SWTOR: Free to Play Player’s Guide to Star Wars: The Old Republic

Maintaining Constant Warfare In Star Wars: The Old Republic

A free to play game really isn’t free to play. Essentially, the game developer (Bioware) is paying you to play with their paying customers. Your compensation is game time in the form of a free account with some restrictions. So you are working for the developer, creating vibrant and lively player-filled servers. This guide will help you make the best of those restrictions, and help you get to 50/55/65 with the most fun, while making the best use of your time and resources. I hate wasting time, so I have laid out what I found to be the best strategies below. This guide is focused around the Preferred Account status. Don’t worry, i’ll cover how to get that too.

What To Expect

There are two restrictions worth mentioning as a Free to Play or Preferred status player.  The first is an experience reduction that begins at level 20.  There is plenty of content on each planet to get you through the levels though, so it’s just a simple matter of time.  The second is an increase when buying from a vendor.  Again, not something to worry about.  You won’t be buying a whole lot from vendors.  While questing, drops and rewards will be enough to sustain you.  At max level, the Global Trade Market will be your friend.

SWTOR Referral Link

If you are just starting Star Wars: The Old Republic for the first time, or returning to the game from a vacation, get a referral link.  A referral link will get you 7 days of subscription time, several unlocks for each character, and one free server transfer.  If you decide to subscribe during a referral link, the 7 days will be added to your subscription time.  This is a great way to kick start your SWTOR experience.  If you plan on staying free to play, you can start this referral at level 20 when the experience reduction begins.

Referral Link (Good Through 07/28/2016)

Full disclosure: Referral link owners get 600 Cartel Coins if you subscribe, but your referral package is worth over 2000 Cartel Coins!

Security Key For Star Wars: The Old Republic

Attaching a security key should be your first step. You get 100 Cartel Coins per month when you have a security key attached to your account. You can get a security key by downloading an app from Google Play or the App Store. Only subscribers can use the Security Key App.  If you unsubscribe, you will continue to be able to use the app unless you remove it.  Physical security keys are no longer available.  The security key is not necessary, but it will help you speed things along. You will still be able to follow this guide, but at some point you will need to at least make a small $4.99 purchase of Cartel Coins from the store. Don’t worry for now, you can put that purchase off till later.

You cannot use the Fleet Passes from the security key vendor with a Free or Preferred Account.  Do not buy them.

Play The Game

Playing levels 1 to 20, you won’t notice any of the restrictions while questing. Just try out the different classes, and see what you like. At level 20, you should have a good idea of what a class is like. Starting over once you’ve gotten to 20 is not a big deal. It is a small time investment at this point, and it’s more important to be playing a class you like. Find a class you enjoy so that you can stick with it and enjoy it.

Gearing Up

You won’t be able to equip Artifact gear until level 51 unless you purchase an unlock with Cartel Coins or from the Galactic Trade Market. This is fine, Artifact gear is not necessary. Sell them to a vendor or on the Galactic Trade Market. You’ll just make more credits!

Choosing Professions

Without a subscription, you can only get one profession.  Preferred account status can get two.  This is not a problem.  You can buy extra Profession unlocks from the Galactic Trade Market, but you won’t want to until you hit 60. If you take three professions, you will eat up more credits than you make while leveling. This will leave you unable to buy skills at the level they become available.  Right now is a good time to run gathering missions with any gathering skill thanks to the Galactic Strongholds and Shadow of Revan expansions.

If you have Preferred status, I recommend one of these combinations:

  • Take three gathering skills.
  • If you want to take a crafting skill, Biochem is probably the most useful.  Cybertech and Armormech follow close behind.
  • If you want an easy, no-hassle crew skill, take Slicing.  It’s been a solid money maker for me every time.
  • Diplomacy offers light side and dark side points, as well as crafting materials. The Light and Dark vendors offer early access to relics, so this can help you get a jump start on filling up your character sheet.

Slicing for credits at max level does not return enough credits.  You can still level up with it just fine though, I just swap when I get it to 400.  You can also stick with it and sell Thermal Regulators and other materials for a nice profit.

The Galactic Trade Market

Do not buy from the GTN! I have avoided the market in every MMO I have ever played until maximum level. As I mentioned above, you want to have enough credits while you level for abilities, vehicle certifications, and professions. I prioritize looking good over stats while leveling anyway, unless it’s a huge upgrade. I might use the GTN if a piece of gear is 10-15 levels too low, but otherwise it’s a waste of your credits. You should get new gear at a steady pace as you level.  Stims, adrenals, medpacs, etc, will drop from enemies and be given as quest rewards. I often forgot to use them, and still did just fine. Save these for mini boss fights like in your class quests. These are not things you need to use while questing.

