These days, most banks provide an instant – or near-instant – decision whether to approve or deny your application for a credit card. But even if you're instantly approved, it can still take days (or even weeks) to get that new card in the mail.
Whether you're making a big purchase soon, anxious to start working toward the minimum spend requirement to earn a big bonus, or just want to start using the card's travel perks, the delay can be frustrating. Thankfully, many banks have a solution: issuing virtual card numbers instantly. With these virtual numbers in hand, travelers can add a brand-new card to a digital wallet and start spending straight away.
That's particularly helpful if you need to make a big purchase as soon as possible – or if you've got a trip to book and want to use your new card's built-in travel protections. No matter the reason, the option to use a card immediately can be a big factor in deciding which card to apply for in the first place.
Let's take a closer look at which major travel credit cards can give you a card number to use instantly – and why it's so important.
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Why it Matters
There are lots of reasons for wanting access to your card number right away.
There's perhaps no greater reason than getting a jump start on meeting the card's minimum spending requirement. Most banks require new cardmembers to spend a few thousand dollars or more in the early months of opening a card in order to earn a big welcome offer bonus. And that clock starts from the moment you're approved for a card – not when it arrives in the mail.
If you have a sudden expense come up, like a home repair or medical bill, having access to a virtual card number can help you earn a new card welcome offer for your big purchase and take some of the sting out of spending a bunch of money unexpectedly.
Let's say you're stuck in an airport due to an unexpectedly long layover or a weather delay. If you've been eyeing a credit card with lounge access for a while and a card could get you into the lounge where you're stuck, applying for the card and instantly adding it your digital wallet might just be your ticket in.
Just be warned that this won't work with Priority Pass Lounge locations, as you'll need to separately apply for a Priority Pass Membership after getting approved for your new card – and that can take some time. However, it should work with bank-specific lounges like the Amex Centurion Lounges and Capital One Lounges.
American Express was one of the first card issuers to give travelers access to a virtual card number immediately upon approval. And that's great news, as the bank offers several of the best travel rewards credit cards currently on the market.
No matter if you're after one of the bank's flagship Membership Rewards-earning cards, or a co-branded card from Delta or Marriott, with most personal credit cards from American Express, you're likely to get offered a virtual card number upon approval.
What about small business cards?
It's no slam dunk, but many of American Express' business cards will also issue a virtual card number upon approval. There doesn't appear to be a rhyme or reason for who gets one and who doesn't, but we've heard from readers who were approved for the *biz gold* and *biz platinum* and received a virtual card number right away with both.
Here are some of the best options for getting an instant card number from American Express. Just keep in mind this isn't an exhaustive list: Almost every Amex card should be eligible for an instant card.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
The bank's top-tier card: *amex platinum* is one such card that you'll get instant access to upon approval. This card comes packed with perks like unlimited access to American Express Centurion Lounges and Delta Sky Clubs – at least for now… – which can be a game changer for anyone trapped in the airport on a long layover.
Being able to get a card right away upon approval and use it to access one of those lounges can be a lot cheaper option than buying a one-time pass or spending money on expensive airport food and drinks.
Here's a closer look at all the Amex Platinum Card's benefits:
- Welcome offer: *amex platinum bonus*
- Earn 5x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with the airlines or American Express Travel.
- Earn 5x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on eligible prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
- Earn 1x Membership Rewards points per dollar on all other purchases.
- Complimentary access to the Global Lounge Collection: Including Delta Sky Clubs, Amex Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass, and many more.
- Get up to $100 in statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck once every four years. Membership in either program is good for five years.
- Get up to $200 in statement credits each year for Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts bookings.
- Get up to $200 in statement credits for airline incidentals.
- Get up to $20 in statement credits each month for select streaming services.
- Get up to $200 in Uber Cash each year. You get $15 to use each month, with an additional $20 in December ($35 total in December).
- Get up to $189 in statement credit for enrolling in CLEAR Plus.
- Get up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually (up to $100 each year) for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue
- Plus, get additional statement credits and travel benefits.
- Authorized user fee: $195 for each additional Platinum Card.
- Annual fee: $695 (see rates & fees)
Learn more about *amex platinum*.
The American Express Gold Card
The *amex gold* is one of the best cards for earning big rewards on everyday spending and maybe one of the best travel rewards cards, period. Even after Amex made it harder for some to earn a big welcome offer, we're still bullish on this card and think it's worthy of a spot in almost any traveler's wallet.
