How long will it take to get my credit card?
I just applied for a credit card: how long will it be until I can start using it?
There are two types of credit card application process: standard and instant decision (see a table of instant decision credit cards here).
Here, we cover the time it takes card providers to go through the application process in both cases.
If you're reading this and you haven't applied yet we've also got five top tips for ensuring that you get your card as quickly and as safely as possible.
Standard credit card applications
Approx 14 days from application to receive the card
In any standard credit card application process - online, by post or over the phone - applicants are asked for their full personal details and information on their existing financial commitments.
This information is then reviewed manually by the provider which may take up to 5 to 10 working days.
Applying by post is likely to be the slowest process since, aside from postal delivery times, the application would need to be entered into the system first - whereas an online application would be submitted automatically.
You may also receive a quicker response if you're applying for a credit card with your current bank or building society because the information they already hold on you makes it easier to verify the information and come to a decision.
'Instant decision' credit card applications
Approx 10 days from application to receive the card
The quickest credit card applications are likely to be those of instant decision credit cards, which offer a response in minutes when people apply online via the bank's website.
During an instant decision application all or any of the following checks can be completed automatically:
- Verify your identity and the identity of any other person relevant to the application (i.e. anyone that is financially linked to you)
- Score for credit card suitability based on current borrowing and past borrowing behaviour
- Make checks designed to prevent fraud, such as applications made using a stolen identity
The speed of those checks can make it at least a few days quicker to go from applying for a credit card and receiving it.
Instant decision credit cards are, however, only offered by some issuers. See our guide for more on these cards and applying online in general.
In the past, instant decision credit cards were reserved for those with the best credit ratings.
Now, however, instant decision credit cards are available for a whole range of users.
For example, here are just three examples, of very different, credit cards with instant decisions on online applications:
|Barclaycard Initial credit card (Go to provider »)|
|Suitable for: Poor credit history or new to credit (suitable if your financial situation has improved over the last 12 months, even if you have missed payments or have had CCJs in the past)|
|Representative Example: 34.9% p.a. variable on purchases. This is equivalent to 34.9% APR representative variable based on a credit limit of £1,200. Barclays Bank PLC. Registered Office: 1 Churchill Place, London E14 5HP|
|Post Office credit card (Go to provider »)|
|0% balance transfers for 18 mths (2.98% fee)|
Includes transfers to a current account (2.98% fee)
|Representative Example: 17.8% p.a. variable on purchases. This is equivalent to 17.8% APR representative variable based on a credit limit of £1,200. The Post Office Credit Card is provided by Bank of Ireland (UK) plc. Registered Office: Bow Bells House, 1 Bread Street, London EC4M 9BE.|
|American Express Platinum Cashback credit card (Go to provider »)|
|5% cash back for 3 months (up to £2,500 spend), then 1.25% unlimited|
|Representative Example: 14% p.a. variable on purchases. This is equivalent to 18.7% APR representative variable based on a credit limit of £1,200 and including a £25 annual fee. American Express Services Europe Limited. Registered Office: Belgrave House, 76 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 9AX.|
As you can see, instant decisions now span the credit card market.
But it also means that following best practice when you make applications is more important than ever.
How to get your card faster
Whether you choose to make a standard or instant decision application is nothing to the time you'll save by making the credit card application count in the first place.
Here are some of our top tips for speeding up the whole process and ensuring you don't end up with the biggest slow down of all: a rejected application.
However, if you do face a declined application, we've covered some of the steps that can be taken in this article here.
1. Do a quotation search first
The fastest, safest way of making a credit card application is to test the waters with a quotation search.
Quotation searches - sometimes known as 'soft searches' - are initial checks a credit card provider can carry out to check whether your application is likely to be accepted.
They're different from a full search in that they don't show up as a 'footprint' on your credit record so, if you find that you're unlikely to be accepted, you can look elsewhere without penalty (see below for more on the problem of credit file 'footprints').
Unfortunately, these searches cost credit card providers money. Banks and building societies are less likely to get a return on that cost than they are with full searches so most lenders don't currently provide quotation searches.
Nationwide are a notable exception: their quotation search service is built into their main online application process.
Barclaycard also offer a pre-application soft search to check eligibility for the range of Barclaycards without affecting your credit score.
The Barclaycard check isn't an application for credit, so they warn results can vary when a full check is made and you'll need to apply separately to the eligibility form, which is available here.
2. Check and double check application criteria
No matter the method of application, those applying for a new credit card should be very cautious about making sure they fulfil all the application criteria before going ahead and applying for a card.
That includes credit builder or credit cards marketing for first time users, even these deals can be very specific in what they're looking for.
3. Supply as much information as possible
Providers find it easier to make a decision when you supply them with as much information as you can, and certainly everything they've asked for.
Additional information counts: a full record is often a good one.
Accuracy is also important. Credit card providers will cross reference the information you give with records from reference agencies and from the electoral roll.
If there's a quirk of your address, such as a flat number, that's entered differently in a few places try to match the one from the most reliable source and, if possible, avoid the problem altogether by getting these to match in the first place.
Make sure that you write down any details the credit card provider gives you at this stage, too.
Many providers give out application numbers which will allow you to keep track of your card's progress and sort out issues if it's taking longer than expected to arrive.
4. Send back the term agreement quickly
If you're accepted for a credit card, the first letter from your new provider will contain a terms and conditions agreement, which you'll need to review and sign to get your card.
The quicker you can get that form back in the post or electronically signed (only some providers offer the latter), the quicker you'll ultimately receive your card.
Cards should arrive a few days after that paperwork is taken care of.
5. Rejected? Stay cautious
It can be tempting to apply for several credit cards in quick succession especially when there are instant decisions on applications. Resist temptation!
Applying for a credit card leaves a 'footprint' on your credit files. If you apply for several at the same time seeing multiple searches puts providers off and will make future applications harder.
The general rule is to wait at least 3 months between applications, and if you've recently been turned down it's worth using that period to look at other ways to improve your credit rating in the meantime.
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