Reader Question: What is the quickest way you can get a new card in 2016? I use debit so I don’t have any open credit cards right now, but my car’s fuel pump broke and it’s going to cost me $800… which I don’t have. I need a credit card today, if possible. Advice?
My Answer: So how fast can you get one? Well that depends…
If you want a credit card today that’s probably wishful thinking on your part, sorry. I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade but even though you might be able to get approved for one today, it most likely won’t actually be in your physical possession today (unless maybe an Amazon drone delivers it for a fee). It might be possible to get an instant decision online and get it in a few days if you pay for rush shipping – but that too might be an ambitious expectation if you are in desperate need of credit, since that’s often a leading indicator of risk and bad credit.
Even though you can’t get your card the same day, you might be able to speed up the process…
Tip #1: Apply for a basic, entry level card
If your credit is only average and you try applying for some high-end rewards card, there’s probably a higher chance of a delay due to more stringent credit score/history requirements, possible income verification, etc. Those with little or no credit history should seek out cards designed for that type of credit as a first card rather than swinging for the fences and trying to get a card with a lucrative reward program.
It’s usually a good idea to have a backup card for emergencies, even if you normally use debit, because of the mailing time it takes to receive it.
Tip #2: Apply online, not by mail
The quickest and most secure way for the credit card company to process your application is by receiving it online. You certainly could respond to an offer by mail, but that may add several days onto the process before your application is received and reviewed.
Tip #3: Determine if expedited delivery is an option
As mentioned earlier, expedited delivery of your card by next-day or second-day mail is often a delivery option offered by banks, usually for an extra fee. Some applications and approval email confirmations will mention this, so if you need a card immediately consider the following actions:
- Apply for the card online. Not only is this the quickest way, but it also lessens the risk of a typo since I am entering and verifying the information myself.
- After applying, call the issuing bank’s customer service toll free number and reference your application to check if expedited delivery is available. It’s probably best to wait a couple hours after your application is submitted, to ensure it has propagated in the systems before you call.
- The customer service rep will either say; rush delivery is available for free, available for a fee (typically $15 to $25), or not available at all. If you want a credit card immediately, then it might be worth paying the fee if the service is available.
Unfortunately, getting a new credit card account approved and having the plastic in your had the same day is simply not possible. As mentioned earlier, the best you can do is get rush delivery and hopefully it will arrive within 2-3 business days. Another potential option to immediately slake your credit thirst might be to apply for a “Bill Me Later” account online. They supposedly can provide an instant decision online and then bill you by mail after you complete an internet transaction with a major retailer or e-commerce site like Amazon.com.
For people with fair and bad credit, you might only qualify for a secured credit card (which means you will have to put up a security deposit, so it wouldn’t be any help for an emergency expense).
This post was written or last updated April 11, 2016