How to Use Your American Express Gift Card to Make Online Purchases

A woman using a card to make an online purchase on a tablet.
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Navigating a gift card's activation may seem stressful at first glance. However, American Express gift cards don't require any activation prior to use, which makes them simple and easy to use for shopping and other spending needs. You can use your gift card just like you would a regular credit or debit card from a major credit card company or your bank. This makes shopping online very straightforward. You will just need to know some pertinent information before you can get started, such as the gift card's number, expiration date and its security code, or CVV.


Finding the Gift Card Security Code

Most sites will ask for a card number, an expiration date and a security code to complete your purchase. Because gift cards usually have all the same information on them as regular cards do, minus the name of the cardholder, you won't need to worry about relearning how to buy things online. Some online companies will even show you where to find the CVV on your card to help you complete the transaction.

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Three- or four-digit security codes (known as CVVs) are a simple but effective protection against fraud and theft that have become standard on all credit, debit and gift cards. Depending on the institution your gift card is tied to, the gift card's three-digit security code will likely still be located in the spot it usually is on a card – on the back of the card. Sometimes, however, this code may be on the front.


American Express’s Security Code

According to Know Your Card, just like the card number on your debit or credit card that's been issued by your bank, you can find your gift card's number very easily, as it's the largest and most prominent information and is displayed on the front of the card.

Expiration dates, security codes and other important information can vary a bit in terms of where on the card they're located, but for the most part, their locations are fairly consistent across issuers and brands.


CVV Codes and ID Numbers

CVV codes, which American Express refers to as card identification numbers, offer an extra layer of security and protection to cardholders by making it more difficult for thieves to make use of stolen credit card numbers, regardless of how they managed to find them.

According to, even major retailers that store their customers' credit card information are not allowed to retain the CVV codes, and only make use of them to authorize payments at the moment their customers make their purchases. Unfortunately, while some vendors do ask for ID when processing credit or debit card purchases, this is not universal, and a thief who's managed to get their hands on your card will be able to bypass the security offered by the CVV or CID.


Most credit card companies will print their three-digit CVV codes on the back of the credit card, but American Express does things just a little bit differently. Instead of printing the security code on the back of the card, American Express prints it on the front of the card, above or beside the card number. Another key difference to note here is that American Express uses four-digit security codes rather than three-digit codes. The purpose of this defensive measure remains the same for all cards, however.