Live casinos reward players with comps like food, drink, and hotel stays. Obviously, online casinos can’t offer these amenities. So to entice players they offer an intriguing and sometimes confusing array of bonuses. Online casinos reward the player with either cash back or free play and when used wisely, these bonuses can help your expected return.
This guide will identify and explain the different types of bonuses that online casinos offer, and provide you with tips on how to best make use of them.
There is one big caveat concerning bonuses, and it applies to just about every online casino. Many bonuses have a “playthrough requirement”. Before you can withdraw any winnings from the casino, you must wager some multiple of the bonus amount. The policy prevents players from site-hopping just to take advantage of free funds without ever wagering any real money.
The size of the playthrough requirements varies from casino to casino, and even from game to game. Some can be high enough to virtually guarantee that you will lose more than the bonus amount if you attempt to meet it. Still, if a playthrough requirement is greater than you would like, wager the bonus funds because you may hit a jackpot. If this happens and the amount is enough to cover the playthrough requirement, you are effectively playing with free money!
Initial Deposit Bonuses
The biggest and most attractive online casino bonus is the one you get for signing up. It is usually a one-time matching bonus that is a percentage of your initial deposit. Casinos offer as little as 10% to as much as 400%, but a more realistic expectation from a legitimate casino is anywhere from 25% to 200%.
Of course, there's almost always a playthrough requirement. The amount can be as low as twice your initial wager and up to 50x at the other extreme. The playthrough requirement gets higher as the matching bonus gets larger and this number varies between casinos. If the matching bonus is 100% or better, expect the playthrough requirement to be at least 5x your initial deposit.
There is also a cap on the bonus amount. This rule prevents players with a lot of liquidity from bankrupting the casino with huge deposits that then must be matched! The casinos won't prevent you from depositing more than that, of course, but they won't match any funds over the cap amount.
Finally, expect these offers to be valid one time per person. So don't create new accounts with the same name to get additional welcome bonuses. You can get banned and put on a blacklist circulated among the internet casinos.
Casinos also require you to send scans of a government-issued photo ID and a bank statement or a utility bill to verify your place of residence. Many casinos take the “one welcome bonus per person” rule a step further and limit it to one per household. So if you sign up and receive it, your spouse can't also collect one for their account.
The reload bonus is a smaller version of the welcome bonus, given to players when they add money to their account. It's always less than the welcome bonus — a range of 5 to 10% is reasonable to expect, but some casinos do go up to 25%. Playthrough requirements are also common here, but are smaller than those attached to the welcome bonus.
When a player takes money out of an account, casinos sometimes offer a withdrawal bonus. But why would a casino hand out a bonus on top of winnings? Usually, it's because there's a massive playthrough requirement. The casino hopes to recoup their losses before you leave with them. These “bonuses” are unpopular with players and are rare among reputable casinos.
Direct Posted Offers
Online casinos always post welcome and reload bonus offers. They also have time-sensitive or seasonal promotions that offer something extra for new and existing players alike if you use a coupon code.
In addition to the casino's main website, see what kind of social media accounts they have. Sometimes they only post special offers through venues like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
The American Casino Guide is a popular annual publication. It is primarily a travel guide to casinos throughout the United States, but many people buy it because it has exclusive coupons.
Online casinos also put promo codes and coupons in the Guide, even though online gambling is illegal in much of the United States. Some of the offers are from casinos overseas, so U.S. residency is not an issue, and there are coupons from states like New Jersey where online gambling is legal.
No Deposit Bonus
“No deposit bonus” is a catch-all term for bonuses that aren't tied directly to deposits. They come in the form of free spins or a limited amount of free play. They are given to new accounts, as a limited-time promotion or offered sporadically to existing players.
You may use these bonuses right away, but some have playthrough requirements attached to any winnings generated from them. If you make a withdrawal before meeting those requirements, you might forfeit those winnings.
Some online casinos run a “refer a friend” program that offers free spins or free play in return for getting someone to sign up. They supply a promotional email to be forwarded to your contacts or a unique referral code embedded in a link that you can post to websites and forums.
“Phantom” and “Sticky” Bonuses
You will sometimes see these phrases attached to the other common bonus types. If the bonus is “sticky,” it cannot be withdrawn and it gets accounted for separately from your deposited funds. A “phantom” bonus is a derivation of the sticky bonus. It is added directly to your account but gets automatically removed when you make a withdrawal.
So let's say you deposit $100 and get a matching bonus of 100%. If the matching bonus is sticky, it will appear in a separate counter. As you make wagers, the game will subtract from the sticky bonus counter to cover losing spins and hands. If the matching bonus is a phantom variety, you'll see $200 in your account after depositing that first $100. However, if you tried to make a withdrawal immediately, the $200 would go down to $0, and you would only recoup the $100 you deposited.
Some casinos offer bonuses designed to cover your losses in the form of free play. So if you were to wager and lose $100, the insurance bonus gives you back that first $100 in the form of free play. You can't withdraw the insurance bonus, but the winnings are yours to keep. You'll most commonly see an insurance bonus as a reward for creating a new account.
Comps and Loyalty Bonuses
If you've ever played at a traditional casino, you're aware of the player's club cards. The cards are inserted into machines that then track your play and reward you with points which can be used for comps like dining, hotel rooms or free play.
Online casinos also offer player's clubs and comp points. These types of bonuses are usually linked to other bonuses and can reduce the house edge even more.
Watch a Player Redeem a No Deposit Bonus
The playthrough requirements for online casino rewards might make you hesitant if you are a casual player in search of a fun diversion. Serious players who wager real money use them as tools to complement their play because bonuses give them a significant advantage.
We all know the house has a small edge on every bet you make. Coupons are the great equalizer. When you play with the house's money, you have a temporary advantage. So devote some time to hunting down the best codes and coupons and put the odds in your favor.