Do sell on the GTN! Any item that is not bound to you can be sold on the GTN. I vendor the Uncommon items, and sell the Rare, Artifact, and Custom items that I cannot use on the GTM. There is no reason not to try selling something on the GTN. If your item doesn’t sell on the GTN, you get your credits back. If your item doesn’t sell after two or three tries, you can always vendor it.

If you’re willing to put in the time, you can try out my GTN strategies while you level.  I made quite a bit recently leveling up a new character.

Playing The Market

By playing the market, I mean buying cheap, and then selling it at a higher price for profit. It can be a big time investment and require strategy. You will need to watch market prices throughout the day, and be able to research what you should set prices at. It’s how I made a lot of my credits, and it can make you a lot of credits. It’s just like trading stocks on the stock market. If playing the market is your thing, then go for it, it might be worth a try.

Additionally, the middle of the week is generally when you can sell items for the most.  The weekends are the worst because so many people are on, and flooding the market.  Tuesday Wednesday, and Thursdays have lower populations, and less price competition.

Enjoy the Game

Play until 50 (Up to 60 now if you unlock the latest expansion). You need nothing else unlocked until endgame. The reduced experience will not be a problem. I hit 50 early on Corellia, and the game story continues onto Ilum. The Ilum storyline will also unlock some good dailies for endgame.

Make Use Of Your Limits

Do your allotted warzones/space/flashpoints. This will help supplement your questing experience, and get you in the habit of doing them. While they are limited on free to play accounts, doing your warzones and space missions will take up a couple nights worth of playtime. If you only play a few times a week, this is perfect.


Warzones are one of the best instanced PvP games I have come across, second only to Guild Wars 2. The game formats are extremely unique, and not just your run of the mill capture the flag or king of the hill maps.  You get 5 warzones per week, per character. So if you have the maximum of six characters on a Preferred account, that’s 30 warzones per week.  The reset happens on Sunday morning and Monday morning right now.  I’m sure it’s a bug, so enjoy it while it lasts.

Space Missions

Space missions are the best mini-game in any MMO I have played. They are very fun, and the visuals are astounding. You get three space missions per character. This sounds more restrictive than it is.  You can play the same space mission over, and over, and over until you complete it. As long as you hit ‘try again’ and don’t leave, it’s still the same space mission. Just make sure you have some time to sit down and complete your space missions.


I hardly did flashpoints, but what few I did were good. I’m not a big dungeon connoisseur, but they seemed fine to me.  You get rewards from three Flashpoints per week. Any others you’ll be running for experience only.  As you level up, doing a Flashpoint for the first time offers a NICE chunk of XP if you’re the appropriate level.

Galactic Starfighter

There is no limit to the amount of GSF matches you can play!  For more on Galactic Starfighter, check out my Guide to Galactic Starfighter.  From there you can find playing tips, as well as a guide to dogfighting.

Conquest Point Rewards

Each week if you meet the conquest point requirement, you earn a credit certificate.  If your guild places top 10, you get two!  These items can be vendored for 25k and 50k respectively.  Save these in your bank until you need them, or until you need the room.  It’s a great way to avoid the credit cap hassle.

Preferred Account Status

You will need to buy a Cartel Coins package one time to get Preferred status.  This account change to Preferred status is permanent, and does not require another purchase. Preferred Account status unlocks many helpful features, including 2 extra hot bars and an increased credit limit.  There are several ways to get preferred status.  My best recommendation is to subscribe to the game for one month.  It’s $14.99 for one month, and you get the expansion and Preferred status, along with a bonus 500 Cartel Coins.  If you don’t have access to a credit card, you can buy 60 day time cards in stores like Wal-Mart and Target. Amazon.com sends codes online for Star Wars: The Old Republic 60-Day Pre-paid Time Cards if you don’t want to make a trip to the store.

Another way to get Preferred status is by buying Cartel Coins.  The minimum purchase is $4.99 for 500 Cartel Coins.  The more Cartel Coins you buy, the better deal you will get. You can buy them directly from the SWTOR site, or from other retailers.  Amazon.com occasionally offers their Cartel Coin cards for 20% off (affiliate link), so it’s worth checking there before you buy.  It’s an online code too so you don’t have to wait for snail mail.  You can also find these cards in retailers like Wal-Mart and Target.

The Preferred Account is key to unlocking the maximum potential for a free to play account.

Check out this post to see which other unlocks you’ll want to get first.

Customer Support For Free Accounts

From time to time you may run into a problem in game like a quest bug, item bug, or so on.  As a Free to Play or Preferred account, you cannot submit customer service tickets in game.  You can, however, still email a ticket to support.  Use the address support@swtor.com and put in your character name, server name, and all pertinent info to your issue.  So far i’ve had a very good response time with this, usually less than 24 hours.

