Last update: 16th April 2018
These days most online bingo sites accept a wide range of payment methods. Sometimes, however, using a payment method that is not a regular credit or debit card can cause you to miss out on bonuses or make it more difficult or expensive to withdraw.
All bingo sites accept credit cards. There are a few things to bear in mind, however (some positive and some negative):
Most bingo sites also accept regular debit cards and these have a few advantages over credit cards, the main one being that you are transferring money you already have and because of this there will not normally be a transaction fee, nor will there be interest charged. It is also easier to get a debit card than a credit card if you have a patchy credit history (but since the credit history is what the bingo site checks for ID and age verification when a credit card is not used, you may find you have to provide alternative forms of ID within 72 hours of making the deposit in order to continue playing). Visa debit cards are preferable to Mastercard debit cards because of the above mentioned issues with withdrawals. Again, the debit card MUST be in the name of the player.
A prepaid debit card is NOT linked to a bank account in the same way as a regular debit card. With a regular debit card, the money is debited from your bank account at the time of transaction. A prepaid card has to be pre-loaded with funds (and typically there is either a charge for doing this, a monthly fee or a transaction fee). Prepaid cards can be physical (in which case it may be possible to fund them with cash) or virtual, such as the Entropay Virtual Visa card accepted at Dragonfish sites (in which case they need to be funded with a regular credit or debit card or from a linked bank account). Again, be aware of the above mentioned problem with Mastercard withdrawals.
The majority of bingo sites accept at least one of these (one notable exception being the Jumpman powered sites on 15 Network and Wheel of Slots which accept credit and debit cards only). The main advantage of prepaid voucher payment systems is that you do not need any form of bank account or payment card to use them – cash will do.
The most commonly accepted prepaid voucher payment system at online bingo sites used to be Ukash, but this has now been taken over and replaced by Paysafecard. Although its name makes it sound like a prepaid debit card (and it physically looks like one) Paysafecard is actually a voucher payment system (so more along the lines of an iTunes card or store gift card than a credit or debit card). Buy a Paysafecard PIN at an outlet (W H Smiths sell them) or online in fixed denominations.
Paysafecard used to have the major disadvantage that it could not be used to withdraw funds, only deposit them, and therefore players had to use an alternate method to withdraw winnings (and verify it, usually by making a deposit). In September 2015 Paysafecard announced their new Payout service which was developed specifically for gaming operators, allowing winnings to be remitted to a player’s mypaysafecard account where they can either be used to pay for something else, or withdrawn at an ATM using a Paysafecard Mastercard (still a bit of a palaver). Many gaming operators offer this service but not all of them do, so if you plan to use Paysafecard for your deposits this is something to check up on before you sign up.
Other disadvantages of Paysafecard are the need to provide additional age and ID verification and potential exclusion from deposit bonus offers (in the terms and conditions).
The main difference between a prepayment system like Paysafecard and an e-wallet is that e-wallets can always accept payments as well as make them – so if you deposit using an e-wallet and win, the proceeds can be paid back into the e-wallet. Again, most bingo sites accept at least one type of e-wallet.
Probably the best known e-wallet amongst UK bingo players is good old Paypal, since pretty well everyone who has ever bought or sold anything on Ebay has a Paypal account. There are several advantages to using Paypal, one notable one being that if you use a debit or credit card to deposit via Paypal, although the bingo site never sees the card details the card issuer can see where the payment is going and flag up anything suspicious (watch out for handling fees and interest though, just as when you use a credit card directly). There’s also the sheer convenience of it.
By no means all bingo sites accept Paypal, however. Other e-wallets sometimes used by UK players are ecoPayz (e.g. at Gala Bingo), Neteller and Skrill/Moneybookers. Both Skrill and Neteller are owned by the Paysafe Group (who also, as the name suggests, own Paysafecard). Skrill and Neteller have little to recommend them to bingo players as players who use them are often excluded from bonus offers.
Mobile phone billing allows deposits to be deducted from PAYG credit or added to the player’s next phone bill. While this seems an obvious facility to be incorporated into a phone app such as mFortune Bingo, you may be surprised to hear that a few bingo sites including bgo allow deposits to be charged to a mobile phone bill regardless of whether the phone is ever actually used to play! The most commonly used mobile phone billing system is called Boku and to use it, all you have to do is enter your phone number in the banking section (from any device). A text message is then sent to your phone requesting authorisation and once you reply, the payment goes through. (Technically, this is an evolution of the old system whereby items such as ringtones could be purchased by sending a text to a premium number). Clearly there are some big advantages to this arrangement in terms of simplicity (no card numbers to remember and no need for a bank account or credit check if you use PAYG) and security (the player gives out no information apart from their phone number and no fraud is possible unless the phone itself is lost or stolen).
