It is often said that if it sounds too good to be true – it most probably is. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth in the case of bonus bagging. Well, as long as you avoid making a school-boy error that is.
Put simply, bonus bagging is the process of taking advantage of UK bookmaker signup offers.
By placing a due of bets to cover both outcomes of the sporting event in question – you will make a guaranteed risk-free profit. With that said, there’s a lot to learn about bonus bagging before you take the plunge.
In this guide, I explain everything there is to know about bonus bagging from top to bottom.
What is bonus bagging UK?
In a nutshell, bonus bagging allows you to make risk-free profits from the welcome packages that UK betting sites offer. With dozens of online bookmakers fighting for your business, they will typically offer a promotion or bonus of some sort to entice you to open an account.
In its most basic form, this might be a promotion that offers you a free £50 bet once you open an account and deposit £50. Ordinarily, you might be tempted to gamble the free bet. But, by following the core principals of bonus bagging, you can turn that £50 free bet into a risk-free, guaranteed profit.
Although I explain the fundamentals in a lot more detail shortly, the risk-free element comes into play because you will be betting on all potential outcomes of the sporting event.
- You might place your £50 free bet on Roger Federer beating Rafael Nadal in the final of Wimbledon.
- Then, on a betting exchange like Betfair, you will instead bet on Rafael Nadal beating Roger Federer
In turn, you have two separate bets on the same match – meaning there is a conflict of interest. However, this is how bonus bagging works. That is to say, it doesn’t matter who wins out of Federer or Nadal – the outcome is the same. That outcome is that you will make a risk-free profit from your £50 free bet.
Crucially, with so many UK betting sites now offering new customers a free bet for signing up, you can take advantage of each and every offer. In turn, this allows you to make at least a few hundred pounds in a short amount of time – without you needing to risk a penny.
Learn the basics of backing and laying
One of the main things preventing people in the UK from giving bonus bagging a try is the concept of ‘backing’ and laying’. However, once you understand the basics, you will see that it is not complicated at all.
- A back bet simply means that you are speculating on the betting selection winning. For example, a back bet on Arsenal beating Chelsea means that you think Arsenal will win the respective football match against Chelsea.
- A lay bet means that you think the selection will lose. Using the same example as above, this means by laying Arsenal, you are hoping for a draw or a Chelsea win.
Now, every time you engage in bonus bagging with an online bookmaker, you will always need to place both a back bet and a lay bet. This means that you are covering all potential outcomes of the sporting event. In turn, this is how you guarantee yourself a risk-free profit.
An important point to note is that:
- The back bet will always be placed with the bookmaker that you have claimed the free bet from.
- The lay bet will always be placed with a third-party betting exchange – such as Betfair or Smarkets.
To help clear the mist, your two bets might look something like the below:
- You sign up with William Hill for a £50 free bet. You place the £50 free bet on Arsenal beating Chelsea.
- To ensure your bet is risk-free, you then lay Arsenal over at Betfair.
As per the above, if Arsenal did beat Chelsea, your £50 bet at William Hill is successful, so you make a profit. However, you lost your lay bet at Betfair.
On the other hand, if the match ended with a Chelsea win or draw, then your £50 bet at William Hill would have lost. However, your lay bet at Betfair would have won.
Without intending to repeat myself, this once again highlights that bonus bagging is not gambling. On the contrary, you are placing a series of bets on all potential outcomes to ensure that you make a profit irrespective of the result.
Get comfortable with decimal odds
To my knowledge, the UK is the only market globally that uses fractions to display betting odds. For example, 2/1, 3/1, 4/1, and so on. While odds such as the aforementioned are easy to understand, things get a bit complicated when you are looking at fractional odds such as 2/7, 9/4, and 11/2.
This is especially the case when it comes to bonus bagging, as you will be required to find suitable sporting events that allow you to make risk-free profits. In order to do this, the odds offered by the betting site and the third-party exchange need to be as close as possible.
