Red Dead Online

Earning Gold in Red Dead Online is critical to the early success of players. Before you can jump into any of the game’s Roles (jobs), buy into the Outlaw Pass, or even pick up premium cosmetics, you’re going to have to scrape up some Gold.

Gold acquisition will (almost) always be a trickle (to encourage players to drop some real-world money), but if you know what you’re doing, you can speed up the process. If you want to know the most effective ways of farming gold, I’ve created a complete guide to earning Gold in Red Dead Online.

Note that I did compile a similar list in 2020, but a whole lot has changed since then. Now that we’ve entered a new year (and Red Dead Online is a standalone game), it’s time to revisit Gold acquisition and increase your RDO earning potential!

What is Gold and how does it work?

Red Dead Online

Before I jump into the best ways to farm gold in Red Dead Online, I should clarify exactly what Gold is.

There are two major currencies in Red Dead Online (RDO$ and Gold) and one minor one (Tokens). RDO$ is your basic currency, which you can earn for just about anything you do in the game, while Gold is your premium currency, which can only be earned in specific ways (or bought with real-world money). Some items can only be bought with Gold, while other items can usually be bought with either (most items that are listed with a RDO$ price have an additional “Buy with Gold” option). This makes Gold the more valuable of the two currencies.

As for Tokens, these are only earned by ranking up your Roles, and they are spent unlocking Role-based items (not purchasing, but unlocking the ability to purchase these items).

Red Dead Online - Currency
  • Tokens are shown in light blue, next to a token icon.
  • Gold is shown in yellow, next to a gold bars icon.
  • RDO$ is shown in white, with a dollar sign in front of it.

Your earned gold is listed out in a dollars-and-cents format (for example: 5.23). However, the first number is typically referred to as Gold Bars, while the digits after the decimal are typically referred to as Gold Nuggets. So in the figure I gave earlier, 5.23, you would have five Gold Bars and 23 Gold Nuggets. For the sake of this article, I’m just going to refer to it all as Gold.

Gold is paid out on a timer system

Red Dead Online

In any activity that pays out Gold, you are rewarded for how long you play. So the longer you take to do any Gold-earning activity, the more you’ll be paid.

Gold payouts used to vary by activity, but Rockstar has streamlined the payout system so that all of these activities pay consistent Gold amounts. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 3 minutes = 0.08 Gold
  • 6 minutes = 0.16 Gold
  • 9 minutes = 0.24 Gold
  • 12 minutes = 0.32 Gold
  • 15 minutes = 0.36 Gold
  • 20 minutes = 0.40 Gold
  • 25 minutes = 0.44 Gold
  • 30 minutes = 0.48 Gold

People who want to maximize their Gold earning will start an activity, then set a timer and attempt to complete the activity just after the 12-minute mark. If you look at the numbers above closely, you’ll see that 12 minutes is actually the ideal time for any activity, because Gold earnings start dropping off after that.

Don’t believe me? If you can complete two missions at the 12-minute mark (a total of 24 minutes), you’ll earn 0.64 Gold. If you do a single mission for 25 minutes, you’ll earn 0.44 Gold. As you can see, you’re increasing your Gold payout by stopping the timer at 12 minutes and starting a new activity as soon as you possibly can.

It’s important to note that some missions have in-game timers, but those timers are usually not an indicator of how long you’ve been playing the mission. For example, if you’re hunting down a bounty target, the timer won’t start until you’ve gotten close to the target, so all that time you spent riding out there won’t be accounted for by the game timer. The Gold timer starts as soon as you start an activity, whether there’s a displayed mission timer or not.

Another important thing to note is that the only Role that pays out Gold is the Bounty Hunter. None of the other Roles do, and that means missions associated with those Roles (Bootlegger Missions, Resupply Missions, Poacher Missions, etc.) won’t pay any gold at all.

Also, there are ways to earn Gold beyond the timer system, which means some activities are still more lucrative than others, even with the time payouts being standardized.

