Matched betting is a method of taking betting offers from bookmakers and using them to win real money. Using these free bets, you can cover all outcomes to ensure you earn some cash no matter what happens. It’s not about winning or losing, and you don’t even need a deep knowledge of sports to get start making money.
In this comprehensive beginner’s guide to matched betting, we’ll cover:
- How does matched betting work?
- How much money can you make from matched betting? Can you make an income?
- Risk, legalities, and your finances
- How to start matched betting
- Can you do matched betting outside the UK?
- Where can you find matched betting welcome offers?
- Which bookies are best for matched betting? What about matched betting exchanges?
How does matched betting work?
In a nutshell, matched betting allows you to bet on all outcomes of an event, minimising the risk usually associated with gambling.
What is a betting exchange? How do they work?
A betting exchange is a marketplace that allows its customers to both back and lay against the outcome of an event — essentially, customers fulfill both roles needed for a wager to take place. The most popular betting exchanges are Betfair, Smarkets, and BETDAQ.
Unlike a bookmaker, a betting exchange relies on its customers to provide the funds to both back and lay outcomes against one another and does not use its own funds to do so.
Because a betting exchange will let you wager the chances of a bet not occurring, also known as “laying” the outcome, they’re ideal when you’re matching the odds of your own bet. By using these services, you can assume the role of the bookmaker to reduce risk when betting.
The process of signing up and depositing funds is virtually identical to a bookmaker, and the interface of exchange websites look very similar, too. The main difference is the extra set of odds offered when placing a bet: you will see back odds, like a bookmaker, but you will also see the lay odds, which you will be using to match your bet.
Betting exchanges usually charge a small commission on winning bets, unlike bookmakers, so you’ll need to factor these into calculations when you’re trying to match your back betting.
Matched betting: a step-by-step example
Now you have an idea of what matched betting and what a betting exchange is, we can take a look at an example of the matched betting process to get a clearer idea of how it works:
Placing the qualifying bet
- Bookmaker X has a betting offer to encourage you to sign up to their service. Accounts are usually limited to one per person, so you can only get this offer once. Offers vary depending on the bookmaker, but let’s say you get a typical offer when you open an account: “bet £10, get a £10 free bet”.
- You open an account with Bookmaker X and place the £10 bet that’s required to unlock the £10 free bet. This is called the “qualifying bet”. Let’s imagine you place £10 on England to win. This is also going to be your back bet.
- Now, you need to match the back bet you’ve placed with a lay bet at a betting exchange, such as Betfair. So, if you bet £10 on England to win at Bookmaker X, you then need to place a lay bet on England not to win that matches your potential profit at a betting exchange— you can use a matched betting calculator for this.
- The England game takes place and they either win, lose or draw. If they win, your back bet wins. If they lose or draw, your lay bet wins. With either outcome, you should “win” with one bet what you “lost” with the other. You will have also unlocked your £10 free bet.
Using your free bets to make money
- Your newly unlocked free bet is where your matched betting profits will come from, and you can now repeat the matched betting process. Let’s say Arsenal are playing Chelsea a few days later and you choose to bet on it.
- You can now place a back bet on Arsenal to win, using your £10 free bet. You’ll usually get the chance to select this after you’ve added Arsenal to your betting slip.
- At the betting exchange, find the same game and place your lay bet. You’ll use your own money for this but, again, anything you “lose” at the exchange will be covered by anything you “win” at the bookmaker, and vice versa. Remember to use a matched betting calculator to balance your odds correctly.
- As before, you’ll win either way, but the profit margin is higher because you didn’t stake your own money on the back bet. This is where you profit! You’ve turned your free bet into real money. With matched betting, you should aim to keep between 60%–80% of the free bet amount. That means that from a £10 free bet, you should make around £6 to £8 profit.
Do I need to have any previous betting experience?
Not at all! Anyone can do matched betting, even if they’ve never placed a bet before. Experienced betters may have a head-start when it comes to knowing their way around a bookmaker’s website, but that’s something you can pick up quickly. We even have a matched betting glossary you can use to look up any betting terminology you haven’t heard of.
Plus, if you don’t have any previous betting experience, you probably don’t have any bookmakers’ accounts. This is great because it means that you’ll be able to take advantage of more betting offers. Plus, you can use our matched betting calculator and matched betting spreadsheets to calculate your profit and keep track of all your bets.
What if I don’t know anything about sports?
Knowing little about sports is not a problem. You don’t even have to like sports to do matched betting! Because matched betting is about maths, rather than luck, you don’t need to know which team is better or who is the best player. Remember: with matched betting, it doesn’t matter what the outcome of the event is because you’ve covered every possibility. Instead, choices are made based on things like odds and exchange liquidity — things you’ll get to grips with in no time when you start matched betting!
How much money can you make from matched betting? Can you make an income?
