Many online gamblers relish the opportunity to earn bonuses. Collecting bonuses gives players the chance to earn free money on the side of their play. Another thing that gamblers enjoy is slots with high return to player (RTP). A slot with good RTP offers a stronger chance to win.
This dilemma leaves you walking a fine line between playing slots with high RTP and choosing lower-paying games that offer full contribution to wagering requirements. What’s more profitable? Playing slots with good RTP or doing whatever helps you earn a bonus the easiest? Is there a way to combine the best of both worlds?
I’ll answer all of these questions while discussing the basics of slots RTP and casino bonuses, how to earn bonuses, and game contributions.
Why Is Slots RTP Important?
Slots RTP is the average amount of money that players can expect to win back on their bets. The higher the payout percentage, the better long-term chances you have of winning. Most online slots offer somewhere in the neighborhood of 95% payback. But some games feature RTP worth 99% or even higher.
You obviously want to choose games are closer to 99% payback if your main objective is winning. As covered in the introduction, though, you also have to worry about how much high-paying games contribute to releasing bonuses.
I’ll cover more on this later. But right now I’d like to go over an example on how slots RTP works:
- You’re playing a game with 96% RTP.
- You bet $2,000 on this slot.
- 2,000 x 0.04 = $80 in theoretical losses
Here’s another example on a slot with even better payback:
- You’re playing a game with 98% RTP.
- You wager $2,000 on this slot.
- 2000 x 0.02 = $40 in theoretical losses
You’ve halved theoretical losses in the second example by playing a game with 98% payback. Of course, the key thing to understand is that RTP is merely what each game is programmed to pay back on average. Slot machines don’t typically reach their programmed payback until after hundreds of thousands or even millions of spins.
Slots are among the most-volatile games in the casino, meaning that your short-term results will vary greatly. But if you’re going to play slot machines for the long haul, then it pays to choose games with high RTP.
How Do Online Casino Bonuses Work?
Internet casinos offer different types of bonuses, including cashback, deposit bonuses, free chips, free spins, and welcome deals. I’ll be focusing on earning deposit offers through slots for the purpose of this post. A deposit bonus is exactly how it sounds in that you deposit and qualify for a bonus. This offer is based on a match percentage of your deposit.
Casinos also place a maximum amount on how much you can earn through the bonus. Here’s an example on how deposit offers work:
- A casino is offering a 100% match bonus up to $300.
- You deposit $150.
- This qualifies you for a $150 bonus.
The key word is “qualifies,” because sites don’t just hand you the money upfront. Instead, you need to earn the funds by meeting terms and conditions.
How Do You Earn Slots Bonuses?
The first thing that you should do before going for any bonus is carefully read the terms and conditions. Casinos feature a T&Cs link at the bottom of their homepage. Depending upon the gaming site, there may be both general and bonus T&Cs. If this is the case, you’ll often find the link for the latter within the general terms.
The first term that you want to examine is the wagering requirements (a.k.a. playthrough). These requirements refer to how much you must wager to release your bonus funds.
Playthrough can either be listed as a multiple of the bonus, or bonus + deposit. Here’s an example of each:
- Casino A features wagering requirements worth 40x the bonus.
- You’re eligible for a $200 bonus.
- 40 x 200 = $8,000 must be wagered
- Casino B features wagering requirements worth 25x the bonus + deposit.
- You deposit $200 and become eligible for a $300 bonus (150% match).
- 25 x (200 + 300) = $12,500 must be wagered
Once you meet playthrough, you’ll be able to withdraw your bonus funds or continue playing with them. If you cash out before meeting wagering requirements, then you don’t receive anything.
Note that playthrough isn’t the only major term you need to consider. Here’s a list of some other important T&Cs:
- Claim time limit –You normally only have a week or less to claim the bonus in your account section.
- Playthrough timeframe –Most casinos give you a certain amount of time to meet wagering requirements (e.g. 30 days).
- Max bets –Don’t go over the maximum bet allowed, or you could forfeit your bonus.
- Minimum deposit – The gaming site will list a minimum amount that you must deposit to qualify for the offer.
- Bonus code –Some casinos require you to enter a specific code to indicate which bonus you’re playing for.
You may find other terms and conditions based on the casino that you’re dealing with. Again, always check the T&Cs before making a deposit.
Pay Special Attention to Game Contributions
One other very important term that you should look for is game contributions, which refer to how much games contribute to playthrough. Generally speaking, slots play counts 100% towards meeting wagering requirements. If playthrough is 40x the bonus, then slots playthrough is also 40x.
But some online slots don’t offer the full 100% towards wagering requirements, because they have really high payback. Casinos would lose money to players through bonus deals if they allowed high-paying slots to provide 100%. Therefore, they reduce playthrough contributions for certain games. Every casino differs regarding what payout percentages they include in the reduced contributions category. Generally, though, slots that offer 97% RTP or higher are candidates.
Games that end up on the reduced contributions list may only count 10% to 25% towards playthrough. Here’s an example on how this impacts your bonus-earning efforts:
- You’re eligible for a $150 bonus.
- Wagering requirements are 40x.
- 150 x 40 = $6,000 must be wagered.
- You’re playing NetEnt’s Blood Suckers, which offers 98.0% payback.
- Blood Suckers only contributes 20% towards playthrough.
