Greetings players! Fancy a spin? A deal? A draw? A roll? Bonuses are one of the best ways for players to experience the real deal appeal of an online casino. These offers come in many different shapes and sizes, including free spins, bonus cash, cashback, match bonuses, no deposit bonuses, multi-deposit bonuses, and more. However, with so many casino bonuses up for grabs, the waters get a little muddied for players. Which bonus should you pick? Is it worth your while? What about the playthrough requirements? How can you differentiate between bonuses? These are all valid questions.
Why are there online casino bonuses?
Online casinos operate in a fiercely competitive industry. It can be challenging for players to discern between different online casinos, given that it's hard to tell them apart. Sure, casino skins differ, and game providers vary between operators, but that's not immediately apparent to players. Online casinos' design, layout, look, and feel are largely similar. Multivendor casinos are no longer the exception; they are the rule. Operators need to stand out from the competition for them to compete, succeed, and reel in players.
It is a players market. We have the power to pick and choose where we wish to deposit our hard-earned cash. So, naturally, we want to get the most bang for our buck at our preferred online casino. Finding value at an online casino requires some digging. Online casino bonuses are a great place to start. Some operators go the whole 9 yards with a wide range of promotional offers – others prefer to keep them to a bare minimum. Every bonus needs to be assessed on its merits. That requires an intricate understanding of the fine print – the T&C.
You guessed it; we will take you behind the scenes for an all you need to know session about casino bonuses. You'll know what they are, where to find them, how to choose between them, and when to walk away, in no time at all. Not every online casino bonus is worth pursuing, even though it looks that way on marketing banners and promotional material. As they say, the devil is in the details. So brace yourself for the ultimate expose on online casino bonuses. We begin with a series of questions and answers on this hot topic.
Who can qualify for an online casino bonus?
There's a common misconception that only new players qualify for online casino bonuses. This is not true. While the most popular offers are welcome bonuses for new players, they are certainly not the only promotional offers available. A careful look at the promotions page of any online casino quickly reveals special offers such as multi-deposit bonuses, free spins, daily deals, cashback offers, weekend bonuses, and other limited-time offers. Avoid online casinos that don't offer existing players bonuses and promotions.
How do you know which bonus is best for you?
If a specific bonus catches your eye, that 'catch' is probably what got you interested. Was it marketing terminology or a bona fide offer beneficial to you? Maybe the prospect of a generous match bonus with free spins is attractive to you because you enjoy stretching your bankroll and playing slot machine games? If you're the type of player who is low on cash, it's probably best to seek out no deposit bonuses. These offers allow you to register at an online casino with no money down and play for real money. No deposit offers are perfect for a new online casino player.
Essential questions to ask:
- What's your gaming budget?
- What are your preferred online casino games?
- How often do you plan to play online casino games?
- What's your technical understanding of casino games?
- Do you understand the terms and conditions of the bonus?
- Can you comply with the wagering requirements in the specified timeframe?
- Are you satisfied with the game contribution percentages of the specific bonus?
The first couple of questions above are easy to answer. But unfortunately, the last four questions have become complicated, so we wrote this guide on casino bonuses.
Is a no deposit bonus free?
Few bonuses are quite as popular as the No Deposit Bonus (NDB). While it's free to new players, you won't be able to cash out any winnings until you have complied with the terms and conditions. Here's how it works: you register at an online casino as a new player. Then, you claim your no deposit bonus. You will be credited with 'free gaming cash' exclusively for use according to the terms and conditions of the bonus.
You will not be able to withdraw the 'no deposit bonus' without meeting all of the wagering requirements (WR). Think of WR as terms and conditions. That's the fine print that you need to read. It specifies important information about the NDB. For example, the no deposit bonus typically has a limited value and a limited validity period and applies to a limited number of games. But, it allows you to play online casino games with no money down.
While you will be able to play real money games, cashing out your winnings requires you to be compliant with the WR. So, it's free, but ultimately, you've got to play a set amount to release those funds.
How do you compare different bonuses?
Once again, it's all about the details. A bonus that looks amazing on the surface may not be as attractive underneath. Consider the following two bonuses:
- 100% bonus up to $100 WR 25X on bonus
- 250% bonus up to $1,000 WR 45 X on bonus and deposit
In the above examples, the first bonus appears limited in generosity. For instance, players only qualify for a dollar-for-dollar match bonus of up to $100. But in the second bonus, players can receive a 250% bonus up to $1,000. At first glance, the second offer seems much more attractive.
However, the wagering requirements state that you must bet 45 X the value of the bonus and the deposit before you cash out any winnings. So, for example, if you deposit $100 and your bonus is $250, you would have to wager 45 X $350 = $15,750 to clear any winnings on that bonus.
The first offer is a 100% bonus of up to $100. However, it requires you to wager 25 on the bonus of $100. That means your $100 bonus will cost you $2500 before you can withdraw any winnings generated from that bonus. The first offer is much more appealing for many reasons.
How do you choose one bonus over another after you understand the wagering requirements?
