Bonus bets have steadily become the promotional vehicle of choice among US online sportsbooks. Nearly all betting apps offer bonus bets as part of their signup package, often combined with second chance bets, and they’re making more frequent appearances in recurring promotional calendars.

In this guide, we will discuss bonus bet pros, pitfalls, and how to best utilize second offers bets to build a bankroll.

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How Do Second Chance Bets Work?

The allure of second chance bets can be intoxicating. Sports betting is a risky business, so any attempt to circumvent risk must be a net positive, right? That may be true, but new bettors must be aware that second chance bets aren’t actually devoid of risk.

Second chance bets are not guaranteed protection from losing; they’re more of a second lease on life.

They’re comprised of two stages. The first stage merely consists of placing a cash wager, much like a bettor might normally do.

The second stage is conditional and only triggers if bettors lose their initial wager. In this case, bettors receive a full refund, up to a designated amount as a bonus bet, also called a bet credit at some betting sites.

The obvious pitfall of second chance bets is that bettors only benefit from the promotion if their first wager falls flat. Those who place first bets that win receive their winnings but nothing more.

For example, imagine a new customer claims the Caesars Sportsbook bonus and places their first wager. The bettor has an eye on an NFL moneyline and bets $500 on a +150 line.

If the bet wins, the bettor receives the initial $500 stake back plus $750 in winnings for a total of $1,250. They do not receive one dime extra – it’s like the promotion never existed.

If the bet loses, the $500 Caesars Sportsbook subtracts the initial stake from the bettor’s cash balance. However, Caesars will give the bettor a $500 bonus bet.

Caesars Sportsbook will then return any profits earned by the bonus bet as cash, which players can immediately withdraw or use to fund future bets.

What Is a Bonus Bet?

Bonus bets (a.k.a. bet credits) are bonuses awarded by sportsbooks that customers can use to place wagers on the house.

The terms and conditions attached to bonus bets vary, but there are some near-universal constants:

  • Bonus bets that win do not return the initial stake, only the profits. For instance, if a bettor uses a $100 bonus bet on a -110 NFL point spread and wins, they only receive the profit margin. In this case, that amount is $90.91.
  • Customers must use bonus bets in one shot. For example, they cannot spread a $50 bonus bet across five $10 wagers. However, some sportsbooks do allocate bonus bets in small increments.
  • Sportsbooks often restrict bettors from using bonus bets on heavy favorites. Typically, bettors cannot use bonus bets on markets featuring odds of -200 or shorter.

The most common way to earn bonus bets is via second chance welcome offers, but betting sites also issue them to customers for other reasons. For example, a sportsbook may host a temporary promotion during which it awards bonus bets to all customers who wager a minimum amount on a select sport.

Bettors can also often earn bonus bets via parlay insurance promotions. A common theme among online sportsbooks is to refund customers with bonus bets if they place a parlay that comes up exactly one leg short.

Other books get even craftier with their bonus bet offers. For example, a common PointsBet bonus gives bettors who place moneyline wagers on certain sports bet credits for every touchdown, 3-pointer, or goal their teams score.

What Is a Site Credit?

Some online sportsbooks used to issue site credit instead of bonus bets, but that practice has largely died off, especially for new customer offers. Site credit bonuses provide excellent value to customers, so if anyone finds such a promo today, it’s worth claiming.

There are two reasons why. First off, bettors can spend site credit however they wish, without restriction. The only real caveat is that customers are usually subject to a 1x rollover requirement before they can withdraw their winnings.

Additionally, customers who place winning bets with set credit receive payouts that include the profits and the initial stake. That’s in contrast to bonus bets that only return the net profit and is the most significant advantage of promos that award site credit.

The stark difference becomes apparent when considering an example.

Imagine a bettor has eyes on the Golden State Warriors moneyline at +200 odds. If the bettor uses a $100 site credit to place the wager, the potential payout will be $300 ($100 initial stake + $200 profit). However, the return is only $200 if a bettor places the same wager using a bonus bet.

