It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a gamer in possession of a good Xbox 360 game must be in want of a code.
Everybody who has an Xbox knows that in order to get the most out of your console you need a couple of things: Xbox LIVE Gold so you can play online, and Microsoft Points for DLC, Arcade, and all the other Marketplace deals. Both of these can be costly, but it's possible to get free Microsoft Points, or at least cheap Microsoft points. Similarly, if you shop smart, you can get cheap Xbox LIVE Gold as well. I've been getting Microsoft Point deals and LIVE Gold deals for years now, and I'm here to share my tips, tricks, and secrets.
Xbox LIVE Gold
The trick to cheap XBox LIVE Gold is to go Gold for a year, and then keep your eyes peeled for your next 12-month card all year long. If you're paying attention, you can pick up your next year's card early at a steep discount. It's not unusual to find $36 deals for a year of Gold - that's almost half off! Even if you're in a pinch, getting one for $48 isn't half bad - that's 20% off and nothing to sneeze at.
Scientifically proven* to up your Halo game.
(*May not have been actual science.)
How do you get these incredible discounts without losing your shirt to some 3rd world scammer? Easy. One big way to get the latest scoop is over at the CheapassGamer forums. There's a pretty good thread here which keeps track of the latest cheap Xbox LIVE Gold card prices around the 'net. There's also a good page over on Dealzon that I use from time to time. You've just got to be willing to buy the physical cards and have them shipped. For whatever reason, printing a code on a plastic card, sticking it in a box, and shipping it halfway across the country ends up being cheaper than just electronically delivering the code to you. Go figure.
Occasionally, you'll also get dashboard offers to renew at a discount. I have auto-renew turned off (since I mostly buy prepaid cards), so as my subscription renewal date looms closer, Microsoft starts getting more and more desperate to keep me paying. I've seen some decent deals this way that match or beat the prices of cards.
It's also a good idea to keep an eye on Twitter - my Twitter feed, for instance, is always loaded with up-to-the-minute deals. Often I'll find that cheap Xbox LIVE Gold cards are going for sub-$40 on major retailer's eBay stores. This sort of thing is hard to jump on unless you're keeping a close eye on it, since they tend to sell out super fast. That said, I don't really recommend buying any kind of code-card on eBay unless you know the seller is super-reputable. I will only post and purchase from places that I've done business with before - places like Buy.com, Newegg, and Tiger Direct are safe enough.
If you're an Xbox LIVE Rewards member,, you can get Points back when you renew your Gold. I've seen that there are some months where you get double points for renewing, so it pays to hang onto your next card until you really need it. You can make another $5 worth of points easy this way, which knocks your cost for a year of Live down to ~$30 if you're a savvy shopper.
Someday, the world will be free of the silliness of Microsoft Points. I have it on good authority that they're dying when the Xbox One is released! Until that day, we can game the system with free Microsoft Points and cheap Microsoft Point cards. Bear in mind the conversion factor when shopping - divide points by 80 to get dollars. Getting 2000 points for $20 doesn't sound like a deal, but it's actually 400 more points ($5 worth) than you'd get normally!
Just like with Gold, the cards are often discounted heavily compared to what you'd pay at the Xbox website, or even by buying an electronic code through Amazon or similar.
Just *think* of all the avatar shirts you could buy! That's what people do with points, right?
Again, the CAG forums are a good place to start. Watch each of the retailers, because as one drops prices, the others tend to follow suit. It's not unusual to watch the price on a $20/1600 point card go down by $5 or so over the course of a week, as Amazon and Walmart duke it out for saving supremacy. Sometimes retail stores will get in on this action as well. Do note, though, that places like Gamestop and Target will tend to charge you tax if you purchase online, but they don't tend to do this in-store. If you're driving that way anyway, you can often save a few bucks by stopping in and picking up a card in person.
Discounted cards aren't the only way to get cheap Microsoft Points, though. There's a laundry list of other things you can do to save a few points here and there, and they really add up!
- Join Xbox LIVE Rewards. - there are monthly surveys worth 20 free Microsoft Points ($0.25, but, hey, it's fast and easy). There are also a ton of things that you can do on Xbox LIVE that will earn you points, and most of these you would probably do anyway. For instance, renewing Gold nets you a couple of hundred points. Again, nothing world-shattering, but why leave these free points on the table? There's really no reason not to sign up.
- Join Bing Rewards - you can earn 400 free Microsoft Points ($5) about every month with a 5-minute per day time investment. That's $50-$60 worth of points in a year, easily funding a season pass or buying you most of the annual Summer of Arcade games if you can keep on top of it. This used to require that you install the Bing toolbar, but not anymore! I do my searches in Chrome on Linux, so take THAT, Bing!
- Keep track of the Xbox Marketplace discounts - If you can wait a bit to pick up a game or a bit of DLC, it usually pays off. The official "deal of the week" page is here, but you'll have to refresh it periodically, which is kind of lame. There's a forward-looking deal thread on the CAG forums (it moves periodically, so make sure you're looking at the "current" one), and also the xbldb price decrease page. However, I've found the easiest way to keep up-to-date is by following MajorNelson's blog with my feed reader. It isn't all store discounts, but it is probably the best feed for recently reduced Xbox Marketplace content.
- Watch for bonus offers when purchasing games - This year on one of my preorders, Microsoft was offering a game for $30 with $20 worth of free Microsoft Points (1600) and a $10 credit to the Microsoft store. I turned right around and picked up another 1600 point card, which meant that I got $30 worth of free Microsoft Points with a $10 investment! The holiday release season is dense with these kinds of bonus preorder offers.
- Keep on the look out for tie-ins and promotions - Xbox gaming is serious business, and there's tons of promos and contests. This Marketplace page lists all the "event registration" gamer pics and so forth you can download. It's free and easy, and you might just win something! This year there was a Halo 4/American Express tie in that earned me an easy $35 + a $50 off $100 purchase at Best Buy. Overall, I picked up $50 worth of Steam Wallet credit and $50 worth of Microsoft Points for $15! Anybody serious about playing Halo 4 could unlock these offers in no time flat.
Between all of these discounts and cheap/free Microsoft points, you can easily save a ton on almost all marketplace content AND get your Xbox LIVE Gold cheap. All it takes is a little patience and knowing the right corners of the internet to keep tabs on.