Online Casino Bonuses Explained

Your success (or lack thereof) in casino gambling is largely dependent on luck. Sure, there are certain strategies you can employ to increase the odds of winning, but luck plays the dominant role in casino games. That’s why we call it “gambling.”

It may be impossible to completely eliminate the house advantage, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work to maximize the value you get out of your gambling dollars. One of the most fool-proof ways to do that is to take advantage of online casino bonuses.

Do not underestimate how much of an impact a good casino bonus can have on your bottom line. Casino bonuses are not free money, but they do help quite a bit. It is worth spending a little time to understand how casino bonuses work and what you can do to make the most of these offers.

First, let’s begin with a list of some of the best casino bonuses:

All gambling sites offer new players a welcome bonus. Just visit the any online casino site and the first thing you’ll notice is a big bonus offer displayed prominently across the page. The size of casino deposit bonuses range from just a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars.

One of the most important things to remember about casino bonuses is that they were not all created equal. Some promotions actually provide players with great value; others are basically rip-offs. Always approach incentivized offers with some degree of caution.

The casino signup bonuses listed here are all good deals. However, these are just a few of the many casino offers you’re sure to run across. It is good to know how to evaluate the value of online casino promotions.

Why do casinos offer bonuses?

The online casino industry is extremely competitive, and gambling websites are constantly trying to attract new customers. As there are so many casino websites in business, it can be difficult for even the best casino sites to distinguish themselves from all the others.

This is one of the main reasons why the majority of online casino sites offer new customers a sign up bonus. As large sign up bonus acts as a powerful incentive for a player to sign up and make a deposit. Online casinos are more than willing to hand out these bonuses in the hopes of attracting long-term customers.

Remember casino signup bonuses are marketed as free money but it’s not always that simple. All bonus offers come with terms and conditions that dictate how that money is released and what you can do with that money.

Types of Online Casino Bonuses

Casino bonuses come in several different formats, some of which are more attractive than others. How useful a promotion  will be to you personally will depend largely on the terms and conditions relating to the offer and which casino games you like to play. The following are among the most common types of online casino bonuses:

Deposit Match Bonuses

The deposit match bonus is the most widely offered form of casino sign up bonus, and is generally the bonus that offers the best value to customers. In a deposit match offer, the size of the bonus is determined by the size of your deposit on a percentage basis.

The percentages offered vary at different online casino sites with 50% or 100% tending to be the norm, although some online casinos offer even higher percentages and some offer lower. Example: if an online casino offers a 50% deposit match bonus and you deposit $1,000, you will get a $500 bonus, giving you a total of $1,500 to play with.

Percentage match bonuses also have some level at which they max out. For example, you will often see bonuses worded something like this:

“200% bonus up to $2,000!”

That means the casino is willing to double your first deposit for up to $2,000 in bonus money. You can deposit as much as you want, but the bonus money maxes out at $2,000. Because bonuses are one-time offers on your first deposit only, you are best served by getting as much bonus money as possible the first time around.

One last thing: some casino match bonuses are automatically given to all new players and some require specific bonus codes.

Wagering Only Bonuses

The wagering only bonus, also known as the “phantom bonus,” has some similarities with casino deposit bonuses. In fact, many deposit match bonuses are also classified as wagering only bonuses. The basic idea is the same except for one key difference: you are not allowed to withdraw the bonus money.

The good news is that you can still withdraw any winnings earned with the bonus money. So although you can’t withdraw the original bonus cash, you can still withdraw everything that you won while wagering the bonus funds.

Let’s say you make a $200 deposit and get a $200 wagering-only bonus. You play, clear the bonus and end up with a final account balance of $500. When you make your first withdrawal, the $200 bonus credit will be removed from your account and you’ll end up with $300 that can be withdrawn.

Wagering only bonuses tend to be larger than cashable bonuses. Casino sites are more willing to give out bigger phantom bonuses because there isn’t as much risk of the casino taking a big hit. Whenever you see one of those big 400% bonuses, it is probably a wagering-only bonus.

No Deposit Offers

No deposit casino bonuses are real-money offers that require no deposit. All you have to do is sign up for an account and you’ll get the bonus cash. You can then use those funds to play real money games without having risk a single cent of your own money.

The catch is that no-deposit casino offers are the smallest bonuses of them all.

One other thing to keep in mind is that no-deposit bonuses usually cannot be withdrawn until you make a deposit yourself. So if you win big, you’ll need to make a deposit before you can withdraw the winnings.

Free Spins

Free spin bonuses are frequently offered in addition to other types of promotions. The basic idea is that you make a deposit, get a bonus plus a few free spins at one of their slots games. Free spins do not actually add money to your account; they simply give you credit at a specific slot game.

Free spins are nice, but they aren’t massively profitable. I always look at free spins as extra icing on the cake. If I get a few free spins when I deposit, that’s great. But, I’m not going to go out of my way just to get 20 free spins. Anything that you win with a free spin bonus is yours to keep.

Understanding the Terms and Conditions

All of the casino incentives described above come with terms and conditions. The terms always dictate the value of any offer. A bonus that has reasonable terms is a good one. A bonus with unreasonable terms is more trouble than it’s worth. Always make it a point to read through the terms and conditions of any casino bonus before you deposit.

Wagering Requirements

Most casino bonuses have a condition called “wagering requirements.” These wagering requirements state that you must place X number of wagers before the bonus money or any winnings obtained by wagering the bonus can be withdrawn.

The wording usually goes something like this:

“This bonus is subject to a 20x rollover on the deposit and bonus.”

What that means if you must place a total value of wagers equal to 20 times the bonus + deposit amount. So if you deposit $100 and get a $100 bonus, you’ll need to wager a total of $4,000 before the bonus money and winnings are released.

Remember – that is only a total value of wagers placed, not money won or lost. Still, it can be difficult to meet these requirements if you play high house advantage games. Wagering requirements of 20x are normal.

The terms and conditions also frequently restrict certain games from meeting the wagering requirements. Blackjack is often included in that list because it has such a low house advantage when played well. You CAN find blackjack bonuses from time to time, but remember to always check the terms for your favorite games.

Cashable vs. Non-Cashable

One other thing the terms and conditions should make clear is if the bonus is cashable or non-cashable. If you read through the terms and see anything along the lines of “this bonus if for wagering purposes only,” that means it is one of those wagering-only bonuses described above.

Maximum Cashout

The maximum cashout rule is most often found on no-deposit bonuses, although it does sometimes appear in the terms and conditions of other types of bonuses. In short, this rule places a limit on the amount of money you can win with the bonus.

For example, a $20 no deposit bonus might have a clause that limits the winnings off the bonus to $200. If you get exceptionally lucky and win more than the maximum cashout rule, you only get to keep whatever the maximum is.

I have no problem with this rule on no-deposit bonuses. Without this rule, it would open the casino to the risk of people opening unlimited accounts and playing big-jackpot games for free.

But, this rule has no place on other types of bonuses. If you see a maximum cashout rule on any other type of bonus, it’s not worth it. This rule belongs only to no-deposit bonuses.

Other Fine Print Found in Casino Promotional Offers

There are so many different casino bonuses out there, each with its own set of terms and conditions, that it would be impossible to describe every possible variation here. The last piece of advice I’d like to leave you with is to always read the fine print. Every reputable casino site has a page somewhere that explains all the rules associated with its welcome offers.

The fine print should give you a pretty good idea of whether or not any particular promotion is a good deal. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call the customer support number.