There isn’t a set amount that you can expect to make from matched betting. It depends on a few things, like the number of offers you complete, the type of offers you choose, the number of hours you put in, and the size of the pot you can allocate to matched betting.
Based on an average earning from each of the
Matched betting offers the most chances to make money in the early days when you’re taking advantage of these offers, but the opportunities don’t end there. Most bookies will continue to make offers to existing customers to ensure they keep betting with them, so there should be more free bets to take advantage of further down the line. Typically, dedicating around 40 minutes per day will net you £500–700 a month once welcome offers have been used and you’re relying on existing customer offers.
So, if you’re looking to make a regular income from matched betting, you can see that there is plenty of scope to continue profiting well into the future. Because matched betting is sustainable, you can use it to supplement your income or even as your main method of making money. However, it is worth mentioning again that how much you earn is dependent on the hours you put in, so if you want to make a living, you’ll have to dedicate more time.
Is matched betting worth it?
We would say yes, it certainly is! If you have the small amount of patience required to master the matched betting method and a few hours per week to dedicate to making your bets, it’s a very effective way of making extra money. And, with our welcome offer guides, spreadsheets, calculator, and glossary, it’s never been easier to get to grips with matched betting.
Remember: You don’t need to pay tax on winnings from matched betting, making it a totally tax-free way of earning money, too.
Risk, legalities, and your finances
Is matched betting legal?
Matched betting is a completely legal way to use the free bets and offers given out by bookmakers. The minimum legal age for betting and gambling in the UK is 18, which means that you’ll need to be aged 18 or over in order to open the necessary accounts with bookmakers. You may also need to be a UK resident in order to sign up to an online bookmaker and place bets, so please check the terms and conditions of individual bookies prior to signing up. As long as you make sure to meet these legal requirements, matched betting is a legal activity.
What are the risks of matched betting? Is it safe?
When you compare matched betting with traditional betting or gambling, it can be considered risk-free in principle, because you’re not relying on luck. The matched betting technique of placing two bets on the same event means that all outcomes are covered, and you will make a profit no matter what happens.
However, as with most things, there is always the potential for human error, so the process is not 100% risk-free. Mistakes can be costly, so you need to make sure you’re happy with your bets before you place them. You should also watch out for odds that change between placing your back and lay bets, as this will mean your bet is no longer matched.
Also, always check the terms and conditions of each bookmaker offer before you place any bets, just to make sure that you are meeting all of their requirements. If you take your time and double check things at every step, you can minimise the potential risks when matched betting.
Is matched betting gambling?
Matched betting and gambling share some common ground. You’ll need to follow a number of the steps you would in gambling, like placing bets with a bookmaker. They also share a few legalities, namely the fact you must be 18 or older and that you don’t pay tax on your winnings. However, this is where the similarities end.
When you gamble, you bet on one outcome and hope it happens for you with your money on the line. When you matched bet, you cover all potential outcomes and it doesn’t matter which one occurs, so your funds are safe. This is the essential difference between matched betting and gambling, which makes them different prospects altogether.
What is no-risk matched betting?
When someone talks about “no-risk” matched betting, they’re referring to a type of matched bet where the qualifying bet is, essentially, free. Typically, this only happens when taking advantage of one of the more generous offers, like “money back if your bet loses” deals or qualifying for a free spin at an online casino. Bookmakers and the like don’t offer these often, so it isn’t always possible to practise no-risk matched betting. We list a few no-risk matched betting offers among our betting offers, so it’s worth taking a look.
Does matched betting affect your credit score?
No, matched betting will not affect your credit rating. Though you will need to open a number of accounts with bookmakers, Experian, one of the leading credit agencies, has gone on record saying that they do not include gaming accounts on their credit reference radar (Guardian).
When you open a new account with a bookie, they may undertake a “soft search” on your credit history for identification purposes. However, these are not full credit checks, so they will not show on your report and they will not impact your rating.
The only way that matched betting could have a knock-on effect to your credit score is the same as any other scenario where money changes hands — using a credit card or loan to access funds, then failing to pay it back. Take care not to overstretch your means and you will be okay.
Will matched betting affect mortgages or other finance applications?
Because lenders scrutinise bank statements when assessing mortgage, loan or other financial applications, it can be a good idea to open a second bank account to deposit all of your matched betting earnings into. Alternatively, you could use an e-wallet, such as Skrill or PayPal. Not all banks and building societies will question betting activity, but it’s better to be cautious.
If you’re applying for finance or a loan that requires proof of your earnings, like a mortgage, it’s important to remember that matched betting profit doesn’t count as an official form of income, so you can’t list it in your application.
How to start matched betting
To help you get started, we’ve put together a quick checklist of essentials:
- A starting float of your own money
- New accounts with bookmakers
- A separate bank account
- An internet-connected device
How much of your own money do you need to start matched betting?