You earn 4x Membership Rewards points at restaurants and U.S. supermarket purchases (up to $25,000 each year, then 1x), so it's a great option for piling up points in a hurry. We all have to eat, right?
The card also earns 3x Membership Rewards on airfare purchased directly from the airlines, or amextravel.com, and comes with up to $10 each month in statement credits for select dining purchases and up to $10 each month in Uber Cash.
Related reading: A Full Review of the American Express Gold Card
Here's the full card breakdown:
- Welcome offer: You can earn at least 60,000 points after spending $6,000 in the first six months, but be sure to check for a targeted 75,000-point bonus via CardMatch … or an even bigger 90,000-point bonus!
- Earn 4x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide.
- Earn 4x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per calendar year (then 1x)
- Earn 3x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent directly with airlines or at amextravel.com.
- Get up to $10 each month in statement credits when you pay with the Gold Card at GrubHub, The Cheesecake Factory, Wine.com, Milk Bar, Goldbelly, and participating Shake Shack locations.
- Get up to $10 each month in Uber Cash with your Gold Card. Just add your Card to your Uber account and you'll automatically get $10 in Uber Cash each month for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S.
- No foreign transaction fees
- Annual Fee: $250 (see rates & fees)
Learn more about the *amex gold*
Other Amex Cards That Offer Instant Card Numbers
Unless there's an issue with your application that requires additional verification, almost any Amex card on the market should be eligible to get a virtual card number instantly. Here's a few more worth highlighting:
- American Express® Green Card
- *delta skymiles gold card*
- *delta skymiles platinum card*
- *delta reserve card*
- *bonvoy brilliant*
- Hilton Honors Aspire Card (for full disclosure, this is our personal referral link)
All information about the Hilton Aspire Card and American Express Green Card has been collected independently by Thrifty Traveler and has not been reviewed by the issuer.
Like American Express, Chase also offers virtual card numbers upon approval for many of its top travel rewards credit cards.
With your new Chase card added to your digital wallet, you can use it both online and in-store to begin earning rewards right away after getting approved.
Just as with Amex, this isn't an exhaustive list: There may be others. But Chase explicitly says that Mastercard, Amazon and business credit cards from Chase are not eligible. That means cards like the Chase Freedom Flex or the *Ink Cash* miss the cut here.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
One of our favorite travel rewards credit cards for beginners and experienced travelers alike is the *chase sapphire preferred*. It's been around for more than a decade and consistently holds its own as one of the best travel rewards credit cards, period.
That's due in large part to the current bonus of 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of card membership.
While the card has a $95 annual fee that is not waived for the first year of card membership, it offers a ton of value that easily outweighs that charge. Beyond the points, you get strong travel insurance coverage on flights booked using your Preferred Card as well as a rental car insurance policy that is second to none.
But the Chase Sapphire Preferred is also great because it's an introduction to the versatility of credit card points. You can transfer these points to more than a dozen different airline and hotel partners like United, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, and many others. Do it right, and you can unlock even more free travel this way.
Take a look at all the benefits of this top travel rewards credit card:
- Welcome Offer Bonus: bonus_miles_full
- 3x points per dollar spent on dining, including eligible delivery services
- 3x points per dollar spent on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs like Costco and Sam's Club)
- 3x points per dollar spent on select streaming services
- 2x points per dollar spent on travel purchases
- Earn 5x total points on travel purchased through the Chase Travel Portal, excluding hotel purchases that qualify for the $50 Anniversary Hotel Credit.
- Earn up to $50 in statement credits each year for hotel stays booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal
- 10% Annual Points Bonus: Receive a 10% points bonus on your total spending during the account anniversary year at a rate of 1 point for every $10 spent.
- Travel Protections: Trip cancelation & interruption coverage, baggage delay and lost luggage coverage, and primary rental car insurance
- Foreign Transaction Fees: None
- Annual Fee: $95
Learn more about the *csp*
Other Chase Cards That Offer Instant Card Numbers
Aside from the Chase Freedom Flex and small business credit cards, most Chase cards should be eligible for an instant card number. Here's a few more:
- *chase sapphire reserve*
- *freedom unlimited*
- *united explorer*
- Marriott Bonvoy Bountiful™ Credit Card
Often overshadowed by banks like Chase and American Express, Capital One is gradually winning over more and more travelers thanks to the popularity of its Venture credit cards.