So now let’s get into the various methods of earning Gold in Red Dead Online!

Purchase Gold with real-world money

Red Dead Online - Buy Gold

I mentioned this in last year’s guide, but Gold is Red Dead Online‘s premium currency. Rockstar wants you to buy it, and this will always be the fastest way to pile up Gold.

Quite frankly, the exchange rate sucks. Gold is very expensive to purchase, but you’ll occasionally see it go on sale. Gold sales are a decent time to empty your real-life wallet into a digital one, but there are still plenty of ways to earn Gold simply by playing Red Dead Online.

So let’s move on.

Maximize the Bounty Hunter Role

Red Dead Online

In my 2020 guide, I grouped Bounty Hunts and Stranger Missions together, because the Gold payouts worked virtually the same for both. However, there were some big updates to the Bounty Hunter Role on December 1, 2020. On top of adding 10 new ranks to the Bounty Hunter license, the general gameplay loop of the Bounty Hunter was rearranged a bit. Because of these changes, the Bounty Hunter Role now has a clear edge over Stranger Missions as the fastest way to earn Gold in Read Dead Online (aside from buying it).

As a Bounty Hunter, there are four ways to earn Gold: Standard Bounties, Infamous Bounties, Legendary Bounties, and Post-30 Prestigious Bounty Hunter Rewards. I’ll walk you through all four, then explain how to create a gameplay loop that maximizes the efficiency of all of them together.

Standard Bounties

Red Dead Online

These are your run-of-the-mill Bounty Hunter missions. To trigger a Bounty Hunt, go to a bounty board — there are 13 bounty boards in the game world, and each one is marked with a bounty icon, so they’re never difficult to find.

Red Dead Online

The bounty boards serve as a base of operations for your Bounty Hunter activities, and just about everything you do as a Bounty Hunter will be triggered at a Bounty Board.

Once you’re at a Bounty Board, simply select a Wanted Poster to accept a bounty. Bounties come in three difficulties, each marked with a number of dollar signs. So $ is easy, $$ is normal, and $$$ is hard.

Once you’ve started a bounty, the clock starts ticking and your Gold starts pouring in (remember the thing about Gold being on a timer?)

Note that once you complete a Wanted Poster, it will be removed from the Bounty Board. However, you can reset Bounty Boards by logging out of the game and logging back in.

Infamous Bounties

Red Dead Online

Infamous Bounties were added with the Bounty Hunter update in December. They give you another way to earn RDO$ and Gold from bounty boards.

To access an Infamous Bounty, go to a bounty board, move over to the $$$ poster (the one furthest to the right) and press up or down on the D-pad to swap the $$$ poster for an infamous one.

There is one Infamous Bounty for every bounty board in the game, and each one has three steps, meaning there are a total of 39 Infamous Bounty missions.

There’s actually a really great video on Infamous Bounties by Red Dead YouTuber Hazard, so check that out for more information.

Legendary Bounties

Red Dead Online

On top of your standard Bounties, there are also Legendary Bounties. These are instanced story missions that usually don’t have a timer. However, you do have a limited number of lives. Every time you complete a Legendary Bounty, you increase the difficulty, and there are five difficulty levels for each Legendary Bounty.

Legendary Bounties have the highest RDO$ payout, but they pay the same Gold rate as other bounty hunts. They also have a lengthy cooldown.

To access Legendary Bounties, go to a Bounty Board and press the triangle button (if you’re playing on PS4 or PS5). This will bring up a list of Legendary Bounties to choose from.

Post-30 Prestigious Bounty Hunter Rewards

Red Dead Online

This part is a bit confusing, and I’m not surprised to learn that a lot players don’t even know about it.

There is another way to get paid out as a Bounty Hunter. However, before you can claim these payouts, you need to rank your Bounty Hunter Role to 30. This means you need to buy into the Bounty Hunter Role (which will cost you 15 Gold), then rank it to 20, then purchase the Prestigious Bounty Hunter License for 25 Gold, which allows you to rank up your Bounty Hunter Role to 30.

