How to Redeem a Code on Steam
By Seth Amery
Updated September 22, 2017
In 2013, roughly 92 percent of computer game sales were made digitally, a fact made evident by Steam's user base climbing past 65 million in the same year. In addition to buying games directly through the Steam web store, users can redeem Steam keys, also called codes, acquired from other online vendors or retail copies to redeem a copy of that game on Steam. Retail locations also offer Steam gift cards so you can make purchases without revealing your financial information.
Certain retail and digital games offer Steam keys, letting you activate a code through the Steam client to redeem a copy of the game on the platform. While receiving a Steam Key is more common with vendors who specialize in digital distribution of PC games, Valve provides a finite list of retail games whose keys activate in Steam, such as the "Total War" and "Call of Duty" series. To redeem a game code, select "Add a Game" at the bottom of the client, followed by "Activate a Product on Steam." Here, you can enter the code and immediately begin downloading the game. You cannot redeem game codes directly from the Steam website.
Steam Wallet and Gift Codes
You can purchase Steam Wallet gift cards in retail locations in fixed denominations: either $20, $50 or $100. You can spend these funds on anything the site sells: games, software, trading cards and community rewards. An added bonus of using a gift card is never having to provide financial information online. If you have Steam Wallet funds in your account, Steam defaults to this option when making a purchase. You can redeem a gift card directly from the Steam website (see Resources for link) or by clicking the "Games" menu in the Steam client and selecting "Redeem a Steam Wallet Code."
Directly Funding Steam Wallet
As an alternative to redeeming a gift card, you can also add funds directly to your Steam Wallet from a debit or credit card. Using either a browser or your Steam client, navigate to the store page and click the dollar sign under your name in the upper right corner of the screen. Click "Add funds to your Steam Wallet" to fund in $5, $10, $25, $50 or $100 denominations at a time. Unlike Steam Wallet gift cards, this method requires providing Steam with your financial information, but you don't need to store it to your account.
If your Steam code isn't working, double-check the characters to make sure everything's correct; a "B" could look like an "8," for example. If a code fails to work, contact the retailer you purchased the product from for further assistance, such as exchanging the non-working code for a new one. If you are still having difficulty, contact Valve directly with detailed information about the circumstances. Be ready to provide your code along with your receipt in all cases.
Seth Amery is a long-time writer whose specialties extend to all areas of video games, having written thousands of tutorials, fully-featured strategy guides and reviews across all platforms. His experience also includes one-on-one relationships with major gaming publishers to write previews on upcoming games, establish interviews with game designers and hold early game giveaways.