Of course there are disadvantages to this method as well and some of these are:
Omni-channel gaming is frequently touted as the future of online bingo and all other forms of gambling. In Playtech‘s vision of the omni-channel user experience of the future, the same account and wallet would be used to play bingo, slots and casino games and place sporting and celebrity bets and this could be done online via any device or offline in a variety of venues.
Omni-channel payment methods are still in their infancy, with the first to appear being Coral Connect. Coral Bingo players can get a card with a PIN number that can be used (in conjunction with supplementary ID) to deposit cash to and/or withdraw cash from a Coral Online account in any of Coral’s betting shops across the country. New players can now open a Coral Connect account at a Coral shop by depositing cash and this enables players to have access to Coral Online without having to have a credit or debit card (although they will still have to satisfy ID requirements).
At Mecca Bingo, Cash Out In Club is another means of depositing to and/or withdrawing from an online bingo account in cash, although there is a limit for both types of transaction of £100 a day. Again, supplementary ID is required. Funds can also be transferred from a Mecca Max account (for playing bingo on a tablet in a club) to an online account.
Cryptocurrencies may or may not be the future of online payments. There are many of these, with Bitcoin being the best known, and there are certainly players out there (though maybe not bingo players) who want to play in Bitcoin – in August 2013, a single Bitcoin gambling site accounted for more than half the volume of all Bitcoin transactions!
As of Spring 2016 there are NO bingo sites for UK players that accept Bitcoin – not legal ones anyway, as the UK Gambling Commission has made it clear that as far as it is concerned cryptocurrencies count as “money’s worth” and that therefore any UK facing gambling sites operating in Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency require a UK licence (and would be subject to UK taxation). Indeed, from the end of October 2016 Bitcoin will appear on the list of UKGC accepted payment methods. This would mean that the sites had to run on an already licensed platform and in fact this is a major obstacle for bitcoin gambling in the UK because Bitcoin casino games are generally based on the same blockchain technology as Bitcoin itself rather than using a licensed RNG – the advantage of this being that bets can be provably fair, although who knows how this would be implemented for bingo games. The situation is further complicated by the position regarding the regulation of the cryptocurrencies themselves which is still developing. Since gambling sites are already subject to the know-your-customer and anti money laundering requirements but the bitcoin exchanges (in some ways the equivalent of banks) are not as yet, it seems simpler for bingo sites to wait to accept bitcoin until the FCA gets around to regulating it, especially as in other gaming jurisdictions such as the Isle of Man the process is already under way. Indeed, back in 2014 it was announced that Cozy Games had partnered with GoCoin (a cryptocurrency payment processor) which would enable Cozy powered sites to accept Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies such as the meme-inspired Dogecoin, but nothing has been heard of this since. Although Cozy has an IoM licence, for UK players to be able to deposit or play in Bitcoin this would also have to be allowed under its UK licence. As explained above, this wasn’t due to happen until November 2016 and apparently for Cozy at least, nothing came of it. One UK facing casino did accept Bitcoin for a while in early 2014 (Bitcoin deposits were converted into pounds or euros at current exchange rates and play was in regular currency but if deposits had been made using Bitcoin withdrawals were issued in Bitcoin) but this stopped after discussions with the regulator (Malta Gaming Authority as this was before the change to UK regulation). Another factor is that Bitcoin prices peaked back at the end of 2013 and when the price declined so did the excitement – although world events in 2016 caused Bitcoin prices to rally as investors become nervous about any type of fiat currency. Summer 2016 saw a major step on the way to regulation with the introduction of Europe’s first regulated exchange traded instrument for cryptocurrency.
If this all sounds like gobbledegook, the TL;DR version is that Bitcoin bingo is still a thing of the future – for UK players anyway – and looks set to remain so for quite some time yet.
For those who do not want to transmit any bank or credit card details over the internet, there are ways to deposit such as a direct bank transfer (e.g. at Dragonfish sites) and Western Union (e.g. at Ladbrokes), plus direct transfer methods such as Trustly many of which are valid in certain specified countries only (such as the German Giropay).
This type of solution can seem attractive if you want to give the bingo site as little as possible of your personal information – but since the sites are required to carry out age and ID verification as a condition of their licence, expect to have to supply lots of other forms of ID in order to withdraw or possibly even just to keep playing.