Have you ever had a package stolen from your doorstep?

It can happen to anyone. There's not much you can do when you've ordered something to be delivered to your home and it arrives when you're not there, whether that's because you're at work or walking the dog or at the store. But Amazon is hoping to tackle this very issue, by introducing a new service called Amazon Key. Plus, it offers another Key-branded service that gives its couriers access to your vehicle.

Here's what you need to know about both – but first, it's worth noting that these delivery schemes are currently paused due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, so you won't be able to take advantage right now.


What is Amazon Key?

Amazon Key is exclusive to paid Prime members. It's an in-home delivery service in which a delivery driver or courier can temporarily gain access to your home to leave a package safely inside, rather than on the doorstep, where it could be stolen. There are various ways your smart home can work with it but, in most cases, you will need a cloud-based Amazon Alexa-compatible camera and a smart door lock.

Once it is all set up, you'll need to select "free in-home delivery" at checkout on Amazon. Amazon says that Amazon Key in-home deliveries are carried out by the same drivers who currently deliver your Amazon orders.

Why is Amazon offering Amazon Key?

Amazon makes money by selling you things. If you're at all hesitant to buy something from Amazon because you think your package could be stolen from your doorstep once it is delivered, then Amazon risks not making money. So, it has tried to come up with different ideas for securing parcel deliveries, like with Amazon Locker.

That limited service is only available in select cities and essentially allows you to pick up your packages at a self-service delivery location, which isn't always convenient. It's like running to the post office. Ick. But imagine if a courier could temporarily be given access to your home, so they could drop off your package and leave.

Maybe you can also set up a camera to witness the courier leaving your package. Wouldn't that give you the freedom to order what you want on Amazon and then go out and about without having to worry about missing your delivery? That's the idea Amazon is pitching here. But whether others will agree remains to be seen.

How does Amazon Key work?

Amazon Key In-Home Kit

To get started, check if your garage, gate, home or car is compatible with the system as it stands, using Amazon's guides.

If your kit (in particular, your smart door lock or garage door) is compatible with Amazon Key, you'll be good to go, but you might find that you need to upgrade to a new smart lock. You can also tie the system in with a smart home camera if you want to be able to check in on the process visually as well.

Either way, you'll also need the Amazon Key app. It can access your compatible camera feed so you can can check in anytime via live view and watch deliveries. It also lets you lock and unlock your door lock. You can download it from the App Store or Google Play Store.

Check-out on Amazon

Once your Amazon Key system is set up, shop on Amazon and select “free in-home delivery” at checkout. It's a shipping option for eligible Prime items. Amazon will notify you just before the delivery, then authorise the delivery, and unlock your door. You can watch everything live in the Amazon Key app or see a video of it later.

On delivery day

So, on delivery day, you’ll receive a notification in the morning with a four-hour delivery window for when the delivery courier will arrive at your home. When they arrive at your door, you will receive an “Arriving Now” notification and you can then choose to watch the delivery happening live via the Amazon Key app.

The courier will knock first and then request to unlock your door with their Amazon handheld scanner. Amazon will verify everything at that point, then turn on your camera if relevant, and unlock your door. The courier will then place the package just inside your door and request to re-lock the door, which Amazon will do.

Once the delivery is complete and your door is relocked, you’ll get a notification and can watch a video clip of the delivery with the Amazon Key app. Amazon said all in-home deliveries are backed by its "Happiness Guarantee". If a delivery was not completed to your satisfaction, Amazon will try to correct the problem.

Block access

You can also select “Block Access” in the Amazon Key app at any time to block a courier from having access to your home. If they need to deliver a package still, they will simply follow the standard Amazon delivery process.

Permanent or temporary access

Beyond in-home deliveries, Amazon Key lets you grant home access to others. You can schedule permanent access for your family members, or you can give temporary access to recurring visitors like dog walkers. You’ll be notified any time a guest locks or unlocks your door, and you can watch them coming and going, too.

Where is Amazon Key available?

Amazon Key is available in the following US cities:

  • Atlanta, GA; Austin, TX; Baltimore, MD; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, OH; Cleveland, OH; Dallas, TX; Denver, CO; Detroit, MI; Houston, TX; Indianapolis, IN; Jacksonville, FL; Kansas City, KS; Los Angeles and Orange County, CA; Louisville, KY; Miami, FL; Milwaukee, WI; Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN; Nashville, TN; Newark, NJ; Orlando, FL; Philadelphia, PA; Phoenix, AZ; Pittsburgh, PA; Portland, OR; Richmond, VA; Sacramento, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; San Antonio, TX; San Diego, CA; San Francisco Bay area, CA; Sarasota, FL; Seattle and Eastside, WA; St. Louis, MO; Tampa, FL; Washington DC metro area

What about Amazon Key In-Car Delivery?

Available in select US cities

Back in April 2018, Amazon announced another Key-branded service that gives its couriers access to your vehicle for the purpose of leaving package deliveries inside. Rather than use smart locks and a cloud-connected camera to gain entry, Amazon wants to use the connected technologies embedded in modern vehicles. It initially launched this service in partnership with two major automakers: General Motors and Volvo.

Called Amazon Key In-Car Delivery, the system, which is technically an expansion of Amazon Key, has rolled out around the US.

There are a few limitations

The service is only available to Amazon Prime subscribers, and it's limited by whether you have a car that will work with it, although the roster expands every so often. Another limitation is that packages weighing over 50 pounds and larger than 26 x 21 x 16 inches in size require a signature. The same goes if they're valued at over $1,300.

If they come from a third-party seller, they're not eligible for delivery.

How it works

First, add your car to your Amazon Key app and include a description of it. The car should be parked near your address used for Amazon deliveries – and in driveways, parking lots, parking garages, or street parking – so that Amazon's couriers can locate and access it.

After purchasing an item and selecting in-car delivery, Amazon sends notifications to let you know that the package is on its way. You always have the option to change delivery locations or even “block access” to the car in the Key app. If you do block access, Amazon will default to a backup delivery location. To find your car, couriers will have access to its GPS location, license plate number, and an image of the car.

Couriers have their own device to verify the car, scan the package, and request that the vehicle be unlocked via the car's connected services. Amazon says it never has access to the customer’s connected car login details. Couriers will drop in the package, confirm its delivery, close the boot, and make sure it's locked. Amazon says it's safe and secure, and that the only difference with Amazon Key is that there is no video.

Also, to sign up, you aren’t required to spend $250 on a smart lock and camera, and there’s no installation required. You just need a car.

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