The content is accurate at the time of publication and is subject to change.

The phrase “instant approval” as it pertains to credit cards indicates the entire application process – a credit card company accepts your credit card application, they quickly review your credit report and credit score online and then make the decision whether or not to extend you a line of credit.

While Instant approval is fast, it is not, in fact, instantaneous. The company issuing the credit card may promise a speedy process but the truth is they still need to evaluate your creditworthiness prior to granting you access to a new card. This is to protect against fraud, among other reason. The word instant is primarily a marketing tool – and an effective one, at that. The whole process actually takes a couple of days to complete.

You may encounter the term “instant decision,” which is slightly different. With instant decision credit card applications, the banks are able to put off approving or declining the submitted application until they can investigate further and gather more information, if needed.  This just buys them more time to determine whether or not they want to extend credit or not if they deem the application deserving of more careful scrutiny.

Additionally, there is yet another term known as “instant credit.” This process affords the applicant instant approval plus a temporary credit card number that they can utilize to purchase items via the internet immediately upon issuance. While this was a somewhat widespread practice after the concept was first introduced several years ago, the vast majority of banks have since stopped offering instant credit because they suffered too many loses as a result of the fraudulent use and abuse of instant credit. With instant approval, the banks have a few days during which they can verify the information provided by the applicant in order to make a more informed, well thought out decision.

You needn’t be concerned about the security of instant approval applications, as they are every bit as safe and secure as filling out a paper application and sending it to the issuer through the regular mail, as long as the credit card site you are using is legitimate. The secure applications linked to the valid comparison sites by major credit card companies and banks involve the most up-to-date secure internet encryption data to protect applicants against fraud.

The amount of time that lapses between being having your application instantly approved and when you receive your credit cards varies depending on the situation and card issuer, but generally you can expect to have your card in 5 to 7 business days after you application has been approved.