Applying for a credit card is incredibly easy. But, have you ever wondered how long does it take to get a credit card?
While it’s possible to get your new credit card in just a few days, it can also sometimes take weeks or even months. That’s because every credit card provider has a different process when approving applicants. In addition, how the providers send out cards can affect your timeline.
What is the Timeline for Applying, Approval, and Delivery?
To fully understand how long it takes to get a credit card, you need to realize that there are three steps before you get your card in your wallet: Application, approval, and delivery. Individually, each step is straightforward, but any hold-up can delay your card from arriving.
Applying for a Credit Card
The quickest way to apply for a credit card is to do things online. By going this route, all you need to do is fill out an application, which only takes a few minutes. If you were to go into a branch to apply for a card, you might need to book an appointment. Regardless of which method you choose, you’ll need to provide the following:
Personal information: The basic requirements for you to be approved for a credit card is that you’re a Canadian resident and over the age of majority in the province or territory in which you reside.
Employment and income information: You’ll be asked to provide some basic employment information, such as your employer's name and your annual salary. You may also be asked about any additional household income, such as your spouse’s income or any investment income.
Personal debt. During the application process, you’ll be asked about any debt. This would include things such as auto loans, student debt, and your mortgage.
Getting Approved for a Credit Card
Once you’ve submitted your credit card application, you’ll go through the approval process. Some of the things that need to be done at this stage include:
Credit check: The credit card provider will perform a hard check on your credit profile to see what your credit score is. The higher your credit score, the better your chances of being approved.
Income verification: Although this doesn’t happen every time, the credit card provider may request that you prove your income. To do this, you would provide pay stubs, a record of employment, or even previous notice of assessments.
This is where things can get complicated. If everything looks good during the application process, you could be approved instantly or as quickly as two days. However, if additional information is needed, it can greatly delay the application process.
For example, let’s say you’ve applied online, and the credit card provider wants to verify your information. All you need to do is upload the required documents. However, if the credit card provider is backlogged, it may take weeks to verify and process your application. In addition, they may need more information, which would further delay things. To avoid these delays, you could provide the documentation at a branch to speed up the process.
It’s also worth noting that most credit card providers would require your home address to match what’s listed at the credit bureaus: Equifax and TransUnion. If there’s a discrepancy, you may need to provide some proof of residence. This is done to prevent fraud.
Delivery of Your New Card
Assuming you’re approved, the delivery of your card would typically happen in one of the following situations:
Instantly: Some credit card providers will give you a virtual credit card number immediately. This number could be used for online purchases right away. Some store credit card approvals can also be used right away. You would typically receive your physical card up to two two weeks later.
One to two days: If you’ve applied for a premium credit card with a high annual fee, many credit card providers will expedite the card to you so you can use it as quickly as possible.
Seven to 14 days: For those that have been approved for a regular card, you can expect your card within two weeks.
Remember, the above timelines only apply from the time you’ve been approved. The overall timeline might be much longer if you had any delays during the approval process. In addition, some credit cards need to be picked up at a branch, this may add some time since you would need to find time in your schedule.
Activating Your New Credit Card
Once you have your new credit card in your hands, you’ll want to activate it right away. The activation process is simple as it’s usually done via phone or online. To complete the activation process, you’ll need to provide the credit card number, expiration date, and CVV. Once you’ve activated your card, you’ll be able to use it. Note that your PIN may arrive in a separate letter.
How Can I Increase My Credit Limit?
When you’re approved for a credit card, you’re automatically assigned a credit limit. This number can vary from each provider, so there’s no real way to tell what your initial limit will be in advance. That said, there are quite a few things you can do to increase your credit card limit.
Pay your bills on time: When you pay your credit card bill on time, it’ll show the credit bureaus that you’re being responsible with credit. In turn, the credit bureaus may increase your credit score. This increase in your credit score would show that you’re a reliable and trustworthy consumer that knows how to manage their credit.
Keep your credit utilization ratio low: How much credit you’re using relative to your total credit available is known as your credit utilization ratio. For example, if your credit limit is $5,000 and you typically charge $1,000 to your card, your credit utilization ratio is 20%. Generally, having a utilization ratio of 35% or less is good in the eyes of the credit bureaus.
Pay down debt: If you have any outstanding debt, such as auto or student loans, try to pay that down ASAP. Having less debt is viewed positively since it’s implied that you wouldn’t need to rely on credit as much.
Assuming you’re doing all of the above, there are a few easy ways to increase your credit limit. First, there’s a good chance that your credit card provider will naturally offer you a credit limit increase. This might happen when you’re doing online banking, calling customer service, or even via regular mail. These credit limit offers don’t last forever, so accepting one is likely worth it.