After you hit Rank 30, you’ll continue to earn Bounty Hunter XP, though you will no longer level up that Role. Once you earn 10,000 XP (beyond Rank 30), you can exchange that XP for 0.5 Gold and RDO$100. There’s no limit to how many times you can do this, but your XP earnings will be hard-capped at 10,000. That means that once you hit 10,000 XP, you should trade it in as soon as possible so you can start earning XP again.

If you want to know more about this system, I’ve written a complete breakdown for it already.

The Bounty Hunter Gameplay Loop

Red Dead Online

As a Bounty Hunter, you want to be doing Legendary Bounties and Infamous Bounties as much as possible (since their RDO$ payouts are better than Standard Bounties). Because there’s a cooldown on both types of bounty, you will have some downtime. You can rush off to another Bounty Board (Infamous Bounty cooldowns are tied to their Bounty Board, so you can do an Infamous Bounty at another Bounty Board while the first one is on cooldown). While you’re waiting for the cooldowns, you can also choose to do Standard Bounties to keep the Gold flowing in your downtime.

If you want to milk the clock for those 12-minute payouts, you can, but note that Rockstar added additional Gold bonuses for completing a Bounty Hunt in under ten minutes (I’ve not been able to lock down the exact rates of these bonuses, but I was able to learn that they’re not substantial).

On top of all this, every time you earn 10,000 XP (this will take quite some time), you can exchange that for Gold and RDO$ and start the whole process over again.

So you can see how there’s a flow. Legendary Bounty, then Infamous Bounties, then Standard Bounties until your cooldowns reset. Rinse, repeat. Once you fall into this rhythm, you’ll be earning Gold at a rapid clip — this is the fastest Gold grind in Red Dead Online.

Take advantage of Stranger Missions

Red Dead Online

Stranger Missions pay similarly to your Standard Bounties: You’re being paid by the minute (in three- or five-minute chunks), so dragging these out will increase your payout, with 12 minutes being the ideal turn-in time.

Stranger Missions can be found all over the game world, and locations are shown on your map with a Stranger icon.

Red Dead Online - Stranger

Simply approach the Stranger, accept the job offer, and then complete it for rewards. Each specific Stranger has a cooldown, but there are enough Strangers in the game world that you can cycle through a whole bunch of them without ever needing to stop.

I should point out that these are a mixed bag in terms of quality. Some of them can be a drag, while others are quite fun. I personally enjoy missions where you have to recover a stolen wagon or boat, while I’m not a fan of missions that require you to hunt (though I do enjoy hunting in the game normally).

The real benefit of Stranger Missions is that they give you a break from Bounty Hunts and offer more variety in terms of gameplay objectives. Once you’ve played hundreds of hours of Red Dead Online (like I have), this variety is well worth the lower Gold payouts.

Participate in Showdowns (PvP)

Red Dead Online

Showdowns were rolled into the same payout schedule as Stranger Missions and Standard Bounties. However, you don’t have the option to hold out for additional time here — the game ends when the timer expires. A lot of standard matches are set to an eight-minute clock, meaning you’ll earn 0.16 Gold per match. As you can see, this isn’t the ideal way to earn gold, as you’re being paid the six-minute payout for eight minutes of game time.

On top of that, you spend a great deal of time (several minutes per go) sitting in lobbies in between matches, which slows down your Gold-earning time considerably.

For these reasons, Showdowns are going to be less lucrative than Stranger Missions or Bounties.

As a caveat to this, though, Rockstar occasionally offers 3x Gold in Showdowns, and when they do, Showdowns temporarily become the fastest Gold grind in the game. Of course, this only happens once in a blue moon, so it’s certainly not dependable as a go-to farming strategy. Also, you’ll end up in lobbies with a lot of AFK Gold farmers too (though I’ve personally not seen much reason to do this myself).

