When you first join virtually any online bookmaker, the chances are that you will be eligible to claim some form of free bet or offer. In addition to the main welcome promotions, many sites also have a good selection of freebies for existing customers too. These free bets are a great way to try a new site out and give you a chance to land some winners.
So, if you want to know more about free bets then just read on, because we are going to cover every aspect of these offers to make sure you know exactly how to use them to your advantage and what to look out for. You can claim some of the best free bets available right now below, but if you are a total novice when it comes to betting then we strongly suggest you get up to speed first to avoid disappointment.
Best Free Football Bets in 2022
How Do Free Bets Work?
Football is the planet’s most popular sport and the Premier League alone has been broadcast in 188 out of the 193 nations officially recognised by the UN. The final of the Champions League is routinely watched by well over 300 million people and the FIFA World Cup final in 2018 saw a peak audience of over 500m, with more than 1.1bn watching at least some of it. Football is indeed pretty popular then.
That popularity extends to betting on the Beautiful Game and football is the sport that is bet on more than any other. Football, like life, is unpredictable and whether it is Leicester defying odds of 5,000/1 to win the Premier League, the World Cup being held in the desert in December or Freddo chocolate bars hitting 30p, who can ever really be sure what is going to happen next?
This unpredictability is part of the reason we love football so much but it can sometimes make betting on it rather tricky. Whether it’s a team from League 2 upsetting the odds in the FA Cup against a Premier League big boy; Paris Saint-Germain deciding that the one time you bet on them is the perfect time to lose at home against some French club you haven’t even heard of; or a match that has 3-3 goalfest written all over it ending 0-0, beating the bookies is far from easy.
If you have never been to an online bookmaker, or even if you have, you may be completely baffled by the idea of a free bet. Whilst they have the odds, technology and experience in their favour, most, if not all of them, are at least kind enough to throw us punters a bit of a helping hand however. There is, as the old saying goes, no such thing as a free lunch, so why would bookmakers be giving away free bets and how does it all work? Let’s take a look at the basics.
Different Types Of Free Bet Offer
In this piece, when we say “football free bet”, we are not really talking about just free bets in the traditional sense of the word. Instead and rather more all-encompassing, we are talking about all the different types of free bets, enhanced odds, bonus offers, money back deals and so on that bookmakers offer to both new and existing customers. Each of these works in slightly different ways, though in one sense the underlying principle is the same.
The first type of offer we will look at is the most common one, hence why many people generally refer to all promotions as free bets. Free bets, bet credits, bonus funds or any other name you might see used at different sites, could also be further broken down into different sub-categories but for now we shall consider them as a whole.
The basic premise with this type of offer is that if you make a deposit, and usually a bet as well, with a bookie, they will give you your normal bet (the one you effectively “bought” with your own funds) but they will also give you an additional, so-called “free” bet. Over the years there has been some debate about whether these could, or should, be called free bets but for now at least the powers that be seem happy with such a label.
In truth, “buy one get one free” (BOGOF) might be a more accurate description because you do typically have to stake your own money first in order to claim the extra freebie. In the past truly free, no deposit free bets were not entirely uncommon. These do crop up from time to time and are certainly well worth looking out for because they are 100% free. You may need to add deposit details to the site but no money will be taken, you will simply be given bonus funds to bet with. If you lose you can walk away without having put any of your cash on the line, whilst if you win you can also walk away, but this time with a few extra quid in your pocket.
Nowadays such promotions are rare, though they are slightly more common with online casinos. Freebies such as these, as and when they are offered, tend to be for very small amounts, typically £5 and rarely, if ever, for more than £10. In addition, before you can withdraw the winnings from the initial no deposit free bet you may need to wager them on another bet or meet some other similar terms.
It is far more common for the offer to entail you placing a bet with your own funds in order to then claim an extra free bet on top. Having said that such deals are more akin to BOGOF promos, they are, in fact, frequently far better than that and may amount to buying one and getting two, three, four, five or even more free.
By that we mean that offers such as bet £5 and get £20 free, or bet £10 and get £30 free tend to be the norm. From time to time, you may even see more generous offers, such as bet £10 get £50 in free bets or bet credits, or even bet £10 and get £70 free. The more generous promos tend to not just be for sports betting though, and may, for example, include a mix of normal free bets, bets that can only be used on accumulators, perhaps some in-play freebies and occasionally some form of casino bonus too.
