The Best Free Bets: A Beginner’s Guide

Almost every online sportsbook offers some kind of sign-up incentive to attract new punters and these often come in the form of deposit-linked free bets. If you’re new to online sports betting – or perhaps looking to switch to a new bookmaker – the more you know about free bet promotions and how they link to your starting account balance, the better position you’ll be in to make the right choice.

The Different Types of Free Bet Offers

Online betting sites have become experts at creating unique-sounding sign-up offers in order to stand out in a crowded market. However, when it comes down to it to getting free bets with a deposit – or without a deposit in some instances – it pays know what to look out for.

Stake-Not-Returned Free Bets

This is the most common type of free bet currently being offered by bookmakers, so although the concept is simple, it’s important to understand exactly what you’re getting when you sign up for this kind of offer. With a stake-not-returned free bet you get to keep any winnings you make, while the free bet stake provided by the betting site is not returned to your account. For instance, if you place a deposit-based £20 free bet on a football match at odds of 2/1, you’ll get to keep the £40 in profit, but not the original £20 stake.

One benefit of choosing a stake-not-returned free bet is that they often come with less restrictive conditions than the rarer stake-returned free bets, which often carry conditions as to what bets you can make or require you to meet certain wagering requirements in order to withdraw your winnings.

Stake-Returned Free Bets

Once upon a time, the sports betting market was awash with stake-returned free bets, but these days such offers are few and far between. As you might have guessed, stake-returned free bets return both your winnings and the original free stake. So, if we take the example above, your £20 free bet would return both your £40 winnings and the £20 deposit-based free bet bonus stake given to you by the bookmaker, giving you a grand total of £60.

If you’re lucky enough to find such an offer in today’s market it’s definitely worth considering carefully. Just make sure you take a close look at the terms and conditions, so you’re totally aware of the deposit/bet requirements, betting restrictions, and wagering requirements before you commit to a deal.

Bet Match/Matched Free Bet

If you took a moment to look over our rankings table above you probably noticed that many sports betting sites describe their free bet offers as “matched” bets. Usually these start from 100% matched and go up from there. This type of offer requires you to deposit and make a bet using your own funds, before your account is credited with the matched free bet. Although matched bets are expressed as a percentage there will usually be a fixed upper limit.

For example, if your bookmaker is offering a deal that reads “place a bet today and get 150% matched up to a £30 limit”, you would need to make a first bet of £20 in order to receive the maximum free bet amount. Even if you wagered more, you would still only receive £30.

Sometimes you’ll be able to use your free bet however you please, perhaps dividing it in to smaller bets, other times you’ll be required to make a single bet.

Deposit Match Free Bet

Similar to the above, but in this case the free bet that you receive is tied to the first deposit you make with the bookmaker instead of the amount of your first bet. For instance, if a betting site offers to match your deposit up to, say, £100, you will receive the amount of your deposit as a free bet as soon as you have deposited, not after your first wager. Aside from that, many of the same features and restrictions mentioned above will also apply.

The Best Way to Use a Free Bet

How you choose to use your free bet once it’s in your account is completely up to you. It’s almost certain that you won’t be able to simply withdraw it and will have to place a bet. So the question is: Do you place the bonus figure all on a fanciful long shot, or do you bet on something with shorter odds to increase your chances of turning an inclusive bet promotion into real cash? There’s no definitive answer to this question, but a quick Internet search will turn up plenty of theories and strategies for maximizing the value of any sports betting promotion.

There is no shortage of online bookies offering inclusive free bet offers to new customers, so depending on how much time and money you wish to commit, there’s nothing stopping you from trying out a few and testing different strategies.

The Final Word

It’s worth remembering that there’s a lot more to choosing a good betting site than the generosity of their sign-up offer – including the markets and odds they offer, their markup, deposit and withdrawal reliability, and customer service. At Top 5 Sports Betting Sites we only review and rank the very best sites around, so you know that the offers you see on this site come only from the most reputable bookmakers.