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When you're looking for a new bookmaker to make an account with, one of the things that will catch your attention straight away is the incentive they're offering for you to bet with them. And that's hardly surprising, as these incentives, regardless of what they are, are always heavily featured in ads and on the front page of the given bookie. However, the number of bookmakers out there is steadily growing and things are not perfectly clear and simple anymore (things have gone so far that bonuses have even been mentioned in news outlets – and not in the best of lights), so we've put a small guide together to make your life a bit easier, especially if you're a complete newcomer to the entire betting thing.
First of all, let's examine the two most common types of bonuses you're going to find out there – deposit bonuses and free bets bonuses. To be fair, some bookies offer other deals and some skip the entire bonus thing altogether (Pinnacle are the most glaring example of this approach, but they compensate for that deficiency with top-notch odds and limits), but it doesn't happen all that often.
Deposit bonuses basically mean that you're going to get some extra money on top of the first deposit or deposits. Usually, you can then continue to bet with that money just like it would be your own. In essence, it really is free money.
Free bets, on the other hand, usually come in the form of tokens that you can then bet with. More often than not, you cannot really split your stakes or anything, just place a bet on one of the markets and hope for the best. Importantly, most bookmakers do not return the stakes in the winnings, which means that a winning 50$ free bet placed on odds of 2.00 will bring you back just the $50 you win and not the $100 you would get back with a normal winning bet.
So, that was the theory. Now, let's look at the practical matters – namely, how one can get the maximum out of the offered bonuses.
As far as free bets are concerned, we absolutely recommend going for higher odds. This is, of course, due to the fact that you're not going to get the stake returned, so, if you're risking absolutely nothing, you should at least try to get the most out of it. Save your free bets for your bets on underdogs. Also, you should probably stick to sports where retirements and withdrawals don't play a role, as some bookies won't return your free bet if something like that happens.
As far as deposit bonuses are concerned, you should always try to get the highest possible amount. So, if your bookie is offering a 100% bonus of up to $150, do deposit that amount to get the full $150. This seems to be a really obvious thing, but it surfaces in customer complaints here and there nonetheless. If you accidentally deposit less, you should contact the customer service as soon as possible – more often than not, you will be able to get things fixed.
Finally, we believe that it'd be fair to also mention some of the pitfalls that bonuses entail. In the ideal world, you'd be able to read the terms and conditions, but let's be honest – nobody does that. And, thankfully, it usually isn't necessary to do so. Nonetheless, if you don't want to be unpleasantly surprised, keep these few things in mind at all times.
Firstly, some bookies require you to submit a bonus code while you're opening your account or while you're making your first deposit, so don't forget to do so. If you accidentally do forget, don't deposit and contact the customer support in order to clear things up and get the bonus you're fully entitled to.
Secondly, chances are that you will actually need to deposit money even in the case of free bets, there's just no way of getting around that these days. Sometimes, there actually is a minimum that you'll have to deposit in order to get them, so remember to check that before you actually do your first deposit.
You should also know that there are usually some limitations regarding what bets you can take with your free bets or the extra money from the deposit bonuses. The odds you can bet on with your free bets usually have a ceiling from above, while the odds you can bet on with your extra money usually have a certain floor from below.
Finally, it should be noted that you most likely won't be able to withdraw the extra money from your deposit bonus straight away. Instead, you will be asked to roll-over the bonus (and sometimes even the deposited amount itself) a few times and usually on bets above certain odds (2.00 seems to be the standard across the board) before you can withdraw your money back.
Hopefully, this short guide has given you enough information for you to go and give the entire betting thing a spin. You might also want to check out our reviews of certain bookmakers – not only because we are trying hard to give an objective assessment of things, but also because we always include links that will lead you to the best bonus deals the bookies currently offer.
And remember – there are no real downsides to taking advantage of as many bonus deals as you can possibly find, so you should definitely give more bookies a go. Not only will you get some free money to play with, but you'll also be able to explore the entire market before settling down at your favourite bookie.