How Canadians Can Use Cheaper US Xbox Live Points
During my visit to FRYS Electronics, while shopping down south last week, I discovered how much cheaper Xbox Live subscription and points cards were. For example, the Xbox Live 12+1 month subscription was $49.99 US vs $59.99 CAD. The 1600 point card I bought doesn't exist in Canada, but to put it into perspective, the 1600 point card only cost me $19.99 US while the Canadian 1000 point card cost $14.99 while the 2000 point card costs $29.99 here. So in other words, we really get shafted North of the border. If you go down further to Oregon, you pay no tax at all for these cards, further lowering the price.
Eager to take advantage of my score, I promptly ripped open the finger ripping blister packaging and attempted to load them up. Unfortunately, I ran into some snags. Although the Xbox Live 12+1 month Subscription card activated and credited itself properly to my account, the results with the 1600 point card weren't so easy peasy. When I went to activate the card on my Xbox 360, it would keep giving me an error, saying that the code could not be redeemed and to try again. Now I know the cards are case sensitive so I checked and double checked and it still wouldn't activate. I even tried logging on to Xbox Live from a regular PC and doing it online. Without much success, I placed a call to the Xbox Help Line to figure things out.
I Expected To Be Connected to India
I've never called the Xbox Live Hotline before so I totally expected to be connected to someone in a certain Asian Country that is not Hong Kong or Taipei. Well, my fears were alleviated when I got connected to someone that seemed to speak perfect English, although with a bit of a...can't put my finger on it...accent. Nonetheless, our two way communication was one hundred percent flawless and we proceeded to talk about the situation with my points card. Unfortunately, I got disconnected and had to call back.
On the second call, I got through to a really nice lady that told me that although the Xbox Live Subscription cards worked fine for Canadian Xbox Live accounts (like I had discovered), the points cards are not coded to work on Canadian accounts as they are regionalized. I guess this is how they try to discourage folks from picking up cheaper cards across the border. However, it's kind of weird that the subscription cards work, being that it's all Xbox Live to begin with. I had never heard of this regionalization before (I mean, points are points right?), since I really don't buy the points cards often. I totally thought I was going to be out of luck till I got a hot tip that would make this all work out.
After making friends with the rep on the other end, she told me about a way to use my US points cards, even though I'm in Canada. There were actually two ways to get my points to work, but this method would prove to be much easier to administer since the alternative was to fax a copy of the receipt (who keeps receipts coming across the border anyway?) along with both sides of the card to them so they could do a manual activation. She told me the fax method was a pain in the ass and that the secondary method was easier for both them and me. It would also take less time as a manual activation (if you've got the receipt) takes about 5 - 10 business days.
How Do I Use My US Xbox Live Points?
In order to use the up to 20% cheaper (based on current US exchange) US Points Cards, you have to create a new account on your Xbox 360, but set it to the US. Once this is done, and you give it your favourite area code, like, I dunno, 90210, then Melrose Place, Beverly Hills, California, the system will automatically setup an Xbox Live Silver Subscription for you for that brand new US account. All you have to do after that is just punch in the card, and your cheaper points will activate on that account. Simple huh? Well, this doesn't come without a couple downsides.
What's The Downside?
It's not really a huge downside, but it is more of a bummer than anything else. You see, although you are able to activate the points and use them to buy themes and content packs for the games you own, the kicker is that you will also see all the great stuff the US gets on Xbox Live, whenever you logon to this account. The downside is that no matter how many points you have stocked up, you can't use them to rent movies, buy TV episode downloads, or "Rock The American Vote" in a Red vs. Blue battle. You physically have to be in the US to access that content, though I'm sure that a proxy could be setup to allow this access like how I normally access episodes of US TV Shows when they are offered on the network websites. This is probably against the Xbox Live terms of service so proceed at your own risk if you want to do the proxy thing with your XBL account.
What About The Content? Will My CDN Account Be Able to Access It?
The simple answer is yes. Since the content is downloaded to your console, it is playable by anyone logged into that console. You'll be able to play all the tracks you downloaded from your US Xbox Live account with your cheaper points, and then have full access to them when you log back in with your Canadian account. I did dig deeper asking about what would happen to the content if my Xbox 360 were to get a RROD (Red Ring of Death) and apparently, they have a master switch they can flip to give access to that content back to you, sort of like what iTunes did for Wil Wheaton (aka Wesley Crusher) when he lost his whole music collection during one of the iTunes Updates.
So while the US Economy is in ruins, and the Canuck Loonie is still flying high, go ahead and stock up on a few of these and top up that pseudo US account of yours. Potentially, if you can get a US proxy to work with your Xbox 360, you can also have access to things like full seasons of TV Shows and other exclusively US content, though I doubt that you'll be able to swing the vote. I wouldn't even try because you know Big Brother is watching that one.