Last update: 14th April 2020
A massive change regarding online bingo payment methods took place on 14th April 2020. Following action from the UK Gambling Commission, credit cards are no longer able to be used for gambling transactions, either directly or via a payment services provider. As well as outlawing credit cards themselves as a deposit method, this may lead to the removal of other deposit methods which could involve credit card use. For the time being, though, most online bingo sites accept a wide range of payment methods.
Whichever other payment methods remain available in the long term, do be aware that using a payment method that is not a straightforward debit card can cause you to miss out on bonuses or make it more difficult or expensive to withdraw.
Most bingo sites now require you to register a debit card with them to help with account verification, even if you use a different method when you actually deposit. The card MUST be in the name of the player – it is not possible, for instance, to use a card belonging to a family member and if you try to do so you are likely to have your account cancelled.
Visa debit cards are generally preferable to Mastercard debit cards because of issues that have cropped up in the past with withdrawals to Mastercards.
The main advantage of using a debit card over a credit card (and the reason why the vast majority of players had reportedly switched to a debit card before the ban was even announced) is 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 was usual for credit card issuers to class gambling transactions as cash advances rather than purchases and charge interest from day 1).
The main disadvantage of using a debit card is that if it is linked to your regular bank account, the potential consequences of a security breach may be harder to deal with than they would be with a credit card. Ways around this include opening a separate bank account for online purchases or using a prepaid debit card.
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 (in which case they need to be funded from a linked bank account). Again, be aware of the above mentioned problem with Mastercard withdrawals.
Welcome bonus offers are often valid for credit (or debit) card deposits only, so if you are hoping to make your initial deposit by some other means do check the terms and conditions to ensure that you will still receive a bonus.
The majority of bingo sites currently accept at least one of these (one notable exception being Gamesys bingo sites which now only accept debit cards). 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 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).
Following the April 2020 changes, many major operators still accept Paysafecard. It is still not clear how this works with the credit card ban.
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 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.
The latest thing in e-wallets is MuchBetter which works via an app and comes with an optional debit card and contactless fob. It offers enhanced security and the MuchBetter Rewards loyalty scheme so looks like an interesting alternative to Paypal – but only a few UK bingo sites including Foxy Bingo accept it at the moment. More casinos do, though, including LeoVegas (owners of several bingo sites) and 888casino, so it is probably only a matter of time before MuchBetter bingo sites appear.
The future of e-wallets as a deposit method is also in doubt as from 14th April 2020, the “no credit cards” rule applies. Paypal and Apple Pay have come up with solutions excluding credit cards but the position of the other e-wallets is still unclear.
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 some bingo sites 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:
As yet there is no indication of how this may be affected by the “no credit cards” rule.
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.
Another option is the branded prepaid debit card solution seen at Paddy Power and other large operators. Winnings can be withdrawn to the prepaid card which can then be used elsewhere just like a normal debit card.
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!
Currently 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). 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 or any other form of crypto 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 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.
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