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If you’re considering getting a new credit card, you may be wondering how long you’ll have to wait before you can start using your card and building credit. Typically, it takes a few weeks from the time of application to receive the card in the mail. To determine the specifics, it’s important to understand the three stages of acquiring a credit card: application, approval and mailing.
Most of the time, applying and getting approved for a card happens within a matter of minutes. The main holdup is waiting for the card to come in the mail, which may take up to 10 business days. You may also spend more time waiting if you applied for a card that requires exceptional credit, which requires issuers to manually review your application and credit history.
Step 1: Apply Online
Total wait time: Less than an hour
How to Apply for a Credit Card
When you apply for a credit card online, you’ll need to enter personal information like your name, address, income, employment status and identification info, like a Social Security number. Within minutes, you’ll likely receive an approval or denial, because most credit cards have preset approval criteria.
Getting preapproved or prequalified for a credit card will help you get a card faster because it automates the approval process. You may either receive a preapproval offer in the mail or complete an online form with some personal and financial information. Filling out preapproval forms doesn’t have any impact on your credit score and allows your credit card offers to be more personalized.
Step 2: Get Approved
Total wait time: Anywhere from a few minutes to a few weeks
How Does the Credit Approval Process Work?
If you are preapproved or apply for credit cards with preset criteria, you’ll likely know if you’re approved or denied within minutes. However, if you apply for a credit card that requires exceptional credit, you won’t receive an instant verdict. This is because the credit card issuer must manually review your application and credit history. This can take anywhere from a few days to a week or longer. They may look at:
- Negative items: Derogatory marks like late payments and delinquent accounts
- Debt load: Including your debt-to-income ratio and credit utilization ratio
- Credit score: A high-level indication of your credit health
How to Check Your Application Status
If you’re waiting on a mail-in application or approval that’s hard to get due to high standards, you may be able to check your application’s status online. Most major credit card issuers—except Capital One, Chase and Synchrony—allow users to check their application status online. If that option isn’t available to you, or if you prefer talking to someone, call the issuer’s card services number.
How to Increase Your Chances of Approval
Make sure to only apply for credit cards with criteria that fit your credit health. For example, some credit cards are designed for people with bad credit, while others require excellent credit. Overall, if you don’t have much credit history or if you have bad credit, you likely won’t be approved for cards with great rewards and interest rates.
Step 3: Receive Card
Total wait time: Five to 10 business days
How Long Does It Take for Credit Cards to Come in the Mail?
Unless you applied for a card requiring excellent credit, most of the waiting time is eaten up by the mailing process, which typically takes five to 10 business days.
What to Do If My Card Is Taking Longer Than Expected
If you urgently need the card or are wondering what’s taking so long, consider doing the following:
- Request an expedite. Expedited delivery for new and replacement cards is offered by many issuers—and sometimes, it’s even free.
- Track the card. This won’t help the card arrive faster, but it will give you a better idea of its progress. You can either check the card’s status online or call the issuer using a tracking number. This will help you learn when the card was sent and when you can expect it to arrive.
- Call the issuer. If it’s been more than 10 business days or the amount of time estimated for delivery, your card may have gotten lost in the mail, or even stolen. Consider calling your issuer and requesting that they cancel the old card and issue a new one. Even though this will take longer, it’s a wise safety measure.
Can I Use My Card Before It Arrives?
If you need to pay bills or make important transactions before your card is scheduled to arrive in the mail, you may be able to access your card number immediately after approval. Check with your issuer to see if it offers this feature, and request an instant card number as soon as you’ve been approved. Applying and getting approved for a credit card has never been easier, especially if you’ve been practicing good credit management. Remember to use your new card responsibly to keep your credit score in the best shape possible. And remember that we’re here to help with credit repair if things happen that are outside of your control, like unfair or inaccurate reporting. Talk to us today to get started.
Reviewed by Cynthia Thaxton, Lexington Law Firm Attorney. Written by Lexington Law.
Cynthia Thaxton has been with Lexington Law Firm since 2014. She attended The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in International Relations and a minor in Arabic. Cynthia then attended law school at George Mason University School of Law, where she served as Senior Articles Editor of the George Mason Law Review and graduated cum laude. Cynthia is licensed to practice law in Utah and North Carolina.
Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.