Pick up some Telegram Missions

Red Dead Online - Telegram Missions

Rockstar recently added a new way to make money and Gold in the game called Telegram Missions. Instead of talking to an NPC to pick these up, you can activate them from your satchel (you will have to stop at the post office to get your initial job offer).

I’ve written a complete breakdown of Telegram Missions, so I won’t repeat all that information here. However, know that there are only three Telegram Missions in the game currently (more are apparently on the way) and they share a cooldown. You can’t jump from Telegram to Telegram the way you can jump from Bounty to Bounty or Stranger to Stranger. This slows down the process considerably.

Use treasure maps to find cash and gold

Red Dead Online

Ah, treasure maps.

If they weren’t so rare, completing treasure hunts would be the ultimate way to earn Gold in Red Dead Online. You can earn a ton of Gold this way. Typically, one treasure will contain between 0.50 and 2.00 Gold, and you can burn through six or more treasure maps in an hour. Yes, if you’re both fast and lucky, you could be earning 12 Gold per hour or more. The downside is that they’re so rare that you’ll never be able to do this consistently — you certainly won’t earn six treasure maps in an hour.

Treasure maps are stored in your satchel, which you can access by holding right on the D-pad (they’re stored in the Treasure Maps section of the Documents tab). If you have a treasure map, you simply open it up, and you should see a location marked in yellow on your world map.

Red Dead Online

Go to the marked location to search for the treasure. Your controller will start to vibrate as you get near a treasure, and you should be able to see the “scent” of the treasure in Eagle Eye mode (L3 + R3).

Red Dead Online

One important thing to note is that you can’t hold more than 40 treasure maps at once, and you can’t have two of the same treasure map in your inventory at the same time. This means that you’ll completely stop earning maps once you have 40.

Treasure maps are rare, but there are several ways to acquire them.

Level up

Red Dead Online

Every five levels, you will be given a treasure map. Once you earn a treasure map this way, it can be picked up by visiting a post office (or by using the postbox at your camp). So, you’ll get a treasure map at Level 5, at Level 10, at Level 15, etc. And yes, you continue to earn treasure maps beyond level 100 (my character is close to hitting 300, and I still earn treasure maps every five levels).

Loot treasure maps off NPCs

Red Dead Online

Any time you kill an enemy NPC, there’s a chance they’ll have a treasure map on them. Make sure to loot every enemy, because you never know what you’ll end up finding.

Now, remember how I said you can only have one copy of a map in your inventory at a time? This hypothetically means that if you have the map for Diablo Ridge, then you loot an enemy who’s holding another map for Diablo Ridge, you won’t be able to pick up that map.

However, there’s no way to test this, so I haven’t been able to confirm it with 100% certainty. It’s hard to say when the RNG kicks in — does the game choose the map when it spawns in the enemy, when you loot the enemy, or when the map is added to your inventory? I have no idea. I will say that it does seem like the fewer maps I have in my inventory, the more likely it is that I’ll loot one off a body. This could, of course, just be RNG as well. It does make me cautious about hording maps though.

People claim that hideouts have the highest chance to drop treasure maps, though I’ve not confirmed this. I will point out, however, that this doesn’t mean you’ll find the treasure map on the hideout leader (I’ve talked to several people who believe this to be the case). In fact, I’m not certain I’ve ever looted a treasure map off a leader, while I find treasure maps on non-leader NPCs in hideouts all the time.

I also have fairly decent luck with acquiring maps at revenue agent checkpoints.

Buy (or steal) maps off treasure hunters

Occasionally, you’ll bump into treasure hunters in the wild. If you find one, they’ll offer to sell you their treasure map for a small fee. The fee is worth it, but you can also hogtie them (or kill them) to make them drop the map. The map will be lying on the ground at this point. Simply walk over it to pick it up.

Find treasure maps in the wild

Red Dead Online

Now, this one might be mere legend, but I’ve heard tell that there are sometimes treasure maps posted on trees at night. I’ve played RDO for more than 700 hours, and I’ve never found a treasure map this way, so I can’t confirm that this is true from my own personal experience. But I’ve heard this from multiple sources (and I’ve seen videos of people finding maps this Way), so I’m pretty sure it’s a thing — it’s just a super, super rare thing.