With this in mind, it is absolutely fundamental that you get comfortable with decimal odds. All online betting sites in the UK allow you to switch from fractional to decimal, which is perfect for bonus bagging.
To give you an idea for how this works, check out the box below:
It is important to note that when using the decimal odds system, your returns include the stake. For example, if you bet £10 at odds of 2/1, you would make a profit of £20. However, your total return would be £30, as you get your £10 stake back.
The same odds of 2/1 in decimal form would be 3.0. In turn, a £10 bet would return £30 – as you simply multiply the stake against the odds.
Understand qualifying bets
In most, but not all cases, the betting site that you sign up with will require you to place a ‘qualifying bet’ before you can get your hands on the respective welcome bonus. If they didn’t, it would be just a little too easy for you to generate a profit from the promotion.
As the name implies, the qualifying bet stipulates that you need to gamble a certain amount at minimum odds before the bookmaker credits your bonus.
- Let’s suppose that you signed up for a £100 ‘matched deposit bonus’ with Ladbrokes
- This means that by depositing £100, Ladbrokes will give you an additional £100 in bonus funds
- The terms state that you need to place a qualifying bet at minimum odds of 1.2 (1/5)
- You bet £100 on a horse at 1.5 (1/2). This is higher than 1.2 – so you have met the terms of the qualifying bet stipulation.
- Irrespective of whether the horse wins or not, once the bet is settled Ladbrokes will credit your £100 free bet
You might now be thinking that that bonus bagging isn’t really risk-free. After all, the example highlighted that you need to bet £100 to get the £100 free bet.
However, this isn’t the case at all. This is because you will be using the same backing and laying concept as I discussed earlier. That is to say, it doesn’t matter what happens with the qualifying bet, as you will be covering all potential outcomes.
Qualifying bet will result in a minimal loss
Now, when you go through the motions of backing and laying to meet the terms of the qualifying bet outlined by the bookmaker, you will actually make a very, very small loss.
This is just the nature of the game – as there will always be a slight difference in odds that you get at the bookmaker and the betting exchange.
In most cases, this will never be more than 5% of the free bet amount. With that said, although you will make a loss from your qualifying bet, you will be given a free bet in return. Then, you can turn this free bet into a guaranteed profit.
Let’s look at an example of how this works in practice:
- You open an account with a Paddy Power to get a £50 matched bonus. As such, you deposit £50 into your newly opened account.
- You need to meet minimum odds of 1.5 via the qualifying bet.
- You place your £50 on England beating Scotland in the Rugby at odds at 1.5
- This means that you will make a profit of £25 if the bet comes in. If it doesn’t, you lose £50.
However, we are going to be laying the above bet at Betfair to ensure we keep the bonus bagging exercise risk-free.
- Over at Betfair, you head over to the England vs Scotland market to see what odds are on offer
- The lay odds on England are 1.55
- To ensure both outcomes carry the same monetary loss, our ‘lay stake’ at Betfair is also £50
- However, the amount of money that we need in our account to facilitate the bet is just £27.50
- This is because if the bet loses (meaning England win the Rugby match), we only lose £27.50 as the odds are 1.55
Once the above two bets have been placed, the two potential outcomes are as follows:
- If England wins the game, your £50 back bet at Paddy Power returns £75 (£50 x 1.5). At Betfair, you lost £27.50. So, while you made a profit of £25 at Paddy Power, your loss at Betfair means that overall – you made a loss of £2.50 on your qualifying bet
- If the game ended up as a Scotland win or draw, you would have lost your £50 bet at Paddy Power. However, you would have made a profit of £47.50 at Betfair from your lay bet (£50 profit less 5% Betfair commission). Overall, you made a loss of £2.50 on your qualifying bet
As you can see from the above, it doesn’t matter what the outcome of the match was, as your qualifying bet resulted in a loss of £2.50. But, the good news is that you now have a £50 free bet at your disposal – which we can turn into a guaranteed risk-free profit.
Before I move on, I want to make it clear that you don’t need to worry about calculations on back and lay stakes.
