For the past couple of decades, credit cards have been a surprisingly popular way to deposit into an online betting site, despite the fact that they attract fees and enable punters to gamble with borrowed money, something we’d never advise doing.
And now, as of 14th April 2020 it is no longer legal for UK betting companies to accept payments with a credit card.
The ban comes straight from the UK Gambling Commission who made the announcement in mid-January of 2020, giving the industry and customers a three month window to find another payment method.
The reasons for the move were very clear, with the government and various campaign groups feeling that betting on credit did not equate to responsible gambling and there have been numerous pieces of research that linked credit card use with problem gambling and addiction.
If someone earns £1,000 a month and they spend all of their disposable income on gambling that is certainly an issue. If they blow all of their savings at an online casino that is perhaps even worse but at least they haven’t got into debt and are not creating future financial problems for themselves. For the small number of problem gamblers in the UK, betting with a credit card was often used as a last resort.
When their income, savings and any money they could beg, borrow, or perhaps even steal from friends and relatives was exhausted, betting with a credit card gave them another avenue to keep gambling. Typically all it did was make their situation worse and leave them with debts that would cripple them moving forwards or would effectively be passed on to others when they were unable to pay them off. Thankfully this option has now been taken off the table.
Can I Still Use a Debit Card to Deposit?
Debit cards will continue to be accepted by all UK betting sites and in this regard nothing has changed. The obvious distinction is that a debit card takes money from your own bank, whereas a credit card means you are borrowing money in order to gamble.
In theory you may be able to use a debit card to access an overdraft on your current account and thus still borrow money to gamble but this is far more tightly controlled and monitored. Moreover, whilst we shouldn’t need to say this, we will point out that we strongly advise against using an overdraft to gamble with.
One of the oldest, best and truest adages when it comes to betting is that you should only risk money you can afford to lose. Self-evidently, if the money isn’t even yours to start with, you can’t afford to lose it.
What About Pre-Paid Cards?
Pre-paid cards, as the name more-than-suggests, have been paid for and thus are far more like debit cards than credit cards. A pre-paid card is essentially like cash, with a fixed value determined by however much the card was loaded with. It is your money, rather than borrowing from the card provider and so initially it was believed that pre-paid cards would not be affected by the Gambling Commissions ban on credit cards. However, this turned out to not be the case and pre-paid cards are, in fact, also caught up by the credit card ban.
What Sites Does the Credit Card Ban Affect?
The credit card ban has been brought in by the UK Gambling Commission and will cover all areas that they regulate. That essentially means that just about all forms of gambling will be precluded. There are some dubious offshore betting sites that illegally accept UK customers (and don’t have a UK license), who may continue to allow credit card deposits, however we would never recommend using these.
The Gambling Commission covers a wide range of businesses, both online and offline and the only exception to the credit card ban is the National Lottery and other lotteries run for good causes. Even for those there are further restrictions and protections in place. In general, however, this means that whether you are playing/betting online or at a bricks and mortar establishment, you can no longer use a credit card to fund betting at a sportsbook, casino, bingo site/hall or to play poker.
How Do Sites Know If It Is A Credit Or Debit Card?
Whilst debit cards and credit cards can look very similar, the processors can tell straight away what type of card is being used. In fact, as illustrated by a site called BinList, quite a lot of information can be gleaned from just the first six numbers of a card.
All sites will face major fines from the 14th April if they accept a payment from a credit card and given that it is a simple step for them to stop taking such deposits we can safely assume that it will no longer be possible to fund your account this way. You shouldn’t be using a credit card anyway (for reasons mentioned above and more reasons listed below) but even if you wanted to, there is no way to trick or game the system.
Betting With Credit Cards Was Always a Bad Idea
Betting with a credit card has always been a bad idea, chiefly for the responsible gambling reasons already stated. However, aside from that, using a credit card to fund a betting account has never made financial sense due to the fees that it attracts.
Almost all credit card companies started treating deposits to betting firms as cash advances many years ago. Whereas a standard credit card purchase attracts no fees and gives you a big interest-free window in which to pay off your debt, cash advances are far more costly.
The precise terms and conditions for both cash advances and payments to gambling companies vary from one credit card to the next. However, almost all will charge interest from the moment of the deposit, and credit card interest rates are very high (compared to agreed loans). In addition you may be charged an additional amount per transaction as a cash advance/gambling fee, typically around 2% with a minimum fee of between £2 and £3.
Given all of the best betting sites around offer a whole plethora of deposit options, using a credit card really was a bad choice.
Did Many People Use Credit Cards?
Strange and unthinkable as it may seem to the many whose gambling is fun, recreational, responsible and controlled, gambling on credit is relatively widespread. This is partly why the ban has been introduced, with Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur saying:
“Credit card gambling can lead to significant financial harm. The ban that we have announced today should minimise the risks of harm to consumers from gambling with money they do not have. We also know that there are examples of consumers who have accumulated tens of thousands of pounds of debt through gambling because of credit card availability. There is also evidence that the fees charged by credit cards can exacerbate the situation because the consumer can try to chase losses to a greater extent.”
The Independent reported that around 24 million people gamble in the UK, with more than 10 million placing bets online. Of those around 800,000 use or have used credit cards and the paper states that the:
“regulator’s own data (shows) that more than 165,000 customers made £46m-worth of credit card deposits in February last year (2019)”.