How To Get an Instant Virtual Credit Card

Written by Banks Editorial Team
6 min. read
Written by Banks Editorial Team
6 min. read

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Imagine applying for a credit card, getting approved and being able to use it right away. You don’t have to imagine if you get an instant virtual credit card. One of the many advantages of these cards is that you can use them right away instead of waiting for a physical card to arrive in the mail, and the benefits don’t end there. Keep reading to learn more about how they work and an attractive option that could be a good choice for you.

Get a Digital Credit Card
Access a revolving line of credit based on your cash flow, not your credit score, with the Grain digital credit card.

What is an Instant Virtual Credit Card?

An instant virtual credit card is a digital credit card you’ll get access to before your credit card arrives in the mail. It allows you to make online purchases and shop with retailers that accept contactless payments. You can use this card even after receiving your physical credit card.

How Does an Instant Virtual Credit Card Work?

Virtual credit cards operate like traditional credit cards. Upon approval, you’ll receive a digital card with a unique card number, expiration date and CVV code that can be used right away. Input this information when checking out online, or select the contactless payment method if you’re making a purchase at a physical location. 

Once you receive your card in the mail, you can opt to disable your instant virtual credit card or continue using it to make purchases. You can continue the virtual experience with Apple Pay or Google Pay. These digital wallets let you store credit card information for easy access during purchases.

What are the Advantages of Instant Virtual Credit Cards?

Instant virtual credit cards come with several benefits that make them worth considering.

Easy to Use

The card information will be available directly on your financial institution’s mobile app. In addition, you can use it online or at any retailer where contactless payment is accepted.

Fast or Temporary Solution

Financial emergencies call for expedited solutions, which you’ll get with an instant virtual credit card. You won’t have to wait several business days for a physical credit card to arrive by mail. A virtual credit card can alleviate the pressure of having to access the funds you need. 

Access Your Funds Instantly

You won’t have to wait for the standard seven to ten business days for your card to arrive in the mail. Instead, you can access funds right away and start purchasing the goods or services you need most. Some credit card issuers offer instant approval. Other issuers may have you wait a bit before letting you know if your application for a new credit card got approved.

Manage Your Card From Anywhere

Review account activity, make payments or request support directly from the mobile app. You can also set spending limits on some virtual credit cards to avoid accruing a ton of interest charges or spending more than you can comfortably afford to repay. You can freeze and unfreeze your credit card with a few clicks to prevent unauthorized access. This feature becomes more important if you recently noticed any suspicious activity on your credit report.

Get Rewards for Every Dollar You Spend

Most credit card issuers have rewards programs that encourage consumers to do business with them. You can earn points or cash back depending on the type of credit card you use. Of course, you shouldn’t spend for the sake of accumulating rewards, but getting something back with every purchase you would have made anyway is a great deal. 

Some credit cards have additional perks for specific spending categories. Apple Card users can buy qualifying products at an Apple Store and make monthly payments at 0% APR. You can also get 3% daily cash back for purchases at an Apple Store.

Some people accumulate credit cards because of their different reward structures. A card from American Express may reward different spending categories more favorably than a credit card issued by Mastercard. These cards won’t provide 3% cash back for purchases at the Apple Store, but you can get more favorable rewards elsewhere. Just make sure you don’t apply for too many credit cards, as excessive hard credit inquiries can lower your score.

Build Credit with Every On-Time Payment

A virtual credit card, just like a physical card, lets you build credit with every on-time payment. Your financial activity gets reported to the major credit bureaus, and that activity can help you qualify for a mortgage or auto loan with favorable rates and terms.

Introductory APR Programs

Some virtual credit cards have enticing APR programs. You can get 0% APR for the first 12-18 months of opening your card. It’s less risky to accumulate debt on these cards since you won’t owe interest right away. However, letting the debt linger too long can hurt your credit score and put you in a bad position when the introductory APR expires.

How to Open a Virtual Credit Card

A virtual credit card arrives right away and has great security features. These cards even make sense for people who already have a physical copy of their credit cards. The process for opening a virtual credit card is straightforward.

Compare Different Credit Cards

Most credit card issuers offer virtual credit cards, but some have better terms, fee structures, and rewards programs than others. You should also check credit score requirements and other details. Consumers with bad credit may have to start with secured credit cards. You may also want to narrow your search to credit card issuers that do not conduct hard credit checks. These cards may be easier to obtain for people who do not have the best credit. Browse around to see which credit card is the right one for you.

