SWTOR Free-to-play vs Preferred vs Subscriber Guide

There are three different ways to play Star Wars: The Old Republic when it comes to subscribing to the game: free to play, preferred, and subscribed. When you first download the game, you start off as a free to play player. That means you haven’t invested any money into the game by subscribing, and are trying it out as a demo to see if you like it.

You can access so much of the game while playing for free… including all eight of the original class stories. There are lots of small annoying restrictions like only being allowed to hold so many credits, not getting the best armor, and being locked out of some of the endgame high-level activities, but as far as things go, SWTOR has one of the best free demos out there.

Should I subscribe to SWTOR?

Some of the biggest drawbacks of being a free-to-play player is that there won’t be a lot for you to do once you complete you class storyline and reach the free-to-play maximum of level 50. If you’ve gotten that far in the story, and enjoyed the game, I highly recommend subscribing for at least one month – that way, you unlock all the expansions and preferred perks, even if you only stay subscribed for one month.


Subscribing is when you pay monthly for the game, at about $15 a month. Subscribing gives you access to 100% of the game’s content, including the storyline past the original class stories, all of the expansions, and no restrictions. When you subscribe, you unlock all the previous expansions and can play them forever, even if you unsubscribe in the future.


There’s also an in-between state called preferred. Preferred players have a few less restrictions than free-to-play-players, and you can become a preferred player by spending at least $5 on the game either by subscribing for at least one month or by buying some cartel coins. Most preferred players are players that subscribed in the past, but are not currently subscribing. If you subscribed in the past, you’ll keep any expansions you had before, but won’t be able to play any newly released ones until you subscribe again. The expansions usually include a new storyline and a level increase, so if you haven’t subscribed recently you might not be able to level all the way to level 70.


You’ll also have lots of little drawbacks if you try to play with a friend as free-to-play. You can still play with each other easily while doing the stories, but you can’t do things like trade, mail, expand your inventory, quick-travel easily or revive in-place if you die a lot. Preferred players can do a few more things than free-to-play-players, like being able to trade with each other and mail items.

Preferred and Free-to-play Restrictions

Preferred and free to play players deal with a lot of restrictions once they finish the storyline and start digging into the other non-story content.

Credit Cap

One of the biggest challenges is the credit cap. For free to play players, you’ll only be allowed to hold up to 200 thousand credits. Preferred players can only hold 350 thousand credits. Any credits you earn beyond that point will be thrown into an escrow – a bank that holds your excess credits that you will be returned to you the next time you subscribe. You can also buy escrow unlocks with cartel coins that will grant you a chunk of credits from your escrow and temporarily bump your credit cap, but won’t permanently make your credit cap higher.

This can make it extremely difficult to buy expensive items like rare armors, mounts, or luxury stronghold unlocks. For a seasoned player, this restriction is by far the most frustrating, because no matter how you like to play it’s a large part of the game to earn and spend credits.


Free-to-Play players are locked out of chat until level 25, to help prevent chat spam. Players shouldn’t stress too much about this, level 25 comes fairly quickly and players should reach it by their second or third planet.

Character Slots

Free-to-play and preferred players are limited in the number of characters they can make. With the United Forces update, Free-to-Play players now can have a default of up to 4 characters per server. Preferred players will have a default limit of 12, but may have more unlocked.

Unlocks and Authorizations

If you’re currently a subscriber and are looking to downgrade to playing without paying as a preferred player, there’s a few things you can save up for and buy before you have a credit cap as a preferred player. Some unlocks you might want to purchase before going preferred are

  • AUTHORIZATION: ARTIFACT EQUIPMENT so you can wear purple artifact gear
  • CUSTOMIZATION CONTROL: DISPLAY CHARACTER TITLES which allows you to show or hide your title
  • CUSTOMIZATION CONTROL: DISPLAY LEGACY NAME AND TITLES which allows you to show or hide your legacy titles
  • CUSTOMIZATION CONTROL: UNIFY COLORS which allows you to color-match your outfits
  • CUSTOMIZATION CONTROL: HIDE HEAD SLOT so you can show or hide your helmet
  • ADDITIONAL CHARACTER SLOTs for your many alts, but hold on to them before you come preferred so you can see exactly how many you need – there have been many promotions that included a free character slot. Otherwise some of your extra characters of your choice will be locked out and un-playable while you are preferred.
  • 2 UNLOCK: ADDITIONAL QUICKBAR unlocks, since preferred players get 4 out of the 6 subscribers get
  • UNLOCK: CREW SKILL SLOT, since preferred players get 2 out of the 3 crafting slots subscribers get
  • UNLOCK: GUILD BANK ACCESS, which you will be locked out of as a preferred player. Preferred players are 100% locked out of guild credits, even with this unlock.
    Outfit designer slots, bank tabs and legacy bank tabs, as some of these unlocks revert to being unlockable only with cartel coins as a preferred player

Keep in mind a majority of these unlocks have a “legacy-wide” version, and it’s usually worth it to buy the legacy-wide one if you want to have them available on 4 or more characters.