This is because there are heaps of online calculators that will tell you exactly what you need to stake and what the outcome will be based on the odds at both the betting site and Betfair. Just search for ‘Back Lay Calculator’ on Google and you will be inundated with results.
Stake Returned (SR) vs Stake not returned (SNR)
Without intending to confuse you further, I should make it clear that there are two types of sign up bonuses – stake returned (SR) and stake not returned (SNR). On the one hand, the main concept of backing and laying remains constant.
However, the main difference is with regards to the initial bet that you place. Once again, all you need to do is find a suitable back/lay calculator and it will tell you exactly what stakes you need to place on each betting site based on the respective odds.
Crucially, you will just need to make sure that you select the appropriate button on the calculator – which will either be SR or SNR.
- SNR: The most common free bet is that of stake not returned. This means that if your free bet is a winner, you will not get the stake back. Instead, you only get the profit. For example, if a £50 SNR free bet at odds of 3.0 wins, you will only get £100 and not £150. This is because we need to subtract the £50 stake from the overall win (£50 x 3.0 = £150, less £50 stake).
- SR: If the stake is returned on your free bet, this is usually because you need to meet some ‘wagering requirements’ before you can make a withdrawal. I cover this in more detail later. But, the main concept with wagering requirements is that you need to place a certain number of bets before you are eligible to withdraw the bonus funds out of the bookmaker.
As per the above, SNR free bets are actually more attractive, as rarely do they come with any wagering requirements. If you’re not sure whether the free bet is a SR or SNR bonus, check the terms and conditions.
The account opening process
By this stage of my bonus bagging UK guide, you should now have a good understanding of the basics. Next, it’s time to talk about the actual bookmaker account opening process.
Put simply, in order to get the free bet that the online bookmaker is offering, you will first need to register. This will require some basic information from you, such as your name, home address, telephone number, and date of birth.
It is important to clarify that welcome bonuses are available only to those that are yet to open an account with the betting site in question. If you attempt to open more than one account with the view of claiming multiple free bonuses, your account will be suspended by the bookmaker.
To ensure that UK bookmakers comply with anti-money laundering laws, you will be required to go through a KYC (Know Your Customer) process. This simply means that the betting site needs to verify your identity.
All you need to do is provide the bookmaker with a copy of your passport or driver’s license. Additionally, you also need to provide a document that validates your stated address. This can usually be a utility bill, bank account statement, etc.
If you are looking to make the most of bonus bagging – meaning you are going to take advantage of as many free bet offers as you can, then you should have a copy of the above documents saved on your device.
Failing that, add a copy to your email account so that you can quickly and easily bypass the KYC process as soon as you open the account. After all, your ability to make a withdrawal will be hindered until your identity is verified. This is why I would suggest getting it out of the way as quickly as possible.
Deposits and withdrawals
When it comes to funding your betting site account, most platforms allow you to use a debit card. Credit cards are no longer permitted for gambling transactions in the UK, as per a recent Gambling Commission ruling.
Once you enter your card details and determine how much you want to deposit, it should be credited to your betting account instantly – free of charge. Additionally, you might also want to consider using an e-wallet like Paypal. This is both instant and free, much like debit cards.
However, the main advantage with Paypal is that withdrawals are often received back into your e-wallet account on the same day that you make the cash out request at the bookmaker. This allows you to then use the funds to move onto the next bonus bagging promotion.
In contrast, debit card withdrawals usually take 2-3 days to arrive in your bank account, so of course, this will delay things. With that said, you need to read the terms and conditions of the bonus before depositing funds with Paypal. This is because some promotions do not allow e-wallets.
Opening a Betfair account
As I covered earlier, each and every bonus bagging bet that you place will require both a back and lay bet. While the back bet side of things is placed at the bookmaker offering the free bonus, the lay bet needs to be placed at a third-party exchange.
This simply means that the platform facilitates bets on a peer-to-peer basis, so back bets are covered by those laying – and visa-versa.
While Smarkets is growing in popularity, Betfair dominates this space by a country mile. As such, I would suggest sticking with Betfair for all of your laying needs.