To sum it up, bettors should strongly consider taking up any second chance bet offers that issue refunds in the form of site credit. Not doing so is like leaving money on the table.

Do Horse Racing Betting Sites Also Issue Second Chance Bets?

Yes. While racing sites are more likely to offer deposit match bonuses to new players, it’s not uncommon to find second chance bet promos.

For instance, TVG welcomes new players with a $200 second chance promo. If a new customer’s first bet loses, TVG issues a full refund as a wagering credit. The wagering credit functions like a site credit in that bettors can use it however they like and receive their initial stake back on winning bets.

Second Chance Bet Terms and Conditions to Watch Out For

Bettors should always comb the fine print before claiming any betting bonus or welcome offer. One sportsbook’s second chance bet may look like another operator’s welcome offer, but the terms and conditions often reveal critical differences.

Below are some basic questions every bettor should ask before taking the plunge:

Site credit is more flexible and valuable than bonus bets.

Bettors should always favor sports betting apps that award site credit, especially if they’re working with a limited bankroll.

It is worth noting that while most apps issue a single bonus bet equal to the size of the initial bet, some take an alternative approach.

For example, the BetMGM bonus goes against the grain. Any new customer who claims BetMGM’s second chance offer and qualifies for a refund of $50 or more receives the refund as five bonus bets, each worth 20% of the initial wager. As a result, bettors have more flexibility to spread their action and mitigate risk.

Sportsbooks are usually transparent about the monetary caps of their second chance bet offers. If a promo reads “Up To $1,000 Second Chance Bet,” it means that the maximum refund a bettor can receive is $1,000 in bet credits.

To qualify for the max refund, bettors must place an initial wager equal to that amount or more. Of course, they’re under no obligation to bet the max. A $500 losing wager will still generate a $500 bonus bet.

However, most sportsbooks do require bettors to place a minimum bet of around $10 – $20. The exact minimum amount is usually hidden in the fine print.

New customers should not wait too long after signing up to claim their second chance bet offers. They may have seven days, 14 days, or a month, but eventually the sportsbook will rescind the offer.

Additionally, bettors who receive bonus bets must use them within a set timeframe. New customers who wait too long to use their bonus bets risk the offer expiring. Bettors should always check the terms and conditions to see how long their bet credits are valid after receipt.

Most sportsbooks restrict bettors from placing bonus bets on heavy favorites. Bets on markets priced at +300, +200, -110, and -150 are usually acceptable, but wagers at -200 or shorter may not qualify.

This caveat is a bit puzzling, as we’ll soon see that it’s actually advantageous for bettors to use their bonus bets on underdogs.

Should the books ever change their stance and prohibit bonus bets on underdogs, then it may be worth skipping certain offers entirely. Fortunately, this shouldn’t happen in the foreseeable future.

This one isn’t typical, but some sports betting sites may limit bettors to using their bonus bets on select wagers. Occasionally, a sportsbook may exclude props, alternative lines, derivatives, and other less efficient markets from its second chance offer.

In addition, sportsbooks have recently embraced correlated parlays (and their gigantic house edges). Same game parlay promos are increasingly common, and many award bonus bets to customers who lose by a leg. It hasn’t happened yet, but spillover to welcome packages seems inevitable. This would obviously be bad for bettors. 

In addition to the limitations discussed above, some betting bonuses may enforce other restrictions, some of which can be immensely impactful.

A common restriction disqualifies second chance bettors who use the early cash-out feature. Admittedly, this limitation makes sense, as an early cash-out is not technically a loss. Bettors still receive some monetary benefit determined by the in-play betting odds.

Another one to watch out for is how books determine the eligibility period. Some base it on when a bet settles, not when the bet is placed.

