An Introduction to Online Casino Bonuses

Online casino bonuses are an extremely effective marketing ploy that casinos use to entice players into signing up to their site or making a deposit.

While they were originally used to attract players away from bricks-and-mortar casinos, the huge range of gambling sites around today means that online bonuses are now very competitive and offer a range of benefits to help them stand out from the competition.

As such, it can be a little confusing to understand exactly what each one entails and how you can use it as effectively as possible.

This guide aims to provide you with the essential things you need to know about online casino bonuses. You'll read about how to claim one, the different bonus types available, what bonus conditions you'll have to look out for, and how to find reliable casinos that offer them.

What is an online casino bonus and how can I claim it?

The best way to define an online casino bonus is as a type of reward for opening a new casino account, making a deposit, or just being a loyal customer. The casino is, in effect, giving you free spins or extra credit after you sign up, or after you've spent a certain amount of time or money as an account holder.

For some bonuses, most commonly the no deposit ones, you don't have to do anything to activate your bonus – you simply sign up and it appears in your casino fund as either free credit, or in the form of free spins, which you'll find when you start to play on certain games.

When the credit isn't automatic, the casino will tell you what to do to get the bonus: you might need to enter a special code or email the casino asking to them to activate it — although the latter is relatively rare.

Finding a bonus shouldn't be an exhausting task. This website combs the internet to find you the best ones, so it's simply a case of using my filters to find a bonus that suits you. My list of no deposit bonuses is a great place to start if you are looking for free offers.

What types of online casino bonuses are there?

Online casinos offer several types of bonuses, but there are two variations that are by far the most common: deposit bonuses (also known as welcome bonuses) and no deposit bonuses.

The deposit bonus typically holds the biggest value and is mostly given as a percentage of the first payment into your account. If it's 100% of your first deposit, for example, then you'll effectively double your opening balance, albeit with certain conditions. They also tend to come with maximum win value, so if it's 'up to $1,000' then that's the most your bonus can be worth.

Bonus % Deposit amount Bonus amount
50% up to $100 $100 $50
100% up to $100 $100 $100
100% up to $50 $100 $50

You may also get further bonuses for your second, third and fourth deposits, but these are less common and tend to be smaller than the first.

What many players view as the 'holy grail' of casino bonuses, however, are the no deposit bonuses. A good analogy to use here is that they're a way of 'test driving' a new casino and its games: you find out how they work for free, plus you might win some money. This bonus is credited to your account once you sign up and you don't have to pay a cent for the privilege.

Note: You might also receive a no deposit bonus as part of a promotion long after you've signed up: many casinos like to commemorate special occasions, such as the anniversary of your registration, or they may want to apologise for a site problem or bad service – a freebie is a quick and easy way for them to keep customers happy.

While no deposit bonuses are the most popular giveaway among players, they usually come in small amounts of around $10-20. They also tend to have the strictest requirements, so getting hold of your winnings can be difficult.

Free spins often appear as part of a deposit bonus, or as a type of no deposit bonus. You'll see these when you open a selected game rather than in your casino account itself, so don't be disheartened if you don't see them in your balance right away. These are very popular with players as they're free plays that can lead to further wins.

Although much less common, there are other bonus types that you might come across. Reload bonuses are one of those, appearing as a set percentage of a deposit you make, although they're not as high as the welcome bonus. A cashback bonus, meanwhile, simply reimburses you with a portion of the money you lost on previous bets.

Finally, casinos often use perks as a type of bonus reward for new players or loyal customers. Loyalty programs are a way of keeping customers sweet and they often provide members with lower wagering requirements to get hold of bonus winnings. They might also hand out casino merchandise, or even holidays abroad, to lucky players. These programs can vary wildly, though, so it's always best to read up on each one's terms and conditions before joining.

What bonus conditions should I look out for?

When we think of the word 'bonus', it brings to mind something extra that you get with no strings attached, like a Christmas bonus from your boss, for example. Yet this thinking is somewhat misleading in terms of casino bonuses.

The main thing to remember is that while they are often credited to your account automatically when you first register or make a deposit, they tend to come with certain stipulations attached. The nature of these depends on what type of bonus you're dealing with and the casino you're using them in, so always be sure to read the terms that come with them. However, several of the key conditions can be summarised as follows:

Wagering requirements (WR)

People often think they can withdraw bonus winnings right away, but this is not the case. It would just be too costly for a casino to basically give away money like this.

