How to get your OpenAI API key: A step-by-step guide

June 30, 2023

Need to use your own API key? 

If you're using AI tools or AI platforms you've probably come across the term "OpenAI API key" and wondered what it is, why it's important, and how you get one. An API key serves as a unique identifier that lets you connect to your OpenAI account and access their models like ChatGPT and GPT-4. While it may seem like a hassle, it’s often cheaper in the long-run to use your own API key rather than relying on third-party platforms that act as middle-men. An OpenAI API key plugs you right into the source so you can pay as you go.

For example, Pickaxe's no-code AI app builder allows users to enter their own API key. This allows them to enjoy near unlimited usage of their embedded AI tools and not worry about having enough credits or usage.

In this step-by-step guide, we'll walk you through the process of finding, generating, and using your own OpenAI API key.

Step 1: Log into OpenAI’s website

To start visit OpenAI’s website.

If you already have an OpenAI account, you’ll be prompted to log in. If you don’t have an account, create one. Don't know if you have an account? If you use ChatGPT, that means you already an account!

Log in screen of OpenAI

Step 2: Click on your profile and select “View API keys”

Once you’ve logged in, you’ll be redirected to the OpenAI Dashboard. You should see your name and profile in the top right corner.

Click on your profile. You’ll see a dropdown menu appear. 

Click on the “View API Keys” item.

Home page of OpenAI

Step 3: Navigate to the API Keys Section

You will be redirected to your profile section. There are a ton of options and settings about your account. But we’re only interested in your API key.

Make sure you're on a page titled “API keys”. You can navigate to it by clicking on "API Keys" on the left-hand panel. It should look like this.

API Keys section of your OpenAI account

Step 4: Generate a new API key

This step is pretty simple. Click “Create new secret key”. 

You will be prompted to give the API key a nickname. Enter a nickname and click "Create new secret key"

This will generate a new API key. It will be a long string of random letters and numbers. This is an important string! Treat it like a password. Don’t lose it and don’t share it with parties you don’t trust. Your API key is a way to connect to your OpenAI account and ultimately bill your account for usage. 

Step 5: Copy your API Key (you get one chance!)

Make sure to copy your API key to your clipboard or somewhere safe on your computer. Once an API key has been generated you won’t be able to see the entire key again on OpenAI. This is for security purposes. If you didn’t copy the API key or you lost it, you can always generate a new one.

Step 6: Enter the API key into Pickaxe

Now that you have your API key, you can integrate it into websites or applications that require one. 

To use your API key on Pickaxe, it’s very simple. By entering your API key into a Pickaxe you can give that Pickaxe unlimited usage. It will use your API key instead of your Pickaxe credits.

To enter your API key, go to a particular pickaxe and visit the control panel.

Under the API Key section, select “custom” and then paste in your API key. Click "save" to securely store your API key.

Your API key is now safely stored. Don’t worry Pickaxe can’t see this key.

How to enter your API key into a pickaxe

Further Questions

Why should I use an API key?

In the long run, it’s cheaper to use your own API key. Many services provide use of their own Api key as proxy. It’s how they offer access to OpenAI’s models through their platforms. However, each use of an API key costs money and the platform may pass it off to at a mark-up. 

Does using my OpenAPI key cost money?

Yes. Using your OpenAI key is costs money. Each use of your API key will cost a small amount of money that OpenAI will bill to you. However, it's very small. Generally each run of ChatGPT (GPT 3.5) costs about $0.002 per 1,000 tokens of output. A “token” is a technical unit, but it equals roughly 0.75 words. So in simpler terms, it costs about 1 cent to generate 3,750 words of output. These prices are subject to change and are trending downward as computing gets cheaper. For the most up to date pricing, you can visit OpenAI’s pricing page.

Are there downsides to using my OpenAI key?

For most part, it’s advantageous to use your own API key. However, there are a couple potential downsides. 

Access to GPT-4. Not all users have access to the latest, most powerful models. Some users may not have access to GPT-4. To gain access, you can request GPT-4 access here

Usage Limits. By default, accounts have a usage limit of $120/month. If you aren’t running a gigantic business, then it’s difficult and quite unlikely you’ll surpass this amount. For reference, that’s 45 million words of output on ChatGPT. However, if you find yourself running up against your limit, you can always request more usage. To do so, just visit your OpenAI account, click on Billing and Usage Limit. On that page you can request an increase. 

How to request a usage increase of your OpenAI API key