How Long Does It Take to Get a Credit Card?

Quick Answer

It can take from seven to 10 business days to receive a new credit card in the mail.

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You've applied for a new credit card and you can't wait to use it. How long will it take to receive the new card? Although you may get approved for a credit card almost instantly if you apply online, it can take up to 10 business days for the card to arrive in the mail. If you applied for the card by mail or over the phone, approval may take longer. Fortunately, there are things you can do to get your new card faster—or even start using your card before you can hold it in your hand.

How Long Does It Take to Get Approved for a Credit Card?

You can apply for most credit cards online, by phone or by mail. Whichever method you choose, you'll be asked for personal information including your name, address, income, Social Security number and employment status.

You could get approved instantly if you apply online; some card issuers automatically approve applicants who meet their credit requirements. If you're on the borderline for qualification, the card issuer may manually review your application, which can take a week or so. Approval of phone or mail applications also typically takes longer than online applications.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Credit Card?

Getting approved and getting your credit card are two different things, though. After you're approved, receiving the card in the mail can take from seven to 10 business days, depending on the issuer. Some credit card companies offer expedited delivery, either free or for a fee.

Getting a lost or stolen card replaced can take up to seven business days, depending on the issuer. However, most credit card companies expedite shipping of a replacement card in one to six business days, either for a fee or free.

How to Get Your Credit Card Faster

You can also get your new credit card faster in a couple other ways.

Get Preapproved

Credit card offers you get in the mail are preapproved offers from card issuers who have determined you fit their qualification criteria. You can also apply for preapproval (sometimes called prequalification) by providing some basic information on the card issuer's website. If you're not sure which credit card you want, you can use Experian CreditMatch™ to find cards for which you may be preapproved.

To prequalify you, card issuers perform a soft inquiry on your credit report, which won't affect your credit scores. Preapproval doesn't guarantee final approval; it just means you're more likely to get approved. When you submit a credit application, the issuer reviews factors not considered during prequalification, such as income, and performs a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can temporarily lower your credit score by a few points.

Choose a Card That Offers Instant Access to Credit

You can use some credit cards immediately upon approval, even without the card in hand. For instance, you can apply for many store credit cards in-store and, if approved, use the account to pay on the spot.

Instant access typically only allows purchases not requiring a physical card, such as online shopping. For example, American Express gives eligible cardholders immediate access to their credit card number to use for online or phone purchases.

Many co-branded cards offer instant access to your account, but use is often restricted to the co-brand, and you may need to pay a particular way.

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How to Get Approved for a Credit Card

You're more likely to be approved for a credit card for which you're already preapproved. Issuers often indicate the credit score range required for a particular credit card, so knowing your credit score helps you choose cards for which you're likely to qualify. There are several ways to check your credit score for free, including through Experian.

If your credit is excellent, you'll likely have your pick of credit cards, and qualify for favorable terms and high credit limits. Look for cards with the features you want, like cash back, travel rewards, introductory low annual percentage rate (APR) offers or other perks.

If you have fair or poor credit, your choices will be more limited. That said, there are several credit cards for those with bad credit. To boost your chances of approval, seek cards designed for your credit score range, such as secured credit cards.

In addition to your credit score, card issuers will check your income and your credit report. They'll look for red flags on your credit report, such as delinquent accounts, bankruptcies or late payments, which can indicate you may not handle credit responsibly. It's a good idea to get your credit reports from all three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) before you apply for credit of any kind so you know what lenders will see. You can do this for free through; you can also check your Experian credit report for free anytime.

How Does Applying for a Credit Card Impact Credit?

When you apply for a credit card and the lender does a hard inquiry into your credit report, your credit score can temporarily dip by a few points. Although this generally lasts only a few months, it's wise to minimize hard inquiries and their impact on your credit. Getting denied for a credit card won't affect your credit score.

What if you want to apply for several credit cards? Credit bureaus typically treat multiple hard inquiries due to applications for the same type of loan—such as a mortgage, car loan or student loan—as one hard inquiry, as long as the applications occur within a short time of each other. However, you usually won't get that same benefit when you apply for multiple credit cards. To be safe, it's best to find a card with the benefits you want and which you're likely to qualify for, and start there.

Using Your New Credit Card

Play your cards right by getting prequalified, and applying for a new credit card may not dramatically affect your credit. However, the way you use the card could. Using the card responsibly by paying on time and maintaining a low balance can help improve your credit score, potentially making it easier to get credit in the future.