To get started with matched betting, you will need a starting amount of your own money, known as a float, pot, or bankroll. There is not a set minimum that you must have, and it will probably depend on your circumstances and how much cash you can put in.
Having said that, we’ve found that you can begin earning a decent amount with a starting float of at least £50 to make a few qualifying bets. As a general rule of thumb, the more you can contribute to your float, the more offers you can take advantage of at once. This reduces the need to wait for money to transfer between your account, bookie, and bet exchange.
What if you already have accounts with bookmakers?
That’s ok! You can still make money from matched betting, even if you’ve previously opened an account with a bookmaker. All it means is that you can’t open another account, so you won’t be eligible for their new customer offer. However, here at MatchedBetting.co.uk, we have betting offers from a wide range of bookmakers, so there’s bound to be an alternative.
You can also use your existing accounts to complete offers that bookmakers send out to their existing customers, which means that there’s still matched betting money to be made once you’ve completed all of the new customer offers.
Is it worth opening a second bank account for matched betting?
When you start to get into matched betting, you’ll probably have a lot of transactions going into and out of your account, which can be difficult to follow if you use your regular bank account.
By opening a second account dedicated to your betting activity, you can monitor comings and goings more easily, as well as check your profit levels at a glance. Also, by moving bookie transactions, which can vary in wait times, to a second account, you don’t need to worry about essential funds being taken out of your main account when you need to pay bills or direct debits.
In addition, as we mentioned earlier, a second account can be a good idea for anyone worried about betting activity showing up on their statements ahead of a mortgage or loan application.
What technology do you need to start matched betting?
Matched betting is done online so, technically, you can use any device that can connect to the internet. Your setup could consist of you sitting on your phone in your living room or you could be looking at multiple screens in your home office, wherever and however you’re comfy.
There are a couple of bases you need to cover when matched betting, however: you need a steady, reliable internet connection and the ability to move between tabs and windows quickly. This is because odds can change very quickly, so you need to be able to keep up without your device or internet slowing you down to lock in that profit.
Another top tip that we’d share is that it may be worth setting up a dedicated email account for your betting activities. Much like keeping your main bank account clear of multiple betting transactions, you can keep your personal email inbox free of any spam, while also being notified of all the latest offers in one place.
Can you do matched betting outside the UK?
If you’re situated outside of the UK, it’s worth bearing in mind that the advice here at MatchedBetting.co.uk is tailored towards those matched betting in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Having said that, it doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the betting offers we recommend, just please be sure to check the terms and conditions for each bookmaker to be certain that you can bet with them or use their deals.
Even if a particular offer is not available in your country, it’s worth checking similar bookies or regional subsidiaries of UK bookmakers to see if they have similar deals. While we don’t list them here, there’s nothing stopping you from using these offers in your matched betting strategy if you can still make a lay bet with an exchange.
Should you be a UK resident who’s planning on doing some matched betting while on holiday or travelling abroad, you still need to check the bookmaker’s terms and conditions, as they may come into effect when you leave the country.
Where can you find matched betting welcome offers?
Using betting sign-up offers is one of the best ways to get into matched betting and start making a profit quickly. Nearly all bookmakers have these deals, so, provided you don’t already have an account with them, they should be accessible for placing those qualifying bets.
It’s really worth visiting our matched betting offers section, where we list the best welcome deals from some of the biggest UK bookmakers. Our picks include “bet X get X” offers, risk-free bet offers, and multi-bet offers, with step-by-step instructions on how to sign up and take advantage.
You can then use our matched betting calculator to work out what your profit will be, as well as our matched betting spreadsheets to track your progress.
Which bookies are best for matched betting? What about matched betting exchanges?
As a starting point, you can open accounts with most of the top UK bookmakers, such as Betfred, Skybet, William Hill, Coral, and Ladbrokes. They offer competitive odds and offers for new customers, which is ideal when you’re trying to make a profit early on. And, we have step-by-step guides for the biggest bookies in our matched betting offers section to make life easier.
Additionally, there are many other bookmakers out there that are worth looking up and creating an account with. The majority of legitimate UK bookies will have a welcome offer for new customers, and when you’ve got a wide range of accounts set up, you’ll be in a better position to take advantage of any subsequent deals they introduce.
While you’ll be placing plenty of back bets to qualify for offers, you’ll need to place lay bets with a betting exchange to match them. The most well-known exchange out there is Betfair, which offers a huge range of lay bet options and markets. However, there are others out there, like Smarkets, so it pays to do some research into those too.
Hopefully this matched betting guide has given you a good introduction to the art of matched betting and how to get started. Now, you can make use of our matched betting offers, calculator, and spreadsheets to begin earning some extra money, or even move onto some of our more advanced matched betting guides.
If you have any questions about this guide, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at MatchedBetting.co.uk. You can also check our blog for up to date information.