The account opening process at Betfair works much in the same way as that of a traditional online bookmaker. That is to say, you’ll need to provide some personal details and go through a quick KYC process.
Claiming your first free bet: Step-by-step walkthrough
I have presented a lot of information in this guide thus far, so I think it’s best that I now give you a real example of what bonus bagging actually looks like in practice.
For this, I am going to use a deposit bonus currently being offered by William Hill – which is “bet £10 get £30” welcome package. Once again, this means that by depositing and staking £10, you will get a free £30 bet credited to your William Hill account.
Here is the step by step process that you will need to follow:
Step 1: Find promotion and check terms
Before you even think about opening an account with a betting site, you first need to evaluate the promotion in question.
There are plenty of third-party websites out there that publish the latest bookmaker welcome offers, so this should give you a full break down of what’s available. For example, you might consider searching for ‘list of UK betting site bonuses’ or ‘UK bookmaker offers’, etc.
Once you have found a promotion you want to start with, click on the respective link and pause. I say ‘pause’ because this is the stage that you need to check the terms and conditions of the free bet offer.
The good news is that in the vast majority of cases, the betting site will clearly display the key terms that you need to be made aware of. As such, you don’t need to scroll through pages and pages of legal jargon.
The main things that you need to check are as follows:
- What is the actual offer?: Without intending to state the obvious, you need to understand what offer you are actually claiming. In this example, that’s a ‘Bet £10 Get £30’ offer.
- Promo code required?: Check whether or not you need to enter a promo code to get the bonus. In this example, the promo code is ‘P30’. In some cases, if you click on the link of the respective welcome offer, the promo code will be filled in automatically when you register. Most offers do not require a promo code.
- Minimum odds?: What is the minimum odds on the qualifying bet? The lower the better. With the William Hill offer, it’s just 1/2 (1.5).
- Wagering requirements?: Some promotions come with wagering requirements. For example, if this is ‘5x of the bonus amount’ and you claim a £50 bonus, you need gamble at least £250 on the betting site before you can make a withdrawal. More on this later.
- When is the bonus credited?: In most cases, the bonus will be credited once your qualifying bet has been settled. In some cases, the bonus will be credited as soon as you make a deposit.
- Time limit?: You need to check whether the bonus needs to be used within a certain timeframe. This might be 7 days, such as with the William Hill bonus.
Once you have a full grasp of how the bonus bagging offer in question works, you can proceed to open an account.
Step 2: Open account and deposit funds
I have already explained how the account opening process works, as well as how deposits function. Nevertheless, this is a crucial part of the bonus bagging process. It should take no more than 5 minutes to complete.
Step 3: Find a suitable qualifying bet
Once you have funded your newly created betting account, it’s then time to find a suitable bet. This is initially to meet the terms of the qualifying bet, which in turn, will release your free bet.
Now, you will spend a lifetime trying to find a suitable market yourself. After all, you need to find a bet with similar odds at both the bookmaker and Betfair. With this in mind, I would suggest using a website like BonusBagging.co.uk – which offers a free AutoMatcher feature.
This allows you to enter the name of the bookmaker you are claiming the bonus with, and it will then find you a suitable betting market.
As you can see from the screenshot above, after selecting William Hill from the drop-down list, I am presented with heaps of potential markets. Automatically, the list is sorted from the from most to least favourable – in terms of the closeness of the odds.
Now, before you click on a market to get more information, you first need to check the odds. This is because the bet needs to meet the minimum qualifying bet odds stipulated in the terms and conditions of the bonus. To recap, in the case of our William Hill example, the minimum is 1.5 (1/2).
In addition to this, you want to get as close to the minimum odds as possible – as this will minimize the amount you need to deposit into your Betfair account to cover the lay bet. For example, a bet with odds of 1.6 would require a much smaller Betfair deposit than a bet at odds of 4.5.
