For over four years, gamers have been able to access hundreds of titles across PC and Xbox via Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription service—but you don’t have to pay full price. With a few smart moves, you can lock in a 52 percent discount on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for up to two years.
(Note: This trick was last confirmed as working on 7/6/23.)
This deal isn’t quite as good as before: Before July 6, 2023, you could lock up to three years at 63 percent off. When Xbox Game Pass Ultimate first launched, early adopters discovered that if you activated one month of Game Pass Ultimate on an account, it converted existing Xbox Live Gold and standard Xbox Game Pass subscriptions to Ultimate at a 1:1 rate. Any prepaid time up to the maximum of three years got the upgrade.
However, with Microsoft’s price hike on Xbox Game Pass and Game Pass Ultimate, this trick got nerfed. Currently, the conversion rate is 3:2. You’ll now pay about $8.20 per month using this conversion hack. Not as good as $5 per month (the old deal), but still a sizable discount. The list price for Ultimate is $17 per month, and even standard PC Game Pass costs more at $10 per month.
Looking to load up on Xbox Live Gold at a discount? Keep an eye out for sales at Newegg. The retailer drops the cost of a 1-year subscription to $50 USD periodically. (You can set a deal alert for “xbox live” at Slickdeals.net for an email or push notification of future deals.) But even at the regular price of $60 USD per 12-month code, this hack is worthwhile.
So if you only play on PC, you’ll still be ahead, with unlimited access to a full range of games that includes upcoming Halo, Gears of War, and other game releases on PC from Microsoft, EA, Bethesda, and more. The access to console titles is just an additional perk.
Read on for a step-by-step guide of how to secure this deal, which includes tips on how to maximize your savings.
!- News alerts -!
3/31/2022: Talk is swirling that Microsoft may eliminate Xbox Live Gold, which would kill this deal hack. A report from Brad Sams of Thurrott.com suggests that the death of Gold could happen when Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard closes in 2023, if approved by U.S. regulators.
How to convert Xbox Live Gold (or Xbox Game Pass) to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate
The most basic description of what you’ll do is this:
Buy Xbox Live Gold
Buy 1 month of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate
Agree to a conversion of your Gold and/or standard Game Pass subscription(s) to Game Pass Ultimate
However, you can run into a few pitfalls during this process—especially if you’re going for the maximum of two years. The detailed instructions below will help you avoid those mistakes.
(Note: If you need a more visual guide for redeeming Xbox Live Gold cards, you can refer to our old YouTube video guide. However, because it refers to the now-dead 1:1 conversion ratio and $1 Game Pass Ultimate trial, please refer to this written guide for all other instructions.)
Decide how long you want Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. To make the most of the deal, get as close to 36 months of Xbox Live Gold (or Xbox Live Gold + standard Xbox Game Pass) as possible, which is the maximum amount of time you can prepay. Even with the change in conversion ratio, this remains true—the difference now is that you get fewer months of Ultimate when you convert.
Add months to an Xbox Live Gold subscription using digital subscription codes purchased from Microsoft or another retailer (Amazon, Newegg, Target, etc.). Increase the time on Xbox Live Gold, not standard Xbox Game Pass—Xbox Live Gold is the cheaper option.
Note: Microsoft discontinued selling 12-month Xbox Live Gold subscriptions on its website during the summer of 2020, but third-party retailers (like Amazon, Newegg, Target, etc) still sell them for now.
Add time in the largest increments possible—a 12-month code for Gold works out much cheaper per month than the one-month, three-month, and six-month varieties. When purchasing codes, always remember that Microsoft’s servers won’t let you redeem a code for a duration that exceeds the 36-month cap. (Example: You’re at 34 months, but attempt to redeem a three-month code. The servers will not let you activate it.) Short multi-day trial codes for Xbox Live Gold won’t work for this promotion, like those for three days or two weeks.
WARNING: If you buy three 1-year subscriptions, do not turn accept any bonus months in exchange for turning on recurring billing while redeeming the codes. Any extra freebie months you get for doing so will make it impossible to redeem the final code.
