How to smuggle Contraband - Starfield

Smuggling Contraband in Starfield is a dangerous game, but there are ways to minimize the risk.


Starfield is a game that will allow you to create and play any character you choose. You can be the good person and stay within the limits of the law or become a smuggler who makes huge amounts of Credits from transporting and selling Contraband. If the latter is what appeals to you, here’s how you can smuggle Contraband in Starfield.

How to smuggle Contraband

A Shielded Cargo Hold in Starfield
A Shielded Cargo Hold is essential to smuggling Contraband in Starfield.

To smuggle Contraband in Starfield, you will either need a Shielded Cargo Hold, or a Scan Jammer. These items are rarely sold, but you can find them at the Red Mile (Porrima III planet in the Porrima system), which is in a level 30 system, so the easiest way to acquire either of them early is by commandeering ships that already have them installed. Typically, these will be ships that pirates use, so it’s a good idea to board and commandeer pirate ships that attack you. You can also get a great ship for smuggling your Contraband by completing the Mantis mission. The final way of successfully smuggling Contraband is by unlocking the Deception skill from the Social tree.

An image showing a Cargo Hold being scanned for Contraband in Starfield
You will be scanned for Contraband entering the Settled Systems.

The concept of smuggling Contraband only exists in the Settled Systems, which basically means any system that has a city and follows some degree of law and order. If you travel to New Atlantis, Neon, or Akila City, you will be scanned. As you enter a Settled System, their guard ships will initiate contact with you and automatically begin to scan your ship for Contraband. In the center of the screen, you will see your chance to evade the scan displayed as a percentage. If you do not have a Shielded Cargo Hold, Scan Jammer, or the Deception skill, your chance to evade the scan will be zero. You must also store your Contraband in your ship’s Cargo Hold, otherwise you will be caught.

If you successfully evade the scan, you will be free to land in the city and seek out a place to sell your Contraband.

Getting caught smuggling Contraband

An image showing a player getting caught smuggling Contraband in Starfield
Players have options when they are caught smuggling Contraband, although none of them are great.

If you fail the scan, the guard ship will hail you. If you ignore the hail your ship will be considered hostile. If you accept the hail, you’ll have a few options:

  • Choose to pay the fine
  • Agree to go quietly
  • Refuse to be taken alive
An image showing a player retrieving their confiscated Contraband in Starfield
If you can find your confiscated Contraband and stolen items, you can retrieve them when you leave jail.

If you agree to pay the fine, you’ll be transported to the city jail. You’ll lose the amount listed when you agreed to pay the fine, all your Contraband, and any stolen items you had on your ship or in your inventory. You will also serve seven days in jail, which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but I suppose there could be gameplay implications of some sort.

Should you agree to go quietly, you’ll lose XP instead of Credits, which I personally think is much worse. In my case I lost 1,114 XP, which is exactly how many Credits my fine was. I still lost all my Contraband, plus all my stolen items, and I still had to sit in jail for seven days. This is just a difference of whether you want to lose XP or Credits. Everything else was the same.

The third option is by far the worst in my opinion, as you must fight and destroy the guard ships or jump to another system entirely. If you jump to another system, you’ll need to locate a Self-Service Bounty Clearance terminal and pay off your bounty. In my case the bounty was more than 50,000 Credits when it was all said and done, as I ended up fighting a ship that attacked me and prevented me from jumping to another system. No thank you.

Retrieving your Contraband and stolen items

An image showing the constrainers holding confiscated Contraband

The good news is you can get all your Contraband and stolen items back if you’re caught smuggling and thrown in jail. On Neon, I was able to walk into the room where the evidence was stored, pick up my stuff, and walk right out having paid my fine and served my seven days in jail. I walked directly to a place I knew would buy my Contraband, and sold it for massive gains, dwarfing the fine I paid.

Now, being able to retrieve your confiscated items leads to a very sneaky way to “smuggle” Contraband that circumvents the intention of the mechanic entirely. This method doesn’t require that you have a Shielded Cargo Hold, Scan Jammer, or the Deception skill. This method involves getting caught, but it’s worth it.

An image showing Contraband in Starfield
Items in your inventory with a yellow arrow pointing downard indicate that it's Contraband.

To smuggle Contraband without any means of evading a scan, just stuff all your Contraband in your pockets. Get in any ship and fly to your destination. You will be scanned, and you will be caught, but just choose to pay the fine. After you serve your time in jail, retrieve your Contraband and stolen items from the evidence containers and go about your business. You’re now walking around the city you wanted to smuggle the Contraband into, and you won’t be scanned when you leave the system. You’re just a little lighter on Credits, but you can earn that back and more by selling your smuggled goods.

Now that you understand how to smuggle Contraband, visit our Starfield Strategy Guide where we’ll take you through all the other ways to get into trouble throughout the settled Systems.

Managing Editor

Bill, who is also known as Rumpo, is a lifelong gamer and Toronto Maple Leafs fan. He made his mark early in his career through guide writing and a deep understanding of editorial SEO. He enjoys putting in the work to create a great content, be it a wild feature or grinding out an in-depth collectible guide. Tweet him @RumpoPlays if you have a question or comment about one of his articles.

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