Nonetheless, deals like this are certainly very generous and could give you extra spending power for a relatively small outlay. They give you a chance of leaving the bookie with more cash than you started with and even if you don’t, they certainly give you more bang for your buck than you would have otherwise enjoyed.
We will talk about terms and conditions in more detail later but as with almost everything in life, there is, of course, small print. The Ts and Cs of these betting offers are not designed to catch you out but it still pays to check them, at least the key ones which should appear alongside any banner or ad you see for such a freebie. These will tell you basics such as how much you need to bet in order to get a certain amount free, whether or not minimum odds apply, whether or not the bet must be a certain type or place in a certain market and other important information.
Another form of common welcome offer is a percentage boost on whatever your first deposit and/or bet is. Such promos might be advertised as “Get 100% extra free up to £50”, “200% bonus up to £100” or whatever the terms of the deal might be. Broadly speaking these promotions are just free bets by another name. After all, 100% up to £50 could be exactly the same as “Bet £50, get a £50 free bet”, depending on the exact terms of the offer.
Broadly speaking though such percentage boosts tend to offer a larger bonus in terms of the monetary equivalent value but a smaller percentage of your initial deposit. For example, whilst the free bets we detailed above may sometimes give freebies up to 700% of the initial deposit or bet, percentage boosts are far more likely to be in the 50% to 200% range.
In addition, these deals are more likely to be structured as bonus funds rather than free bets. There are no set definitions for most of the language used around these offers, so you will, as noted above, need to take a quick glance at the terms of any promo to make sure you understand them correctly. However, in general, the key difference between free bets and bonus funds is often that the former are stake not returned free bets, whilst those classified as the latter are far more likely to be stake returned. In addition, free bets usually need wagering just once, whilst bonus funds may have higher wagering requirements, perhaps of three, five or even seven times the value of the bonus itself.
Enhanced Odds Offers
The landscape of football free bets and offers has changed numerous times over the years. By this, we mean that promotions come and go and whilst one year a particular type of promotion might be all the rage, the next year most sites might be offering something totally different. These changes are down to a number of factors, chiefly trends and fashion, bookies trying to stand out from one another and offer something different and, increasingly in recent times, changes to legislation and regulation.
A while ago it looked like free bets might be banned entirely, whilst there was also a suggestion that bookies might have to pay tax on free bets that they did offer. This may be the reason that many of the top football bookmakers began offering enhanced odds promotions, rather than free bets.
These deals allow new customers to make their first bet at inflated odds. As ever, there are terms attached, so you can’t just add Liverpool to beat Norwich at 100/1 to your betting slip and place £100 on it… sadly. Some promotions gave you triple the odds on any bet of your choice but more typically promotions were released for big televised games and might see an even money favourite boosted to 30/1. Back in the early days, there was even an offer for Brazil to wear yellow shirts priced at massive odds of 50/1, which was essentially a giveaway, though we don’t really see such generous deals now.
However the offer is structured, be it a 4/6 shot at 20/1 or a 4/1 outsider offered at 100/1, the enhanced odds far outstrip any normal odds boost that you might see for existing customers. If you decide that you like an offer, the two main points to check are how much you can bet at the enhanced odds offer price, and whether winnings are credited to you as cash or free bets.
The maximum stake is usually either £1, £5 or, far less common recently, £10, often with the higher stakes allowed when the odds are shorter. Increasingly, the value of the returns that relate to the normal odds is paid as cash (and thus can be withdrawn if you want), whilst the extra winnings created by the enhanced odds are paid as free bets. Even so, these offers can be very helpful and if you want to have an interest in a game without staking much cash, the £1 enhanced odds promos are especially useful.
Money Back Deals (As a free Bet)
Money back deals come in a wide range of styles and often relate to existing customers, something we will look at in more detail shortly. With regards to such promos for new customers, they are really a variation, often an inferior one, on free bets.
This is because the “money” back is often actually a free bet, rather than fully withdrawable cash but unlike a free bet that is automatically credited (subject to whatever Ts and Cs apply), this will only be added to your account in the event that your initial wager loses.
