- "Money say 'Jump', cat say 'How high?"
- ―Playboy X
Money is an integral element in the Grand Theft Auto series, with its importance varying game by game. It is a statistic primarily represented by a counter on the player's HUD as the amount of money in hand. Missions are often emphasized as a reliable source of income, but the player may resort to other means of obtaining money in the game.
In early GTA games, money is emphasized as the key to unlocking new areas in the game, but it may also be used in various other activities. The formula was dramatically modified after Grand Theft Auto III, when money was only important for specific missions, as the completion of missions unlocked new areas instead; the former was removed entirely after Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Since GTA III, the primary use of money is the purchase of items and services, such as health, armor, clothing, properties (like safehouses and business) and weapons.
As the vast majority of settings in the series takes place in the United States of America, the currency unit of money is the United States dollar. The London add-on packs for GTA 1 (Grand Theft Auto: London 1969 and Grand Theft Auto: London 1961) are exceptions; as the games are set in the United Kingdom, the pound sterling substitutes the dollar symbol.
It should be noted that money throughout the GTA series comes only in stacks of paper bills as there are no single bank notes seen in the games (except when throwing $1 bills to strippers in GTA V). Cents and coins are also not in any of the games yet it is presumed they exist (You may see them referenced on billboards/signs or in pedestrian dialogue for example) but there are no items available for the player to purchase that are under $1. 
Money in the two games is relatively easy to obtain. Acts of crimes, murder and traffic violations often award players with scores, giving the player small quantities of cash. Missions, however, grant players larger amounts of money, in addition to score multipliers that increases the aforementioned monetary award from street crimes by one fold for each mission. This formula, assuming the player continues to successfully complete missions, will result in the player obtaining progressively larger amounts of money until a certain amount is reached and the player may progress to the next city or area.
The use of money for other purposes was explored in GTA 2. With the ability to save games, the player must have a certain amount of money in hand to enter save points (comically represented by a "Jesus Saves" evangelical place of worship which demands donations in order for the player to "save" his "soul"). The game also offers several drive-in shops where the player may remove their wanted level, upgrade their vehicle with equipment, or install bombs, all at a cost. This mechanic also appears in GTA 1, but is limited to only re-spraying vehicles.
In both games, certain vehicles can be taken to cranes and turned into money. In GTA 2 vehicles will also hand out weapons or abilities when crushed.
GTA IIIIn Grand Theft Auto III, the money system was completely refashioned. While certain street crimes still award players with small amounts of money, the score multiplier is removed, and pedestrians, except emergency personnel, drop cash onto the street upon death. Missions still provide substantial amounts of money, but sub-missions, which debuted in GTA III, serve as an additional source of income, awarding the player with increasingly more money as the sub-missions progress. Different as all other GTA Games, in GTA III the player has the capacity to earn money by crashing cars.
Money in GTA III is assigned a secondary role in game progression for specific missions only, when the player is required to pay 8-Ball large sums of money to construct a bomb in "Bomb Da Base Act II", and when the player must pay a large ransom to secure Maria Latore's freedom, who is kidnapped by Catalina and the Colombian Cartel, in "The Exchange". Outside missions, money remains important in the purchase of weapons, respraying of vehicles and the installation of car bombs. Sessions with prostitutes, another addition in the game, also incur a cost to the player, depending on how long the player requires her services.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
In Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, instant monetary awards for street crimes are largely eliminated (saved the destruction of helicopters, which was later removed in GTA San Andreas), leaving missions, sub-missions, the dropped pedestrian cash, and robbing stores (in addition to smashing parking meters in Downtown) as the only visible sources of income. The average amount of money awarded to the player and cost of items were also divided by 10 (eg. the use of Pay 'n' Spray costs $100 in GTA Vice City, compared to $1,000 in GTA III). The game also reduces the number of missions where large sums of money was needed; only one such mission remains, "Keep Your Friends Close".
