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Best Instant Use Credit Cards of 2023

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If you don't want to wait for your new card to arrive in the mail, consider an instant-use credit card. Once you're approved, the card issuer might share your account information so you can shop online. Or, you may be able to add the card to a digital wallet and use the card for in-store purchases.

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Our Picks for the Best Instant-Use Cards
Target RedCard

Target RedCard

Save 5% on eligible purchases, including clearance items, in-store Starbucks and specialty gift cards

No annual fee

What Is an Instant-Use Credit Card?

Instant use is a feature available on some credit cards that allows cardholders to use their credit card account before a physical card arrives in the mail. Rewards, travel and store cards may all offer instant-use capabilities, but the specifics depend on the issuers' policies.

Some issuers may give you a temporary barcode or account number that you can use for purchases. Others show you the actual card number, which you can use online. Or, you might be able to add your card to a digital wallet, such as Apple Pay or Google Pay, and then use it wherever those services are accepted.

Which Cards Can You Start Using Instantly?

Most credit cards don't offer instant use, but these are some that do. Even with these cards, however, you might not get instant access if the card issuer has trouble verifying your identity. Additionally, your account may have a lower credit limit until you receive your physical card.

American Express Cards

American Express may give you an instant card number on any of its credit cards or charge cards. Terms apply. You can see if you're matched for American Express cards using the Experian CreditMatch™ tool.

Two top cards to consider are:

Co-Branded Instant Access Cards

Credit card issuers sometimes partner with another company, such as an airline or retailer, to offer co-branded cards. These cards tend to offer perks with the partner, but you can use them at any merchant that accepts the associated card network, such as Visa or Mastercard.

Store Instant Access Cards

A closed-loop store card is a co-branded card you can only use at the associated store—and sometimes the company's other brands or partners. It may be easier to qualify for closed-loop cards than open-loop cards.

Target RedCard

If you open the Target RedCard credit card in a store, you may receive a receipt with a barcode that has your account information. Or, if you apply online, you could add your card to your Target account and pay using the app. The card has several money-saving perks for Target shoppers:

  • Save 5% on eligible purchases, including clearance items, in-store Starbucks and specialty gift cards
  • Get free shipping on most Target.com items
  • An additional 30 days to return or exchange items
  • Extra benefits, such as special items or offer

There's no annual fee, and new cardholders may receive an intro offer, such as a coupon for a future Target purchase.

What to Do if Your Card Doesn't Offer Instant Access

If you open a new credit card and it doesn't offer instant access, you could have to wait for the physical card to arrive in the mail. The timing can vary, but it may take up to two weeks.

When you want the credit card sooner, you could try calling the issuer and asking for a rush delivery. Some issuers can offer two- or three-day shipping options, or even overnight your new card. However, there may be a fee for expedited shipping. Also, be sure to let them know right away, as the issuer likely won't be able to make the change if your card is already in the mail.

Monitor Your Credit for Your New Card

Even if your new credit card offers instant access, you might not see it on your credit report right away. That's because it can take a few payment cycles for the card issuer to report your new account to the credit bureaus. If you have credit monitoring, such as Experian's free credit monitoring service, you can be alerted when the account is added to your report. Continue monitoring your credit, and you may see the new account appear in about 30 to 60 days.

All information about the Target RedCard has been collected independently by Experian and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card.