You might see a promotion like this advertised as “Money back if your first bet loses”. Increasingly, due to stricter regulation from the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), such offers are now more likely to be billed as “Money back as a free bet if your first bet loses”, or “Free bet if your first bet loses” or similar.
The firmer hand of the ASA has also led to more offers actually granting cash back if you lose, as opposed to free bets. Where there are no strings attached, which is now usually the case, these are actually very good offers and are almost akin to the no deposit free bets of old. Whilst it is true that you have to make a deposit and put your cash on the line, given this is refunded in full should you lose, provided you play by the rules outlined by the bookie.
So, whilst we initially said that these money back deals were inferior, in fact this very much depends on whether or not you are genuinely getting money, or whether it is a free bet. In addition, it partly depends on your approach to betting, because if your first bet wins, you would have been better off placing it with a bookie where that would have earned you a free bet. Of course, if your qualifying/first wager loses, you would be better off with the money back deal, but either way, overall, these promotions are still very good value.
Difference Between Stake Returned And Not Returned
If you are unfamiliar with these terms it is important to understand the difference. They are fairly self-explanatory and simple enough once you are familiar with what we are talking about. In recent times almost all offers that are advertised as free bets will be “stake not returned”. This means that once you have qualified for your free bet and then place it, the actual value of your bet, the stake which was free, will not be included with any winnings.
So a normal paid bet of £10 at 2/1 returns £20 winnings, plus your £10 stake, so £30 in total. However, if that was a £10 free bet, you would not normally get the value of the stake back, so your returns would just be £20. You only receive any money over and above the value of the free bet stake.
In contrast, many offers that are described as bonus funds or similar, will be “stake returned”. So if the deal requires a £100 deposit to claim a £100 bonus, you will see £200 in your account (typically with £100 marked as bonus funds). These promotions, as noted, will detail in the conditions of the promo that you must wager a certain amount before you can withdraw the bonus as cash. This is typically described as the deposit (or sometimes deposit and bonus value) times a certain amount.
So, if you took advantage of a 100% bonus up to £100, you would need to deposit £100 to claim the maximum value of the promo. If the terms required wagering of five times the bonus, you would have to wager £500 in total before withdrawing the money. However, each time you make a bet to count towards this rollover (the terms “rollover” and “wagering” are often used interchangeably in this context) you will receive the full value of the winnings, including the initial stake.
Can You Bet On Whatever You Want With Free Bets?
In general you can bet on whatever you like, though as noted, some free bets may be specific to in-play games, accumulators or specific markets. Another key point to be aware of is that many free bets, and in particular any wagers that you have to place in order to qualify for the freebie itself, often have minimum odds requirements. Aside from these fairly obvious points, which will be found among the key terms alongside any ads for the offer, you can usually bet on whatever you like.
Certainly, unless the “headline” for the free bet or the key terms underneath highlight a specific exclusion you can normally assume that both the qualifying free bet and the free bet itself can be used for anything. That means any sport, including of course football, and any market, though to be on the safe side we would also recommend checking the full terms and conditions for any excluded markets (of which more in the section about Ts and Cs).
