Get back to heisting in Payday 3 using the best tips and tricks I’ve put together to help you get started. You’ll find a good variety of tips in this guide from beginner ones to more advanced ones. My goal is to always teach you something new that you may not have known before.
While I may add more tips later, this guide is based on my 25 hours of playtime so far. I’ve completed every heist except for the stealth-only one since I really need to get a good team together for that. With that said, I always make sure to learn as much as I can before writing a guide so I can personally test everything.
1. Leveling in Payday 3 relies on completing challenges.
One of the more controversial decisions that players haven’t been too happy with is only getting experience from completing challenges. This means you won’t get experience toward leveling up for repeatedly completing a heist. Therefore, you’ll have to play a certain way sometimes like sliding a certain distance or sprinting through a bunch of doors.
2. Experiment with different weapons and gadgets.
It’s easy to get comfortable with one weapon and start modding it up, but I highly recommend trying everything you can. Aside from learning about new weapons or gadgets you may like, you’ll also complete more challenges. Fortunately, a lot of challenges are as simple as getting a headshot with this weapon or defeating an enemy with a Throwing Knife.
3. Vary the deployable bags your team has.
If you’re playing with a full team of players in your heist, you’ll want to try and vary your bags. Such as one player having an Ammo Bag, another having a Medic Bag, an Armor Bag, and then the fourth being whatever. Depending on how much you’re working together you may plan it even further. But, this is a good place to start.
4. Create more than one loadout.
Adding onto the previous tip it’s useful to have several loadouts ready to go. When you’re still early in your Payday 3 leveling you may want to get some skill points first. However, I like to have a loadout for my Ammo Bag setup, Medic Bag, and Armor Bag. While also throwing in a stealth kit if I know I’m trying to play quiet. Especially since you can swap loadouts in the lobby before a heist.
5. Take advantage of heist Favors for some help.
While in the lobby before a heist starts you can equip certain Favors bought from the vendors. For example, this can be an Ammo, Armor, or Medic bag placed somewhere in the heist. Even though they’re not always in great spots. But, there are sometimes unique ones that each player can see that others can’t. Like having a side door open or a keycard in an easy to reach spot.
6. Don’t forget to use your new skill points.
Payday 3’s skill system doesn’t penalize you for resetting your skills so feel free to experiment with different ideas. Unlike the leveling system, you’ll gain progress toward each skill tree by using it. Similar to weapons also gaining experience by using them. Over time, you’ll unlock all sorts of fun skills along each tree depending on your playstyle.
The nice thing about this skill system similar to the previous game is you can use skills from several trees. For example, I love having quick lockpicking on the Infiltrator tree while still building out the Tank tree. But, it’s also worth adding the first Escapist tree skill to keep your Rush buff active.
7. Ammo boxes from enemies are client-side.
This is a useful tip since it’s different from Payday 2 where ammo boxes dropped by enemies were limited. Instead, every player has their own green ammo boxes that they can sprint over to pick up. So don’t worry about hogging all the ammo. Even though Ammo Bags deployed by teammates are limited. So make sure you still share those ones at least.
8. Getting caught by a guard in the stealth phase isn’t always game over.
Payday 3 labels each area differently such as Public Area, Private Area, and Secure Area. When a guard catches you, they can escort you back into a public area or handcuff you on the spot. Make sure to listen to their rules unless you’re ready to mask up. This is a neat mechanic that prevents a stealth run from becoming a loud one immediately.
9. Get caught by a guard to steal their keycard.
Sometimes it’s better to let a guard see you if they have a keycard. The reason for this is because you can typically steal their keycard while they’re escorting you away. As long as you stay in the circle on the ground and another person doesn’t see you grab it. While you may lose a little progress inside, this is sometimes a better trick worth using to also save time.
10. Mask on doesn’t always mean it’s time to go loud.
When doing a Payday 3 heist quietly you may eventually have to mask up. This is because a certain part of the heist may require aggressive actions. While previous games wouldn’t let you crouch as Payday 3 does, there are still plenty of actions you can’t do without a mask. Fortunately, putting a mask on doesn’t immediately make it a loud heist.
11. You can get a suppressor for the Signature 40 immediately.
Every weapon starts at level 1 even though most of them won’t have mods available quite yet. However, the first pistol you’ll have available is the Signature 40 which has the Obelisk Silencer. I recommend equipping it since it doesn’t cost any money and can help when trying to play quiet.
12. How to vote when restarting a heist.
Players will sometimes vote to restart a heist during it if they’re trying to play quiet or if something goes drastically wrong. For those of you on PC, you can press escape to open a menu where you can vote. Don’t feel forced to vote to restart if you’d prefer not to. However, some players will leave if they don’t get their way. Which, as far as I’m concerned, is silly.
