and preapproval?

Prequalification and preapproval for a credit card both help you understand your chances of approval without hurting your credit. The difference between credit card prequalification and credit card preapproval is who initiates the request -- you or the credit card company. 

If you decide to see your approval chances, you can get prequalified for a credit card by visiting the card provider's prequalification page. When a credit card company reaches out to you with a credit card offer, it will often say you are 'preapproved' for a credit card. You can then follow your preapproval link to complete the application process.

For both, the card company does a soft inquiry on your credit report that does not affect your credit score. A hard inquiry happens if you actually apply. In addition, you're not obligated to apply if you're prequalified or preapproved.

Does a preapproval offer guarantee approval?

A preapproval is more like an invitation to apply for a credit card. The chances are high you'll be approved. However, you're not guaranteed a credit card yet; you've only met the initial criteria that card issuers use to screen potential cardholders. Once you apply, the credit issuer performs a more detailed, hard inquiry on your credit to make a definitive decision.

What's the difference between instant approval and instant use?

Instant approval credit cards will provide you with an answer as soon as you complete the online card application. However, you may still have to wait for the physical card to arrive in the mail so you can activate it for use. 

Instant use credit cards are available immediately after approval. Card companies that offer instant use cards will give you the card number and expiration date as soon as you're approved.

Cards researched

  • Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa
  • Upgrade Card
  • Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
  • Apple Card
  • Credit One Bank Platinum Visa for Rebuilding Credit 
  • Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express 
  • Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
  • Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Credit Card
  • Digital First Card
  • United℠ Explorer Card
  • PayPal Cashback Mastercard
  • Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card
  • OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
  • Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

More credit card advice 

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express, click here

*All information about the Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa, Credit One Bank Platinum Visa for Rebuilding Credit, Alaska Airlines Visa Credit Card, and the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.