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Saturday, 24 February 2018



Last updated: 09/08/2018, 4 min read

How To Get A Free Google API Key


Introduction



During the previous years, I published several VBA functions that used Google web services, such as Geocoding, Elevation, and Directions. These functions worked in the same way: a properly formatted request was sent to the Google server, and, then, a response was received in XML format. If the response was successful, the requested field was retrieved (latitude, longitude, elevation, trip distance etc.) by reading the XML file. These VBA functions working fine for several years, however, Google started to not allow the requests over HTTP protocol anymore, so these functions have become useless. This is the reason why I decided to rewrite all of these VBA functions while guiding you on how to get a free Google API Key that is now required.

August 2018 Update: Due to the new Google's pricing in effect for the entire Maps Platform (started on July 16, 2018), I decided to re-write this guide, so as to follow along with their updated policy. The new pricing policy reduces significantly the free usage, but, still, for small, personal projects can be adequate.



The necessary steps to get a free, valid API key



The tutorial can be used for ANY Google API. As an example, I use the Geocoding API. The only prerequisite for this process is to just have a Google account and a credit card. Note: if you don't exceed the free limits, your credit card will be charged nothing. So, yes, you can use the API key for free, as long as your API usage is low. More information is given below.

Common steps

1.    First of all, log in to your Google Account.

Logged In With Gmail Account

2.    Search for the appropriate API by using something like “Google API Name API Key”. The first result will probably be the one you need to click.

Search For API Key

3.    On the API page, click on the Get Started button.

Navigate To Google API Page

4.    A new page will load. In that page, you can hover over the available products, so as to select the one that contains the appropriate API. In this example, we can see that the Geocoding API is included in the third option (Places).

Hover Over The Options

5.    Check the appropriate product, the third one in this case, and then click on the Continue button.

Select Product

6.    Select the Create a new project option and click it.

Create A New Project
7.    Rename the project, select the Yes radio button (agreeing with terms of service) and press the Next button.

New Project



New billing account

8.    If this is the first time that you are using any Google API, you will have to create a new billing account. So, click on Create Billing Account button to create one. The next time that you will need to use another Google API, you can simply use the same billing account and follow the steps 14 to 16.

Enable Billing

9.    Select your country using the arrow button on the left, click Yes (or No) on the radio button to receive (or not) updates from Google, click Yes on the radio button to agree with the terms of service and press the Agree And Continue button.

Country Selection

10.    Fill in the necessary information, such as tax information, address and your credit card. Note that debit cards are NOT allowed. Then, press the Start My Free Trial button.

Payment Information

11.    Finally, if you filled all the information successfully, you will get a message like the one below. Press the Got It button.

Successful Registration

12.    The main dashboard of the project appears. Hre you can view some useful information, such as the number of requests, the traffic, as well as the billing. Click on your API (here is the Geocoding API).

Main Dashboard

13.    In the API page, click on the Credentials tab. There, you will find the API key, which you can copy using the button shown below. If you click on the API Key hyperlink, a new page opens. See more on the Restring the API key usage section of the guide.

Get The API Key



Existing billing account


14.    If you already have a billing account, then you have to click on the Set Account button on the form that will pop up.

Set Existing Billing Account

15.    On the next form, click on the Next button.

Enable APIs

16.    In the API form that pop-ups, you will find the API key, which you can copy using the button shown below. Finally, click on the Done button. If you click on the API Console hyperlink, a new page opens. See more on the Restring the API key usage section that follows.

Get The New API Key



Aditional information



Restring the API key usage

If you clicked either the API key hyperlink (step 13) or the API Console hyperlink (step 16), you will end up in a new page where you can rename your API key, but more importantly, you can restrict its access (if you need to do that). Furthermore, you can regenerate or even delete the key if you no longer need it. Don't forget to click the Save button after any change you make.

Console Options



Using API key in VBA functions

If you want to use your API key in one of the VBA functions that I have uploaded, for example, the GetCoordinates function, then you have to paste the key in the line that is shown below (e.g. assign it to the ApiKey string variable). Note: use quotation marks before and after the key!

Using The API Key In VBA



Free API key limitations

Until July 16, the pricing policy of Google allowed 2,500 free requests per day and per API. However, the free requests have been dramatically reduced. Hence, according to the new pricing, for the case of Geocoding API, as the image below shows, the free requests per month are only 40,000 (i.e. 1,333 requests per day on average). In other words, the free requests were dropped in the half (46% reduction). So, when you need to use an API, take a closer look at the allowable free requests on this table and try not to exceed them. More information about the billing can be found here.

Geocoding Free Limits



Monitoring your API requests

As we already mentioned, the free usage is limited to a specific number of requests per month. In order to have an overview of how many requests you performed, you can go to your project's page in the Google Cloud Console. There, on the Overview tab, you can see the number of requests you have already done. In the example below, 22 requests were sent to Google's server. If you don't want to pay any money, be careful with your free limits.

Requests Counter



Epilogue



If you followed these steps, you will get a valid API key that you can use on your projects. To save you some time, here are the links to the API key pages that I have used in the VBA functions published in this blog:

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Mechanical Engineer (Ph.D. cand.), M.Sc. Cranfield University, Dipl.-Ing. Aristotle University, Thessaloniki - Greece.
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