Free bets (as well as other types of betting bonuses) are often given to new customers as a perk for signing up. Whilst we don’t base our decisions on which are the best betting sites solely on their free bet offers, they certainly do factor into it and betting smart with your bonuses can often net you a nice extra bit of profit.
In the table below you will find a list of bonuses from great betting sites – all of these offers are good, but some are better than others. Most of the offers we list are in the form of a matched bet, but there are a couple of deposit bonuses mixed in as well (the difference between these is explained below the table).
It is also important to note that all of the offers listed in the table are for new customers only. If you already have an account with the bookie but have never bet in the sportsbook section of the site (eg: you signed up and played in the casino), you are often still able to claim the free bet – but this depends on the site.
Best Introductory Betting Offers For 2021
Do any Bookmakers Offer No Deposit Free Bets?
Over the years we’ve seen the occasional no deposit free bet, but they are incredibly rare. In fact, we can count on one hand the number of sites that have done it, and that’s after losing three fingers in an ill fated game of catch the firework as a kid (editors note: we jest, don’t play with fireworks, kids).
If any crop up we’ll add them here, but currently the answer is a bit fat ‘no‘.
Other Free Bet Offers
In the table above we’ve limited our selection to the best offers currently available from betting sites who also meet our strict criteria for inclusion in our recommended bookmakers section. We’ve intentionally limited this so that you’re not having to wade through a giant list of sites, with some having terrible bonuses.
However, we realise that some people like to move around from bookie to bookie and are specifically looking for a larger list of offers. For these people we’ve included a secondary list of reputable bookies, but for whatever reason don’t make it into the smaller list above.
Hang on a minute, we hear you ask. Why are Vernons even on this second list if they don’t have a bonus? The folks at Netplay (the company that owns Vernons) have decided that instead of running a welcome bonus, they’d rather put their efforts into retention offers. Or to put it another way, by running a larger number of offers that can be claimed by existing customers.
It’s an interesting move and in their defence they do have some promotions that aren’t seen at other bookies. For example, they offer guaranteed money back offers on all four of the Majors and Grand Slam tournaments. Plus promos for darts, snooker and so on. They do also have a casino and bingo room which could have offers (check their site for details of any promotion) so if you’re partial to the slots and also interested in their sports promotions it may be worth claiming that when you sign up.
Free Bets Explained
On the face of it, many bonuses seem equal, however many can be quite deceptive and you need to figure out the true value of a free bet or bonus to be able to adequately compare two bookies offers.
For example, some bookmakers will return the free bet stake to you along with your winnings, whilst others will not. A £25 free bet where the free bet stake is returned is obviously of greater value than a £25 free bet where it isn’t.
Here are the key factors to take into consideration when comparing betting offers:
Is The Offer A Free Bet Or A Bonus?
The first thing to look at is what type of offer it is. There are generally two kinds of promotion – free bets and betting bonuses.
Free Bets – A free bet is given usually as a token or credit which can then be used to place a bet at the betting site. If the bet wins, the profit is yours. And if you lose, well, you lose. Free bets are usually in the form of a matched bet issued after you have deposited and placed a bet with your own money although a couple of less common types also exist including a no deposit free bet (where you get a free bet token just for signing up, no deposit needed) and a no lose bet (where you only receive a free bet if your qualifying bet loses).
Betting Bonus – A betting bonus is given as promotional credit that is added to your betting account. This usually happens right away and you can bet with both your own money and the free money. Most bonuses of this kind require you to place a certain volume of bets before you withdraw the bonus or any winnings from it – this is called the wagering requirement and is relative to the amount of the bonus (eg: 4x the bonus).
Is The Free Bet Stake Returned?
As mentioned above, having the free bet paid out along with your winnings increase the value of the offer. If you have a £10 free bet which wins at odds of 3/1, you would receive £40 if the stake is returned and £30 if it isn’t.
So how does a £40 free bet where the stake isn’t returned compare to a £30 stake where it is? In this situation it all depends on the odds. If you are placing the bet at high enough odds so that the extra stake returns an amount greater than the value of the stake from the free bet where the stake is returned, then you’re better off with the larger free bet. Conversely if you’re betting at relatively short odds, then you’re better off with the extra money from the stake.
Example 1: If you taking the two free bets mentioned in the last paragraph (£40 stake not returned and £30 stake returned) and bet them both at evens, you would receive the following:
- £40 Stake Not-Returned at Evens = £40 (£40 in winnings)
- £30 Stake Returned at Evens = £60 (£30 in winnings + £30 free bet value)
So in this scenario you would receive more money from the bet where the free bet stake is returned.