- 40 / 0.2 = 200x playthrough
- 150 x 200 = $30,000 must be wagered
You’re now forced to meet wagering requirements that are 5x the original amount, because you’re playing a slot that offers 98% RTP. Also keep in mind that some casinos exclude certain games from playthrough altogether. You might see Blood Suckers and similar high RTP games offer 0% towards unlocking bonuses.
The last thing you want to do is begin playing a game under the assumption that you’re earning bonus funds through it. This is why it’s important to go over the T&Cs at least once or twice and see how much your favorite slots count towards meeting wagering requirements. Sometimes you’ll see all NetEnt slots excluded, because many of them offer high payback. But you’ll also find slots from other providers that make the list.
Here’s an example of what you might see in a casino’s bonus terms:
- The following slots contribute 20% towards meeting playthrough:
- Ugga Bugga – 99.1% RTP (Playtech)
- Big Bet Machines – 99.0% RTP (Barcrest)
- Mega Joker – 99.0% RTP (NetEnt)
- Cosmic Quest: Mystery Planets – 98.9% RTP (NetEnt)
- ChessMate – 98.7% RTP (MultiSlot)
- 1429 Uncharted Sea – 98.6% RTP (Thunderkick)
- Kings of Chicago – 97.8% RTP (NetEnt)
These games merely represent some of the industry’s highest-paying slots. Therefore, you won’t necessarily see this exact selection listed in a casino’s terms and conditions. But this gives you an idea on what to expect when reading T&Cs and looking for games with lowered playthrough contributions.
How Reduced Game Contributions Affect Earning Bonuses
Some players see that certain slots contribute less to playthrough and think that these games will still be fine for unlocking bonuses. But the math often shows that slots with lower contributions are worse for chasing bonus deals.
I’ll start my comparison with an example of an internet slot with average RTP:
- You’re eligible for a $200 bonus.
- Playthrough is 40x the offer.
- 200 x 40 = $8,000 must be wagered
- You’re playing a slot with 95% payback (5% house edge)
- 8,000 x 0.05 = $400 in theoretical losses
- 400 – 200 = $200 net loss
Here’s an example of what you might experience with an online slot that offers high RTP:
- You’re going for the same $200 bonus.
- You’re playing a slot with 98.5% payback (1.5% house edge).
- Playthrough is normally 40x the offer.
- But this slot only contributes 20% towards wagering requirements.
- 40 / 0.2 = 200x playthrough
- 200 (bonus) x 200 = $40,000 must be wagered
- 40,000 x 0.015 = $600 in theoretical losses
- 600 – 200 = $400 net loss
Your net loss doubles when chasing the bonus with the 98.5% RTP game. Despite this slot offering 3.5% higher payback than the first game, it’s actually a worse deal when hunting bonuses.
Of course, this isn’t to say that you should automatically discount any slot with lower playthrough contribution. You can run the same type of math that I used above to compare different games and find which is the better deal. Typically, though, any slot that contributes 100% towards wagering requirements gives you the stronger chance to release your bonus without losing much money.
What’s More Important: High Slots RTP or Good Bonuses?
Deciding whether to skew your play towards games that unlock bonuses faster or slots with higher RTP isn’t always a clear-cut matter. Making a good decision requires looking at a number of factors:
- The size of playthrough contribution for high-paying slots.
- Payout percentages for the games with high RTP.
- Payout percentages for the slots with average or below average RTP.
- Match percentages on the bonuses.
- If the bonuses are good deals to begin with.
The example in the previous section shows that going after a bonus with a 95% RTP slot is better than doing the same with a 98.5% RTP game. Remember, though, that this is only true for the parameters featured in my example.
You’ll see all sorts of differences featured throughout the online gaming industry. Again, I suggest that you carefully look over the T&Cs and do some math to decide the best route for earning bonuses. After studying the terms, you need to decide if you even want to chase a particular bonus. If the answer is no, then there’s no point in playing the lower-playing slot if you prefer a game with high RTP.
Another thought to consider is if you’re willing to bet what it takes to reach playthrough requirements. You’ll be wagering thousands of dollars to unlock a bonus, which can become tedious for low rollers. Provided you’d rather simply play slots without worrying about betting thousands of dollars cumulatively, then this is another case where high-paying games win out.
Can You Combine Both High Slots RTP with Big Bonuses?
You don’t necessarily have to choose between slots with the best RTP and games that are better for meeting playthrough. You can still find slots with good RTP that also contribute 100% towards wagering requirements. The cut-off point for what payback falls into the 100% category varies by the gaming site. But I’ve found slots with over 97% RTP that still offer full contribution.
Here’s an example on what you can expect when chasing a bonus with these types of slots:
- You’re eligible for a $300 bonus.
- Playthrough is 40x.
- 300 x 40 = $12,000 must be wagered.
- You play a slot with 97.2% RTP (2.8% house edge).
- 12,000 x 0.028 = $336 in theoretical losses
- 336 – 300 = $36 net loss
Theoretically losing $36 is quite an improvement over the other scenarios that I went through earlier. Furthermore, you might even make a profit if luck is on your side. You don’t always have to play slots with 97% payback or higher to benefit from bonus deals. Even games with RTP ranging from 96% to 97% can give you a strong chance to win.
You may not care to play enough to actually meeting wagering requirements. In this case, slots with the highest RTP give you the strongest chance to win. One more point worth considering is the pure entertainment value of slots. Don’t play certain games and avoid others solely for the purposes of earning bonuses faster. Instead, pick the games you like and treat bonus offers as what they’re meant to be – bonuses.