How to Get Free Keys in Team Fortress 2 on Xbox, PC, and More!
Team Fortress 2 is one of the most popular free-to-play titles currently available on Steam, and players are always flocking in to enjoy the varied game modes and get sweet loot.
One of the most common items new players will find in the inventory are Mann Co. Supply Crates, which require keys to open. However, one of the most popular ways to get more keys is to purchase them in the official store. But is that the only way?
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to get free keys directly by playing the game. While there is an item drop system to reward players that spend more time in the game in a week than others, the system never awards keys, only crates. However, the item system is still useful for putting more items and cosmetics in the overall game economy, and players can use this system to their advantage.
Is It Possible to Get Free Keys on the ?
If you just play the game as it was intended in hopes of getting enough keys to open your crates, give up now. While specific holiday and anniversary events might give you a key or two for playing the game during it, these come few and far between to matter much. The item drop system never rewards keys during gameplay.
Since the keys are only (legally) obtainable by purchasing them in the Steam store, they have become pivotal points in the entire TF2 item economy and typically hold their value in fiat currency. Users often trade items for keys and vice versa, and items are usually valued based on the key’s value and rarity. The key subsystem has spawned an entire marketplace around them, with players vying to grab keys any way they can.
The trading system looks simple at a glance. You get an item, then you trade that item for an item you want that someone else has. The game uses the standard Steam trading system, meaning that if you’re familiar with the trading process in any Steam title, you can use the same logic for Team Fortress 2.
By default, the in-game trading system is heavily limited for new players that haven’t bought anything from the official “Mann Co.” store. You’ll only be able to receive TF2 items in a trade (perhaps by exchanging other game items). To access the full trading system, you need to purchase any item from the official store. Purchasing an item will also elevate you to the “Premium” status in-game, slightly changing your odds at finding valuable items through the free item drop system. You can also use an “Upgrade to Premium” item that a friend gifted you to elevate your account to Premium.
When you have unlocked the trading system, you can try your luck at up-trading to get some keys. However, this can take an inordinate amount of time, effort, attention, and contact-keeping to get right, and most players usually don’t hassle themselves just to get a new cosmetic item from the game.
On the secondary market (the unofficial one), the keys hold their value pretty well since they are only injected into the economy when someone purchases them through the store. This allows traders to gauge the value of other items and, using some economics principles, trade keys for extremely rare or sought-after items.
If you want to take part in this quest, you’ll need some beginning capital to work with. Most commonly, these are the starting item drops you have already received, and basically any item that you don’t use in the game.
These items can be traded for other items on some of the most popular Team Fortress 2 trading websites, including TF2outpost, Bazaar.tf, Backpack.tf, and Trade.tf. One of the other popular tools to use is Scrap.tf, which allows players to turn unused items into scrap metal (one of the game’s most common non-fiat currencies alongside keys and crates).
If you’re on a limited budget, trading in cosmetics is a fine way to get started but is not particularly fast and requires some micro-managing to get the best results.
Overall, the trading system can require a significant time investment that players who just want to play the game might not be willing to endure. Making a profit from playing Team Fortress 2 isn’t impossible but is layered with pitfalls and can take time away from other endeavors that might be more worthwhile and fun.
If you’ve Googled “how to get free keys,” you’ve certainly come across websites that promise to give you keys if you sign up and spend a certain amount of time in the game or do specific actions. While a tiny portion of those websites has genuine offers on the table, the time investment to achieve a free key is usually not worth the effort. If you don’t have a lot of time to play the game over a single week, don’t let the temptation of getting a key from these websites make you spend even more.
Websites that offer free keys or other items obtain with various methods, and their way of getting money is usually via the ad revenue the site collects. Do your research before making any deals or, worse, submitting your personal information to their database?
Another important point to cover is trading scams. If you’ve gone to the trading route in hopes of getting some keys in the end, we heavily encourage you to follow some basic logic and avoid these common scams:
- Phishing (fake) links – One of the most common scams in the industry (and elsewhere). The websites usually look like legitimate services, but they will work their best to trick you into giving your Steam or account credentials and take over your account.
- Quickswitching – Putting a different item through the trade than originally agreed upon. Switching usually involves items that look similar but have extreme value differences and rely on misdirection and attention diversion.
- Bait and switch – Done by two traders to upsell an item. The first one will ask for an exorbitant price, while the other asks for a lower (but still unreasonable) amount.
- Lending – Borrowing an item as an intermediary for other trades. Scammers typically take advantage of their acquaintances this way.
- Trading outside Steam – If a trader asks to use a platform that you’re unsure about or wants to use an intermediary, be extremely wary of the offer. SteamRep has an online database of trusted websites and individuals to use for external trades. Any others should be avoided when possible.
- Middleman injection – Using an account that is pretending to be a trusted middleman for outside trades. Always verify the identity of the persons you’re trading with.
- Impersonation to a friend – Some scammers will use the tactic of agreeing to a trade only if you use a friend of your choice to trade the item to first and then return it. Using this additional step typically gives you nothing of value and allows scammers to impersonate you to that friend when the item is supposed to be returned.
- Chargebacks – Transactions using PayPal can often be “charged back,” giving the buyer their money back and voiding the transaction. Scammers abuse the system by charging back trades to keep both the money and the items.
- Spygrabs, gambling – When joining a gambling game or a giveaway, always use trusted middlemen to hold all the items involved during the game.
- Money transfer within Steam – The only way to trade in cash on Steam is through the Steam community market using Steam wallet funds. Trade offers can never contain fiat currency.
The best way to avoid scams is to do thorough research on any offers and the trading partner and decline anything that looks suspicious or too good to be true.
Free to Play, but Without Keys
Getting keys in Team Fortress 2 without spending any money in the game is virtually impossible. However, players who have some spare time to get knowledgeable about the trading system can use it to their advantage. With a smaller starting investment and a lot of effort, you can get many keys without spending additional money in the game. Whether the time spend is worth it, though, is up to you to decide.
Do you have any more tips for getting keys in Team Fortress 2? Let us know in the comment section below.