13. Security cameras with blue lights are running a temporary loop.
If someone in your heist is using skills along the Hacker tree, they’ll likely apply Runtimes to security cameras. This makes it so that a camera won’t detect anyone while it’s active. And the way to know if it’s currently working is if the camera shows blue lights instead of red.
14. You can close the window shutters on certain heists.
The first heist No Rest For the Wicked has metal window shutters you can close to cover the lobby. Oddly enough, nobody will question you doing this extremely suspicious action. Just look for small white buttons along the walls in the lobby that look like light switches. Unfortunately, if a window breaks, you won’t be able to close those shutters.
15. Mark cameras, guards, civilians, and more.
This is a bit of a beginner tip but it’s extremely important especially since you can only mark one thing at a time (without skills). By marking a camera you’ll always see which way it’s working while the mark is active. Or if you mark a guard you’ll see both where they’re looking and patrolling. This will help both you and your teammates when sneaking around.
16. Taking out the camera room / security room guard will disable cameras.
One major reason to mask up while stealthing a heist is to take out the camera room guard. By doing so, the cameras will no longer trigger an alarm when walking near them. At this point, you may have to rely on your teammates for the rest of the heist. But, you can still mark useful information via the cameras.
17. Breaking a camera will get the attention of nearby guards.
If a guard notices a broken camera they’ll investigate it and eventually trigger an alarm causing the heist to go loud. Fortunately, this doesn’t seem to force the camera room guard to look into it. So it’s possible for it to take a while before a guard even notices one.
18. Pinging is a useful way to communicate with your team.
Aside from marking cameras and guards, you can also place markers by pinging a spot. This can help draw a teammate’s attention to something. Or if you hold the button for pinging, there are also several quick speech options. Such as saying follow me, thank you, or even just shit.
19. Take advantage of the negotiation phase.
Many heists have a phase before the police arrive where you can free hostages to get extra time. This can help while you’re waiting for a helicopter drop or preparing inside. Just make sure you don’t run too close to the cops or start attacking since that’ll stop it. Unfortunately, certain actions like starting thermite in No Rest For the Wicked will end the phase.
20. Trade hostages while the police are regrouping.
Similar to freeing hostages during the first phase, you’ll also get an opportunity in between waves. This is a new feature to Payday 3 where you can trade hostages for resources like first-aid kits. Depending on your skills, you can get an extra one for each hostage as well. This is the Negotiator skill which is part of the Manipulator skill tree.
21. Understand how armor regen works.
A significant change from Payday 2 to Payday 3 is around how armor regeneration works. In Payday 3, you have armor bars based on which armor type you’re using. Once they’re destroyed, they won’t regenerate at all and you’ll have to use an Armor Bag. However, the little bits of red along your armor chunk can regenerate if you wait.
22. Be careful when using the Overkill Grenade Launcher.
As you progress during a heist you’ll eventually be able to call in your Overkill weapon. The first one you’ll have available is the Marcom Mamba MGL which can easily take out your armor. While it doesn’t deal friendly fire to your teammates, it will hurt you if you’re too close. And the range it reaches is quite far so be careful.
23. Don’t underestimate snipers in Payday 3.
Special enemies are always a nuisance but snipers can destroy your armor and health with one hit. Fortunately, their red lasers are easy to see and often provide enough time to line up a shot. But, if you don’t deal with them, that hit can be rough. Especially if you don’t have an Armor Bag to fill back up.
24. Shade will radio you about special waves incoming.
Pay attention to what the new Payday 3 handler Shade says. While some of it is repetitive information you’ll hear every heist, a lot of it is useful. Especially when she lets you know that a certain wave of special units is coming in. Such as Cloakers, Bulldozers, Tazers, etc.
25. Zappers have a weakness on their belt.
One of many specials you’ll have to deal with are Zappers that have a battery on their waist you can shoot. While this won’t eliminate them, it will cause a shockwave that stuns anyone nearby. Just make sure you and your friends aren’t also nearby.
26. Other special enemy weaknesses to know.
If you completed the quick Payday 3 tutorial you’ll already know that you can shoot through the visor of shield enemies. But, you can also shoot the grenade pouch on a Grenadier’s chest to make them explode. This will stun all nearby enemies and take them out. Or if you’re dealing with a tanky Bulldozer, you should always focus on their visor to beat them.
27. Take out the FBI van satellite dish to end an FBI wave.
If you’re unlucky enough to get an FBI Assault wave, you’ll need to destroy the FBI van satellite dish. Otherwise, you won’t get a pause in-between waves and it can get quite brutal. This vehicle looks different from the many black vans police send in. Instead, it looks closer to a news van with a dark blue color. And it says FBI Regional Field Office on the side.
