Cards that give account numbers immediately after approval (so you can use them right away)

approved stampIf you have your eye on a card but are assuming it’ll arrive too late to use for something you want to buy right away, here’s some potentially good news: Some cards will give you an account number immediately up on approval. That means you can make purchases online without waiting for the physical card to land in your mailbox.

Exactly which cards do this has proven tricky to pin down (and there are lots of conflicting accounts), but here’s what we know:

American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner) has been known to provide your account number upon approval so you can use the card immediately. Once you’re approved, the system will ask you if you’d like a temporary account number.

One of our forum members was recently able to get an instant account number with the Starwood Preferred Guest card. Other credit card discussion forums contain similar accounts:

We have reached out for American Express to get their official policies and will update if we hear back.

USAA provides an instant card number upon approval, allowing members to make purchases and perform balance transfers and cash withdrawals, according to a USAA spokeswoman (who said she has personally used the feature).

Bank of America’s Alaska Airlines card pops up in various online discussions on this topic as one that provides account information so that users can book Alaska Airlines flights immediately upon approval (see data points from Reddit and Dr. of Credit). A Bank of America spokesperson said that, while this may be a feature of some co-branded cards, it’s not something offered on all Bank of America products.

Other issuers don’t seem to regularly provide this feature. We reached out to all major issuers and will update the story as we hear back — so far, we’ve heard from Capital One, Discover and Wells Fargo spokespeople saying they do not provide instant account numbers upon approval.

Why instant account numbers are useful

If you have some large purchases you need to make immediately, being able to use your new card account is a boon. For example, if you get a card right before the holidays, you could get approved for a card and use it for last-minute gifts, even though your physical card may arrive too late. Or, if you get approved for a new travel rewards card and then immediately find a great deal on tickets, you could use your new card to snap them up before the deal disappears.

Also, many cards have sign-up bonuses, and getting the card number right away can give you a head start. For example, if you need to buy $1,000 tickets for a business trip tomorrow, you can use your new card and take a significant chunk out of the minimum spending requirement.

That said, if you’re eager to use your card, an alternative is asking the issuer if it’s willing to overnight the card or expedite shipment. That could put the card in your hands within a day or two.

Updated April 2017

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