Submit an Application

After finding the right credit card, submit your details on the issuer’s website. Some credit card companies promise same-day virtual credit cards if your application gets approved that you can access from your computer, smartphone, or any other device.

Get a Digital Credit Card
Access a revolving line of credit based on your cash flow, not your credit score, with the Grain digital credit card.

Receive Approval and Put it in Your Digital Wallet

Once you receive approval and accept your virtual credit card, you can start using it in your digital wallet. Put the credit card information in Apple Pay or Google Pay so it is readily available when you make online and in-store purchases.

Should You Get a Virtual Debit Card Instead?

A virtual credit card provides instant access to additional funds, but is a debit card the better choice? The process for getting a virtual debit card is similar to getting a virtual credit card, but which one should you choose? We have highlighted key details about each card for you to consider.

Spending Power

Debit cards are limited to the funds in your checking account, but a credit card’s limit can significantly exceed your checking account. Some people need funds for an emergency but don’t want to worry about reducing their checking accounts. Credit cards with introductory 0% APR programs reduce the blowback from getting into credit card debt early on. A virtual credit card gives you more financial flexibility in the short term.


Virtual debit cards do not put you into debt. You can only pay with your checking balance, and you will get an overdraft fee if you try to overspend. Some financial institutions offer overdraft protection and other features to minimize these fees, but you cannot rack up debt with a virtual debit card. A virtual credit card, on the other hand, can put you deep into debt, and double-digit interest rates don’t make it easier to pay off.

Credit Building

A virtual credit card’s strongest strength over its counterpart is credit building. Credit card activity gets reported to the major credit bureaus, but the same isn’t the case for virtual debit cards. This can become problematic for credit cardholders if they fall behind on payments.

Rewards Programs

Debit cards have been catching up, and more of them offer cash back. Although cashback debit cards are becoming more popular, credit cards offer a greater range of rewards programs and perks.


Debit cards have a straightforward fee structure. If you do not overdraw your bank account, you won’t have to worry. Credit cards have more fees that can make it more difficult to get out of debt. Credit cardholders will have to contend with high-interest rates, late payment fees, additional costs for exceeding the credit limit, and other expenses. Credit card companies can also sneak in annual fees and other expenses under the table. This practice isn’t as rampant as it once was, but you have to be more careful about hidden credit card fees than debit card fees.

How to Turn Your Debit Card into an Instant Virtual Credit Card

What if you could get the financial protection of a debit card along with the credit-building component of credit cards? You wouldn’t have to worry about getting overwhelmed with credit card debt and excessive fees, but you could still put yourself in a position to qualify for a better mortgage or auto loan in the future.

The Grain financial app lets you obtain an instant line of credit that connects with your debit card. It’s available in all 50 states and features a fast, seamless application process with real-time decisions in just minutes.

You may be eligible for a personal line of credit based on your cash flow, even if you don’t have perfect credit. There are no credit checks, and Grain syncs with your checking account to ensure you have access to cash any time of the day or night. 

Plus, you can use Grain to help build credit from scratch or improve your credit rating if you’ve had some past financial missteps. Grain reports account activity to the three primary credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion and Equifax – monthly. And if you make timely payments, your credit history, which accounts for 35 percent of your FICO score, will improve and can help increase your credit score.

Good payment history usually results in a good credit utilization ratio, a component that accounts for 30 percent of your FICO score. You can also monitor your credit score’s progress over time directly on the dashboard of the Grain app by selecting the Profile tab. 

Ready to give Grain a try and unlock all the benefits it has to offer?

Download the mobile app and sync your primary checking account to see if you have a preapproved offer. Personal lines of credit of up to $1,000 are available for new customers. However, you could qualify for an increase six months after opening your account by making consecutive on-time payments. It’s equally important to keep your linked account in good standing and avoid any overdraft or NSF fees due to overspending or returned payments. 

(Note: Grain is not yet available on Google Play. Join the Android waiting list to be the first to know when it officially launches on this platform)

Get a Digital Credit Card
Access a revolving line of credit based on your cash flow, not your credit score, with the Grain digital credit card.

Disclaimer: Credit offer based on cash flow in the linked checking account and may require a credit check. All accounts are subject to ID verification and approval. See your Credit Agreement and Terms of Service for further details.

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