In April, gamblers in the UK will be banned from placing bets using their credit cards in a bid to stamp out the problem of people running up huge debts with online bookmakers.
In theory, it seems a sensible move. In practice, however, it leaves the millions of people who use online gambling sites at greater financial risk.
Why? After all, both credit and debit cards are basically afforded the same level of fraud protection. If your card details are stolen and money is taken from your account, the bank should refund the money by the end of the next working day, according to this article by Citizens Advice.
Still, I’d much rather have someone steal my credit card details than my debit card credentials. If someone commits fraud on my credit card it’s not an immediate problem if the bank takes a few days to sort out a refund; if someone steals my debit card details and clears out my current account, I’ve got a short-term liquidity problem to deal with. My mortgage and bills might not get paid. Standing orders could fail, leading to services being cut off.
So, how do you gamble online safely with the option to use credit cards soon to be removed?
Bet online safely without a credit card
One of the best ways to protect yourself from online fraud – not just on gambling sites, but when internet shopping in general – is to never use the debit card that is connected to your main current account.
Instead, use a secondary or virtual debit card for online gambling and buying, which will leave your bank balance untouched if something does goes wrong.
How do you get one of these? From one of the so-called challenger banks such as Revolut. You can download the Revolut app for Android or iOS and start setting up an account right away. The basic account is free, although it costs £5 to have a plastic card sent to you.
Revolut provides you with a regular Mastercard debit card, much like your regular bank might. You can top up the funds on your Revolut card using your regular debit and credit cards (which actually provides an easy workaround to the credit card ban for gamblers, which I’m absolutely not encouraging) or via Google Pay.
You can only spend what’s in your Revolut account, there is no credit facility, so if you want to gamble £20 on the football at the weekend, you can transfer the money to your Revolut account and use that account’s details on your favourite gambling site(s). You can’t lose any more money, because there’s no more to take from that account.
For an extra layer of safety, Revolut also lets you set up virtual cards. These basically create a new set of debit card details for you (this time through Visa, not Mastercard). You might set up a virtual card just for gambling sites – you can even the give the card a custom name. If your credentials are stolen at the gambling site, you can simply close the virtual card and set up a new one. Then there’s no need to replace the plastic card Revolut sent you, as you’re using an entirely different set of credentials.
Once again, I want to make it clear that I’m not encouraging people to gamble, nor do I cast any aspersions on people who do like an online flutter. But if you’re going to gamble online without a credit card, I hope I’ve helped you bet online safely.
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