For instance, let’s say a bettor wants to use their second chance bet on an NBA Championship future that won’t resolve for several months. The customer may place the bet immediately after signing up and depositing but not qualify for a bonus bet refund because the initial wager settles after the offer expires.

It would be painful banking on a reward only to receive nothing due to some cryptic condition. Bettors should always read the terms and conditions before claiming any offer.

Beginner Tips for Getting the Most out of Second Chance Bets

Even if utilized sub-optimally, second chance bets are positive expectation wagers. If possible, bettors should take full advantage of them by placing a wager equal to the maximum refund amount.

Anything more is counterproductive. A $1,000 second chance bet promo will kick back $1,000 on losing wagers regardless of whether the wager is $1,000, $2,000, or $5,000.

On the other hand, bettors shouldn’t feel forced to wager the max. Those with limited bankrolls are better off first claiming second chance bets with lower monetary caps and tackling larger offers after building a reserve. 

Additionally, a part of a sound betting strategy is always to read the promotional terms and conditions first. Do this before making a deposit and ideally before signing up.

Again, all second chance bet offers are advantageous to the bettor, so the optimal strategy is to claim as many as possible. But not everyone has that luxury. In that case, go for the ones that offer the most bang for the buck – namely bonuses that issue site credits or don’t burden bettors with unfavorable restrictions. 

Betting Strategy for Extracting Maximum Value from Second Chance Bets

Bettors looking to maximize their returns when claiming second chance bet offers are best off embracing significant risk. In other words, they’ll generate more value by using their second chance bet and subsequent refund on appealing longshots.

Why? Because betting on underdogs increases the likelihood of receiving a refund. This logic may seem contradictory at first. After all, why would bettors ever want to increase their chances of losing? But the math holds.

For simplicity, assume that a book offers fair odds. A bettor uses their second chance bet on the Dallas Cowboys, which are -200 moneyline favorites against the Philadelphia Eagles. The implied odds of Dallas winning are 66.67%. If a bettor places a $500 second chance bet on Dallas, there are the two possible outcomes:

  • Dallas wins: The bettor pockets $750 ($500 stake + $250 profits). No bonus bet or site credit is awarded. This scenario occurs 66.67% of the time. The expected value is exactly $500 ($750 x .6667).
  • Dallas loses: The bettor loses $500 but wins a $500 bonus bet. This happens 33.33% of the time.

Now, imagine the bettor wagered on Philadelphia, a +200 moneyline underdog. A winning wager would pay out $1,500 and occur 33.33% of the time. The expected value is still exactly $500 ($1,500 x 0.3333). However, now the bettor receives a site credit or bonus bet 66.67% time – twice as often as before.

The expected value doesn’t change, but the frequency the bettor wins a bonus bet doubles. Thus, the overall expectation of betting a +200 moneyline underdog is higher than banking on a -200 moneyline favorite.

This isn’t to say that bettors should just go crazy and use their second chance bet on a 10-leg parlay at +10000 odds, but it showcases a critical point: The longer the odds, the more valuable the second chance bet.

The same logic applies to bonus bets. Remember, bonus bets don’t return the initial stake. If a bettor uses one on a favorite and wins, they’ll end up with less money in their cash wallet than the value of the original bonus bet.

Let’s use the same example as before to showcase this point. If bettors place a $500 bonus bet on Dallas at -200, they will win $250 66.67% of the time and lose 33.33% of the time. Over the long haul, bettors who take this approach can expect a return of $166.68 on their bonus bets. That doesn’t sound like a great deal.

Instead, if the bettor chooses the Eagles at +200, they will win $1,000 33.33% of the time and lose the other two-thirds. The expectation skyrockets to $333.33.

In this scenario, the bettor is also twice as likely to walk away with nothing. Risk-averse types won’t love that, but unfortunately, the best way for bettors to maximize value is to cross their fingers and go long.

At the very least, use bonus bets on wagers at +100 odds so the return is equal to the size of the wager.