Online Casino Bonuses 101
You have probably seen that most online casino advertisements usually offer some sort of bonus or FREE money to get you started playing there. Like most things in the world, nothing is really free, so before you start claiming this free money and then get upset that you’ve been scammed, I suggest you read on and see how this all works.
First of all, you can ask; Why do online casinos even offer this “free” money?
It is part of your marketing and differentiation strategy. To put it simply, online casinos are generally “skins” of a specific software provider, so actually behind the different owners, graphics, licenses, etc. Under the hood, there isn’t much of a difference between, say, all Playtech-powered casinos or all Microgaming-powered ones.
So if they are mostly the same under the hood, there must be some kind of difference that will convince you to play at online casino “X” and not “Y”. In addition to graphics, licences, support and reputation, another way to promote potential players is to give them something, in this case a bonus.
With that aside, the next question you might ask yourself is: OK, Casino X is offering $5,000 free, maybe I’ll sign up, take my $5,000, play it and go to Casino Y.
The answer here is also quite simple. In order to claim bonuses at an online casino, you’ll usually need to make a deposit, unless specifically told not to, but more on that later.
Before we delve into the different types of bonuses offered at online casinos, here are some additional terms and points to keep in mind, so you can clarify them with a support representative before claiming a bonus, just so you know where you stand up and what you are claiming.
1. Wagering Requirements – Most bonuses have wagering or wagering requirements, which means you have to play a certain amount before you can withdraw the winnings from your account. On average, the wagering requirements are usually between 15 and 40 times, however, pay attention to what you have to bet. In some cases it will be just the bonus times X and in others you will need to wager the bonus + your deposit amount X times. The latter by the way is more common.
Another thing to pay attention to regarding wagering requirements is that at most online casinos, if you request a withdrawal before you have completed the wagering requirements, all your winnings to date will be forfeited. It’s not fair, but this is reality.
2. Games played – Be sure to read the terms and conditions on this one. Because slot games are generally the most profitable games for online casinos, many bonuses tend to be valid only for slot games. Scratch cards and keno will generally comply with this rule.
In other cases, you will be allowed to play your bonus on all games; however, not all games will count 100% towards the game play requirements. For example, playing slots will count 100%, but roulette will only count 30%, which means you’ll actually need to wager three times as much to meet the wagering requirements and withdraw your winnings.
3. Minimum Deposit Requirement: In most cases, in order to claim a bonus you will be required to make a minimum deposit, which again can vary. It is usually a small amount that you will probably deposit anyway. Usually no more than $50.
Now that we’re all on the same page and speaking the same language, it’s time for us to take a look at the main types of bonuses available at most online casinos.
1. A match bonus is the most common type of bonus. For every $ you deposit, the casino will credit you X% of what you deposited. So if, for example, Z casino offers a 100% match bonus, deposit $100 and the casino will give you an extra $100 in bonus money. This means that you actually start playing at the casino with $200. Matching bonuses are almost always limited to a certain maximum amount of bonus that you can claim. A match bonus can be a standalone bonus as part of a promotion (more common in US friendly online casinos) and/or as part of the welcome bonus.
2. Usually, most if not all online casinos offer a welcome bonus to new players who sign up and make their first deposit at the casino. The welcome bonus is the sum of all possible match bonuses that you can accumulate as a new player at the casino during a specified period of time, or within your first X deposits, or a combination of both; so if a casino advertises a welcome bonus of $3000 that is actually the maximum you can get with first deposit bonus, second deposit bonus, monthly bonus etc where if you deposit the maximum amount of each match bonus, you can reach the advertised welcome bonus. If you deposit less than what is required for the maximum bonus at each stage, you will not reach the amount advertised in the welcome bonus. So, in fact, the advertised welcome bonus is the MAX amount you can claim in bonus money during your first playing period at the casino.
3. A no deposit bonus is self explanatory. It is a bonus you receive from an online casino that will allow you to play real money games without having to make a deposit. This is a great tool for online casinos to acquire new players as it allows them to try out the casino without having to make a deposit. In some countries, it helps solve the “trust” problem that casino players have with online casinos. Many players who are comfortable depositing and playing at an online casino will be wary when trying one they have never played at. Other players don’t want to make a deposit without trying out the software and games, so a no deposit bonus can definitely help here. Some online casinos offer no deposit bonuses as part of their standard offer and others steer clear of such bonuses as they claim that they tend to attract the wrong type of players i.e. players who have no intention of playing for real money on first place. and that it just puts pressure on the support team with no real result. I think the truth is probably somewhere in the middle and that people claim no deposit bonuses for different reasons.
No deposit bonuses are usually for a fairly small amount, usually $10-$15 and are offered to potential customers directly by the casino or by websites affiliated with them. No deposit bonuses also have wagering requirements that you must complete before you can withdraw your winnings if you have been lucky.
4. Sticky/Play only bonuses are bonuses that you cannot withdraw from your account. If you are lucky and win and request a withdrawal, the bonus amount you received will be deducted from your winnings. Let’s say you claimed a fixed $50 bonus and were lucky to bring your account balance to $500. Now you would like to withdraw your winnings and go celebrate with friends. The online casino will only allow you to withdraw $550 from your player account and $50, which is the fixed bonus amount, will be voided. Play only bonuses are usually larger than match bonuses and the wagering requirements are lower.
5. Payment Method Bonus – This is something that was initially common in Playtech powered casinos and has spread to many others as well over the years. In addition to depositing at an online casino with your credit or debit card, there are many electronic options, most of which offer instant fund transfers without the associated hassles and high fees. Many of these alternative payment methods, as they are often called, offer their services to people without a credit check and you can transfer money from your bank account discreetly. Some are even prepaid cards that you can buy at a kiosk. Just for using these alternative payment methods, you can receive an additional 10-15% bonus on every deposit you make, on top of any other bonuses you claim. Be sure to check out the cashier section before signing up to an online casino you have never played at, as this can definitely be to your advantage.
6. Most online casinos have a Loyalty/VIP Club scheme where you can redeem bonuses in exchange for the points you accumulated while playing. The more you play, the more points you will earn and the better the bonus point conversion rate will be.
It is always important to check the specific T&Cs at the online casino you are playing or planning to play at because often you will not be allowed to withdraw the bonus amount or the bonus amount may be deducted from your winnings.
Well, I’m pretty sure you’re now thinking about how to put all this good to good use, so here’s the flip side of the card. Online casinos are extremely sensitive to bonus abuse, also known as bonus prostitution, by players. Just like you can get banned from a land-based casino for counting cards, for example, you can also get your player account banned at an online casino at the first suspicion of bonus abuse. You have to remember that at the end of the day, gambling is entertainment and it is supposed to be fun and exciting. It’s not a day job and you can’t really make money in the casino. Bonuses add to the fun and excitement, and at the end of the day, they are just a marketing tool. Claim them, have fun with them, increase your excitement but don’t expect to log out richer.