If you’re a free-to-play player, it’s usually recommend for you to subscribe for at least a month rather than trying to buy your unlocks piece by piece. When you subscribe for a month, even if you unsubscribe the next month, you’ll be permanently upgraded to preferred status which comes with lots of permanent unlocks like 2 out of 3 craft skills, rather than the 1 crafting skill free-to-play players get. This is on top of being able to level to max-level, and unlocking all the most recent expansions.

What content are preferred players locked out of?

As for content as a prefered player you’ll be locked out of three major parts of the game: pvp, operations, and galactic command.


For pvp, you’ll be restricted to five warzones per week per character. There are ways to get around this, but only if you have a friend to queue up with who is subscribed. You’ll also be locked out completely from ranked pvp, the highly competitive version of pvp for advanced players. If you are interested in earning gear through PvP, you’ll be locked into earning only half the currency required to buy level 70 gear. As a preferred player you WILL be able to earn unassembled components from warzones, but you won’t be able to earn command tokens which are the second currency needed to buy gear. The good news is if you are playing as a preferred player, you can earn a pile of unassembled components, and then turn them in with a few galactic command tokens the next time you subscribe.

PvE (Operations)

For pve, you’ll be locked completely out of operations, the 8-man group content where you can fight bosses as a group. As a free-to-play or preferred player, you can run as many flashpoints as you’d like.

Operations are some of the most interesting group content available in the game, and preferred and free-to-play players are completely locked out of operations. In the past you could purchase operations passes with cartel coins, but these have been retired and you now must subscribe to run operations.

Gear at Level 70

With the new Galactic Command system, level 70 preferred players are also locked out of getting the best gear in the game. Preferred players can still get ahold of some great crafted level 70 gear, but they won’t be able to win any gear from operations, from pvp or from galactic command or get any set-bonus gear. If you’re interested in doing the hardest content in the game wearing the best gear, it’s no longer an option as a preferred player. Even if you’re not level 70, you’ll still be locked out of wearing most level 70 gear in the game, including blue, green and purple-borderd gear, without buying an unlock called AUTHORIZATION: ARTIFACT EQUIPMENT. This unlock costs cartel coins, and can be unlocked per-account or per-character. If you had gear equipped before you went preferred, you should be able to wear it, but you won’t be able to equip any new purple-bordered gear or level 70 gear until you purchase the unlock from the cartel market or the GTN.

If you became a preferred player after hitting level 70 and want more gear, you can get some of the powerful non-set-bonus crafted gear from the GTN, including the very expensive 240-rating crafted gear. If you have a friend who has these schematics and wants to help craft you gear, just keep in mind you will need the AUTHORIZATION: ARTIFACT EQUIPMENT to wear it. If you’re buying it from the GTN, you will likely need to buy multiple escrow unlocks first… you’re probably better off working out a private deal and trading items for it instead. If you are a preferred level 70 player, I wouldn’t worry too much about getting the best gear in the game,

What can I do as a Free-to-play player?

If you’re a preferred player, you might be asking yourself what you can do after you finish your class story, if you aren’t able or interested in subscribing. The game still has a lot to offer!

Quest and Storylines

Free to play players are the most limited in what they have available after they finish their class storyline and hit level 50. Free-to-play players have access to playing at least two different characters… so I definitely recommend trying out one of the other 8 class stories with your second free character. Since you only have 4, you might want to try a character on the opposite faction – both sides have entirely different side-quests. As a free-to-play player you will definitely want to also do any side quests or planetary quests you encounter along the way, as there isn’t any new planetary story quests available to you after you finish your last quest on the planet of Ilum. Once you’ve finished Ilum there are a few more repeatable daily area quests you can check out on Ilum, Belsavis, and in the Black Hole on Corellia. Heroics on all planets are also repeatable, and are a great way to earn some quick credits.


Free-to-play and preferred players also have access to a majority of the flashpoints in the game, so you can group up with others and try out the 4-man group flashpoints. Most flashpoints also now have a solo version available that you can play by yourself.

Space Missions

You also have access to space missions, an on-rails shooter that you can access near your ship’s galaxy map, but you are limited to 3 space missions per week per character.

Space PvP (Galactic Starfighter)

If you want to try flying in space battles against other players, Galactic Starfighter is available even to free-to-play players.

PvP (Warzones)

Don’t forget as a free-to-play player you can also hop into pvp – player vs player warzones – just make sure to grab a subscribed friend to group with if you want to do more than a few matches. You’ll be locked out from q’ing yourself, but if your friend q’s up your group you will be able to do unlimited warzones with them.


Other things free-to-play players can check out are: stronghold decorating, crafting and collecting.

The basic strongholds of Coruscant and Dromund Kaas only cost 5,000 credits for their initial unlock, and you can unlock quite a few rooms a little bit at a time before you get to rooms that are beyond your credit cap.


Crafting unfortunately is severely hindered for prefered players, as you can only queue up on crafted item per companion at a time instead of queueing up many items and allowing your companions to craft them over time even if you are away from the computer. The good news is if you are crafting for fun and for yourself, rather than as part of a crafting production line, crafting as a preferred player is very viable, especially if you buy the unlock which allows you to have all three crew slots available.

