Is ChatGPT still free? Looking at the AI chatbot's current and future pricing

ChatGPT hero
(Image credit: Ebru-Omer Via Shutterstock)

ChatGPT is the latest and most popular AI chatbot in the game right now and has captured the interest of many in the few months it’s been available to the public. It’s so popular, in fact, that tech giants like Microsoft and Google (and more recently Twitter and Facebook) have engaged in a mad scramble to integrate AI into their systems as fast as possible.

To quickly break down what it’s all about: ChatGPT is a chatbot developed by OpenAI that is designed to act as a supercharged virtual assistant, drawing upon a huge bank of information and machine learning processes to answer questions, curate recipes, help create and edit content, and much more - all in a friendly, conversational way. There’s so much you can do with ChatGPT, and the current limitations are few and far between. Imagination and creativity - sprinkled with a bit of patience here and there - is key to really getting the most out of the tool. 

ChatGPT is still free, and it looks like things will stay that way. There is a paid subscription users can sign up for called ChatGPT Plus, which gives users priority when the system is at maximum capacity, longer chat lengths and more.  While it's not necessary to have a paid subscription, if you're planning to use ChatGPT a fair amount whether to help with a project or for personal use, it may be best to have the security of knowing you'll be getting priority access. 

In terms of where you can use it, you now have a few more options than previously, though we recommend heading over to OpenAI’s official website and creating an account there. Microsoft has integrated ChatGPT into its Bing search engine and curated Bing Chat, though to use that you’ll need Microsoft Edge.

Google’s answer to AI-enhanced searching is Google Bard, which doesn’t use OpenAI’s ChatGPT but is more of an answer (and rival) to it, based on Google’s LaMDA AI model and currently only available to select beta testers. So using the official OpenAI site is probably best right now if you’re just dipping your toes into everything. 

Do I have to pay for ChatGPT?

As we said above, ChatGPT is free - for now. OpenAI has launched a new paid option for it that basically acts like priority access, allowing you to skip waiting times and get earlier access to new features for $20 a month. So far we’ve been using the free option and it works just as well; you don’t lose features or feel like you’re missing out, though it can be frustrating when you’re trying to hop on and the servers are super busy. If you’re just starting out we don’t recommend purchasing any paid plans yet, but rather waiting and seeing how you get on with the free version.

How long ChatGPT will remain free is at this point a mystery. There’s not a lot of concrete evidence out there to suggest it’s a departure into the realm of paid-only access, but like most applications and software with technology so advanced and demand so high, it could be likely that ChatGPT becomes a paid service. There’s a definite possibility that the base version may turn into a free-with-ads situation, perhaps with query limits or time constraints since maintenance must be pretty expensive.

A laptop screen on a green background showing the pricing for ChatGPT Plus

(Image credit: OpenAI)

There’s no wrong way to use ChatGPT, and there are some safeguarding limitations you might encounter. However, if you want to make the most out of your time with ChatGPT and get more meaningful responses, there are a few things you want to avoid. These include being clear and concise, avoiding typos, and having patience. Remember, ChatGPT is a tool and is always learning so expect a few errors.

So, while ChatGPT is currently free, take the opportunity to play around with it, make travel itineraries, proofread papers, and get help with day-to-day tasks. AI is an evolving industry and regulation from bodies like the US government and the European Union is still in the early stages, so enjoy it while you can without spending a dime!

Is ChatGPT worth it? 

Whether or not ChatGPT is worth getting into mostly depends on your stance on AI being so readily available to the public, and what you might be using it for. 

If you’re intrigued by the emerging technology and want to dip your toes into it, making a free account and just having fun with it can be a very rewarding experience. The team has had a great time messing around with the chatbot, making Valentine's Day cards, planning trips, designing OS systems and much more.

The bot can be a fun way to eat up some free time or a slightly more friendly search engine if you keep an eye out for potential errors. You can learn to code, get help with creative academic writing and more if you know how to give the proper prompts. There is a tonne of fun things out there for you to try.

In terms of whether or not paying for ChatGPT is worth it, that again depends on how frequently you’re going to be using it. If you plan on starting a project, designing and creating an app, using it to help with your business or for a task that requires daily intensive use, securing a subscription is definitely a good idea. Every so often you’ll get hit with a ‘ChatGPT is at capacity’ message when you try login in and get to your chat logs, and if your business or project depends on frequent use that can definitely put a spanner in the works.

ChatGPT can be a great cheat code when it comes to streamlining a lot of tedious processes, and it’s not going away any time soon, so getting acquainted with the bot is a good idea.

But, all this depends on your personal disposition and we do advise you to tread carefully. AI language models are a new and emerging technology, and being placed into the public hands so freely and so quickly does come with a few downsides and lots of kinks to be hammered out.

ChatGPT is now pretty prevalent in academic discourse and its appearance in students' essays, and the bot is only going to get more popular and more integrated into our lives. While the technology is new and exciting it’s important to tread carefully, so be sure to read the fine print when you sign up, and treat everything with a pinch of salt.  

Muskaan Saxena
Computing Staff Writer

Muskaan is TechRadar’s UK-based Computing writer. She has always been a passionate writer and has had her creative work published in several literary journals and magazines. Her debut into the writing world was a poem published in The Times of Zambia, on the subject of sunflowers and the insignificance of human existence in comparison.

Growing up in Zambia, Muskaan was fascinated with technology, especially computers, and she's joined TechRadar to write about the latest GPUs, laptops and recently anything AI related. If you've got questions, moral concerns or just an interest in anything ChatGPT or general AI, you're in the right place.

Muskaan also somehow managed to install a game on her work MacBook's Touch Bar, without the IT department finding out (yet).