How Long Does It Take To Get A Credit Card? Breaking Down The Application Process

how long does it take to get a credit cardYou’ve just been approved for a new credit card and are anxiously waiting for it to come in the mail.  You may need it soon to pay off your medical bill, child’s college tuition, a new refrigerator, or maybe just groceries for the week.  This can bring up some very good questions.  How long does it take to get a credit card in the mail?  Why does it take so long?  How can I receive it faster?  The answer to these questions is not as simple as you may think, so let’s first understand the credit card application process.

Be sure to learn what it takes to build amazing credit here!

Types of Credit Card Applications

There are generally two types of credit card applications:  standard and instant decision.  This is decided by the bank so be sure to check which application you are filling out to get an idea of what to expect.

Standard Applications

If approved, it will take approximately 14 days from the day you applied to receive your credit in the mail, whether you filled out the form online or spoke to a representative on the phone.

In any standard credit card application process, applicants are asked to provide their full personal details and information on their existing financial commitments.  This information is then reviewed by the credit card company, which can take anywhere from 5 to 10 working days.

Applying by standard mail will most likely take the longest to process since for several reasons. First, you have to consider the amount of time it takes for the application to reach the credit card company from your mailbox.  Then the application needs to be entered manually into the system, as opposed to an online application where it’s submitted automatically.  However, if you applying for a credit card that is associated with your current banking society, you may get a quicker response because your existing relationship makes it easier to verify your information.

Instant Decision Applications

If approved, it will take approximately 10 days from the day you applied to received your credit card in the mail.

Hence the name, these applications are accessed via the internet, and usually offer a response within minutes of submission.  These credit cards are only offered by certain issuers such as Chase, Citi, American Express and Discover to name a few.

So what are they checking exactly during that brief time after clicking the “Submit” button?

  • Identity verification – First they want to know that the person filling out the form matches with the information on the application.  You may have to go through a few security questions to verify that it is really you, and not an imposter, applying for the credit card.
  • Credit score check – Depending on the issuer, your credit score will be pulled from one of the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion), or even all three.  It is said that your credit score is the number one determining factor when it comes to getting approved or not.  We will discuss this in further details in the next section.

In the past, instant decision credit cards were mainly reserved for applicants with the best credit ratings.  Nowadays, these credit cards are available for a wide range of people with various credit scores.  Therefore, this is by far the more popular choice among credit card applicants.

What Determines My Credit Score? 

Without a good credit score, chances are you won’t be approved for many credit cards.  Even if your score is average, there are times when the issuer needs more information about your credit history. This can really slow down the application process.  So what does it take to build and maintain a good credit score?

Payment History (35%) – This is the most important component of your credit score.  Paying your bills on time will help raise your score, while late payments and collection records will lower it.  But just making all of your payments in time isn’t enough to build a great score as you’ll see.

Debt (30%) – Also known as your revolving utilization percentage, debt makes up a good portion of your overall score.  All of your debt balances are factored, but your credit card debt has the most impact.  It’s important that you keep your debt balances low in relation to your credit limits, otherwise expect your score to take a hit.

Get the basics of finance and budgeting here to avoid the pitfalls of debt and low credit scores.

Average Age of Accounts (15%) – This component measures how long you’ve had credit by looking at the dates you first opened all of your accounts.  The older your credit history is, the better your score will be.  For this reason, closing your credit card accounts is not always a good idea.

Account Diversity (10%) – Having a diverse credit history will give you points in this category.  Diverse means having a little bit of many different types of accounts including credit cards, mortgages, car loans and student loans.  The only type of account that can hurt you is a finance company account.

Number of Hard Inquiries (10%) – When you apply for a new credit card, a “hard inquiry” is posted to your credit file.  When you have too many hard inquiries, your score takes a dip because it shows that you are applying excessively for credit cards.  The rule of thumb is to wait at least 90 days before applying for a new credit card to avoid  taking a hit on your credit score.

Ways To Receive Your Credit Card Faster

For those of you who are as impatient as me when it comes to waiting for a credit card to come in the mail, try using these tips to speed up the process.  It might even make the difference from getting denied to being approved!

Do A Quotation Search First

This will ensure the quickest and safest process when it comes to applying for a credit card.  Quotation searches, also known as “soft pulls”, are initial checks a credit card provider carries out to see whether the application is like to be accepted.  They are different than hard pulls in that they don’t show up directly on your credit record.

The main problem with this is that it costs credit card providers money.  Most banks and building societies therefore no longer provide quotation searches for customers.  Nationwide are one of the exceptions, as is Barclaycard but their check isn’t an application for credit so you’d have to apply through their special eligibility form.

Fill Out The Application Completely

Issuers find it easier to make a decision when they are given all the information they requested on the application. This means to fill out any “optional” fields that you may see on the form.  Additional information also counts, as a full record is often a good one.

Accuracy is equally as important.  Credit card issuers will cross reference all of the information given with records from other agencies and from the electoral roll.  If something doesn’t match or looks suspicious, chances are your application will be red flagged and the decision process will be delayed.

Send The Terms Agreement Right Away

After you’ve been accepted, the first piece of mail you usually receive from the new provider is a terms and conditions agreement.  This letter usually needs to be signed by you and returned to the provider.  The quicker they receive it, the sooner you’ll receive your card.

Rejected?  Call Their Reconsideration Line

You may have a low credit score due to debt, missed payments or simply not having your finances straight.  However, just because your application was initially rejected doesn’t mean you have zero chance of still getting the card.  Almost every credit card issuer has a reconsideration line that can be found on the internet.  Sometimes they hastily reject applicants but will approve them if they call and explain certain red flags on the application.  Calling will not hurt you in any way, so it’s definitely worth a shot!