A wagering requirement (also known as rollover requirement) is the amount of money you have to stake before you can withdraw the bonus or any winnings from it. This is expressed as a multiple of a) the initial bonus amount, or b) the bonus plus the deposit you paid. In the case of free spins, the WR is usually applied to the wins you've earned off them.

Let's look at this with four examples to better illustrate this:

Bonus Deposit Bonus Worth WR Amount to wager
100% deposit bonus $50 $50 30x bonus $1500
100% deposit bonus $50 $50 30x (bonus + deposit) $3000
50 free spins on Starburst $0 Amount won from free spins 10x the amount won from free spins ?
No deposit bonus $0 $10 30x bonus $300

Note: The WR figure doesn't need to come from just deposits. Often, it's much higher than your initial funds, so you'll need to keep winning money to be able to keep wagering until you meet the requirement.

Some games contribute to the wagering requirement more than others. 100% of the money wagered on slots normally go toward it, but card games might offer much lower percentages – sometimes even as little as 5 or 10%. This is because they have a smaller house edge, and some of them allow players to use skill to increase their chances of winning. Players often make use of certain strategies in Blackjack, for example, that can improve their game, whereas slots are much more prone to chance. So, if you play Blackjack, you will most likely have to wager much more than stated by the WR figure.

Bonus limits

So, you've landed a juicy win with your bonus. Well, watch out, it might exceed the maximum you can win or withdraw. Many no deposit bonuses carry this clause, but you might seem them in your welcome bonus, too. Any winnings over these limits will just be written off, unfortunately.

Note: You may also find that you can only bet a certain amount in bonus games, so keep an eye on those T&Cs.

Game and country restrictions

Many people choose a certain bonus because the casino offering it has a great slot machine that they want to try out – but be careful. Certain games might be exempt from the bonus, most commonly those with a high Return to Player (RTP) and low house edge.

You could also lose out by virtue of your location. Casinos often only offer bonuses in certain countries, so keep an eye out for this restriction.

Note: Always use your real personal information! If a casino finds out that you've used a false name, address, resident country, or even put down one wrong digit in your ID number, they have the right to withhold any winnings, not just your bonus gains. Check, double-check and triple-check before you click 'sign up': - it could be worth a lot of money.

One bonus per person, unless stated otherwise

Casinos are quite sophisticated these days and are very good at detecting when someone is trying to get more bonuses than they should.

The rules are usually one bonus per account and one account per person. If the site finds out that a player has claimed multiple bonuses, then they may void their winnings and even suspend their account. With this in mind, it's important to stick to the rules.

Despite this limitation, bonus hunting still exists today. This is where players sign up to multiple casinos to try to make a long-term profit from various bonuses. The strategy is risky as it involves high volatility and casinos are much better at spotting it nowadays, providing special terms and conditions to protect against bonus hunters.

Is there anything else I should bear in mind?

In our hunt for online casino bonuses, it's very easy to get caught up in how much we can earn from them, or what games we can use them in, but it's very important to consider other factors, too.

An essential thing to do is to make sure that the casino offering the bonus is reputable. The biggest bonus in the world means very little if we can't trust the site we use it in – after all, what's the point in playing if the casino in question refuses to pay us our winnings?

Note: Finding a casino with a good reputation is imperative. There are several ways to do this, including typing the casino into a search engine and reading user reviews about them. Obviously, we should avoid those with a high number of complaints.

If you don't have time to do this site by site, then I have done the research for you. I present my findings in the form of ratings and reviews, and all you have to do is go to my list of best casinos and apply specific filters to draw up the sites that interest you the most, such as the best mobile casinos. Each site you click on will have its own review and rating, according to my assessment of it.

You can access casino reviews from other lists, too. On the list of no deposit bonuses, for example, simply click on the site offering the bonus to see a summary of its general performance.

As mentioned above, following all the terms and conditions is crucial, yet things can still go wrong even if you do everything by the book. In these cases, you can get guidance as to how best to claim your money.

However, the most important thing of all is our mindset when using these bonuses. Just because they're something for free doesn't mean we should use them recklessly. Doing this might foster bad habits that could spill over into real-money games, too.

Note: The best thing to do is to adhere to safe gambling principles when using them and follow that most crucial internet rule of all – staying safe online.

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