Whether you're picking up the tried-and-true *capital one venture card* or the souped-up *venture x* , you'll have the chance to get an instant use card upon approval – so long as you're an existing Capital One customer. This is a key distinction from other issuers: It seems only applicants who have an existing relationship with the bank can get immediate access to their new Capital One account number.
The Capital One Venture X Card
The Venture X is Capital One's premium travel rewards credit card – but compared to it's competitors, it comes with a much more budget-friendly price of $395 each year. While that might still seem like a lot, and be an immediate non-starter for some, once you do the math and consider all that comes with this card, it's almost as if Capital One is paying travelers to have it.
This card earns unlimited 2x Venture Miles on all purchases and comes with bonus earning of 10x on hotels and rental cars booked through the Capital One Travel portal, as well as 5x on flights booked through the portal. You'll also get an annual $300 travel credit for Capital One Travel portal bookings, 10,000 Venture Miles each year on your account anniversary, a credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, and access to more than 1,300 airport lounges around the world.
This card could easily be worth having for anyone who travels with regularity – and maybe even the occasional traveler.
Check out our full review of the Capital One Venture X Card to see for yourself!
Here's a closer look at all the Venture X's benefits:
- Welcome Offer Bonus: *venture x bonus*
- Travel Statement Credits: Every year, you get a $300 annual travel credit to use on any flights, hotels, or rental cars booked through the Capital One travel portal.
- Lounge Access: Free access to 1,300-plus lounges in the Priority Pass network and Capital One's lounge in Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) and brand-new location in Washington, D.C.-Dulles (IAD), plus upcoming locations in Denver (DEN) and Las Vegas (LAS). Cardholders get two free guests, too.
- Global Entry or TSA PreCheck: Up to $100 in statement credits to sign up for either TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. This credit is good once every four years, and membership in both programs lasts five years.
- Earning More Points: Capital One Venture X cardholders will earn 10x miles on hotels and rental cars and 5x miles on flights booked via the Capital One Travel portal, and an unlimited 2x miles on every dollar spent on all other purchases with the card.
- 10,000 bonus miles: Every year starting in year two, you'll get 10,000 bonus miles after renewing your Venture X Card.
- Great Travel & Rental Car Insurance: By paying for your travels with a Venture X, you'll get unbeatable primary rental car coverage, trip cancellation insurance, trip delay coverage, and reimbursement if your baggage gets lost or stolen.
Learn more about the *venture x*.
Other Capital One Cards That Offer Instant Card Numbers
Loyalty rewards program newcomer Bilt is another option for receiving a virtual card instantly upon approval. With Bilt, you'll only have one choice: It's the *Bilt Mastercard*.
With the Bilt Rewards Card, you'll get a solid no annual fee travel card that earns transferrable points and comes with travel benefits normally reserved for cards in a higher price range. This card is an especially good value for renters as it allows them to charge rent to their card and earn 1x points (up to 100,000 points each year) without paying any additional transaction fees.
While the card doesn't offer an official welcome offer, it could be a great choice for anyone with a big upcoming purchase as many new card members report being targeted with an offer to earn 5x Bilt points on all purchase (up to 50,000 bonus points) for the first five days after receiving their card. It's no sure thing, but this could be another reason for considering the card, even if you're not a renter.
For full details on the Bilt Rewards Card, check out our full review!
Here is what you need to know about the Bilt Rewards Mastercard:
- 3x points per dollar spent on dining
- 2x points per dollar spent on travel
- 1x points per dollar spent on other purchases
- 1x points per dollar spent on rent in the Bilt Rewards app (up to $100,000 per calendar year)
- Earn double points on Rent Day (the 1st of the month), up to 10,000 bonus points per month
- 6x points per dollar spent on dining
- 4x points per dollar spent on travel
- 2x points per dollar spent on everyday purchases
- 1x points per dollar spent on rent
- You must use your card at least five times each statement period to earn points.
- Travel Insurance: Trip cancellation & interruption protection, trip delay reimbursement, and primary auto rental collision damage waiver
- Cellular telephone insurance
- No foreign transaction fees
- No annual fee!
Learn more about the *Bilt Mastercard*.
Whether you're getting a head start on meeting your card's minimum spending requirement with an unexpected purchase, or using the card's travel perks in a jam, being able to get a new card instantly upon approval can be a big factor in deciding just which card to apply for.