Since the current f2p model is obviously what is going live Thursday, I think it is a good time to start min/maxing the cartel shop.
Edit: This just in. Players can buy cartel unlocks and sell them on the GTN (auction house) to other players for in game currency.
This means that minor purchases such as "hide helm" or "action bar" or "color match" can be made with credits through the auction house or through other players. F2P accounts can only carry 250k credits, so small purchases can be made through this method. However, larger purchases such as "artifact gear unlock" will most likely be sold for more credits than you can carry.
Do not buy secondary currency, cartel coins, in small amounts.
For your dollar you get 90.2 coins if you buy the small pack. If you choose to by the larger pack you get 137.5 coins. That adds up, quickly. You might think you are just going to make one purchase now, but as they add more and more things (features like addons, macros, items like whatever) you will find yourself being "nickle and dime'd". The people who end up not getting their money's worth out of f2p models are those who think "This will be the last purchase" because so long as you are playing, there will be another purchase. Its just a matter of time.
So what do you want to buy? First off, dulfy has complied a great list (as usual).
Before we get into that. You need to decide how many characters you are going to play. This game is very alt centric so you might want to think long and hard on that.
If you are a one character person, select the "per character" unlocks instead of the "per account". If you are going to play two or more characters it is better to spend the money for the full account unlock. Why? Because it costs about as much as unlocking the perk for two characters.
IE: Unlock: Additional Quickbar 250 per character, 540 for entire account
Yes, it costs an additional 40 coins, but if you ever decide to make a third character it will save you 210 coins! Be preemptive about your purchase. Only you know if you are going to be a one character, two character, or twelve character player. I, personally, error on the side of caution when it comes to something like this because it can get expensive to remedy, quick.
So what are the important unlocks for swtor?
Authorization: Artifact Equipment 1200 per character, 2700 for entire account
Note: This allows you to wear epics. Epic gear really starts at 48. You will not be able to do much at 50 without this perk. This is one you might want to purchase per character. Buying it account wide is 2.25 times the price of buying it for one character. EA knew this is an important unlock and is charging you a lot for it. Furthermore, this unlock applies to "story and pvp gear". Which most likely means Rakata (story mode gear) and PVP gear. Meaning that PVPers will probably get better mileage out of this purchase.
Unlock: Additional Quickbar 250 per character, 540 for entire account
Note: Each bar has 12 slots, you start out with two bars, so 24 slots. Most classes, at most, only need 30 slots and you will have 36. I suggest buying, account wide, one bar. Just one. You can use your spell book for quick travel.
Weekly Pass: Warzones 240
Weekly Pass: Operations 240
Note: These do not allow you to do ranked or hard mode or nightmare mode. If you want to do those, subscribe. At 240 coins a week, with the 5500 coin pack, you can buy 5.7 months of either WZ or OPS. That's 40 dollars. For almost 6 months. 86 dollar value (15/mo subscription) if you are just a pvpr or just a pver. Think about that. You can access half the game for just under half the price. Good deal.
Everything else in the shop is pretty much cosmetic or not terribly prohibitive.
One thing I noticed, is that there is a TRAP ITEM.
Unlock: Cargo Hold Access 475 per character, 1050 for entire account
Unlock access to your ship’s cargo hold
Gain storage for 80 items
Your Cargo Hold can be accessed on your Ship or from the Fleet
Subscribers and Preferred Status Players have automatic access to this feature.
If you have enough coins to buy this item, you should already have it. The lowest amount of coins you can buy is 450. So you have to buy the next size up which puts your above the "bought 500" threshold. If you have 500 coins from being an ex subscriber, you are already preferred status. DO NOT BUY THIS.
Addition. Here is an excellent tool brought to us by Arlee, our resident awesome.
edit* math fix