The other way to get a credit limit increase is to ask for it. Just call customer service and tell them you’d like an increase to your credit limit. They’ll review your profile and quickly determine if you qualify for an increased limit.
Even if you’re not offered a credit limit increase, you can still potentially get access to more credit by applying for a new card. That would increase your total credit limit, but each card would maintain its individual limits.
What Do I Need To Know About Credit Scores?
Credit scores are often talked about, but not many people know how they work and why they’re important. Your credit score is a number between 300 and 900. The higher your credit score, the more creditworthy you are. This is relevant because lenders use your credit score as one factor to determine if they should approve you for a loan. So, if you ever need a mortgage, auto loan, or personal loan in the future, you’ll want to have a good credit score.
How Your Credit Score is Calculated
Even though there are two credit bureaus in Canada, they use similar criteria to determine your credit score. The following are the five most common factors used to calculate your credit score:
Your payment history: Avoiding missed and late payments is paramount since your payment history is a significant factor when calculating your credit score.
Your credit utilization ratio: Generally, credit bureaus want to see your credit utilization ratio at 35% or less. This is important since credit bureaus don’t like it when consumers max out their credit cards.
Your credit history length: Having a long credit history is always good since it can show that you’ve managed your credit well for an extended period.
Types of credit: Having more than one type of credit, such as different credit cards and cell phone/internet accounts, may help improve your credit score.
Recent inquiries: If you’ve recently applied for multiple types of credit, it may negatively impact your credit score.
Tips to Improve Your Credit Score
The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has some great tips to help you improve your credit score. Some of the most common tips include:
Pay your bills on time. Two missed payments or multiple late payments can have a huge negative impact on your credit score.
Limit your credit use. Maintaining a low credit utilization ratio is always good since it shows that you’re not relying on credit.
Avoid multiple credit inquiries. You should only apply for new credit when you need it since each application may affect your credit score.
Pay off debt. Reducing debt or paying off any debt that’s gone to collections can help improve your credit profile.
Increase your credit length. If you don’t have any credit yet, apply for a credit card right away so you can start building a credit history.
How Applying for Credit Affects Your Credit Score
Whether you’re applying for a credit card or auto loan, it’ll affect your credit score in multiple ways. First, a hard inquiry is performed whenever you apply for new credit. This results in a credit hit of up to 10 points. That said, when applying for new credit, your credit could actually increase over time since you might lower your credit utilization ratio, and you may have access to different types of credit.
What Else Should I Know About Getting a New Credit Card?
Getting a new credit card can be exciting. That said, there are many things that you need to be aware of since things might be a little different than what you’re used to.
Fees Associated With Credit Cards
Every card has some fees associated with them. Knowing what you’ll be charged is vital since you want to avoid any excess fees.
Monthly/annual fee: Most credit cards charge an annual fee, but some charge the fee monthly. There are also many credit cards that have no annual fee.
Purchase and cash advance interest rates: The interest rate on most credit cards is 20%+. Cash advance interest rates can be even higher. You can avoid interest charges completely by paying your bills in full and on time each month.
Foreign transaction fees: Just about every credit card charges a foreign currency fee of 2.5% on any purchase that’s not made in Canadian dollars. That said, some credit cards have no FX fees.
Balance protection: Every credit card provider will offer optional balance protection insurance. This insurance has a monthly fee but would cover you in the event you miss a payment or go over your limit.
Switching Over Monthly Charges
If you plan on using your new credit card for all your daily purchases, you ’ll also want to switch over any existing monthly charges. To do this, you’d have to call each service provider and update your credit card information on file. Be sure to check your previous credit card states for the last year, as there may be fees that are only charged once a year that you’ve forgotten about.
Setting up Automatic Payments
Most credit cards will allow you to set up automatic payments. This can be useful since it’ll ensure that you never miss a payment. Although each credit card provider is different, they would all follow a similar structure to the following:
Log into your online banking profile
Select pay bills
Select your credit card from the payee list
Select recurring payment
Complete the payment details (fixed amount or entire amount)
Note that if your credit card is with a financial institution that you don’t do your day-to-day banking with, you may need to add your credit card or banking information before you can set up a pre-authorized payment.
The Bottom Line
From the time of application, getting your credit card can take anywhere from one day to as long as a few months. That said, if approved, most people will receive their new credit card in the mail within two weeks.
Barry Choi is an award-winning personal finance and travel expert. He regularly appears on various shows in Canada and the U.S., where he talks about all things money and travel. His website - Money We Have - attracts thousands of visitors daily, looking for the latest stories on travel and money.