Understanding Online Casino Bonuses
When you start looking at all of the different options online casinos offer, you are bound to get overrun with all of the different bonus offers. Every online casino seems to have at least two or three different bonuses and when you consider how many thousands of casinos there are in existence, it can quickly become an overwhelming barrage of information. Just in case you don’t already know, there are also different types of bonuses. Almost all of them fall into one of four bonus categories. Keep reading to learn more about each of the four bonus categories, why you always have to read the small print and when you may be better off not taking a bonus.
Types of Online Casino Bonuses
The four main types of online casino bonuses include cashable, non-cashable, no deposit and free spins. Each of these four types is explained in detail below. You may on a very rare occasion run across a bonus that does not fall into one of these categories. If you do, make sure to read the entire conditions and terms before accepting it. You can learn more about terms, conditions and small print in the section following the bonus types.
Cashable casino bonuses are those that you can cash out once you meet all of the requirements. These are usually the best type of bonus for players, but more and more online casinos are switching to the non-cashable type. An example of a cashable bonus is if you receive 100% up to $200 on your deposit. If you make a deposit of $200 you will receive another $200, making your total beginning bankroll $400. After you meet all of the requirements you can take out any money that you have left. So if you have $300 left you can cash out the entire $300.
Non-cashable bonuses are also called play only bonuses. The way they work is you receive a bonus amount and can play with it until you lose it or you get ready to cash out. When you cash out the casino deducts the bonus amount from your balance before processing your pay out. For example, you deposit $1,000 and get a $2,000 non-cashable bonus.
After meeting the play through requirements you have $2,100 left in your account. When you request a cash out the casino will deduct the $2,000 bonus amount from your balance, leaving $100 for you to withdraw. Understand that unless you read the fine print there is usually no way to tell if a bonus is cashable or non-cashable. They usually look the same with the common look of a certain percentage bonus up to a certain dollar amount. 100% up to $500 or 200% up to $1,000 are just two of the many possible combinations.
No deposit bonuses are free chips or bankrolls given to players to get them to try an online casino. I have seen them as small as $5 and as large as $100. You don’t usually have to do anything to claim one of these bonuses except sign up for an account. They usually have a play through requirement and a cash out limit, but if you want to try a few games for real money without risking any of your own cash, a no deposit bonus is a great way to start.
Free spins promotions can be offered by themselves or in combination with any of the other bonus types. Technically a free spins bonus can be offered on games other than slot machines, but they are almost always for slots play and are often specific to a certain slot machine. Land based casinos run promotions involving a free hand of blackjack or spin of the roulette wheel, and things like that from time to time. The same type of promotion can be offered by an online casino, so I am lumping these types of promotions in with the free spins section as they are basically the same thing.
An example of a free spins promotion would be 25 free spins on slot machine “XYZ” where each spin is taken at a value of $2. This means that you can only play on the slot machine with the name “XYZ” and you receive 25 free spins and each spin is for $2. You may be restricted to only cashing out a certain amount of a free spins promotion and/or you may need to reach certain play through requirements after you take your free spins. Learn more about play through requirements in the next section.
Why You Always Have to Read the Small Print
You have already seen a few of the terms and restrictions that can be attached to a casino bonus in the descriptions listed above, but there are many more possibilities. Online casinos are in business to make money. They know that in order to make money they have to get players to deposit real money.
In order to get as many players to make real money deposits as possible they offer bonuses to get you to sign up and bonuses to get you to deposit again and again after they get you the first time. However, they are not in the business of letting you keep any of these bonuses if they can help it. So they design their casino bonus terms and conditions to give them the best chance to not only get their bonuses back but to get all of your deposit also. And they want to keep you just happy enough that you will make another deposit after losing your first one.
If you keep this information in mind, you will see why it is so important to always read the fine print. Here are some of the things to watch out for.
This is usually called a play through requirement. These requirements range from 20 to 40 times generally and are listed as 20x or 20X for a 20 times requirement, 30x or 30X for a 30 times play through, etc.
Here is an example of how a play-through requirement works.
Imagine you make a deposit of $500 and receive a 100% match of $500 with a play through of 30X you will have to make bets totaling at least $30,000 to clear the bonus. The way to figure this is add the deposit and bonus together and then multiply that total times the play through requirement. $500 + $500 = $1,000. $1,000 times 30 = $30,000. You don’t have to make any particular size wagers, but the total of your wagers must reach this amount. For example, if you play slots at $2 per spin you will need to play 15,000 spins. If you play a game at $10 a spin or hand you will have to play 3,000 spins or hands.
