The loading rate effect on both mechanical properties and damage accumulation process of cross-ply carbon fiber-polymer laminates under tensile loading was investigated. In-situ edge observations, Acoustic Emission and Digital Image Correlation techniques were utilized simultaneously to monitor the state of damage in real time. Results showed that the axial modulus and strength were less sensitive to loading rates than failure strain, which increased with the decrease of the loading rate. In the viewpoint of damage accumulation process, high density and uniform distribution of transverse matrix cracks, and H-shape crack patterns, incorporating inter-laminar cracks, were more likely to occur at low loading rates while variable crack spacing occurred at higher rates. When loading rates were lower than a certain level, maximum transverse matrix crack density decreased slightly due to the restriction of relatively widely generated inter-laminar cracks. Furthermore, the cumulative acoustic emission energy of low-frequency signals was linearly correlated to transverse matrix crack density, providing a promising way to quantify crack accumulation in real time. Finally, spatial consistence was observed between transverse matrix cracks at edges and stress concentrations at the exterior 0 ply, and the peaks of axial strain at local concentration regions locate either near the newest cracks or at the place with minimum crack spacing.