However, just because you can use the free bet on anything, does not mean that you should. There are certainly some football betting markets that we would rule out in general for a range of reasons but chiefly because they increase the chance that you might miss out on your free bet. Once again, we will consider this in more detail when we explain about terms and conditions to be aware of, but the following markets are not ones we would recommend using unless you really have to or want to, or are at least aware of the best way to go about it:
- Goalscorer markets – betting on the first goalscorer market before the teams are announced is especially risky as if your player does not start the bet may well be voided and you could lose the free bet. The same risk applies to varying degrees with the other main options, anytime goalscorer and last goalscorer, in this market
- Draw no bet – Draw no bet (DNB) is a popular football market to hedge your bets as when you back a team to win, if they only draw you get your stake back. The market is “no bet” and is essentially void. This is fine with real cash but with a free bet there is a very good chance your freebie will simply be lost
- Asian handicaps – many free bets exclude Asian handicaps but if you can place them, make sure you do not do so on a line/handicap that allows for a full or part “push” (where the handicap means the scores are level but the draw was not an offered market, the result is a push, akin to a void). Once again, with real cash this is fine but with a free bet you might have lost your chance to use it
- Long-term markets – long-term outrights and ante post bets may or may not be eligible for free bets. If they are make sure they will not see you fall foul of any time limits around the free bet. Even if they are technically okay we would not advise using them as they tie up your freebie for too long and whilst it should be fine, there is a chance that something might go wrong
- Be Weather Wary – if the weather causes a game you have bet on to be postponed, cancelled or abandoned, there is, once again, a risk your free bet will be voided and not returned. The risk is highest with non-league games, lower league games and especially at smaller grounds in Scotland. If extreme weather is forecast, maybe pick another game for your free bet
- Non-football markets – we are a football betting site but we know lots of football fans also love other sports. There are many markets in different sports that we would recommend avoiding. In tennis, backing a player that has a history of injury withdrawal could see your bet voided and then lost. Indeed any match featuring such a player, or one where there is rumoured to be an injury, is best avoided. Equally in horse racing, placing a bet well before the off, especially if there are doubts about a horse, either with regards injury or the going, is inadvisable. In any other sports, the same applies with regards DNB, Asian handicaps and even things like first tryscorer in rugby. In short, any market that frequently sees bets voided is not a wise choice for using a free bet
Free Bet Terms and Conditions to Note
We have touched on the terms and conditions of offers several times but now let us look in more detail at what things in particular you should be looking out for. We must reemphasise that online football betting sites are not trying to catch you out and the terms are, for the most part, simple, easy to follow and fair. This has perhaps not always been the case but once again, stricter regulation means there is now very little for punters to be too worried about, especially at the top-class football bookies we work with.
- Eligibility – the very first thing to check is whether you can claim the promotion in the first place. Assuming you are in the UK or Ireland and aged 18 or over you have usually passed the biggest test, assuming you are looking at a free bet on this site. Other things to be careful about include whether you have an account with the site already, or one of their partner sites (this is sometimes allowed but sometimes not) and also whether there are restrictions about people from the same household or IP address
- Type of offer – once you know you are able to claim the promo, the first point of call is to understand the basic mechanics of the deal. This should be detailed in the main advertising strapline but a quick check of the main terms will leave you in no doubt. Is it a free bet, cash back, free bet if you lose, bonus boost, enhanced odds offer or what?
- Qualifying stake – again, this information should be very clear but it is vital that you know how much you need to bet. This may be a fixed amount to claim the offer, or alternatively a certain minimum you have to deposit or bet in order to be eligible for anything or, lastly, an amount required to claim the maximum available freebie.
- Deposit method – before all that you’ll need to add funds to your account. Note that many offers are only available for specific deposit methods, or, more frequently, exclude certain ways of funding your account. In general debit cards deposits would normally be accepted
- Time limits – you may have to claim the offer within a certain period of joining, whilst time limits may also apply to when you place the free bet, complete any wagering or rollover, or when bets have to settle by
- Markets, sports, bet types – recognising what type of bet the offer is applicable to should be easy enough, be that any normal wager, ante-post bets only, in-play punts, accas or anything else. However, specific market exclusions may only be shown in the full Ts and Cs. Note that such information rarely stretches to too many words so is worth checking, with some bookies banning Asian handicaps and certain other markets
- What happens if a free bet is void – most sites will state that if your selection with a free bet is voided you will lose the freebie. That’s why we recommend choosing your market carefully. That said, if you are unlucky and something unforeseen means your pick is rendered void, if you contact the bookmaker’s customer service staff and ask nicely they may be able to manually reinstate your free bet
- Wagering requirements – some bonus offers, especially those that are essentially stake returned free bets, will often have wagering requirements before you can withdraw. So your 100% bonus up to £100 isn’t just cash that you can take out. Instead, you may have to bet the deposit amount, and sometimes the bonus value as well, a certain number of times, only being able to withdraw once the rollover is complete
- Cash or free bets – whether you are claiming an enhanced odds offer or making a wager with bonus funds or a free bet, it is vital to know if the returns will be in cash, free bets, bonus funds or anything else. In addition, understanding whether the free bet is stake returned or not is very important
Are Offers Only For New Customers?
