The price of Xbox Live Gold, the pass that lets you play multiplayer on Xbox and score a free game or two every month, is going up. Combined with the fact that Microsoft stopped selling the 12-month option, the price of a year of Gold has effectively doubled, from $60 to $120. It’s a bad time to be a frugal Xbox gamer.
Update: Following some vocal outcry at today’s price increase news, Microsoft has reversed its decision, and the original prices ($10/25/40/60) should be active once again. The banking and Game Pass Ultimate upgrades mentioned at the end of this article are still valid.
But if you’re not interested in being upsold on Game Pass Ultimate, there are still a few ways to get the old price: 12 months of Xbox Live for $60. Here are a collection of online retailers still selling cards and/or codes you can redeem for 12 months of service—as long as you can buy them, Microsoft will honor the code and allow you to add it to your Xbox account.
The pre-increase prices are: $10 for one month, $25 for three months, $40 for six months, $60 for 12 months. After the increase they’ll be $11, $30, and $60 for one, three, and six months. There will be no yearly option, so the price for twelve is basically twice what it was. All of these cards and codes work with both the Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S.
- Amazon: 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month digital codes at the old price
- Best Buy: 1-month, 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month digital codes at the old price
- Target: 3-month, 6-month, 12-month digital codes at the old price
- Microsoft Store (really? yes, really!): 1-month, 3-month and 6-month digital codes at the old price, for now
- Walmart: 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month digital codes at the old price
- Tiger Direct: 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month digital codes at the old price
- Gamestop: 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month digital codes at the old price
- Newegg: 1-month, 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month digital codes at the old price
- Sam’s Club (membership required): 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month digital codes at the old price
- Costco (membership required): 12-month digital codes at the old price. They also offer a rare 24-month option for $100, making an effective $4.16 a month!
All of those listings are live as of late January, 2021. As more buyers look for the old prices, they might start to dry up.
In addition to online stores selling codes, most stores that have brick-and-mortar locations should have physical cards with printed codes that do the same thing (though those may be running low, too). Some places you might not think to look for physical cards include drugstores like Walgreens, convenience stores like 7-Eleven, or basically anywhere that sells gift cards.
If you’re desperate, you can try to find unused codes and cards on secondary markets, like eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or Nextdoor. The usual warnings apply to these sales.
Gaming the (Gaming) System
Remember that you can “bank” these subscription codes and cards: even if you already have a year’s subscription paid for, you can enter a code for another year, no matter where or when you bought it. These redemptions stack: you can get as much time as you want on your account. Just remember that there are no refunds: it’s cost-effective to buy three years of service and redeem them now, but you might not want to buy fifty years’ worth and bet that there’s still an Xbox Live after the Martians invade.
Microsoft has been allowing Xbox Live players to upgrade their existing Xbox Live Gold subscription balance to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, for just $1. That’s a freakin’ fantastic deal, since Game Pass Ultimate includes multiplayer access, free “Games With Gold” every month, access to Gold deals, plus all the stuff you get with Game Pass: a huge library of Xbox and PC games, plus mobile streaming and EA Pass access. It’s also much more expensive, at a flat $15 a month.
So the most frugal thing you can do at the moment is buy up multiple years of Xbox Live Gold service (up to 36 months), redeem them all, and then convert that time to Game Pass Ultimate. You could get more or less unlimited Game Pass Ultimate time for a tiny fraction of its month-to-month subscription cost. (By the way, this works even if you never wanted Xbox Live Gold at all—say, if you just want Game Pass Ultimate for those PC games!)