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Bounties are a feature in Grand Theft Auto Online Free Mode. They are unlocked at Rank 10 after visiting Lester at his house (when it is marked by an L on the map). If a character does not visit Lester but continues to rank up, they will not be able to participate in the bounty system by either setting or claiming bounties, nor will other players or NPCs be able to set a bounty on that player. They will not have access to any of Lester's other services either though.
Setting a Bounty
Players are able to set bounties on other players by calling Lester. The bounty can range from $2,000 to $10,000 but Lester takes a $1,000 commission on all bounties so the amount claimable will range from $1,000 to $9,000. A player can only set one bounty at a time until the player with the bounty is killed. There is an enforced delay between Lester accepting requests to set new bounties of 10 real-time minutes. Players with bounties will be shown on the radar as red dots with crossbones on them in order to differentiate between psychopathic players. The 10 minute time limit was introduced in patch 1.12 to prevent the same player from setting a bounty after the previous bounty had been claimed. As part of an exploit fix, players can no longer gain unlimited RP by setting a bounty and then claiming it themselves repeatedly.
If the player steals an NPC's vehicle, either by Carjacking or taking any parked car, there is a random chance that a bounty will be set on that player. They will first receive a threatening message from a contact called "Unknown", which notifies them that they will have a bounty on their head. The bounties set by NPCs have the same rules as bounties set by players. There is also a chance that the player may get a bounty from a gang boss if they win five Gang Attacks in one game day.
These bounties can be obtained in any free mode session type and are not limited to open public sessions.
Claiming a Bounty
Other players with bounties on their heads are announced to the entire free mode session when they get the bounty or when they enter a session with an existing bounty on their head. They will be distinguishable on the map by the red crossbones icon.
To claim a bounty, kill the player with the bounty on their head by any means. Players with bounties are targeted by the lock on feature of rockets when they are in vehicles. Prior to the insurance changes in patch 1.16, destroying an occupied personal vehicle of a bounty to achieve the kill did not result in any insurance charges or bad sport points.
Players claiming a bounty are able to use the share cash option to distribute the bounty to other players (or even pay it directly back to the person who had the bounty on their head). 
Claiming a bounty will also provide RP to the bounty hunter.
Escaping a Bounty
To lose a bounty, the player has to stay alive outside of safehouses for 24 in-game hours (48 minutes in real-time). Entering a safehouse or a job or leaving the online session will pause the timer and it will resume when the player re-enters free mode.
Ways to stay alive long enough to lose a bounty include:
- Taking a strong defensive position and defending it. However high strategic skills are required in order to effectively defend a well-chosen position.
- Flying around in a plane or helicopter (less effective with the introduction of the Heat-Seeking Rocket Launcher).
- Riding on a train.
- Using a Submersible or a Kraken to hide on the ocean floor.
- Changing session from open free roam to Invite Only, Solo, Crew Only or Friend Only will allow the player to safely wait out the bounty period.
- Stay on a yacht with Yacht Defenses turned on. Any aircraft coming near will get shot down. Should any other player get aboard, they will not be able to draw a weapon.
If the player stays alive for 24 hours after having the bounty set, the player will be awarded the bounty amount, a "You have survived the bounty placed on you" message, and, if it is the first time surviving a bounty, the player will get the "Run Like The Wind" achievement/trophy.
Bounties and Passive Mode
The Passive protection mode and the bounty system are incompatible. To ensure fairness, a player in Passive Mode can not have a new bounty set upon them, nor can a player who has a bounty set on them proceed to enter passive mode while the bounty is active. Players can use this to their advantage to attempt to prevent NPC bounties by entering passive mode before stealing any NPC vehicle.
- Even if the NPC owner of a vehicle is killed when stealing the car, they can still send a text message that sets a bounty on the player.
- Players are able to claim the bounties that they themselves have set. However, even though they get their money back, they will still have pay the $1,000 commission to Lester.
- Since other players can only see the value of a bounty when a player gets it or changes session, after a few minutes the value of the bounty will no longer appear, only leaving a red skull icon marking the player location. This makes more expensive bounties somewhat wasteful since it only increases chances of having players attacking during the first few minutes.