Free bets can sometimes sound too good to be true and if your mum taught you “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” or “if something looks too good to be true then it probably is…” then she was wrong on this occasion!
Free bets can be a great way to improve your chances of winning and take some money off the bookmakers. Which begs the question, why do the bookmakers offer them? Well, like a supermarket that has loss-leaders (products they actually make a loss on) or a restaurant that has an incredibly cheap deal, free bets are designed to attract customers in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
The hope is that the free bet will get you in the door and the quality of the product – in this case the design of the site, the range of markets, the odds and the ongoing promotions – will keep you betting with them. Whether you do or not is totally up to you but enough people are evidently happy to continue betting with the various bookmakers to fund these free bets so long may they continue!
- Note: For a comparison table, see our betting offers page.
Best Free Bet Offers For New Customers
Types Of Free Bet Offer
Whilst the welcome bonus at each bookie will vary, you’ll find that most introductory free bet offers will fit into one of the following three categories:
- Matched Bets – Matched bets entail a percentage match of your first bet or bets with the given bookmaker. This is normally 100% but is sometimes less, such that placing a £25 bet usually qualifies you for a £25 free bet. Some bookmakers literally match your first bet, such that if you bet £10 on Man United you actually get £20 on them, although the first form of free bet is far more commonplace.
- Bet Bundles – A bet bundle uses the same basic concept as a matched bet in that you place bets to get free ones, but here you’ll need to place multiple bets to trigger the offer. Such as five £10 real money bets for a £25 free bet. In many cases if you keep betting you’ll keep getting free bets (up to a limit), but there’s less value in these than a traditional bet offer.
- Deposit Bonuses – Deposit bonuses are a percentage match, usually 100% but sometimes less, occasionally more, of your first deposit with the bookmaker. So if you sign up and deposit £50 the bookmaker will usually add a further £50.
- No Lose or ‘Risk Free’ bets – As with the other forms of free bet, no lose bets can take a few different forms, the most common being that should you lose your first bet you will then be credited with a free bet of the same value. Some bookies have started issuing their risk free bet refunds in cash, which is a much more attractive proposition than the free bet counterpart.
- Enhanced Odds – A new type of sign up offer that has become increasingly popular with the bookies are enhanced odds. This is where you receive odds far greater than you would normally get, often for a heavy favourite. For example, you may see odds of 6/1 for Man United to beat Bournemouth. The maximum bet for these kinds of promotion is usually fairly small (£5 or £10, or even £1 in some cases) and the winnings are either paid as cash or as free bets. Some betting sites will also offer you a free bet or bonus if your bet loses and/or additional follow up bets for your continued custom.
There is also another, less common type of promotion which is worth a mention – no deposit free bets. These are just like they sound, freebies given to you without even having to make a deposit. Most bookies tend to steer clear of this kind of offer though so they are relatively rare.
The Rules Of Free Bets
Having said that sometimes there IS such a thing as a free lunch, it’s worth noting that the bookmakers won’t buy you three courses, coffee and wine as well. All free bets have various terms and conditions attached and these are generally to avoid abuse of their generosity. The most obvious point is that you won’t just be able to withdraw your money; a free bet is exactly that, a free bet, not money for you to withdraw and get drunk on; wait until your bet wins to do that!
The first main point to consider with most free bets is whether they are stake returned or stake not returned. The latter tends to be the most common type of freebie and means that if you place a £25 bet that wins, the returns will exclude the £25 free bet stake. Where the stake is returned the winnings are returned along with the free bet/bonus amount, although such bets almost always have wagering requirements before your balance can be withdrawn.
You may also notice that there are defined minimum odds that your bets must be in order to qualify. This could apply to both the initial bet placed to gain the free bet as well as the free bet itself. With the exception of a small number of risk free or odds boost type offers, most betting offers will come with minimum odds, so make sure you look out for them.
Other things to look out for, although these terms are far less common, are that certain sports or types of bet (particularly in-play bets) may be excluded, only accumulators may count, or only win singles count (as opposed to accumulators and each way bets).
It’s well worth noting however that none of these terms are designed to catch you out. The bookies want your business and they want you to have a good time – ripping you off is not in their interests. The free bets, if used wisely, give you the advantage, so be sure to make good use of the many different offers available right here and stack the odds firmly in your favour.
Who Has the Best Free Bet?
This is a tricky question to answer as the offers change on regular basis. Extra special promotions and deals also appear for short periods of time that are aimed at people who are interested in specific events such as the start of the Premier League season or Wimbledon. These can be even more lucrative than the normal offers, but can sometimes just be the same regular offer repackaged in a way that’s been designed to appeal to a specific set of people.
For us to single out one promotion as ‘the best’ would require near constant rewrites of this section, which isn’t realistic or feasible. As a comprimise, however, we have an internal ranking system that organises the list of offers (above) so that as a general rule of thumb, the best free bets appear at the top and then the value goes down the lower down the list.
Generally speaking though you want to watch out for two things. Here we’ll tell you what to watch out for, what’s good and what’s not so good:
Deposit & Bonus Amount
For almost all free bets you’ll need to make a deposit and real money bet and the size of your deposit usually dictates the size of the bonus. But the relationship between the deposit and bonus massively varies. Some betting sites offer a fixed deal – so bet £10 for a £30 free bet – whilst others offer to match you pound for pound on any amount up to a maximum.
Of these two types the first (Bet £10 Get £30) is clearly more generous, but often the deposit matches are bigger (such as 100% up to £100). If you were planning on making a larger deposit anyway, then the bigger bonus could actually work out better for you.
- Bet £25 Get £25 / 100% up to £25 – Two similar sounding offers just phrased differently. These are OK if nothing else more interesting is around but you can often find bonuses that are for the same amount but lower deposit. Meaning you can get the same bonus (or more) but with lower risk.
- Double Odds / 100% Profit Boost – A relatively new kind of offer that has cropped up recently. These are basically the same as a 100% match or matched free bet in terms of value, but the maximum seems to be low at around the £10 mark. Fine if you were going to sign up anyway but not worth shouting from the rooftops about.
Everything Changes for the Grand National…
As one of the biggest betting events of the year, you’d think that the bookies would go crazy with offers for the Grand National. But the opposite is actually true and most betting sites either pause or reduce how generous their bonuses are over the Grand National weekend. So a bookie who normally offers £20 in free bets will often cut it to just £5. Or offer nothing at all!
The reason for this is that the ‘quality’ of accounts the bookmakers acquire with their offers over the grand national is much lower than the accounts they get throughout the year. Or to put it another way, if your Aunt Nora who has never placed a bet in her life signs up on Grand National day, chances are that bet is the only one she’s going to make. It’s unlikely that she’ll keep coming back every Saturday to place a weekly acca on the football.
The converse is also true for special events when the offers are boosted. The theory here is that at key times the accounts that sign up are more likely to keep betting – so someone signing up at the start of the Premier League season through a special football promotion is more likely to keep betting throughout the year. And because bookies need turnover to make a profit, it’s the accounts that keep on betting that are going to boost their bottom line.