How Do Free Bets Work?

You've heard of sportsbooks promote free bets and bonuses, but how do they actually work and how can you redeem one?
Published: April 28, 2021 - Estimated Read Time: 3 minutes

How Free Bets Work

When it comes to betting on your favorite sports, there's nothing like having risk-free money to wager with. Better still, the concept of getting free bets is by no means too good to be true. Yes, that's right, reputable US sportsbooks regularly dish out free bets to new and existing customers, giving you a chance to bet without risking your own money.

Within this guide, we'll cover the different types of free bets available, including no deposit bonuses, what makes a free bet "risk free" and how to understand any wagering requirements attached to your free bet offers.


What Are Free Bet Offers?

They say there is no such thing as a free lunch, but free bet promotions are deemed the "free lunch" of the online sports betting industry. Licensed sportsbooks will use free bet offers to incentivise bettors to sign up and use their platforms. In some cases, new customers won't even need to make a real-money deposit to get an offer. These are known within the industry as no deposit bonuses.

The online sports betting industry is becoming big business once again across the US. Sportsbooks are competing with dozens, if not hundreds, of operators for your custom. Free bet promotions are designed to encourage new customers to remain loyal to their chosen sportsbook.

For sportsbooks, it makes sound business sense to give new sign-ups $20 in free bets upon registration if they successfully retain them for several years of betting. From a bettor's perspective, these free bet bonuses can also be used to boost your long-term betting bankroll too.

There is a subtle difference between betting with the biggest no deposit bonuses and your own money. When a free bet wins, your sportsbook will only give you the profit from the wager and not the stake. This is known in the industry as a Stake Not Returned (SNR) free bet. Whereas your successful real money bets will see your profit and stake returned to your account.

View our Free bets page here, we break down the best offers available from every legal sportsbook in your state.


Types of Free Bets

There are three common free bet types that licensed US sportsbooks tend to use to incentivise new sign-ups and reward loyal, existing bettors:

No Deposit Bonus

No deposit bonuses are deemed the "holy grail" of free bet promotions in the world of online sports betting. Many of the leading US sportsbooks listed on OddsChecker will dish out no deposit bonus codes for new customers to use upon registration. Once your new accounts are activated, the codes trigger no deposit bonuses, with free bets present in your betting accounts without having to deposit your own money.

There are some restrictions in the terms and conditions of the best no deposit bonuses. These include limits on the odds you can bet on, with some sportsbooks restricting no deposit bonus wagers to odds of +100 and above.

Sign Up Bonuses

Sign up bonuses will often differ from no deposit bonus promotions. Although sign up bonuses are also designed to secure new custom, they will typically require bettors to place an initial wager in their betting markets to activate free bets. Elsewhere on the OddsChecker website you will often see terms such as "Bet $10, Get $20" - these are the kind of terms and conditions attached to a sign-up bonus.

There is usually a time limit attached to using your free bets after placing your qualifying bet. As with the biggest no deposit bonuses, free bets from sign up bonuses usually have minimum odds for use with pre-game or live bets. If your chosen sportsbook has a cash-out facility, your free bets cannot be cashed out early either.

Deposit Bonus

Deposit bonuses can be awarded to new and existing customers alike. For new customers, these promotions are often described as matched deposit bonuses. Many US sportsbooks now offer matched deposit bonuses whereby they commit to matching your initial real-money deposit in bonus money that can be used as free bets.

For instance, a sportsbook offering a 100% matched deposit bonus up to $200 will be prepared to match any real-money deposit up to a maximum of $200. If you deposit $200 of your own money, you can double your bankroll with an extra $200 in bonus funds. Bear in mind that all bonus funds attached to matched deposit bonuses carry wagering requirements - more on these shortly.

Deposit bonuses can also reward existing, loyal customers at licensed US sportsbooks. These are known as reload bonuses, incentivizing bettors to "reload" their accounts with another real-money deposit to receive a percentage of their deposit in bonus funds on top.


What Are Risk Free Bets?

An alternative type of free bet offered by some US sportsbooks is a risk-free bet. These are sometimes the headline promotion of a sign-up bonus, requiring new customers to make their own real-money bet. However, if that real-money wager loses, they receive their stake back in the form of a free bet.

It's worth noting that the free bet is a SNR bet, so you'll only receive the winnings from any successful free bet. The bet will often have to be placed at odds of +100 or higher too.

An example below of a risk free bet on our Free Bets page:

BetMGM Risk Free Bet Offer

Wagering Requirements?

It's always important to read the small print of any free bets you receive from a sportsbook. 99% of all free bet promotions will have wagering requirements attached. A wagering requirement is the amount of money you must wager with your chosen sportsbook before the bonus funds can be withdrawn as real money into your bank account or e-wallet.

If a $20 free bet has a wagering requirement of 30x attached, you will need to wager $600 ($20 x 30) before the winnings from your bonus bets can be withdrawn. If you fail to meet these requirements your bonus money will never be converted into real money. Industry standard wagering requirements tend to range between 20x and 50x. If you are considering a free bet promotion that carries wagering requirements higher than this, it's probably not worth the effort.


How to Use Your Free Bets

There are various ways you can use your free bets to your advantage as a sports bettor. Of course, you can use it to maximize your betting bankroll. Alternatively, you could look to use your free bets as a hedge on an open bet. If you have already bet on Team A to win a match, you could use your free bet to back Team B.

If you like the idea of using free bets to your advantage in the sports betting markets, we've put together a step-by-step guide to help you on your way:

  • Locate your chosen free bet bonus Choose from our comprehensive list of free bets promotions and click the "Claim Offer" button.
  • Create your new account or reload your account Set up your new betting account with your chosen sportsbook to activate your bonus or make another real-money deposit with your existing sportsbook to trigger your reload bonus.
  • Use your free bets in your sportsbook's betslip To use your free bet, just add selections to your betslip as normal. The betslip will include a toggle that allows you to use any available free bets before hitting that all important "Place Bet" button.
  • Comply with the wagering requirements Try your best to meet the wagering requirements attached to your bonus funds. Make savvy bets to clear your wagering requirements more easily.
  • Withdraw your bonus winnings as cash

Clear your wagering requirements and withdraw your bonus winnings as real money to enjoy!

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