Maintaining the relevance of money in GTA, the player is offered the possibility of purchasing properties and businesses at varying costs. Upon completion of missions or sub-missions for one of said businesses, the business will begin amassing a certain amount of money each day, which the player may pick up at their own leisure. As another small bonus, the player can earn $50 "good citizen" bonus by attacking (without firearms) criminals being chased by police, they can also earn $5 for each passenger picked up at bus stops when driving a coach.
GTA San Andreas
While the money system is largely unchanged from the last installment, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas expanded on the number of options to earn money and spend it, by introducing a variety of new sub-missions, establishments where players may purchase food or clothes, vehicle customisation and gambling. Monetary pickups in gang turf are present, and like GTA Vice City, properties may still be purchased and generate income of their own.
If the player loses too much money, either by spending too much or by losing at gambling, the green numbers representing money on the HUD will be replaced by red numbers and a negative sign. Soon after the player falls into debt, Carl will receive a phone call from an unknown man, reminding Carl that he owes him money. A while after that, Carl will receive another phone call from the same unknown man, who tells Carl that some of his "associates" will be paying Carl a visit to talk about his debts. Shortly after this, Carl will be attacked by armed gangsters. The only ways to erase the debts is to earn enough money to get out of debt or kill the hitmen sent to kill Carl.
The player gets large sums of cash for missions, like in GTA III. However, the only thing that this money can be used for is buying weapons.
GTA Liberty City Stories
The money system works just like the previous installments from the GTA III Era. Aside from a mission which requires the player to have enough money to pay for some explosives, the only other things the player can spend it on are weapons, ferries, visits to the Pay 'n' Spray, and bombs for cars.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
The importance of money increases a little; the player can again purchase properties and build the assets from them into whatever type of business they desire. Money can now be gained easily through the new addition of the Empire Building. Another new feature is that instead of picking up the money earned from each property daily, the player gets it through a pager message at 16:00 each day (except when on a mission, in which case the pager message is delivered after the mission ends). Another new method for obtaining small amounts of cash is introduced, in the form of a small bonus awarded to the player for saving pedestrians from being attacked by enemy gang members. Popping each of the 99 red balloons also awards a small amount of cash. Also like in Vice City, the player is able to obtain small amounts of cash by smashing parking meters with a vehicle or weapon.
Grand Theft Auto IV
The core of the money system is unchanged in Grand Theft Auto IV. However, profitable sub-missions, which were sources of income since GTA III, are reduced to Brucie Kibbutz's Exotic Exports, The Fixer's Assassinations, and Stevie's Car Thefts. The game also allows the player to rob cash registers in certain stores for a small amount of cash or destroying an armoured Securicar van (scattering money on the street for the player to pick up), though the former gives the player a one-star wanted level, and the latter gives the player a two-star wanted level. The taxi sub-missions were reduced now to support Roman's car service with limited missions, granting the player very little income via doing fares.
As in GTA IV the importance of money for the purchase of food and clothing is reintroduced. Outings with friends or girlfriends also require substantial amounts of money when going for a drink, eating or bowling. Players are also given the option of simply giving money away to street musicians (for health) and tramps. Also, players have the ability to use taxi services and pay the fare according to distance (and extra if the journey is skipped).
Tollbooth fares were also introduced in GTA IV, now requesting the player pays a $5 toll to get through the East Borough Bridge, Dukes Bay Bridge and the long-stay car park in Francis International Airport. If the player decides to break through the gate without paying, it will attract a one-star wanted level. However, if the player drives up to the tollbooth in an emergency services vehicle, they will get through free of charge.Money is also the unit of measure of rank in GTA IV's multiplayer. The more money the player has, the higher their rank:
In Chinatown Wars, there are two types of money pickups, one being a green dollar sign, the other one being a blue dollar sign. The green dollar sign is ranged from $10 to $80, and can be commonly found by killing pedestrians, while the blue dollar sign is very rare (only appearing in two missions, A Rude Awakening and One Shot, One Kill). It is worth $200.
Grand Theft Auto V
The Money icon is essentially the same as it was in GTA IV, however, the dollar sign comes first in GTA V.
