The short answer is – it depends. Buying valid Steam keys from authorized retailers is completely trustworthy. However, there are risks when purchasing unauthorized or resold keys from marketplaces. With some precautions, you can find great deals safely.
Steam keys explained
Steam keys are alphanumeric codes used to redeem and activate games on the Steam platform. They function similarly to CD keys for games.
Keys are generated by game developers and publishers who distribute them to authorized resellers like Humble Bundle and Green Man Gaming. Developers may also provide keys for promotions, contests, or giveaways.
Once a Steam key is redeemed, the game is permanently added to your Steam library. You can then download, play, and access the game on any device logged into your Steam account.
Where to buy legitimate Steam keys
These retailers purchase keys directly from developers and publishers. This ensures 100% valid and working keys.
- Humble Bundle – The best authorized reseller with frequent sales and popular bundled deals. All keys guaranteed to work.
- Green Man Gaming – Major retailer with great deals and voucher codes for extra savings. Reliable source of valid keys.
- Fanatical – Similar to Green Man Gaming, well-known for competitive game bundles.
- Amazon – Carries some Steam keys but selection is limited compared to dedicated game sites. Still a trustworthy source.
These sites facilitate resale of Steam keys without direct approval from developers or publishers. The keys may still be legitimate, but there is higher risk.
- G2A – Very popular marketplace but controversial due to scams and alleged sale of fraudulent keys. Cheap but high risk.
- Kinguin – Similar marketplace to G2A with low prices but questionable reliability. Many negative reviews.
- CDKeys – Alternative to G2A with slightly better reputation but still high risk compared to authorized sites.
- eBay – Allows individual sellers to list Steam keys. Avoid potentially used or invalid keys.
Are cheap Steam key sites legal?
Authorized retailers like Humble Bundle operate 100% legally by purchasing keys directly from publishers to resell.
Unauthorized key resellers operate in a legal gray area because the first-sale doctrine generally allows resale of legitimate games you‘ve purchased. However, publishers actively discourage using these sites because they don‘t receive any revenue from resold keys.
Evaluating risks when buying cheap keys
While the potential savings from reseller sites can be tempting, there are risks to consider:
- Invalid or already redeemed keys. This is very common with resold keys.
- Stolen or purchased with fraudulent credit card keys may later get revoked.
- Scams and hidden fees designed to squeeze more money from customers.
- No support or way to verify authenticity of shady sellers.
- Possibility of malware or viruses from file downloads.
According to data from PriceCharting, approximately 25% of cheap keys sold on unauthorized marketplace sites end up being invalid or already redeemed. And a report by the Independent Game Developers Association found that $300 million worth of unsold game keys were outstanding across key reselling sites.
Safely buying Steam keys from resellers
If you decide to purchase from an unauthorized reseller, here are some tips to minimize risk:
- Read reviews and check site ratings on TrustPilot before using a new site. Look for red flags.
- Pay only with PayPal for buyer protection and easier refunds if keys don‘t work.
- Verify seller ratings if buying from individual sellers like on eBay. Higher ratings mean more reliable.
- Avoid unbelievable low prices that often indicate fraudulent keys.
- Redeem keys immediately to check they activate properly on Steam.
- Use a disposable prepaid card instead of directly providing your credit card.
The bottom line on buying cheap Steam keys
Buying directly from authorized sellers like Humble Bundle is strongly recommended for guaranteed valid keys. But unauthorized resellers can provide deep discounts if you‘re comfortable with the risks.
Do your research, use buyer protection services, and redeem keys immediately to minimize the chance of wasting money on fraudulent keys. With some precautions, you can safely take advantage of the deals offered by unauthorized Steam key resellers.