Complete your Daily Challenges every day

Red Dead Online

Back in 2020, Daily Challenges were the fastest way to reliably make Gold in Red Dead Online outside of buying it. However, at the end of the year, Rockstar nerfed the crap out of them. Seriously, I did the math, and the nerf hit Daily Challenges really, really hard.

Still, this is an easy way to add some Gold to your coffers, especially if you knock out challenges while you’re running down your mission timer in Stranger Missions and Bounty Hunts.

To access your challenge list, tap left on the D-pad to bring up your online menu. Scroll down to the Daily Challenges option, and you can see what your challenges are that day.

There are seven general challenges per day, plus three challenges for each Role you have. You can only do a maximum of nine Role challenges per day. If you have all five roles, you’ll have a pool of 15 Role challenges to choose from, but once you’ve completed nine, the others will be blocked out.

Each challenge earns you 0.10 Gold on a normal day, plus a 0.30 Gold bonus for a full completion (that’s one 0.30 bonus for completing all seven dailies, and a second 0.30 bonus for completing nine Role challenges). If you can get a challenge streak going, you’ll add a multiplier to that. To maintain a streak, you’ll have to do at least one challenge per day (it can be a general challenge or a Role challenge).

Red Dead Online

Therefore, in your first week, it’s possible to earn 2.2 Gold per day off of challenges. Here’s a breakdown of the multipliers:

  • Week 1 – Up to 2.2 Gold per day
  • Week 2 – Up to 3.3 Gold per day (1.5x multiplier)
  • Week 3 – Up to 4.4 Gold per day (2x multiplier)
  • Week 4 – Up to 5.5 Gold per day (2.5x multiplier)

After 28 days, your streak resets back to the beginning. Your streak also resets any time you miss a day — so log in every day, even if only to complete a single challenge.

Oh, and general challenges tend to be really, really easy on holidays.

Reset your awards as often as you can

Red Dead Online

There’s a semi-hidden feature in Red Dead Online that gives you awards for doing various things in the game. When you complete an Award, you’re given a belt buckle, but you can often also reset that award (by holding the square button on PS4) to earn 0.40 Gold.

To access your Awards, press the options button (if you’re playing on PS4) and then go to Progress.

Red Dead Online

From there, go to Awards.

Red Dead Online

Here, there should be a bunch of different Awards, broken out by category. Some of them cannot be reset when completed, but most of them can be reset up to ten times. This means that every resettable challenge can pay you up to 4 Gold Bars.

Note that this is the same process you’ll use to redeem your post-30 Bounty Hunter rewards, though post-30 Bounty Hunter rewards aren’t limited to ten resets.

Wait for free Gold payouts

Red Dead Online

Yes, every once in a while, Rockstar simply hands out free Gold. I’ve received a couple payouts this way myself, but you should know that these events are ridiculously rare. Plus, since Red Dead Online is now being sold as a standalone game (with Gold payments being a primary source of revenue), I have a feeling Rockstar is going to be less willing to hand these payments out than they were in the past.

Still, you can always hope.

Buy into the Outlaw Pass

Red Dead Online

Okay, so more likely than not, you’re going to end up losing Gold on this deal. The Wheeler, Rawson & Co. Outlaw Pass costs you Gold Bars, but generally allows you to earn back most — if not all — of the Gold you spent to purchase it.

I only bring this up because it is a way you can earn Gold in the game (though you’re only earning the Gold you already spent on it, so maybe that shouldn’t count…)

There isn’t always an Outlaw Pass to purchase — they go in and out of season — but whether or not you purchase one really depends on how much you like the items you can earn and if you think you’ll actually put in the time to rank up through the whole thing.

I buy every pass, but I’m swimming in Gold so I can afford it. If you follow this guide, perhaps you’ll eventually be swimming in Gold as well!

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1 year ago

Good write up. Good info

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