GTA 5 money: how to make cash in Grand Theft Auto

GTA 5 money: Michael holding a gun with a car parked in the desert behind him
(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

In GTA 5, money and guns are essential to your success in Los Santos. Who would've thought that living above the law would be so expensive?

If you want to ride around in the flashiest vehicles, shoot sharp with the most precise guns, and suit up in the finest gangster threads in town, you’ll need fistfuls of cold hard cash.

Luckily, the world of GTA 5 is full of potential - if, by potential, you mean the opportunity to make fat stacks of the green stuff.

Everyone knows that punching NPCs and seeing what small change tumbles out is less of a big earner than it is a sadistic and/or funny way to kill time. There are plenty of others ways to build your bank balance, but with such a variety on offer, which avenues are actually worth the time and effort invested in them? While you can always use GTA 5 cheats to garner riches, it's best to do it all legitimately, if not legally.

That's where we can help. We've put together a list of the best cash-earning activities that are worth your energy and can give you the best returns on your time investments. 

Here is everything you need to know about how to make money in and around the city of Los Santos - and how to keep an eye on it to prevent bankruptcy.

Everything you need to know about GTA 5 money

GTA 5 money: Why do you need money?

A pile of money and weapons lay on a table in GTA 5

(Image credit: Rockstar)

Before starting, it's important to know how GTA 5 money actually works. You play as three central characters during your stint in the game in the form of Franklin, Michael, and Trevor. All three of them have separate bank accounts, as well as unique vehicles and stats. Like in the real world, you have to spend money to make money in GTA 5. Knowing which characters have some capital saved can benefit you in the long run. 

From the stats menu, you can check how much money each character has. This will allow you to invest in the right stocks and buy weapons to make it through activities quicker. 

Stats are also worth paying attention to in a broader sense too. If you are about to do something heavy on driving, Franklin is your best bet - he has a naturally high driving skill and a special ability to slow downtime. If something favors stealth or shooting, Michael is your choice. If you are about to start flying or want a tank, Trevor is your man. 

GTA 5 money: the biggest earners

Los Santos seen from afar

(Image credit: Rockstar)

The world of GTA 5 slowly opens up to you. You start off with a little bit of cash but not all that much to do with it just yet - not until the characters are together and the game's meatier missions are actually available. For that reason, you shouldn't worry too much about money at the start of the game. Get out there and do the missions - activities will come later. 

Though missions themselves aren't always a great way to make money, they are a good way of unlocking the rest of the world. You can also replay them from the "Game" tab in the pause menu if there is anything you want to go for again. The heists you complete during the story give a nice cash injection, for example.

GTA 5 money: petty crimes and activities

Police cars on fire in snow covered area

(Image credit: Rockstar)

Before getting to the real good stuff, it's worth understanding what parts of the world you can exploit. People in richer neighborhoods hold more cash on them but the security is a bit tighter. If you want to play it a little riskier, rob them and get out of there quickly. This can be made easier with a melee or suppressed weapon. You can do this to people using an ATM to get a big cashout.

If you're feeling more daring and have your hands on a firearm, you can hold up a shop by pointing your gun at the cashier. First, scope out the area and look for a good hiding spot. This is necessary to avoid getting busted during your criminal undertakings. 

Once you have an understanding of the space, walk in and hold up the shopkeeper. You can get them to move quicker by shooting around them. Grab the cash they hand over, make it to your hiding spot and wait it out until searches blow over. 

GTA 5 money: car racing

Cars racing in GTA 5 Online

(Image credit: Rockstar)

If you want to get Franklin lots of money early on, racing is a great way of doing so. It requires a little bit of legwork first though. 

As you progress the story, you'll unlock the mission "Pulling Favors". Finish this and the "Shift Work" mission will open up. This will unlock races that you can take part in after 8 PM. Upgrade Franklin's ride and use his power to slow down time to win these races for a nice cash boost. 

You might want to consider investing in your car too as it will be worth it long-term. This will make it easier to win races. You can then use the winnings from races to invest in the stock market. 

GTA 5 money: investing in stocks

LCN stock markets

(Image credit: Rockstar)

This is perhaps one of the best ways of making money in GTA 5 but it has a slight learning curve. To access your stock market, go into your phone and go on the "Internet" section. From here, click on either BAWSAQ or LCN. There, go to the "Markets" tab to see all you can buy. Just click on a stock to find out how it is performing and to purchase it for yourself. You can then see all you've bought in the "My Portfolio" section. 

Broadly speaking, LCN is a more volatile market, prone to huge highs and desperate lows. If you are looking to gamble for a lot of money, this is where you should go. If you're looking for a more moderate and consistent profit, BAWSAQ is your choice. Essentially, you want to look at a stock that has been going downhill, wait until you think it will rise, and then invest in it. Buy low, sell high, as they say.

It's worth remembering that every company has a competitor. If one is doing particularly well, keep an eye on their competition. 

Finally, if you're willing to do some light cheating, you can invest a lot into one stock via LCN, save your game, then keep an eye on the stock you bought. If it rockets upwards, sell. If it tanks, just reload your save and wait. This is perhaps a little bit cheeky but it's a good way of getting good money.

GTA 5 money: assassinations

Michael points a gun

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

Now that you've earned some money earlier into the game, this activity requires you to advance the story a bit more until Lester's missions are available. Here, he will task you with taking out certain high-priority targets to shape the stock market. Invest exactly as he says to profit majorly. 

Though you can mostly figure these out from conversations, here are a few of the investments you should make:

  • Before "The Hotel Assassination"(the first assassination), you should invest in Betta Pharmaceuticals(BET) via BAWSAQ. Sell off after and invest in Bilkington Research(BIL) via LCN. 
  • Before the Multi Target Assassination, invest in Debonair(DEB) via LCN, sell it, then invest in Redwood Cigarettes(RWC) in LCN after. 

Though there are only a handful of assassinations in the game, this is an excellent way of earning yourself some money. If you can, try and save a chunk of money before you do these to really maximize your returns. 

James Bentley

James (he/they) is a freelance games journalist with over 500 pieces published at outlets including GamesRadar, NME, Prima Games, VG247, and God is a Geek.