Let's continue with the following two examples:
- 100% bonus up to $100 WR 25X on bonus
- 250% bonus up to $1,000 WR 45 X on bonus and deposit
We understand that the first bonus comes with the wagering requirement of $2500 on a $100 bonus. The second offer comes with a $15,750 wagering requirement on a $100 deposit and a $250 bonus. If you haven't generated the requisite winnings, it doesn't make sense to meet hefty playthrough requirements.
If you are playing and you win $1000 using your bonus, you may be okay with the first offer, but it doesn't make sense to wager that $1000 in winnings to the tune of $15,750 in bets since you are likely to lose it all – or a big chunk of change.
However, if you get lucky and score a mega jackpot with your bonus, the first offer and possibly the second offer will be well worth your while. You'll get a good feeling for the value of the bonus while you're playing. If you're chasing smoke, it doesn't make sense to throw away all that money for what is a small bonus.
Remember: the wagering requirements of these bonuses do not state that you must bet your winnings a certain number of times – it's only the bonus and/or the deposit amount.
Are free spin bonuses a good idea?
Slots players love free spins. Since a free spin is the equivalent of cash to spin the reels at that value, it makes sense to register for this type of bonus. But here's the catch: free spins bonuses are low-value offers limited in size and scope. If you typically play slots for $5 each spin, don't expect a free spin offer to come anywhere near that value. You will usually find each free spin worth $0.25/€0.25/£0.25 or less. So, 100 free spins will not yield a big payout because the value of those spins is low. Plus, you would have to meet wagering requirements of 35 X/40 X/45 X to withdraw your winnings. But, these offers are free, and the lower value makes it easy to meet the playthrough requirements. Temper expectations and enjoy the bonus.
How does the house edge factor into casino bonuses?
A casino bonus is a great idea if you don't want to put down any money upfront, and you get to play with money on the house. You will be required to meet the wagering requirements if you wish to cash out your winnings. Now, there's another factor to consider. It's known as the house edge. This represents the casino's advantage over the player. It is expressed in a percentage form, typically between 0.5% for games like blackjack and as much as 10%+ for slots.
If you are playing casino games with $1000 and the house edge for blackjack is 2%, you can expect to lose $20 for every $1000 in the long term using a perfect blackjack strategy. If the house edge is 5% for slots, you can expect to lose $50 for every $1000 wagered in the long term, although anything can happen in the short term with any game.
The house edge guarantees that the casino comes out ahead, irrespective of your bonus. However, if you receive an online casino bonus, it's best to play games with a lower house edge to stand a better chance of winning and meeting your wagering requirements quicker and more profitably.
What are game contribution percentages in bonuses, and why should I care about them?
Every bonus or promotional offer lists the game/s you can play to clear the wagering requirements for that bonus. You almost always see video slots count 100% towards clearing the wagering requirements. This means that every $/£/€ that you bet contributes at parity to clear the bonus. So, a 25 X WR on a bonus of $100 requires you to pay $2500 worth of video slots games. After that, you're in the clear – you can withdraw your winnings.
However, blackjack may only contribute 10% towards meeting the wagering requirements. This puts a different spin on things. A 10% wagering requirement means you have to bet ten times more when playing blackjack compared to slots. Suddenly, a 100% bonus up to $100 with a 25X WR is not as appealing. Instead of wagering $2500, now you have to wager $25,000 because blackjack has an element of skill, and the house edge is much lower!
Are cashback bonuses a good idea?
With the cashback, players get to enjoy free play cash. No deposit is needed for cashback claims, and there is no wagering requirement or a limited wagering requirement on cashback. Every time you play an online casino game for real money, a percentage of your bets is cashback money. Cashback percentages of up to 25% are possible at certain online casinos. However, you may come across a playthrough requirement of 45 X or more for a cashback bonus – in that case, avoid them.
What are some of the downsides to online casino bonuses?
We understand that it's a lot to take in. Not everybody is a mathematician or a stickler for the rules. But it's important to understand what you're getting yourself into so that you don't have any problems when it comes time to cash out your winnings. You wouldn't believe it, but most complaints about withdrawals relate to players not complying with the WR. It's as simple as that. You cannot cash out your winnings from an online casino bonus unless you meet the playthrough requirements.
Now let's take a look at a closer look at some issues to consider
- Many casino bonuses are once-off offers – a welcome bonus is only offered once-off.
- Casino bonuses may be mutually exclusive – if you take one, you cannot take another.
- Free Spins bonuses are usually offered on various slots, but they may be offered on a single slot machine game.
- The terms and conditions of bonuses and promotional offers are often shrouded in legalese, detail, and jargon – it's hard to decipher what you need to do to clear the bonus.
- The higher the wagering requirements, the less likely you are to be able to cash out your winnings profitably.
- Most casino bonuses require players to deposit funds before cashing out any money – there goes the free element.
- Players cannot trust bonuses from unregulated online casinos – avoid them.
- The wagering requirement is invariably 35 X on welcome bonuses.
My professional opinion of online casino bonuses
I learned this in economics classes back in the day – 'There Ain't No Such Thing As a Free Lunch' – but with the right bonus, you can get pretty close to a free lunch. You need to know how to minimize the money you wager to clear your bonus. No deposit bonuses, match deposit bonuses, free play, and free spins certainly have merit. It's all about the details – the fine print. Take some time to go through the T&Cs of each offer carefully. Consult customer support, to be sure!