Steam trading cards are basically free money. Assuming you own a few games on Steam, you’re probably generating Steam trading cards without even realizing it—and you can sell them on the community market for Steam Wallet credit, which you can use to purchase games.

I’ve made at least $20 in free Steam credit using the below method. It’s not a lot of money, but it’s a free game or two for almost no work. How much you can get depends on how many Steam games you own—and whether they have cards available or not.

Steam Trading Cards 101

Steam trading cards are mostly what they sound like—digital trading cards that you get by playing games. While playing the game, Steam will automatically give you a card associated with that game every so often—on average, about one every twenty to thirty minutes. You also have a low chance to get “foil” versions of the cards, which are less common and more valuable to collectors.

Collect a set of these trading cards and you can combine them, increasing your “Steam level” (a fairly meaningless number), gaining cosmetic “badges” for your Steam profile, and getting stickers you can use in Steam chat.

Here’s the cool part: even if you don’t care about all of those meaningless rewards, other people do. So you can sell your cards on the Steam community market. Other Steam users will buy them from you and you’ll get Steam wallet funds you can use to buy games. Valve and the game developer will each get a cut of the Steam community market transaction, so everyone wins.

Unfortunately, selling trading cards can be an arduous process—especially if you have a lot of them. So here are some tricks to getting that sweet Steam money without spending a ton of time.

Step One: Turn On Steam Guard Mobile Authenticator

In order to list cards or other items on the Steam community market, Steam requires you to use the Steam Guard Mobile Authenticator to protect your account. This is a feature in the Steam mobile app for iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone that secures your Steam account with a login code provided by your phone. It’s a form of two-factor authentication, and it’s probably a good thing to turn on anyway.

If you’re not using this feature, though, your auctions will be held for fifteen days for security reasons. That’s a hassle. And after enabling the Steam Guard Mobile Authenticator, you’ll need to wait seven days before you can start listing items without a hold period. So it’s better to get this out of the way as quickly as possible.

To enable the mobile authenticator feature, install the Steam mobile app and sign in. Tap the menu button in the mobile app and tap the “Steam Guard” option at the top of the menu. Tap “Add Authenticator” to add the app as an authentication method and follow the instructions on your screen.


You’ll have to provide a phone number Steam can send text messages to, if you haven’t already. You should also ensure you write down the recovery key in case you ever lose access to the Steam app on your phone and need to access your Steam account.


When you sign into Steam on a new device in the future, you’ll be asked to enter a code from your Steam app. Just open the Steam app on your phone to find the code.

Step Two: See Which Cards You Have Available

To see which cards you have available, open Steam, mouse over your name, and click “Badges”.

Scroll down to see what games you have cards from, or which games you have that generate cards. For example, in the screenshot below, I already have three cards from the game Brütal Legend in my inventory. And since I own Darksiders Warmastered Edition, I can gain up to six cards from that game if I play it.

If you own several games on Steam, there’s a good chance you’ll have quite a few cards available.

Take note of which of your games offer cards, and how many cards you can generate (for example, Darksiders says “6 card drops remaining”).

Step Three: Generate Those Cards

You don’t have to do anything special to generate cards—you’ll get them just for playing games normally. But, if you are willing to resort to a few tricks, you can generate even more cards quickly.

If you just have one or two games with card drops available, you can click the “Play” button to install and play the games. Steam just cares that the game is running, so you could run the game in the background, press Alt+Tab, and do something else while the game is running until Steam gives you all the cards.

But that’s not really the laziest, fastest way to get all those cards. Instead, you could use the open-source Steam Idle Master application, which we’ve tested with good success. This application will simulate you as being “in game” in Steam, automatically moving from game to game as you get the cards. You don’t even have to download the games before Steam Idle Master can idle in them, so it even saves precious Internet bandwidth.

The application requires you either enter your Steam account details or provide a cookie code so it can monitor your Badges page and see which games still have card drops available.

This won’t get your Steam account in trouble. You’re not actually “cheating”. You’re just using a tool that gives you the card drops you have available, and no more card drops than that. When you sell the cards, both Valve and the game developer make money. You’re just skipping over the “gamified” process of getting the cards while playing the game and getting them more quickly.

Note that Idle Master will attempt to idle all games with cards. if you just purchased a game, you can only return it for a refund if you’ve played it less than two hours within the first two weeks. So using Idle Master may make you ineligible for a refund if you’re not careful.

Idle Master will also throw your Steam stats off. If this application is idling multiple games at once, it may say you’ve been playing games for 800 hours over the past two weeks on your Steam profile page when it’s done. This doesn’t really, matter, but it does look funny, and some people like seeing how many hours they’ve actually spent playing certain games. If you don’t want to mess with your stats, you can just skip down to step four and sell cards you’ve earned by playing games regularly.

Step Four: Sell Your Cards on the Market

Once you have cards available, you’ll want to list them on the market to make some Steam Wallet funds. The process is a little slow, but if you have a lot of cards, you can get a decent amount of money.

RELATED: Browser Extensions Are a Privacy Nightmare: Stop Using So Many of Them

NOTE: We once recommended a Chrome extension called Steam Inventory Helper to speed this up. We no longer recommend doing so. Many are reporting it has been turned into spyware (something that can easily happen with browser extensions), so we only recommend doing it the long way now.

To view your inventory, click the envelope icon in the upper right-hand corner and click “[X] items in your Inventory”. Click the “Steam” category to view Steam trading cards. Select a trading card, scroll to the bottom, and click the “Sell” button.

You’ll be shown a graph of average market prices for that card, allowing you to select what price you want to list your card for. Choose a price, agree to the Steam agreement, and click “OK, put it up for sale.”

Repeat this process for all the trading cards you want to sell.

Step Five: Approve the Transactions from the Mobile App

Even after listing the cards in your inventory, they won’t be available for sale on the market yet. Instead, you’ll need to open the Steam app on your smartphone, tap the menu, and tap “Confirmations”. You’ll see all the cards you attempted to list.

Check them off one by one and tap “Confirm Selected” to confirm you want to sell those cards.


Step Six: Relist Unsold Cards Later

You can now sit back and watch the free Steam credit roll in to your account.

If cards haven’t sold after some time, you can head to Community > Market in Steam and see which cards haven’t been purchased yet. You can remove these cards from the market and list them at a lower price in hopes that they’ll sell.

Step Seven: Keep an Eye Out for More Cards and Repeat

After getting the “card drops” associated with a game in your account, Steam will occasionally give you “booster packs” of cards for that game, which you can also sell for more free Steam credit. You just have to sign into your Steam account at least once a week to be eligible.

Game developers are still adding cards to older games—after all, those cards make them money—so check back in the future. Even if you haven’t purchased any more games, there’s a good chance that a game you previously owned may have gained trading cards.

Trading cards are generally worth more when a game is new and expensive. You might be able to sell a new $60 game’s trading cards for 25 to 30 cents apiece, while those cards may decline to six cents or less as the game itself drops in price. So, when you buy an expensive game, it’s worth selling the cards near the game’s release date rather than holding onto them.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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