This table shows how small differences in bonus requirements makes a big difference in the value of the bonus. In this example, the bonus amount is $20 on a $40 deposit:
The thing that stands out the most is the vast difference between a multiplier based on the bonus amount and one based on the amount of the bonus plus deposit. Playthrough requirements based on bonus plus deposit are way more common these days.
Free chip and free spin bonuses are usually where you will find these, but always check for one of these provisions no matter what type of bonus you’re accepting. For example, you may only be able to cash out 10 times the free chip value. So a free chip of $7 can only lead to a maximum cash out of $70.
Restricted games are a big issue for any player who enjoys playing anything except slot machines. Almost all casino bonuses let you play slots to clear. But most of them either don’t allow you to play table games like blackjack and roulette or only count a small percentage of your play at these games against your bonus clearing requirements.
There are quite a few online casinos that will forfeit your entire bonus if you play games on their restricted list. A common restriction is only counting 10% or 20% (or some other low percentage) of each wager made at blackjack, roulette or video poker (or any other number of games) toward clearing your bonus.
If we continue with the example above requiring you to wager $30,000 to clear your bonus and assume blackjack only counts 10% toward clearing, you would have to wager $300,000 while playing only blackjack to clear your bonus. Even at $25 a hand you would have to play 12,000 hands.
The restrictions are usually just as bad, if not worse, on these special game specific bonus offers.
The bottom line is if you don’t take the time to read and make sure you understand all of the bonus terms and conditions, as well as exactly what kind of bonus you are receiving and how to clear it, you shouldn’t play. There is no excuse for getting surprised by any bonus terms. Many players falsely assume that all bonuses are cashable until they sign up for a non-cashable one, meet all the play through requirements and then try to cash out. They are usually angry and disappointed, but it is their responsibility to find out what they are signing up for in the first place.
Should You Always Accept a Bonus?
While it may seem strange to consider not accepting a bonus from an online casino, there are a few situations where you may want to pass. As you learned above, the small print, or terms and conditions, can be quite restrictive on what you can do with your winnings and when you can do it. Here are a few specific examples where you might be better off not accepting a bonus.
If you are depositing for the sole purpose of playing for a progressive jackpot and the bonus terms limit the total amount you can cash out, you may want to decline the bonus.
While most bonuses only require you to play through a certain number multiple of the bonus and deposit, some of them also restrict the total amount you can cash out. Some do have rules carving out big progressive slots, allowing you to cash them out as they are often controlled by the software provider and not the individual casino, but many do not. For example, if you are playing a version of jacks or better video poker that has a progressive jackpot it is probably not covered by a carve-out provision. I admit this situation is rare, but it is a possibility.
A more common reason to pass on an offered bonus is when the bonus is only for specific games, like slot machines, and you only play table games. Some online casinos offer special table games bonuses, but many just have general bonuses which may or may not let you play table games.
Believe it or not, there are online casino games that can be played at an advantage against the house. They are not common, but they are not so rare that smart and dedicated players can’t discover them and try to exploit them at times.
One of these situations has been touched on above. When you find video poker variations with attached progressive jackpots, the jackpot can reach a level where with correct play you can actually play with an overall advantage against the house. Large progressive slot machines can work the same way, but it is often much harder to find out exactly what their base payback percentage is and the exact odds of hitting the progressive so they can make it more difficult to figure out when to start playing.
When you find advantage play opportunities like these, you want to carefully consider any bonuses you may be offered. Make sure you aren’t going to have difficulty cashing out your winnings and that they aren’t capped like I mentioned above. You also need to consider that online casinos do not plan to lose money and if they figure out that you are just playing when you have an advantage they may deny your play.
While this doesn’t seem fair, they do have the right to not let you play. You may be asking how accepting a bonus plays into this. If you accept a bonus they may decide to stop your play faster than if you don’t. I realize this may seem like splitting hairs, but if you are an advantage player you will understand that even the smallest additional edge is important.
Now you know everything that I do about online casino bonuses. The best thing about bonuses is that they are a great way to extend your playing experience by increasing your bankroll. At the basic level gambling is a form of entertainment. Anything you can do to increase the time spent at the things you do for entertainment seems like a good idea.
In closing, I want to stress one more time the most important thing I hope you get from this page. Always take the time to read and make sure you fully understand all of the fine print and conditions before accepting any casino bonus.