Example 2: If you take the same two freebies and this time bet them at odds of 3/1, you would receive the following:
- £40 Stake Not-Returned at 3/1 = £120 (£120 in winnings)
- £30 Stake Returned at 3/1 = £120 (£90 in winnings + £30 free bet value)
In this example, both offers have the same value.
Example 3: Again taking both offers and betting them at 4/1, you would receive the following:
- £40 Stake Not-Returned at 4/1 = £160 (£160 in winnings)
- £30 Stake Returned at 4/1 = £150 (£120 in winnings + £30 free bet value)
In this final example you will notice that the higher free bet token now provides a greater profit, even though the stake has not been returned.
Most bog standard matched bets these days are in the stake not-returned format, so in most cases this is a moot point. However, there are still a few kicking around that pay out both the winnings from the free bet as well as the free bet value itself and it’s something to bear in mind.
What Are The Requirements To Claim The Bonus?
The next thing to look at are the requirements to get the bonus. There are quite a few different ways that the betting sites use to establish eligibility – we’ve listed these below in order of preference (best to worst), specifically looking at the value of the offer compared to the trigger requirements.
- No Deposit Free Bets – These are rare and at any one time there are only one or two betting sites offering them. They are one of the best forms of free bet offer as they are given to new customers when they sign up – without needing any kid of deposit. Some of the betting sites may require you to register a debit card to verify your identity and to protect against under age gambling.
- Low Deposit Free Bets – A bridge between no deposit bets and matched bets are low deposit bets. By this we mean low in relation to the value of the bet, rather than low in absolute value – although the amount that these kind of bets are for is usually at the lower end of the scale.
- First Bet Matched – The most normal type of free bet offer is the matched bet. Here you receive a free bet to the same value as the first bet you place with your own money. For example, if you sign up, deposit and bet £25, you would receive a £25 free bet. Sometimes betting sites only offer a free bet at a set value – so you have to deposit and bet £25 or more to get £25. Other betting sites will match the value of your first bet up to a maximum – so if the offer is for a free bet worth up to £50, then you could deposit £10 and get a £10 matched bet. However, we recommend using the full value of any bonus you are offered when possible.
- First Deposit Bonus – These kind of offers can often be as good as a matched bet, depending on the requirements that come attached. Here you receive a bonus amount relative to your initial deposit. For example, you may be able to claim a 100% match on your first deposit worth up to £200. These bonuses and qualifying must then be turned over a specific number of times before they can be withdrawn. Higher match percentages are preferred, with the maximum usually being around 100%. So a 100% match up to £200 is often preferable to a 25% bonus up to £250 as the risk to your own funds is lower (£200 vs £1000).
- No Lose Bets – Some players find no lose bets as a little bit deceptive as they aren’t really as they sound. A no lose bet is a form of matched bet that is only given if your qualifying bet loses. If it wins, you do not receive any free bets. A better name for these might be ‘second chance bets’, which describes them a little more accurately.
- Multiple Qualifying Bets – The least favourable type of betting offer is the one that has requires multiple qualifying bets. For example, you may need to place three £25 bets to receive one free £25 bet. Sometimes these offers may be give in combination with a matched bet – for example, your first £25 bet could be matched right away with a free bet, but then you need to place 4 more bets to receive the second £25 bet. In this scenario, the initial bet should be considered in the ‘first bet matched’ format, and only the subsequent bets are of the lower value. Many sites offer these kind of promotions to increase the amount they can advertise as offering (for example, a £50 free bet basket that is actually one £10 matched bet and then four more £10 bets that each require multiple qualifying bets).
Is There A Wagering Requirement?
We touched on this topic briefly earlier in the page. When looking at bonuses you need to take into account the wagering requirements that are attached to them.
Because deposit bonuses are given upfront, they will all have some kind of wagering requirement. These are usually much lower than the WR you could find at an online casino and good bonuses will have a turnover requirement of less than 5-10x the bonus. The lower the turnover, the better.
Most matched bets don’t have any additional requirements – meaning that whatever you win is yours to keep, however you shouldn’t assume that this is the case as a WR could be attached to your winnings.
For example, one betting site (not featured on this site) offers a no lose bet where the winnings from the bet come with wagering requirements attache. So not only do you need to lose your first bet to receive the bonus, but if the bet wins you then have to turn over your winnings before withdrawing. And, the free bet stake wasn’t even returned with the winnings. Obviously, this is an example of a sub-par bonus.