Like in many walks of commercial life, bookies tend to reserve their best offers and promotions for new customers. The sorts of promos we have spoken about so far are almost always for people yet to join and are a nice welcome bonus. However, there are still loads of freebies, offers and deals for existing customers too. These are rarely as generous but the good news is that you can typically claim them multiple times, with the best football betting sites often having promotions that can be claimed on almost every game.
The following list does not cover every single type of free bet or offer out there… but we’ve given it our best shot!
- Free bet clubs – many sites offer regular free bets to loyal customers who make frequent bets. For example, a free bet club might reward you with a freebie at the weekend if you make a specified number of bets during the week, or you might get one for every five or ten bets you make with your own cash. These rewards are usually relatively small, perhaps £5 or £10 per week
- Extra free bets – often the top footy betting sites around offer extra free bets if you make a specific paid bet. An example might be to bet £10 or more on the first goalscorer in a game to get a £5 free bet to use on the match in-play
- Ad hoc free bets – a number of bookies will simply, and rather generously, stick a free bet in your account from time to time. Such promos will be invitation-only and you might, for example, get an email saying you have a £5 bet to use on the weekend’s football
- Odds boosts – odds boosts are smaller than the enhanced odds welcome offers we have discussed and might increase a favourite in a game from 6/4 to 2/1, for example, usually with a maximum stake of between £10 and £50.
- Money back deals – many sites offer money back, sometimes as a free bet, sometimes as cash, based on a certain situation. For example the offer might give you your losing stake back on correct score bets if there is a red card, or a particular player scores
- Early payout – some bookies have excellent promotions available on many of the biggest games of football that will pay out early under certain circumstances. This might be based on a team having a two-goal lead or it could be once the game reaches the 90th minute. In this situation the bookie will pay out on both results – the full-time one and also according to their promo
- Acca insurance – tired of one leg letting your Saturday acca down? With acca insurance you can sometimes get your stake back (either as cash or a free bet) if just one pick loses. Usually there is a minimum number of legs needed, possibly minimum odds and also a maximum stake size
- Acca bonuses – punters like accas and so do the bookies. Whilst you can in theory win big from very small stakes, the reality is that the profit margin on these bets is big for the bookmaker. On the plus side, this means sites offer some excellent acca-based promos and as well as acca insurance, you may see some sites boosting your payout. Usually the more legs you include, the bigger the bonus, with some paying double – or even more – the standard winnings.
- Games and competitions – many bookies run competitions, prize draws and interactive games from time to time that reward customers with anything from a small odds boost right up to tickets for a huge game like the World Cup Final. Entry is often free, though sometimes it may be necessary to make a bet in order to participate
- Prediction games – several football sites offer prediction games, where you might have to get the correct score or result in a certain number of games, or possibly select a given number of matches that will see a specific number of goals. Prizes can be huge, going up to a massive eight figures for the very biggest, usually tied to events like the Euros or the World Cup
Why Do Bookies Offer Free Bets?
The many and varied free bets and offers provided by our favourite bookies are essentially a cost to the sites themselves and as a point of fact, give punters additional chances of leaving with a return. They are no guarantee but if you only ever took advantage of the most generous welcome offers, over time you would expect to get something back. Why, then, do bookies offer such bountiful freebies?
Bookies are certainly not charitable organisations and aim to make hefty returns for their shareholders, it is safe to say they make substantial profits. So where do free bets and other bookies’ offers fit into this picture? Well, essentially welcome offers are designed to attract new customers and are fundamentally relatively low-cost marketing tactics. Bookmakers accept that some punters will simply take the main freebie and then never bet with them again but they have to have enough faith in the quality of their site to hope and even expect that many more will decide to stay and become regular users.
It only takes a few players who came for the free bet to decide they want to use the bookie as their main online betting option to more than pay for many free bets. What’s more, compared to the multimillion-pound sponsorship deals betting sites strike with football teams, the money lost to customers whose free bets win really is small change.
Sites also use their offers to obtain publicity in a more general sense, with the biggest, best and most creative promotions gaining a lot of coverage on social media and among friends. Once again, such advertising is very good value when compared to paying Jose Mourinho or whoever else to star in your TV ad and it can create buzz around a brand.