We already know that you can apply for most business credit cards and credit products, day or night, within minutes. The more pressing question most business owners have, however, is “when will I know if I’ve been approved?” While desperation is usually not a good place to be when applying for credit, the waiting game can be torturous for a company who just needs a little financing help to move forward with a product launch or the next phase of their business plan. Here’s what you need to know about the length of time most business credit cards take to let you know if you’re accepted.
Apply for New Cards with Your Bank
If you already have a relationship with a bank or credit lending institution, your approval process will usually be the quickest by applying again through them for a new business credit card. That’s because they already have most of your information on file. Yes, you may need to refill out some of the info, update things like your sales figures, and confirm your identity. Once completed, however, your application is sometimes just a formality to get you going with a lender that’s pretty familiar with your creditworthiness.
Each lending institution is different, and some may never give out an instant “you’re approved!” message on the screen after hitting the apply button. Others may tell you that you’re conditionally-approved, suggesting that (if all the info you provided is indeed accurate and truthful), you’re in. Still, some banks always mail their credit decisions. Depending on your bank’s policies, you can expect a decision in as little as a few minutes to as long as ten business days. If they require updated proof of revenue, however, be prepared to add a few days on for that.
Picking New Cards
The most common way business owners apply for a card is through a new company. Banks are vying for your business and will offer sweet intro deals to get you to apply. These intro deals (or “promotional offers) can be anything from no interest on purchases for a time, low balance transfer fees, cash back, free plane tickets, statement credit, no annual fee, or any number of perks.
Because not all applicants are qualified for the better offers, it’s wise to scout around and see if the card you are applying for fits the following criteria:
- You were sent materials in the mail, online, or through a partner offer stating that you’re pre-qualified (meeting the basic conditions of approval based on info the lender received about you)
- You researched the card and found that you meet the general criteria for credit-worthiness (including business credit scores – not just business history)
Since most businesses don’t have time to wait around for pre-qualification offers, and the best cards don’t always come that way, using a credit card resource that lists all the cards and their requirements out is a good way to shop around for the best card that’s most likely to approve you.
Once you have identified the card you think will be a good fit, applying online should be as simple as applying for one with an existing lender. Fill in all your info to the best of your ability, having documents such as tax records, income reports, and your contact info handy. One of a few things will happen when you apply:
- You’ll get approved. You will also get notified of the amount you qualify for. (Sometimes, however, even instant approvals won’t find out their limit until days later, often by mail when the card comes.)
- You’ll get denied. This can happen instantly. You won’t usually be told the reason why upon being denied online. You will, however, be given a letter in the mail up to two weeks later detailing the decision. This can be anything from too much outstanding credit, too low of an income, or missed payment history.
- You’ll be left hanging. This is the most excruciating part of applying. It’s very common for new businesses, those who are self-employed, and startups without any history under their new business to get told that their application is being reviewed. You can sometimes get this message and then an approval within just a few hours via email. It’s also common to not know for ten days. If you get told that your application is pending verification, expect you may be contacted to provide additional information.
How long should you wait?
Since credit decisions can happen instantly – or take up to 10-14 days to decide – it’s hard to give a one-size-fits-all answer. The quick rule, however, is that those with better credit scores, who haven’t applied for any new credit in over six months, and who fill out their application for a card that’s a good fit for their credit-worthiness will get the quickest replies.
Retail business cards are also quick at letting you know. Shopping at a big box store, warehouse store, or business supply store will usually give you the opportunity to shop and then apply for credit upon checkout. Since the retailer really wants your business (and has usually offered a deal on your purchase as an incentive to apply), they will give you that decision instantly, in most cases.
Whether you are applying for your first business card or your tenth, avoid applying for a card that won’t be a good long-term fit just because it may provide a quicker approval. A lender can be a good partner in the building of your business, however, you should still pay attention to lending rates, annual fees, and other conditions of the contract that can hinder business growth. Regardless of whether you get a “yes” or a “no,” don’t apply for another card for at least six months, if at all possible. Multiple inquiries on your credit history can lower your score over time and make it even harder to get that next business credit card in the future.
This article was originally written on November 15, 2018 and updated on October 21, 2020.