Just keep in mind as a preferred player with a 200,000 credit cap or a preferred player with 350,000, you’ll be severely hindered in any activity that involves buying items!


All players, from level 1 to level 70, can also try out roleplaying – it’s a free activity that’s not supported directly ingame, but something that a lot of players enjoy. Roleplaying is a way of acting as your character, and interacting with other players as if you are your character in chat – you could roleplay as a serene jedi, a hardened trooper, or even an imperial mechanic!

What can I do as a Preferred player?

Preferred players will have a lot more options available on top of all those F2P activities, depending on what the last expansion they unlocked was and what level their characters are. Preferred players can check out all the same activities as free-to-play players, but they might also have access to story expansion quests, the reputation system, more daily areas like Makeb, Oricon or Yavin 4, and they have access to many more character slots.


If you’re a level 70 preferred player, you can’t join the groupfinder queue to try and find a group for uprisings, but you can play uprisings if you are part of a pre-formed group without the groupfinder. Head to the fleet, pick up the uprisings quest, share it with your group and you’ll then be able to enter the uprising together with the quick-travel button available near your quest lists on the top right of your screen.

During flashpoints and uprisings, certain bosses will drop special CXP packs. These packs grant you command experience to up your galactic command level. As a preferred player you can earn these CXP packs – but you can’t use them. You can save them and use them the next time you subscribe.

Subscribing to SWTOR

Subscribers can do everything free-to-play and preferred players can, but also have access to the newest expansions, all the daily areas, unlimited warzones, operations, no credit cap, no restrictions, and they also get 500 cartel coins a month.

In general, everything is a lot smoother if you are subscribed to the game, but it’s not impossible to play as preferred or free to play player, depending on what you want to do. If you enjoy the game, and have the money, I definitely recommend to subscribe as long as you are actively playing and enjoying the game.

SWTOR Referral Code (free stuff if you are preferred!)

Before you go, if you are currently a preferred player, make sure to watch my video about my referral code – you might be able to get 7 days of free subscription and some other goodies. If you’re completely new to the game and don’t even have an account yet, there’s some goodies there for you too.

My Referral Code Link: http://www.swtor.com/r/lvbKCY  

Use my referral link to possibly get free stuff! Please note it’s a bit buggy and may or may not work for your specific account. Here’s what SWTOR.com says you can get..

“New players can play free up to Level 50 with no time limit and also receive the Jumpstart Bundle with boosts and items for faster leveling.”

  • 1x Quick Travel Pass
  • 5x Minor XP Boost
  • 1x Inventory Module

“Previous Subscribers enjoy seven days of subscription level access with unlimited access to missions and features up to Level 50 plus the following:”

  • Unlock: Inventory Module
  • Unlock: Crew Skill Slot
  • Customization Control: Display Titles
  • Customization Control: Unify Colors
  • One Complimentary Character Transfer for the lifetime of the account.

“Previous Subscribers who participate in Friends of SWTOR cannot be referred again for 90 days.”

(Though people have been reporting that it works if you have used one within 90 days sometimes… and sometimes it even works if you are subscribed. How exactly it works is a mystery. Note if you have not subscribed recently you may still be locked at level 50, 55 or 60 if you were before.)

This does NOT unlock the expansions – you must subscribe to unlock expansions and level to max level.

YES I get free stuff if you use my link. It’s very nice and I appreciate it and can use the cartel coins towards the my projects… and just for fun. If you subscribe I get 100 cartel coins for every month you are subbed as a bonus. Thanks! 🙂

If you want more information, details and restrictions of the refer-a-friend program:  http://www.swtor.com/info/friends

If you want to use a referral code but don’t want to use mine:  try one of the links in these posts:


  • The system is finicky and does not always work.
  • You are completely free-to-play, never paid for anything
  • You are preferred, but you never subscribed (ex you bought cartel coins or an expansion instead)
  • You have been referred too recently within 90 days.
  • You are currently subscribed (this sometimes works though)
  • You have subscribed already too recently within 90 days (this sometimes works though)
  • You are a new player, but already had an account then used the link. You need to make your account ON THE LINK, not have it beforehand. When we found this bug me and my friend just made a brand new account so he could use it
  • How to Find a Great Guild in SWTOR - A great deal of SWTOR’s content can be played alone, but there are is a lot of content that is just more fun to do with groups of people you are familiar with and can trust – Hardmode Flashpoints, Operations, Dailies, PvP, and just being able to talk in a chat that is full of...Read Guide
  • How to use a SWTOR Security Key & Get 100 free Cartel Coins per month! - In Star Wars: The Old Republic, your account’s password is what keeps your account safe from other people. But did you know there’s an extra layer of security you can add to protect your account? A security key is a way of guaranteeing your account will never be compromised by someone who doesn’t also have...Read Guide


Questions or comments? Feel free to send me a message on Twitter @swtorista, Reddit /u/swtorista, Youtube Swtorista channel or by e-mail at the same name with gmail.com at the end. Have fun out there and may the Force be with you. ~ Swtorista