01 Apr Xbox Game Pass Ultimate tip: Get 3 years of access for dirt cheap
For almost four years, gamers have been able to access hundreds of titles across PC and Xbox via Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass Ultimate service—but you don’t have to pay full price. If you play your cards right, you can lock in a 63 percent discount on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for up to three years.
(Update March 2023: This conversion trick still works as of March 31, 2023, even after the death of the $1 Game Pass Ultimate trial. But its days are very likely numbered.)
Back when the service first launched, early adopters discovered a surprising trick: Activating one month of Game Pass Ultimate on an account also converted existing Xbox Live Gold and standard Xbox Game Pass subscriptions to Ultimate (normally $15 per month) at a 1:1 rate. Any prepaid time up to the maximum of three years got the upgrade. And this generous conversion rate is still working to this day.
So if you have three months of Xbox Live Gold or Xbox Game Pass (or a combination of the two) on your account, you’ll end up with three months for your Game Pass Ultimate subscription, plus the additional one month from purchasing Game Pass Ultimate. Equally, 36 months of prepaid time transforms into Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for a full three years. It doesn’t matter the cost of that one month of Game Pass Ultimate. Even after the demise of the $1 trial, this 1:1 conversion rate is still in effect (for now).
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 smoking.
It’s a sweet deal overall. Multiplatform gamers obviously benefit most, since Game Pass Ultimate bundles together Xbox Live Gold, Xbox Game Pass, and Xbox Game Pass for PC. You’ll get unlimited access to a full range of titles across platforms, including upcoming Halo, Gears of War, and other Microsoft first-party game releases on PC.
But even gamers who play exclusively on PC benefit: Though Xbox Game Pass for PC only initially cost $5 per month, that price lasted only through the beta period, which ended September 16, 2020.
Loading up an account with three years of Xbox Live Gold ($180) and then converting it to Game Pass Ultimate for an additional $15 essentially locks in that $5-per-month rate for three years, which outlives the beta period pricing by a long shot. (You should be able to do this conversion trick if you participated in the Xbox Game Pass for PC beta.) It’s the smart move, because converting Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass memberships to Game Pass Ultimate afterward happens at a pro-rated amount.
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 -!
3/26/2023: As reported by The Verge, Microsoft has killed its $1 Game Pass Ultimate trial. Previously, you could have used that trial to convert up to three years of Xbox Live Gold—which previous versions of this conversion trick even cheaper. For the moment, you can still do a 1:1 conversion by buying one month of Ultimate at full price ($15).
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 claims that the company is seeking to make Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (and its $15-per-month rate) the base-level plan. You can hear the details from Sams himself in this YouTube video, in which he also suggests that the death of Gold could happen when Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard closes in 2023, if approved by U.S. regulators. Additionally, current energy prices are driving up costs for Microsoft’s cloud computing services, leading the company to hint that price increases on Xbox consoles and subscriptions (like Game Pass) could come to pass. Our best guess is that no changes would be likely during the brisk holiday sales period, but after the start of 2023 it’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen.
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 three years. The detailed instructions below will help you avoid those mistakes.
(Note: Previous versions of this guide, including the YouTube video below, refer to the now-dead $1 Game Pass Ultimate trial. The conversion trick isn’t dead, though—for the moment, you can still do a 1:1 conversion if you pay for a month of Ultimate at full price. You’ll save over 60 percent versus a standard Ultimate subscription versus 66 percent when the trial was alive.)
Decide how long you want Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. To make the most of the deal, get as close to three years of Xbox Live Gold (or Xbox Live Gold + standard Xbox Game Pass) as possible, which is the maximum amount of time you can prepay.
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 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 give you an additional one month for free. 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.
- Likewise, Microsoft Reward members can snag their 1 month of Game Pass Ultimate for free if they have enough points.
- Buying discounted Xbox Live Gold codes will further your savings. Costco is the best for members who need a 12-month Xbox Live Gold code, while CDKeys offers a modest discount available to everyone and sells 1-, 3-, 6-, and 12-month codes. CDKeys also sells discounted 1 month Game Pass Ultimate codes.
- 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 agree to 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.
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 three 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 includes minor edits in light of the now-dead $1 Ultimate trial. Previous updates included new info on discounted Gold codes, plus news about possible product and price changes related to Xbox Live Gold and Game Pass Ultimate. Our tutorial video was also added.
Author: Alaina Yee, Senior Editor
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.