Nevertheless, I am going to select the second entry on the list – which looks like the below:
As you can see from the above, the suggested bet is on Exeter vs Forest Green – which is a League Two football game. The suggested ‘market’ is BTTS – which stands for Both Teams to Score.
- The back odds at William Hill are 1.85
- The lay odds on Betfair are 1.84
These are great odds are they are very close to one another, meaning we can keep our qualifying bet loss to a minimum.
Once I click on the ‘calculator’ button, this expands the box and then gives us all of the information that we need to act on the bet suggestion.
Fortunately, all of the key data points have already been filled in. This includes the type of bet (qualifying bet), the stake (£10), and the odds (1.85).
In turn, the calculator tells us that on Betfair, we need to enter ‘£10.34’ into the lay box. In turn, this will require a deposit of £8.68 – which is our ‘liability’. In other words, if the lay bet on Betfair goes against us, we will lose £8.68.
Now for the important part – what will the result be once the qualifying bet settles?
Well, as per the calculator above, irrespective of what happens from the bet, we will lose £0.18.
To clarify, one of the following two outcomes will occur from the bet:
- If your £10 back bet on William Hill wins, it will return £18.50. That’s a profit of £8.50 from your £10 stake. However, you will lose the £8.68 liability over at Betfair. All in, this yields an £0.18 loss overall.
- If your £10 back bet on William Hill loses, you will lose £10. However, you will win £9.82 on Betfair (includes the 5% win commission). All in, this yields an £0.18 loss overall.
As soon as William Hill settles the above qualifying bet – which is usually within a couple of minutes of the match finishing, your free bet will be credited. In this example, that’s two x £15 free bets. You can, however, use both £15 bets on the same market, which keeps things efficient.
Step 4: Turn your free bet into a risk-free profit
Now that your free bet has been credited, you can proceed to turn it into a risk-free profit. The good news is that the process is much the same as the qualifying bet example I gave above. All you need to do is adjust the AutoMatcher calculator.
Before I get to that, I should note that the higher the respective odds, the more money you can make from the free bet. For example, opting for a market at 4.0 would return a bigger profit than a market at 1.80.
However, the higher the odds, the more you need to have in your Betfair account to cover the lay bet. As such, a good target is odds of around 2.5-4.0.
With this in mind, I scroll down the list of suggested markets and click on the Hekimoglu Trabzon v Nigde Belediyespor match – which has back odds of 2.5 and lay odds of 2.48. Once again, this is pretty close, meaning we can maximize our risk-free profits.
Once expanding the calculator, I need to change the button from ‘qualifying’ to ‘stake not returned’. This is because as per the William Hill terms, the free bet does not return the stake. I also need to change the stake from £10 to £30 – as we will be using our 2 x £15 free bets in one go.
In doing so, the calculator tells me to place the following bets:
As per the above:
- We are placing our £30 bet on William Hill at odds of 2.50
- Over at Betfair, we are entering £18.52 as our lay, which means the liability is £27.41. Once again, this means we need £27.41 in our Betfair account to cover the bet – as this is the amount that we stand to lose.
In terms of what the potential outcomes will be, check out the image below:
So, our calculator tells us that irrespective of what happens, we will make a guaranteed risk-free profit of £17.59.
- If your £30 back bet on William Hill wins, it will return £45. This is because we staked £30 at odds of 2.50, which totals £75. But, we need to subtract the £30 stake – which leaves us with £45. At Betfair, we would have lost our £27.41 lay bet. This leaves us with an all in profit of £17.59.
- If your £30 back bet on William Hill loses, you will lose nothing – as we used a free bet. However, you will win £17.59 on Betfair (includes the 5% win commission). All in, this yields a total profit of £17.59.
We should also subtract the £0.18 loss that we made from the qualifying bet exercise – so the profit we walk away with is £17.41.
Crucially, although at first glance this might seem like a lot of work to make £17.41, it really isn’t. In fact, once you get comfortable with how bonus bagging works, I would be surprised if it takes you more than 10 minutes per bet.