In Grand Theft Auto V, the money system has changed since Grand Theft Auto IV. Michael De Santa, Franklin Clinton, and Trevor Phillips all have different bank accounts at the start of the game. It is now much more difficult to earn cash, especially since a large number of storyline missions do not have a cash reward attached to them, only key missions.
Street crimes such as performing store hold-ups will still award players with small amounts of money like before. Scuba diving - a new feature in the game - will allow players to explore underwater shipwrecks to find hidden treasure and although this feature will not have a huge payout to award the player with, it will however help provide something.
Mildly profitable sub-missions are increased to hijacking security vans, picking up hitchhikers, bounty hunting, etc. Heists are featured in this game. 'Mini heists' are used to teach the player about preparation. Players must purchase and secure vehicles, outfits, masks and the getaway vehicle. For the much larger heists in the game, players must acquire the right crew (which you can recruit) and players will have to decide on the cheap option, which results in less skilled people, or paying more for skilled crew members that will take a larger cut of the money. There will be a huge payout to split between the crew after the heist is finished. However, not all heists will provide a large payout.
Another way to earn cash is through investing in the stock market. Upon completion of certain missions, investing your money in certain stocks on Liberty City National Exchange or BAWSAQ will lend the player a hefty amount of cash. But, it should be noted that you should invest money wisely. Otherwise, you'll see the hard earned money quickly disappear from your pocket. It should be noted that regardless how much money a player earns through investing (and spends), this does not impact the storyline; for example, one heist is conducted because Michael and his colleagues do not have enough money to buy a helicopter; this story thread plays out even if Michael actually has earned multiple millions through investing by the time the mission is played.
With these new and profound ways to generate a healthy profit, players will now have new ways to spend their hard-earned cash. Players can purchase businesses around Los Santos and Blaine County that will add extra revenue sources. Purchasing of some property will have perks that come along. An example would be if the player was to buy a taxi business in the game; they will never have to pay for another taxi ride. Another example would be that if the player bought a bar (e.g. The Hen House), random phone calls from bar staff asking for delivery of crates containing much-needed alcoholic beverages may be received when they least expect it. If one chooses to ignore these, a text showing dissatisfaction from an employee, as well as reduced earnings from that property for that week. Some properties include exclusive side-missions that can generate income as well.
Player customised options from San Andreas also make a return, which include a large variety of tattoos, haircuts and clothing. Players can also purchase vehicles and vehicle modifications like in San Andreas, but for the first time ever this includes aircraft and boats and consists of far more modification options available. Players may also purchase weapons and weapon modifications like scopes or weapon suppressors from Ammu-Nation.
$2,147,483,647 is the maximum amount of money possible for any online or offline character to own. The number 2,147,483,647 is the maximum positive value for a 32-bit signed binary integer in computing. It is therefore the maximum value for variables declared as integers in many programming languages, and the maximum possible score, money, etc. for many video games. However this only caps the amount of money a character can carry physically. By keeping excess funds invested in the stock market, there seems to be no limit to the amount of financial assets a player can amass.
As of the release of GTA Online, money again plays a central role in online multiplayer. Unlike GTA IV, the system for player rank is based on Reputation Points. Money is used primarily for purchasing property, customization items, and weapons. Money in GTA Online uses a system of having two accounts, which is unprecedented in the series. Players carry with them their "held" cash, represented by a dark green money counter. This money serves for most small and/or illegal transactions. In Free Mode, if the player is killed, a fraction of their held cash will be dropped for other players to pick up for a short time. The other account is a player's "banked" cash. After earning money from various missions and activities, players may bank their cash by either visiting an ATM or using the Maze Bank website on their phone/computer. Banked cash is used for a majority of transactions in the game, such as car customization, clothing, weapons, and more expensive illegal services. If all of a player's cash is banked, they will still lose a small amount of cash when they are killed in freemode, but not as much as with held cash, and none will be available to be stolen. Prior to the Heists Update no missions in GTA Online required the expenditure of large amounts of money, although the provider of a mission may occasionally suggest specific weapons or vehicles that would be useful. Heists now require setup fees on the part of the Heist Leader.
- Money counters