Don’t forget that your purchased month of Game Pass Ultimate will stack on top of whatever amount of Xbox Live Gold or Xbox Game Pass subscription time you convert. You won’t get the full month if it puts you over the 36 month limit, though.
When redeeming an Xbox Live Gold digital subscription code, agreeing to recurring billing will sometimes give you an additional one month for free. (YMMV.) If you turn off recurring billing before redeeming your next code, you can usually continue to take advantage of this bonus. (Don’t do this if you are redeeming three 1-year codes—the system will refuse to let you redeem the final code because it’ll put you over the limit.)
To verify you’ve turned off recurring billing, head to the Services & Subscriptions section of your account info. Under “Xbox Game Pass Ultimate,” you’ll see an expiration date for your subscription, and the option to the right will say “Turn on recurring billing.”
Microsoft Reward members with balances over 30,000 points should also check to see if the 12-month option for Xbox Live Gold exists for them. Nothing’s sweeter than a free way to max out a deal. This has been discontinued for most members, but you might still be lucky.
Likewise, Microsoft Reward members can snag their 1 month of Game Pass Ultimate for free if they have enough points.
Before buying any digital subscription codes, incorporate any of the above freebies or bonuses you can obtain into your calculations.
Example: You need 17 months to max out. (You already have 16 months of Xbox Live Gold and 3 months of Xbox Game Pass active on your account.) As a Costco member who also has a surplus of Microsoft Reward points, you buy one 12-month code and then use the points to obtain a single 3-month code. You can then angle for at least one bonus month by choosing recurring billing when you redeem each Xbox Live Gold code. (YMMV, Microsoft has become inconsistent with this bonus offer.) If you get zero bonus months, add another month of Xbox Live Gold to the account. Then apply your 1 month of Game Pass Ultimate to convert everything to 36 months of Ultimate.
Activate your Xbox Live Gold codes. Again, as your final reminder, if you have three 1-year subscription codes for Xbox Live, do not agreeto any freebie bonus months (in exchange for turning on recurring billing) in order to redeem your final code.
If you are using a patchwork of different codes, triple-check your math to be sure you know how many times (if any) you need to agree to recurring billing.
OOPS: Did you have three 1-year XBL Gold codes and accidentally make it impossible to redeem that final code? You can wait a month or two, then redeem code #3 and convert. Or you can wait to activate it after you upgrade to Game Pass Ultimate—you’ll be able to redeem it on a pro-rated basis to extend your Ultimate subscription. But the exchange rate won’t be as good; 12 months of Gold converts to a mere four months of Ultimate.
Activate your code for 1 month of Game Pass Ultimate. (You can also instead purchase it via the Xbox website or the Store on an Xbox console.)
You will have two screens to pass through. The first, shown at right, explains how the conversion works if you already have an active Xbox Live Gold or Xbox Game Pass subscription. (Which you should, if you followed Step 2’s instructions.)
Usually, the second that follows will ask for billing information for recurring billing. You should be able to decline.
You should now see “Xbox Game Pass Ultimate” listed under Services and Subscriptions on your Microsoft account page. If you purchased your Ultimate code directly through the Xbox website or on an Xbox console, your Game Pass Ultimate subscription will likely be set to recurring billing as default. We suggest you turn this off, lest you be taken by surprise when your subscription expires (especially if that’s two years from now). You can do so by clicking on “Manage” just to the right of the billing information on the website.
Outside of that, you’re set to go. Happy gaming!
Editor’s note: This article originally published in August 2019 but has been since updated to keep it current. Recent updates include edits to explain the effect of July 6’s Ultimate price hike on this conversion trick. Previous updates included info on the death of the $1 Ultimate trial, new details on discounted Gold codes, plus news about possible product and price changes related to Xbox Live Gold and Game Pass Ultimate. A now-outdated tutorial video was also added.
Alaina Yee is PCWorld’s resident bargain hunter—when she’s not covering PC building, computer components, mini-PCs, and more, she’s scouring for the best tech deals. Previously her work has appeared in PC Gamer, IGN, Maximum PC, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @morphingball.