Free bets may sound too good to be true. Do bookmakers really offer their customers free money? Well potentially, yes – especially if you're smart about it.
You can think of a free bet as an opportunity to place a bet without risk, and get paid out the net winnings on the bet if it wins.
The difference between a free bet and a regular bet is that you don’t contribute the stake yourself, so the stake won’t be refunded to you along with your winnings if the bet wins. Thousands of pounds of free bets are available from reputable bookmakers online at any given time. Typically you qualify for a free bet when you first open a new account with a bookmaker.
Why do bookies offer free bets?
Bookmakers use free bets to encourage people to sign up for their services and make a deposit into their account. In return for giving you something free up front, bookmakers hope that you’ll continue to bet with them in future.
Is there a catch?
Usually there's something of a catch, although often you can still use free bets to your advantage. Some bookmakers make it very easy to claim free bets and may not even require that you deposit funds with them first. Other bookmakers may require that you use your free bet funds to place additional bets before they pay out any winnings.
To qualify for a free bet with a bookmaker, you typically need to:
- sign up for an account with the bookmaker, providing and in some cases verifying your personal details
- register a valid payment method and make a deposit into your account
- use your funds to place a bet on a sports event – the value of this bet will usually determine how much money you’re given for a free bet.
In some cases, you may not be allowed to place your qualifying bet on odds under evens. This is to stop people from backing near-certain winners. Before trying to cash in a free bet, make sure that you read the terms and conditions listed with the offer. The main things to look out for are any playthrough requirements and any geographical restrictions.
If you see a very generous free bet, you should check for playthrough requirements before accepting the offer. A playthrough requirement will mean that you have to place a certain number or value of additional bets before any winnings on a free bet are paid out to you.
If a playthrough requirement applies, the simplest way to determine the value of a free bet is to multiply the free bet by the number of times you’re required to turn it over, or bet its full value, using your own funds. Say you’re offered a $100 free bet. If you’re required to turn it over three times before being paid out, you’ll need to bet $300 before any winnings on your free bet are paid out. The rules governing playthrough requirements differ from one bookmaker to another.
A bookmaker may apply geographical restrictions to the free bets it offers. In this case, the bookie will list the country or countries where the free bet applies, or the countries that don’t qualify. If no geographical restriction is mentioned, you can assume that a free bet applies to all users.
How to use free bets
There are several ways you can make free bets work to your advantage. These are some of the options:
- Double your bankroll – this is the simplest and easiest use of a free bet. If you already have a bet in mind, it makes sense to place it with a bookmaker who’ll give you a free bet. Doing this will effectively double your bankroll.
- Hedge a bet – if you have a bet in mind, you can use a free bet on another likely outcome as a hedge. For example, you might choose to bet on one team winning a sports event and then use a free bet to back the other team. This simple tactic can increase or even guarantee your chances of making a profit without costing you extra.
- Turn the free bet into money – if you simply want to turn a free bet into cash, you can use a tactic called “matched betting”. This involves placing a free bet on a particular outcome with a bookmaker and using a betting exchange to bet that the same outcome won't occur. Because you placed the bet for free, you're guaranteed a profit no matter which outcome occurs.
For information about the free bets that various bookmakers offer new account holders, see our section on bookmakers' sign-up offers.