28. Throw bags to AI heist members to make them carry them.
Whether someone left during your heist or you’re playing alone, take advantage of throwing bags to AI members. Similar to previous Payday games, they can carry bags for you. This will help significantly when you’re trying to carry bags far away to a drop-off point.
29. You can escape with a bag on your back.
I was curious about this for a while so I tested it with both myself and AI members too. Fortunately, escaping with a bag on your back or AI members will still count it. As long as it’s not one where the mission objective states that you have to deposit it. Such as a rare painting or a set amount of bags to reach the goal.
30. Relay bags from the vault to the drop-off point.
This is one of the more tedious parts of Payday games but it’s still the case for the latest one. You’ll often want to throw bags as you make your way farther from the heist to the drop-off point. This is so you don’t have to leave any behind for police to grab. Otherwise, you can have heist members travel in groups while two people protect the bags.
31. Melee is weak in Payday 3 but not useless.
One feature taken out in Payday 3 is melee weapons, unfortunately. You can still melee with your weapon but it doesn’t seem to deal any damage at this point. However, you can use it to stagger many enemies or even knock a Cloaker off someone. This is a better option when you need to reload and that Cloaker is whacking away. Otherwise, you can melee civilians and cameras.
32. QR codes are essentially a new type of keycard.
If you’ve ever noticed a smartphone you can interact with for a QR code, this is a new key type. I’ve definitely made the mistake of not realizing a door scanner is for a QR code and not a red keycard. So don’t worry if you make the same mistake. Fortunately, a QR code works for any QR scanner but it will be consumed.
33. Learn how cracking small safes works.
Cracking safes in Payday 3 isn’t as complicated as opening one in real life, but it can still be confusing. When you first interact with one, you’ll see an arrow to the left or right showing which direction to turn it. Turn that way until it starts to jiggle and then turns green. Once it’s green, stop and wait for it to click loudly.
Afterward, turn in the opposite direction until the same thing happens a second time. And then again in the opposite direction until a third time to open the safe. If for some reason it bugs and stays green, keep turning past the jiggling spot until you get back to it again. This works if you accidentally go past the hotspot. Even though you can go past it by one and still return.
34. It’s okay to fail the lockpicking minigame.
When trying to pick the lock of a door, gate, or deposit box, there’s a minigame to do it quicker. A small line will spin around in a circle and you’ll have to tap every time it reaches a small white bar. If you don’t tap, you’ll continue to make progress slowly. But, if you tap at the wrong time and miss the white bar, it’ll only get stuck for a second.
35. No Rest For the Wicked Thermite Tip
I didn’t want to focus heavily on heist-specific tips in this guide, but this one is worth mentioning. The first heist most players will do is No Rest For the Wicked where you’ll have to burn through the ceiling of a vault. Assuming you go in loud. However, you can continue adding thermite to a bucket to make it burn faster. But, if you throw too much in at once, it’ll trigger the fire alarm.
This then starts the sprinkler system and prevents the thermite from burning quickly. Therefore, it’s better if you slowly add thermite to it. You can somewhat see the intensity of the thermite by how high the sparks go. For example, if it’s a little above the bucket or practically obscuring the hallway.
36. Try to buy C-Stacks before the weekly reset.
Payday 3 has two currencies and fortunately, neither of them requires real money. The first one all of us should be familiar with is cash. While the second is new and called C-Stacks. You can convert your money into C-Stacks but as you buy more of them, they’ll get more expensive. Every week the increased cost resets. So try to buy some at the lower rates before that happens.
37. Road Rage is the only heist that can’t be stealthed right now.
Update (9/30/23): Originally, this tip incorrectly said there was a stealth-only heist at launch, but it was a mistake. I misunderstood a document from the developer as saying one was stealth-only but it was saying only one can’t be done stealth.
38. Looking closely at a keypad will reveal fingerprints.
When unmasked in Payday 3 you can look closely at any numbered keypad to use your UV light. This will help you learn the code based on which numbers are pressed the most. However, getting the code wrong will force you to wait before trying again. This is why it’s worth looking for more info like the manager’s laptop in No Rest For the Wicked.
39. You can answer a guard’s radio while carrying them.
If you’re worried about a camera or someone seeing a guard you’ve taken out, you can quickly grab and move them. Otherwise, the best strategy is to stealth grab them from behind for a quiet takedown. You can then move them slowly where you want but you’ll still need to answer their radio.
That’s all there is to this long Payday 3 guide full of the best tips and tricks worth learning. Be sure to comment with some of your own regardless of how simple or complex they are. You never know when they’ll be super helpful to someone!
Jeff is a journalist with over 10 years of experience writing, streaming, and making content about video games. With an associate degree in journalism, he’s a sucker for RPGs, survival games, roguelikes, and more.