What is the difference between free bets and bonuses?

What is the difference between free bets and bonuses?

If you're new to matched betting then you may be unsure what the difference is between free bets and bonuses. Both are commonly offered by bookmakers and it's important to understand what each of the are and how they work in order to take full advantage of them.

In this article, we'll be taking a look at both free bets and bonuses and how you can use them with matched betting to make a profit.

Free Bets

Free bets are available every day from a number of bookmakers and you are usually required to place a bet with your own money first in order to receive them. Bookmakers give free bets to both new and existing customers to encourage them to keep betting at their website rather than another bookmakers.

Placing a bet with a free bet is not the same as placing a bet with your own cash. The main difference is that with free bets, the stake is not included in any returns.

For example:

If you placed a £10 cash bet at odds of 3/1 (4.0) and it won, you would receive back £40 (£30 profit + your original £10 stake).

However, if you placed a £10 free bet at the same odds, you would only receive back £30 if it won as the free bet stake is not returned.

This is important to remember when matched betting as we need to factor this in when calculating the ideal lay stakes to use. Thankfully, matched betting calculators have a 'Free Bet' setting which will take the fact that he stake is not returned into consideration when determining the ideal lay stakes.


Bonuses are less common than free bets but some bookmakers do offer them in promotions, usually for new customers.

Unlike with free bets, bonuses are returned as cash. However, they usually come with wagering requirements to ensure that you can't simply withdraw the bonus straight away. This means that you will have to wager a certain amount before your bonus is converted into cash.

For example, if you received a £10 bonus from a bookmaker which must be wagered x5, you would have to place £50 worth of bets before you could withdraw your bonus and any winnings generated from betting with it.


Both free bets and bonuses can be profitable. However, free bets are usually a lot simpler to extract a profit from as they only have to be wagered once whereas bonuses usually have to be wagered multiple times. It is always essential that you read the T&C's for every free bet or bonus offer which you participate in. This is especially true with bonuses as some of them can have very high wagering requirements which may mean that a lot of your money is tied up in bonus funds should your bets placed with the bonus keep winning. There is usually a set time in which you need to complete the wagering requirements with bonuses and so this is very important to take note of as if you don't complete the wagering in time, your bonus funds and winnings could be forfeited which will likely result in an overall loss.


If you'd like to practice calculating the required lay stakes for free bets and bonuses, you can use our free matched betting calculator. There are various settings for different bet types such as bonuses and free bets and it very simple to use. Also, check out our new customer offers section for the latest and best free bet and bonus offers from a number of recommended bookmakers.