Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
After playing a game on Steam, you may earn a Trading Card. If you’re wondering what Steam Trading Cards are, what you can do with them, and how to collect them all, you’ve come to the right place.
Here’s how to make real money from Steam Trading Cards—and while you won’t earn quite enough to retire on, any kind of free money is better than no money.
What Are Steam Trading Cards?
Steam Trading Cards are entirely virtual. They only exist in your Steam profile and cannot be turned into physical rewards. So if you thought you’d be able to put them in binders to show your friends, you’re out of luck.
Each Steam Trading Card is part of a set. Collect a full set of Trading Cards and you can get rewards, like additional customization to your Steam profile. You can also sell them on the Steam Community Market for wallet funds, which you can then use towards purchases on Steam.
There are also special foil Trading Cards. You can collect a set of foil cards and turn them into a foil badge for your Steam profile. Foil cards are like shiny Pokemon cards: no different to the regular ones in function, but simply rarer and therefore higher value.
How Do I Get Steam Trading Cards?
The main way to earn Trading Cards is by playing games on Steam. You can view a list of eligible games across the entire Store, along with eligible games within your library. This is also accessible in the Steam client via the Badges page, which appears beneath your username on the top menu.
In actuality, you don’t have to play the game, you just need to have it open. Simply logging time in a game is all you need to do to earn a Trading Card, and they will randomly drop into your account. If you want to go off and do something else, you’ll still be able to earn them.
In fact, there are ways to get Steam Trading Cards without even running the game. But where’s the fun in that?
The only difference is for free to play games. For approximately every $9 spent, you will get eligibility for a random card drop.
Once you finish playing a game and close it, you will be notified if you’ve received a Trading Card through the Steam messaging system. A new message is signified by the envelope in the top-right of the interface turning green.
Click the green envelope and click X new items in your inventory. This will take you to your inventory, where you can view more information about the card, such as its name and description.
How Do I Collect All Steam Trading Cards?
It isn’t possible to earn all of a game’s Trading Cards just by playing it—only half. If a game has eight cards available, for example, you will only ever receive four of those by playing. However, you can receive duplicates, so you won’t necessarily get four unique cards.
Once you’ve exhausted all of the free card drops, you can get more cards through booster packs. These are randomly granted as community members craft game badges.
Booster packs contain three random cards, though they might already be ones you own. Booster packs contain both basic and foil cards.
You must sign in to Steam each week to retain eligibility to receive a booster pack. Your chance of receiving one also increases alongside your Steam level.
Buy on the Community Market
Other players sell their unwanted cards on the Community Market and you can buy them using funds in your Steam wallet.
To find the cards you want quickly, go to the Badges page, click a game, then click Search the Market next to the desired card.
If it’s an uncommonly played game you might find there are no cards currently listed or that they’re expensive. If that’s the case, you might be better off waiting a while because the price usually drops over time.
Trade With Friends
If you have duplicate cards, or cards for a game that you’re not interested in, you can trade with your friends. To do this, go to your friends list, click the dropdown arrow next to their name, and click Trading > Send a Trade Offer. You can also go to the aforementioned Badges page and click Visit Trade Forum to see if a stranger is offering an acceptable exchange.
This is a good way of getting a solid deal because you don’t have to be bound by market rates. You don’t even have to trade card for card—you could exchange for an in-game item, for example.
What Can I Do With Steam Trading Cards?
You can either choose to keep the cards and turn them into virtual rewards, or sell them on the Steam Community Market for money.
Craft a Badge
Once you have a full set of Trading Cards, you can turn them into a badge. This will display on your Steam profile and will also grant you rewards:
- A game-specific emoji to use in chats with friends.
- A game-specific background to customize your Steam profile.
- 100XP towards your Steam level (your Steam level determines profile customization options and how many people you can have on your friends list.)
- A chance to get a discount code for another game.
If you get another set of cards for the same game, you can use them to upgrade the badge (up to fives times at most.) This gives you 100XP and also changes the badge’s image and title.
Sell on the Community Market
If you’re not interested in badges or Steam levels or any of that, you can sell your Trading Cards on the Steam Community Market.
Cards have no set value. You can set whatever price you want, but whether someone is willing to pay that price is another matter. You will be able to make more money from a card if there’s someone in the community specifically seeking it out or if not many of them exist. Generally, the more popular a game is, the less valuable its cards.
Go into your inventory, select a card, and click Sell to begin the process. You will be able to see what the average price for the card is and how much Valve will take as their cut. When someone buys it, the money goes straight into your Steam wallet to use against future purchases.
Gotta Catch ‘Em All
Now you know how to get Steam Trading Cards and what you can do with them, it’s time to play your games and start earning them.
And if you need some advice on which games to play, check out our round-up of the best PC games you can play in short bursts.