Step 5: Withdraw money and move onto next free bet
Once you have completed the welcome offer, you are ready to move on to the next one. However, if there is any money in your betting site account, you first need to withdraw it out. This might include proceeds from your qualifying bet and/or the proceeds from the free bet.
If one, or both of the two bets you placed lost at the betting site and won at Betfair, this is much more favourable. This is because you can use the Betfair funds for the next lay bet that you place – instead of needing to make another deposit.
Stake returned and wagering requirements
In the step-by-step walkthrough I gave above, this was based on a stake not returned promotion. In turn, this meant that the offer came with no wagering requirements – so as soon as the free bet winnings were added to our balance, we could withdraw the cash straight out.
However, if the bonus you are claiming is a stake returned promotion, things work slightly differently. Firstly, in most cases, the bonus will be credited to your betting account as soon as you make a deposit. For example, if it’s a 100% matched bonus and you deposit £100, you will start with a balance of £200.
In turn, you can be all-but-certain that there will be wagering requirements attached to the bonus funds. For example, if the wagering target is 4x, you need to gamble 4 times to the bonus amount. In this example, that’s 4 x £100 – so £400.
In other words, you need to place at least £400 worth of bets before you can withdraw any of your balance out. The good news is that you can still use the core principals of backing and laying to keep the entire process risk-free.
On the other hand, you will likely need to place more bets – as you have to cover the wagering requirement. With that said, if one of your bets loses at the bookmaker, you will win over at Betfair.
As such, this reduces the amount of wagering that you need to do, as the money in Betfair is yours to keep and thus – can be withdrawn at any time.
Here’s an example of how a stake returned bonus works – taking into account wagering requirements:
- You claim a 100% matched bonus – stake returned, with a wagering requirement of 4x
- You deposit £100 – so your balance is £200
- This means you need to wager at least £400
- You place a £200 back/lay bet – which yields a loss of £5.50. The back bet wins.
- You place another £200 back/lay – which yields a loss of £6. The back bet wins.
As per the above, you have now placed two separate bets of £200, so you have met the wagering requirements of £400. In turn, your bonus funds are available for withdrawal.
- You deposited £100
- This took your balance to £200
- You lost £5.50 on the first bet
- You lost £6 on the second bet
- This leaves you with an all-in profit of £88.50 (£100 bonus less £5.50 and £6)
Irrespective of whether the back or lay bet won, you would have still made £88.50. The only difference is that some, or all of the funds would be held in your Betfair account as opposed to the bookmaker.
Once again, this is more beneficial anyway, as you can keep the funds in Betfair in preparation for the next bonus bagging exercise.
In summary, bonus bagging is a great way to make a few hundred pounds in a very short period of time. The good news is that by sticking to my back/lay guidelines, the process is 100% risk-free.
In turn, this means that bonus bagging is not gambling – but simply an exercise of covering all potential outcomes to ensure you make a profit irrespective of the result.
However, if you find yourself making a mistake – this is where the risk comes into play. As such, don’t start your bonus bagging journey until you are 100% comfortable with how backing and laying works.
How much do you need for bonus bagging?
You can likely start your bonus bagging journey with just £100. However, if you have more at your disposal, this will allow you to go through each offer at a much faster pace. This is because you won't need to wait 2/3 days every time you withdraw funds from the respective betting site.
Can I claim more than one free bet?
If you are claiming a welcome bonus that is offered to new customers, you can only claim it once. If you attempt to open more than one account, you will be flagged as a bonus abuser. In turn, your accounts will be suspended.
Can I use Paypal for bonus bagging?
Yes and no. On the one hand, Paypal is the best payment method to use, as withdrawals are super fast. However, some bonuses prohibit e-wallets, so make sure you check this before proceeding.
Is bonus bagging gambling?
No, bonus bagging is not gambling. This is because irrespective of the outcome of the bets you place, you will make the same amount of money.
Is bonus bagging risky?
As long as you avoid mistakes and ensure that your back/lay bets are correctly placed, the process is 100% risk-free. The only risk of loss is if you make an error.