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Best Instant Use Credit Cards of 2021

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If you don't want to wait for your new card to arrive in the mail, consider an instant-use credit card. Once you're approved, the card issuer might share your account information so you can shop online. Or, you may be able to add the card to a digital wallet and use the card for in-store purchases.

2 Partner Offers

Our Picks for the Best Instant-Use Cards

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

6% cash back on up to $6,000 in purchases at U.S. supermarkets each year (then 1%)
6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services
3% cash back on transit
3% cash back at U.S. gas stations
1% cash back on all other eligible purchases
$95 annual fee (waived for the first year)

American Express® Gold Card

4 points per dollar on dining
4 points per dollar on up to $25,000 spent per year at U.S. supermarkets
3 points per dollar when you book flights with an airline or on amextravel.com
1 point per dollar on other purchases
$10 in Uber Cash each month
$10 monthly statement credits for Grubhub, Seamless, Boxed and partners
$250 annual fee

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

5% cash back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods
2% cash back at gas stations, restaurants and drugstores
1% cash back on all other purchases
No annual fee, but Amazon Prime membership required ($12.99 per month or $119 per year plus tax)

Target RedCard

Save 5% on eligible purchases, including clearance items, in-store Starbucks and specialty gift cards
No annual fee

Walmart Rewards Card

5% cash back on orders through Walmart.com or the Walmart app
5% cash back when you use Walmart Pay in Walmart stores during your first 12 months with the card (2% cash back after that)
2% cash back at Walmart Stores in the U.S. and at Walmart and Murphy USA gas stations
1% cash back on in-store purchases at Sam's Club and at Sam's Club gas stations
No annual fee

What Is an Instant-Use Credit Card?

Instant use is a feature available on some credit cards that allows cardholders to use their credit card account before a physical card arrives in the mail. Rewards, travel and store cards may all offer instant-use capabilities, but the specifics depend on the issuers' policies.

Some issuers may give you a temporary barcode or account number that you can use for purchases. Others show you the actual card number, which you can use online. Or, you might be able to add your card to a digital wallet, such as Apple Pay or Google Pay, and then use it wherever those services are accepted.

Which Cards Can You Start Using Instantly?

Most credit cards don't offer instant use, but here are six that do. Even with these cards, however, you might not get instant access if the card issuer has trouble verifying your identity. Additionally, your account may have a lower credit limit until you receive your physical card.

American Express Cards

American Express may give you an instant card number on any of its credit cards or charge cards. Terms apply. You can see if you're matched for American Express cards using the Experian CreditMatchTM tool.

Two top cards to consider are:

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express could be a good option if you tend to spend a lot at supermarkets. It's a tiered cash back card that offers:

  • 6% cash back on up to $6,000 in purchases at U.S. supermarkets each year (then 1%)
  • 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services
  • 3% cash back on transit
  • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations
  • 1% cash back on all other eligible purchases

The $95 annual fee is waived the first year. And, you can earn a $150 intro bonus after making $3,000 worth of eligible purchases in the first 6 months you have the card. Plus, get 20% cash back in the form of statement credits on Amazon.com purchases for the first 6 months—up to $200 back.

American Express® Gold Card

The American Express® Gold Card is a premium cash back card that comes with a variety of cardholder benefits. However, it's important to remember that unlike typical credit cards, the American Express® Gold Card only lets you carry a balance for certain charges—not all of them.

Using the card, you can receive:

  • 4 points per dollar on dining
  • 4 points per dollar on up to $25,000 spent per year at U.S. supermarkets
  • 3 points per dollar when you book flights with an airline or on amextravel.com
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • $10 in Uber Cash each month
  • $10 monthly statement credits for Grubhub, Seamless, Boxed and partners

While there's a $250 annual fee, the card's high earning potential and statement credits make it a good fit for some. Plus, new cardholders can earn an intro offer for 60,000 Membership Rewards points after making $4,000 worth of eligible purchases within the first 6 months.

You may be matched with this and other cards at Experian CreditMatch

Find Out If You're Matched

Co-Branded Instant Access Cards

Credit card issuers sometimes partner with another company, such as an airline or retailer, to offer co-branded cards. These cards tend to offer perks with the partner, but you can use them at any merchant that accepts the associated card network, such as Visa or Mastercard.

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card is a good option if you frequently shop on Amazon.com or at Whole Foods. You may be able to immediately use the card on Amazon and add it to a digital wallet. The card offers several cash back rewards tiers:

  • 5% cash back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods
  • 2% cash back at gas stations, restaurants and drugstores
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

There's no annual fee, but you need a Prime membership ($12.99 per month or $119 per year plus taxes) to get the card and to receive the 5% cash back rewards rate. New cardholders may receive an intro offer for an Amazon.com gift card.

Store Instant Access Cards

A closed-loop store card is a co-branded card you can only use at the associated store—and sometimes the company's other brands or partners. It may be easier to qualify for closed-loop cards than open-loop cards.

Target RedCard

If you open the Target RedCard credit card in a store, you may receive a receipt with a barcode that has your account information. Or, if you apply online, you could add your card to your Target account and pay using the app. The card has several money-saving perks for Target shoppers:

  • Save 5% on eligible purchases, including clearance items, in-store Starbucks and specialty gift cards
  • Get free shipping on most Target.com items
  • An additional 30 days to return or exchange items
  • Extra benefits, such as special items or offer

There's no annual fee, and new cardholders may receive an intro offer, such as a coupon for a future Target purchase.

Walmart Rewards Card

The closed-loop Walmart Rewards Card offers good cash back rates at Walmart and Sam's Club. You can add the card to the Walmart Pay app and use it as soon as you're approved. With the card, you can earn:

  • 5% cash back on orders through Walmart.com or the Walmart app
  • 5% cash back when you use Walmart Pay in Walmart stores during your first 12 months with the card (2% cash back after that)
  • 2% cash back at Walmart Stores in the U.S. and at Walmart and Murphy USA gas stations
  • 1% cash back on in-store purchases at Sam's Club and at Sam's Club gas stations

You can redeem your cash back rewards in several ways, including for a statement credit, check or gift card. Walmart also offers an open-loop Capital One Walmart Rewards® Mastercard® that has cash back rewards in additional categories. Neither card has an annual fee.

What to Do if Your Card Doesn't Offer Instant Access

If you open a new credit card and it doesn't offer instant access, you could have to wait for the physical card to arrive in the mail. The timing can vary, but it may take up to two weeks.

When you want the credit card sooner, you could try calling the issuer and asking for a rush delivery. Some issuers can offer two- or three-day shipping options, or even overnight your new card. However, there may be a fee for expedited shipping. Also, be sure to let them know right away, as the issuer likely won't be able to make the change if your card is already in the mail.

Monitor Your Credit for Your New Card

Even if your new credit card offers instant access, you might not see it on your credit report right away. That's because it can take a few payment cycles for the card issuer to report your new account to the credit bureaus. If you have credit monitoring, such as Experian's free credit monitoring service, you can be alerted when the account is added to your report. Continue monitoring your credit, and you may see the new account appear in about 30 to 60 days.

All information about the Apple Card, Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, Target RedCard, and Walmart Rewards Card has been collected independently by Experian and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card.