Understanding Bookmaker Bonuses: How Do You Know When a Free Bet Is Worth It?


Free bets, deposit bonuses, risk-free bets – there are a wide variety of betting site bonuses offered to would-be punters every day but not all of them are as valuable and easy to turn into real money as each other. 

Because of this, we’ll talk you through the various forms of bookmaker bonuses, the conditions that you need to watch out for and how to evaluate whether claiming them is really worth it.

Types of Betting Site Bonuses

Bonuses, offers and other rewards available at betting sites can take various forms, and they have a variety of different names. Most online bookmakers give players sign up bonuses as well as rewards for existing customers but in this article, we’ll only talk about sign up bonuses because they are ultimately the same things.

The terms free bets, deposit bonuses, bet credits and bonus bets are used interchangeably and they all mean the same things.

For example, in New Zealand, various online betting sites give new customers free bets sign up offers when they create an account.

Let’s say the offer is for a 100% matched free bet up to $50.

This means that a player must first make a deposit and then bet their deposit. After their bet settles, free bet credits matching the deposit and bet amount will be credited to their account.

Let’s say that the player deposits and bets $50. Whether this bet wins or loses, they will receive an additional $50 in free bets.

Free bets are basically exactly what you think they would be, they are bet credits that can be used instead of real money to place bets. As a general rule, free bets used to place bets are not included in any winnings.

Remember, terms like free bets, bonus bets, bet credits and deposit bonuses are used interchangeably.

The only sign-up bonus offer that is different to the ones mentioned above is a risk-free bet.

A risk-free bet is a bet that is refunded if it loses.

Let’s say a player has a $200 risk-free bet and they bet it on a match with odds of 2.50.

At some online sportsbooks, players with winning risk-free bets receive their bet stake ($200), plus their winnings ($250). At others, only the winnings are paid out ($250). 

Regardless of the betting website that you use, players with losing risk-free bets will always receive their bet stake back ($200). 

Note that returned risk-free bet stakes may be withdrawable, or they may be given to you in the form of Free Bets – in which case they must be re-bet.

Understanding Wagering Requirements

As you can probably already discern, various wagering requirements apply to online betting bonuses.

These include:

  • Minimum Deposit/Bet: The smallest deposit/bet required to claim the bonus
  • Maximum Bonus: The biggest bonus amount that can be claimed
  • Minimum Odds: The lowest odds qualifying bets or bonuses can be bet at
  • Turnover: The number of times you must re-bet a bonus before it becomes withdrawable
  • Maximum Winnings: The most you can win when using bonus funds
  • Expiration Date: The last date when your bonus must be claimed or used
  • Payment Methods: The eligible deposit options you can use to claim your bonus
  • Eligible Markets: The types of bets/events that you can use to claim or bet your bonus

All wagering requirements are worth considering but some should play a bigger role in your choice of betting website than others.

For example, you are going to want to choose a betting bonus that has a low turnover requirement – something that is withdrawable after claiming and doesn’t have to be re-bet.

You will also want to look out for the minimum odds you need to bet at to get your bonus. The lower the odds are, the less risky your bet will be.

Finally, you’ll want to choose a bonus that suits your betting preferences. If you only place small bets then pick a bonus with a low minimum deposit. If you bet with a lot of money choose a bonus with a high maximum bonus and maximum winnings amount.

Of course, you should always check the expiration date, eligible payment methods and eligible markets to make sure you can claim your bonuses and use them on the bets that you want to make.

The Bottom Line

Online sports betting bonuses can be confusing but once you know that many of them mean the same thing, they become much simpler to understand. Ultimately, you’ll want to choose a bonus that is easy to claim and easy to turn into real money. 

Of course, if you go ahead and claim a bookmaker bonus it’s important to make sure that you are always gambling responsibly.


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