from application to arrival: how long it takes to get a credit cardWhen you apply for a credit card, one of the first questions on your mind is probably when you can expect to get it. For all the things they do right, credit card issuers aren’t the best at communicating how long it takes to actually receive a credit card from them, which can be really frustrating. To help out, we’ve gone through the credit card process and figured out how much time you can expect each major step to take, as well as what you can do to make sure you get your card faster and important tips about the application process you should know. To learn how long you can expect to wait to get a new credit card, keep reading.

Application

There are four main ways to apply for a credit card: applying online (which you can do through our credit card reviews), applying by phone, applying in person and applying by mail. Applying for a card online is often the fastest way to go, usually taking less than 10 minutes since online forms deliver your information instantly, and you don’t have to wait to talk to a representative like you do if you call the credit card issuer or apply in person. Although applying online is perfectly safe in general, if for some reason you don’t want to send your information over the Internet, the next fastest application method is by phone, which typically takes around 20 minutes, though it can take more time if there’s a long wait for an available representative. If you prefer doing business through personal interaction, and the card you want is available through a bank with physical branches, applying in person also takes about 20 minutes, plus your travel time and wait time at the financial institution at which you’re applying. Finally, applying by mail is by far the slowest, as it will take two to five days for your mailed application to reach the credit card issuer, depending on how far away you live from its offices. If you’re responding to a pre-approved credit card offer you received in the mail, a lot of times those come with a code that lets you apply for the same offer online.

Approval

Of all the steps in the credit card application process, approval is probably where people will see the largest amount of variation in terms of time, with how long it takes depending upon your creditworthiness and your application method. If you apply for a card online, over the phone or in person, and your financial information such as your credit scores, credit history and debt-to-income ratio all meet or exceed the card’s requirements, you could have your application approved instantly. At that point, all you have to do is wait for your credit card to ship, though some credit card issuers will actually give you your card details right when you get instantly approved so you can start using them to shop online or over the phone.

If you don’t get instant approval, then your application will go to pending status, which means the card issuer will take some time (usually up to 10 business days) to manually review your application. This can happen when it’s not obvious whether you qualify for the card, or if you accidentally provided some inaccurate information. Note that the review can take up to 10 business days, which excludes weekends and holidays, so it’s entirely possible you won’t get an answer from the credit card issuer you applied to for two weeks. To help with this, many credit card issuers list numbers on their websites that you can call to get an update on how your application is doing. When the card issuer comes to a decision, it will notify you via email, phone call or letter as to whether you’ve been approved or not (remember if your application is denied, the issuer is required to explain why).

Shipping

Most credit card issuers will quote their card shipping times as between 7 and 10 business days, though if you live closer to a credit card distribution center, it’s possible to receive yours sooner than that. Additionally, some card issuers have expedited mailing options, letting you pay an extra fee for overnight or 2-day shipping. If it’s been more than 10 business days and you still haven’t received your card, call the credit card issuer and let it know. It could just be moving slowly through the mail system, or someone could have intercepted your card to steal the information from it. No matter how long it takes you to receive your credit card, though, it’s important to know that your credit card issuer already opened your account on the day you were approved. This is essential if your new credit card has an offer that only lasts for a limited time, like no-fee balance transfers for the first 60 days your card account is open. For balance transfer offers specifically, some credit card issuers mitigate this by letting you apply for a balance transfer while you are applying for a credit card.

When you put standard application, approval and shipping times together, the total amount of time it takes to receive a credit card can range from a week to slightly over a month. For more tips, tricks and secrets to help make you a credit card expert, follow our credit cards blog.