American Express SafeKey – An Anti-Fraud Tool

All of the major card brands offer advanced anti-fraud tools for merchants who are willing to implement them.  American Express offers a tool called SafeKey. SafeKey provides an addition layer of protection for online transactions made with an American Express card.

What Exactly is SafeKey?

SafeKey is American Express’ version of a 3D Secure authentication tool that protects both the Amex cardholder and the merchant to avoid unauthorized Amex transactions performed online.  Cardholders are automatically enrolled in the Amex SafeKey program with no additional action required on their part. When making an online purchase with a participating merchant, the cardholder /purchaser may be asked to provide a one-time use code that they receive by email or on their phone.  Obviously Amex has their email address and cell phone numbers so this information is provided to them in a matter of seconds.  These one-time use codes are valid for 10 minutes.  If the transaction is not completed immediately, they will need to start over.  Also, if the “real” cardholder receives an email or text notifying them of a code that they did not request, the cardholder is tipped off that someone is trying to use their card.

SafeKey 2.0

American Express SafeKey 2.0 will offers support on non-browser shopping sites such as in-app payments through smartphones and can support biometric payment authentication.  Businesses that currently use SafeKey in it’s original version will need to upgrade if they wish to use SafeKey 2.0. Businesses that don’t currently use SafeKey should implement it if you conduct online transactions.

How Does It Work?

On its website, American Express details the process for a cardholder checkout with SafeKey. The customer shops on your website as usual, adding items to their cart. When they are ready to complete the transaction, the customer proceeds to your checkout page and enters their card details.  If the transaction requires the customer to enter a one-time code, the SafeKey one-time code window will appear, advising the customer that they have been sent a code and prompting them to enter it to complete the purchase.  Please note that not all Amex transactions will require a one-time use code, and that SafeKey doesn’t work with all types of Amex cards. It’s a good idea to utilize SafeKey as one of several anti-fraud tools, not the only one. SafeKey works in conjunction with popular fraud prevention tools such as the AVS (Address Verification System).

Benefits of Implementing SafeKey

One of the primary benefits of SafeKey is that liability for chargebacks will shift to the issuer and not you if a customer initiates a chargeback on a transaction that was approved with the proper use of SafeKey.  Additionally, SafeKey may allow you to serve higher risk markets (such as international customers) while limiting your own risk.  This is important to you since the liability of almost all fraud has been placed on the backs of merchants since October 2015.

Does it cost money to use American Express SafeKey?

The service is free for cardholders, but there may be costs to your business for implementation or set up. If you’re considering using SafeKey, contact American Express to ask how to implement SafeKey to your website.

 How to Implement Amex SafeKey

To implement American Express SafeKey on your ecommerce site, you’ll need to enroll with American Express and accept the terms and conditions. Once you’ve completed the necessary enrollment form, you’ll get an email from the SafeKey Certification Team with a SafeKey ID and details on the next steps. Amex will work with the acquirer to complete setup and notify you when that process has been completed.

Taking American Express

If your business isn’t set up to take American Express, you can start accepting it by contacting Chosen Payments for assistance. Some businesses think that it’s too expensive to accept Amex, but American Express introduced a new pricing model called OptBlue that has potentially lower costs of acceptance. If you think you’re paying too much to process Amex cards call Chosen Payments for a free comparison check – 855-4CHOSEN or visit our website at