What is an API Token?

Reading time: 5 min read
Muninder Adavelli
Written by
Muninder Adavelli

Updated · Feb 11, 2024

Muninder Adavelli
Digital Growth Strategist | Joined October 2021 | Twitter LinkedIn
Muninder Adavelli

Muninder Adavelli is a core team member and Digital Growth Strategist at Techjury. With a strong bac... | See full bio

April Grace Asgapo
Edited by
April Grace Asgapo


April Grace Asgapo
Joined June 2023 | LinkedIn
April Grace Asgapo

April is a proficient content writer with a knack for research and communication. With a keen eye fo... | See full bio

Techjury is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

An API token is a unique key that lets a computer program access an API. This key is special because it comes with specific information.

API tokens are custom-made for the device you’re using. This simply means you'll need a different token if you switch from your phone to your laptop.

It keeps things safe and ensures that only the right programs can use the API.

APIs have become a frequent tool for more than 70% of developers in the past few years. They rely on API tokens to make sure no unauthorized data gets into their AP

Continue reading to understand the basics of API tokens, how they function, and how to keep them safe

🔑 Key Takeaways

  • API tokens act as unique keys allowing computer programs to access APIs securely. These tokens are device-specific and ensure that only authorized programs can use the API. 
  • API tokens consist of three main components: Header, Payload, and Signature. The header contains token information, the payload stores specific data, and the signature ensures token integrity. 
  • Various types of API tokens, such as OAuth tokens, JSON Web Tokens, Personal Access Tokens (PATs), Session Tokens, and SAML Tokens, serve different purposes.

API Tokens Explained

APIs require tokens to access data when requests are made. The tokens are included in the request header. The API tells the server who sent the request and verifies if they can access the requested data.

API tokens are created and handled in an API management tool. It is important to keep your API token secure because it provides data to sensitive information and resources.

📖 What is an API?

An API (Application Programming Interface) is a set of rules, protocols, and tools that allows different software applications to communicate and interact with each other. 

Elements of API Token

API tokens are made up of three structural components. Each component is important for keeping data stored in the token safe. These components are explained below:

The header contains information about the token, like what type it is and how it is encrypted.

  • Payload

The payload is where the specific data is stored. It contains the actual data that the token carries, such as user ID or permissions.

  • Signature

The signature is a special code that combines the header, payload, and secret key. It helps to verify that the token has not been tampered with.

How API Tokens Work

API tokens use unique code generated through cryptography to authenticate user or application requests to access an API.

When someone tries to connect to the API, they provide their API token to authenticate their identity and requested level of access.

The API server checks the token and approves the request if it is valid. However, if the token is invalid or doesn't provide the necessary level of access, the API server will reject the request.

Types of API Tokens

There are different types of API tokens, and each of them has its characteristics. Below are some common types.

1. OAuth Tokens

OAuth tokens are explicitly used to grant access to user data without revealing their login details.

When a user gives a third party permission to access an application, the third party will be given an OAuth token that can be used to access the user's data without knowing the user's login details.

2. JSON Web Tokens

A JSON web token is a type of token that contains all the necessary information about a user or application. The JSON web token is commonly used because it can be easily used on websites and links.

3. Personal Access Tokens (PATs)

Personal Access Tokens are authentication tokens connected to a user's account and individual credentials. These tokens are used to access third-party applications for specific services.

4. Session Tokens

Session Tokens are tokens that are generated when you log into a website. They are kept on the website's server to keep track of users' identity and their sessions.

5. SAML Tokens

SAML Tokens are used for identification when a user logs in to different websites. They contain information about your login details and can be used to access various websites without the need to log in again.

Pro Tip!

Store API tokens securely as environment variables rather than hardcoding them directly into your code. This practice prevents accidental exposure of sensitive information if code is shared or uploaded to version control systems.

How Secure are API Tokens?

API tokens are generally considered to be a secure way of accessing APIs. It is also important for you to protect your API tokens and keep them safe.

There are different methods used to keep API Tokens secure. Some common methods are explained below:

1. Token Encryption

Encrypt API tokens with robust encryption algorithms like AES-256 to ensure data is transmitted safely. It keeps it safe from tampering with third parties.

2. Token Hashing

Use safe hashing algorithms like SHA-256 to ensure attackers cannot easily guess API tokens. Hashed tokens are unreadable and difficult to reverse.

3. Regular Testing of Security Algorithms

Ensure regular checking of the encryption and hashing algorithms used to protect data to be sure they are not easy to hack. Ensure the use of security methods that have proven to be effective.

Restrict Access to Certain IP Addresses

Set restrictions on specific IP addresses and ensure only authorized users can access the system. Monitor IP addresses regularly for unusual access attempts.


No single security measure is foolproof. A comprehensive security strategy combining these methods helps bolster API token security and safeguards against potential threats or breaches.


API tokens are essential keys that protect and control access to valuable data and resources. These tokens have different components, types, and ways to keep them safe.

Following the methods to keep API tokens safe will help you protect important data and resources.

API Token FAQs.

Is an API token a password?

An API token is not a password. Passwords are secret characters that you remember, while API tokens are special codes created to access particular data without revealing your user details.

Does an API key expire?

API keys have expiration dates for safety purposes. You must get a new key to continue using the API when it expires.

What happens if someone steals the API key?

If someone steals an API key, they can potentially access the data that is associated with that key.


Facebook LinkedIn Twitter
Leave your comment

Your email address will not be published.