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.
In the table below you will find a list of the best bonuses currently available – all of these offers are good, but some are better than others. Most of the offers we list are in the form of a free bet, or some variation thereof, but there are usually a couple of deposit bonuses mixed in as well. The difference between these types of offer is explained later on in the page.
It is also important to note that all of the offers listed in the table are for new customers only – known as introductory or sign up offers. If you already have an account with the bookie but have never bet in the sportsbook section of the site (for example, if 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 2024
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 ‘no‘. We also wouldn’t suggest you hold your breath waiting for them. This article was first written in 2014 and it’s currently 2024 and not much has changed.
Whilst you won’t fine no deposit free bets, if you’re willing to venture over into the casino section of a bookies you may well find yourself some no deposit offers. These are most commonly in the form of free spins which are often added either upon registration or after you’ve added a payment method or verified your ID some other way.
These kinds of offers normally come with wagering requirements attached to anything you win from the spins, but not a bad deal if you’ve not had to spend anything to get them. Assuming you’re a fan of the one arm bandits, that is.
Betting Offers Explained
On the face of it, many offers seem pretty similar, however many can be quite deceptive and you need to figure out the true value of a offer to be able to adequately compare two bookies.
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, a Bonus or Something Else?
The first thing to look at is what type of offer it is. There are generally two main kinds of promotion that you’ll come across – 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 win is yours. And if you lose, well, you lose. Free bets are usually issued after you have deposited and placed a bet with your own money, with some sites crediting you once you’ve placed the bet and others requiring your qualifying bet to settle first.
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 bonus 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).
Something Else – We’ve seen all kinds of weird and wonderful promotions over the years, from enhanced odds through to bet refunds and even non-betting perks such as a free football shirt. We’ll try to cover as much as we can in the rest of the article, but sometimes an offer pops up that even we haven’t heard of.
Is The Free Bet Stake Returned?
As mentioned above, having the free bet paid out along with your winnings increases 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 above (£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 return, 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 Do You Need to Do 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. For example, you may find that you can claim a £20 free bet by signing up and betting £5.
- 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.
- 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 it requires less of your own funds (£200 vs £1000).
- “Money Back” Bets – Some players find money back bets as a little bit deceptive as they aren’t really as they sound. This 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. Some sites give you the value of your bet in cash, but it’s more common for it to be a free bet.
- 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 second chance 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.
What Counts as a New Customer?
As mention in our intro, the promotions found on this page are perks for new customers. They are often referred to as betting sign up offers because you often only get the when you first sign up. You can also only claim them once, and if there are multiple different types of offer to choose from then you’ll normally need to pick your favourite and claim that as you won’t have the option to come back and claim the others.
But what exactly is a new customer for this context? As silly as it sounds, it’s not often as clear cut as you’d think as there are times when you can claim even though you already have an account. And other times you don’t have an account but you’re still not eligible for the welcome bonus.
The Brand New Customer
If you’ve never even heard of the bookie before, live alone and are yet to place your first bet then it’s a pretty good chance that you will be a new customer. So if you fit this description then you don’t really need to worry too much.
The Not So New Customers
There are a couple of weird quirks that sometimes hinder your ability to claim a bonus. These don’t happen all the time and are more commonly for people who have been around the online betting block a few times, or who live with someone who has.
- The Old Customer – This is a scenario that trips up more people than you’d think. Some people literally forget they have an account with a betting site and then open another one. Or sometimes the account is closed for inactivity and you’re required to reopen one to be able to bet again. In this scenario you normally aren’t eligible for the sign up bonus. Sometimes because of automated systems the bonus is added automatically but later removed after they find out that you had previously held an account.
- The Customer With Accounts At Every Bookies – Sometimes you might have an existing account and not even realise it. There’s a scenario where a brand rebrands or closes down and sells their account base to a rival site. This way you could find yourself with an account that you didn’t realise you had. For example, when BlueSq closed down all of the accounts became Betfair accounts, and when Bet Bright closed, their accounts were transferred over to 888. In the current days of GDPR this is unlikely to happen without you being notified, but emails can get missed or ignored so it can happen.
- The Partner’s New Customer – An annoyance for a lot of people is the one per household rule. Implemented largely to stop people signing up again under their other half’s name, it does affect some legitimate sign ups as well. With this rule, some betting sites only allow one person per address or IP address to claim a sign up bonus. This means that if your wife already has an account with a bookie, you might not be able to claim an introductory offer.
Bookies Sometimes Offer Sign Up Offers to Existing Accounts (But Not Always)
Where the water becomes a little murky is when you already hold an account but for a different product. Many betting sites offer a range of ways to bet and often include an online casino, bingo games, poker room, and even things like financial and lottery betting. If you’ve played in a sites casino for years but never placed a sports bet before, do you count as a new customer from the perspective of the free bet?
The answer, unfortunately, is a bit of a cop out as “it depends”. Some sites treat their welcome bonuses on a product by product basis, meaning that if you have a casino account and go to bet in the sportsbook you can claim the free bet. And then if you want to go and play some bingo you can claim the bingo welcome bonus as well.
Other sites consider sign up offers to be one and done, meaning that as soon as you’ve joined and claimed an offer you’re no longer eligible for any other introductory offers. For these kinds of sites you might want to have a look around the different products to see which is the best offer to claim, assuming you’re planning on betting or playing on multiple parts of the site – obviously don’t go and claim a bingo offer just because it’s bigger if you have no intention of playing bingo.