Credit Card Processing, ecommerce, Security and PCI Compliance

Using American Express SafeKey


October 30, 2018

The major card brands offer advanced anti-fraud tools for businesses willing to use them, and SafeKey is one such tool.

Available from American Express, SafeKey provides an addition layer of protection for online transactions made with an American Express card.

What is American Express SafeKey?

SafeKey is American Express’ version of a 3D Secure authentication tool to help both cardholders and businesses protect against unauthorized online Amex transactions.

American Express offers this video explaining SafeKey:

Cardholders are automatically enrolled in the SafeKey program. When making an online purchase with a participating business, the cardholder may be asked to provide a one-time use code that they will receive by email or on their phone.

One-time use codes are only valid for 10 minutes. If the cardholder doesn’t complete the checkout in that time, they’ll need to restart and request another one-time code.

SafeKey 2.0

American Express SafeKey 2.0 will offer additional features not available with the first iteration. 2.0 will be able to support non-browser shopping (such as in-app payments through smartphones) and can support biometric payment authentication.

Businesses that currently use SafeKey will need to upgrade with their processor if they wish to use SafeKey 2.0. Businesses that don’t currently use SafeKey may prefer to wait to implement 2.0 when it becomes available.

How it Works

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 ready to complete the purchase, your customer proceeds to your checkout page and enters their card details.

SafeKey step 2

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.

Amex SafeKey step 3

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 Address Verification (AVS).

Benefits of Implementing SafeKey

One of the primary benefits of SafeKey is that liability for chargebacks shifts to the issuer, not your business, if a customer initiates a chargeback on a transaction that was approved with proper use of SafeKey.

Additionally, SafeKey may allow you to serve higher risk markets (such as international customers) while limiting your own risk.

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 your credit card processor to ask about any setup fees or ongoing charges.

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 ready.

Taking American Express

If you haven’t set up SafeKey for American Express, you can contact your processor for setup assistance. Some businesses think that it’s too expensive to accept Amex, but American Express introduced a new pricing model called OptBlue in 2015, which offered the potential for lower costs of acceptance. However, not all processors are passing along the savings to businesses.

If you think you’re paying too much to take Amex, or if you aren’t taking it yet but want to know how much you can expect to pay on Amex transactions, sign up for a free comparison through CardFellow and then give us a call. We’ll be able to explain the numbers for your specific business so you won’t have any surprises when it comes to the cost for accepting credit cards.

Ellen Cunningham

BY Ellen Cunningham

Ellen has a degree in English, which she puts to work every day researching and writing articles, processor reviews, and social media posts. She enjoys the challenge of explaining complex topics - making her a perfect fit for credit card processing - and strongly believes in CardFellow's mission of empowering business owners through education. When she's not busy following the latest industry news, Ellen can be found cycling the beautiful trails of southern New England, narrowly losing at pub quizzes, or practicing her trapeze skills in aerial circus class.


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