Guide To Endgame

The biggest draw to Star Wars: The Old Republic is the questing experience. I highly recommend the story experience. Both your class story, and the overall game story. There’s just nothing like it out there. The endgame is really fun as well.  You can check out the guide on What to do at 60 here. I will also be expanding on this guide as content progresses, and based on your comments below.

What do you want to know about Star Wars: The Old Republic?

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22 Responses

  1. anonymouse22 says:

    Thank you for this helpful guide and the referral link

  2. I used the referral link and it didn’t work

  3. mreverything says:

    I just recently went Preferred after being subbed since launch due to financial reasons. My main problem is that cap of 350k! I went onto the GTN and the only unlocks were the 600k transfers and the people selling them were selling for 450k minimum…huh? Why would you sell something for more than what they already have? Plus it seems pretty silly to even pay 350k just so you can have 250k more OF YOUR OWN CREDITS YOU’VE ALREADY EARNED. Lol anyways that and the 5 WZ’s a week (I solely play WZ’s and do nothing else) has made me not even want to play anymore. I find myself playing Neverwinter where it’s a fun game and none of these silly restrictions that hinder you.

    • Traitine says:

      Technically you can get 10/week warzones. But yeah, I hear you. Last I looked at those credit limit boosts, it was like 30% markup. Wow. But apparently they still sell. Go figure.

  4. Ingenon says:

    New Free and/or Preferred players cannot register a mobile security key. See below, copied from SWTOR:


    What happens to the mobile and physical Security Key when the Free-to-Play option goes live?

    Former Subscribers that had a Mobile Security Key will be able to continue to use their Mobile Security Key until they remove it from their account. New Free-to-Play and Preferred Status Players will not be able to register Mobile Security Keys, but they will have the option to purchase a Physical Security Key through http://www.swtor.com/buy. Purchasing the Physical Security Key will convert a Free-to-Play account to Preferred Status.


    Physical Keys are no longer available through SWTOR.

  5. immerstil says:

    The security key with the mobile app does not work (anymore). The website requests numbers that should be shown with some ‘information icon’, which does not exist. This path is probably disabled for some reason.

  6. Paolo says:

    Love the guide! It’s really been helping me enjoy the game. How does the referal work though? I clicked it at level 20 (before adding my email add to activate my lvl 20 jedi knight) and it says my account isn’t eligible… Any ideas? Thanks!!!

    • Traitine says:

      I replied to your e-mail too, but unfortunately Bioware has it set up so that only brand new accounts and returning subscribers can use this. Seems kinda strange because you really don’t start looking for game info until after you’ve started the game, but hopefully they change it in the future. Good luck!

  7. Simon says:

    LOL just found this and referal link is working like a charm. Thanks a lot and greetings from an Lv 20 Republic Trooper – Commando.

  8. NeoChaos says:

    Thanks for this guide, it’s nice to give it a read when your starting out.
    There’s an option to “upgrade to digital Deluxe Edition” for even less then the coins that gives preferred status as-well.

    I was wondering about 2 things tho;

    Can i use the refer a friend benefits at a later stage of my free to play career ? Was thinking i could use those 7 days to farm credits at max level like crazy and buy the unlocks i cannot afford normally as a preferred player and/or use the escrow credits i eventually accumulate.

    I’ve read about linking the phone app during those 7 days of sub from the refer a friend to your account so you don’t have to pay for the physical key-generator and get the 100 CC each month, is this true ?

    • Traitine says:

      You definitely can use the referral link later. I used mine in November, and i’ve been playing since launch. I’m not sure about being able to equip the app. I’ll have to research that some.

  9. Max says:

    for some reason, the link says that i don’t have authorization to use referral links. help! D:

  10. nikrustynik says:

    Wow cools! I’m level 15 and was wondering whether I should bother with a sub just yet. I personally don’t care about the MMO aspect at all. I Love BIOWARE games and always buy them. This game is good but I really would’ve preferred a Single player experience.

    Regarding the GTN guide. I’ve bought 2 different armor items for my player simply because none of the vendors had that good stuff at the time. And I got it cheap too 800 and 5000 credits and the Armor is very good + endurance + aim for my Trooper.

    Suprisingly I didn’t like my Jedi consular much who is level 3 due to the combat. I simply didn’t get use to it I guess. Anyway enjoying the trooper class – First time in a Star Wars game!

  11. Max says:

    I have a question for the re feral link, for the 7-day sub, will it run out even if you dont play it for 7 days?
    cause i don’t have much time and if it runs out while ive only played a day, well, ill be pissed :/

  12. Damien says:

    Thanks for this, I stopped playing shortly after launch.

    (mostly lack of time)

    I’m planning on seeing if I have time to play the game before I sub. Thanks for the guide, It should be on the FAQ on /r/swtor.

    • Traitine says:

      Thanks for the feedback, good to know it helps. I’ve started on another version for returning players/players transitioning to preferred status. Hope you enjoy the game, and feel free to come back and ask questions.

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