Credit cards can help you build credit while also making it easier to pay bills or make purchases. Some credit cards even offer rewards, such as miles or points, on the things you buy. 

If you've never applied for a credit card before you may be wondering how long it takes to get one. While it's possible to apply for a credit card online and be approved within minutes, it can take a little longer for your card to arrive. 

Each card issuer is different when it comes to how long it takes to deliver a physical credit card to new customers. Understanding how the general process works can help you gauge how quickly you'll be able to start using your new card once you're approved. 

Key Takeaways

  • Credit card approvals can be near-instant but it can take several business days for your physical card to be mailed to you.
  • Some credit card companies may give you a temporary digital card number you can use to make purchases or pay bills online. 
  • If a new credit card is taking longer than you expected to reach you, it's important to reach out to the credit card company in case it's been lost or stolen. 
  • If you need to get a replacement credit card because your card was lost or stolen, you may pay a fee for expedited shipping. 

Getting Approved for a Credit Card

Many credit card companies have made applying for a credit card easier than ever by offering online applications. You simply complete the application and submit it to have your information reviewed. It's not uncommon for credit card companies to return an approval decision within minutes of receiving your application and checking your credit score

There are, however, instances where you may be waiting longer to get approved for a credit card. For example, say you filled out a paper application and mailed it in. In that scenario, you'd have to wait for the credit card company to receive your application, review your information, then mail an approval decision back to you. 

Going the snail mail route could mean waiting a few weeks for a credit card decision versus a few minutes. You could also be in for a longer wait if you apply for a credit card that requires excellent credit and your application is flagged for manual review. 

When that happens, it means your application has to be reviewed by someone at the credit card company and processed manually. That can slow things down by a few days or even a few weeks, depending on the credit card company's review policies. If you haven't heard from the credit card company within a few weeks of applying, you may want to contact customer service to find out what's happening with your application. 

Tip

If time is of the essence, you may only want to apply online for cards that are advertised as offering instant approval. Just remember to compare interest rates, fees and rewards to find an instant approval card that's the best fit for your needs. 

How Long It Takes to Receive a Credit Card in the Mail

Once you're approved for a credit card, your physical card has to be mailed to you. Once you receive it, you can use it to make purchases or pay bills. It's important to keep in mind that mailing times can vary greatly from one card issuer to the next. 

The table below highlights how long you can expect to wait for a credit card to be delivered from major card issuers. Note that the timing can be different if you're waiting for a new card versus a replacement card if a card you already had is lost or stolen. 

Credit Card Mailing Tims
Card Issuer New Card Replacement Card
American Express 7 to 10 business days Within 3 business days
Bank of America Within 10 business days Within 3 business days
Barclays 7 to 10 business days 7 to 10 business days
Capital One 7 to 10 business days 3 to 6 business days
Chase 7 to 10 business days 3 to 5 business days
Citi 7 to 10 business days 5 to 7 business days
Discover 5 to 7 business days 5 to 7 business days
U.S. Bank 7 to 10 business days 7 to 10 business days
Wells Fargo 7 to 10 business days 7 to 10 business days

Note

Expedited or overnight shipping can put replacement cards in your hands faster. While some card issuers offer overnight or expedited shipping for new and replacement cards for free, others may charge a fee for this service. 

What to Do If You Haven't Received Your Credit Card Yet

If you've been waiting it out for your credit card to arrive and there's still no sign, there are a few things you can do to potentially speed up the process. 

First, if your credit card is issued by a major bank you could try visiting a branch and asking for a temporary card. Some banks will issue temporary cards you can use until your actual card arrives. There may or may not be a fee associated with this service. 

If your bank or card issuer doesn't offer temporary cards, you may still be able to request a temporary card number. This way, you can start using the card to make purchases or pay bills online even if you don't have the physical card yet. Just keep in mind that not all card issuers do this and those that do may limit this benefit to certain cards. 

Next, you can request expedited shipping if your card hasn't been mailed out yet. Again, you may have to pay a fee for this service but it could significantly reduce the waiting time for your card. 

Even if you don't need the card right away, it's still a good idea to reach out to the credit card company to let them know it hasn't arrived if you feel it's running late. It's possible that the card has been lost in the mail or that someone has stolen. In either case, you could be susceptible to fraud if someone else is able to use the card to make unauthorized purchases. 

Contacting the credit card company is a good move since they should be able to track the card's movements and see whether it's been delivered elsewhere or used to make purchases. If it seems that the card has been lost or stolen, they can cancel it and reissue you a new card. 

Important

Federal law limits your liability for unauthorized credit card purchases to $50. And many card issuers offer a $0 fraud liability guarantee for fraudulent transactions.  

The Bottom Line

Getting a credit card can be a good option for building credit and potentially earning rewards on purchases. While it's possible to get approved right away, it's realistic to expect to wait a week or two for your card to arrive. Keeping the timing for card delivery in mind matters if you're planning to open a new credit card to make a large purchase. You want to make sure you're giving yourself enough time to be approved and receive the card so you don't have to turn to another payment method.