No matter how you look at it, gambling is ultimately about money. You need money to gamble, and you gamble to make more money. Even if you are just in it for the thrill, you still need to start out with money to get the ball rolling. Which brings us to the topic at hand - how does your money get from your bank account into a virtual internet casino so that you can use it to start gambling?
The answer should be simple - just punch in your credit card details and go. But because of restrictions in the US and through much of Europe, many credit card companies will block transactions that they know are going to online casinos. Because of this, services have emerged that act as middle-men, taking your credit card details, processing the payments, and sending the money off to the casino.
These services, often known as e-wallets, are accepted by virtually all online casinos as valid payment methods. Using them is easy - you just use your credit card to put money into your e-wallet account, then deposit it from there into your casino account as needed.
Signing up for an e-wallet account is sometimes complicated. You usually need to give them your name, address, date of birth etc, along with bank, credit, and debit card details. The e-wallet company might even run a check on you to make sure you really are who you say you are.
This is all done in the name of security. The e-wallet companies don't want to get ripped off by you, and they don't want anything to happen to your money while they are holding it. In the end, it's a good thing that they are so strict.
There are quite a few e-wallet companies online today. Not all of them are reputable. Here are the biggest and most trustworthy e-wallets - most internet casinos will accept one or even several of these. Each has its own advantages, and it's up to you to choose.
QuickTender is one of the few e-wallet online banking services that is open to US residents. Fortunately, it is also accepted at all major online casinos (that accept US players). It works like any other e-wallet system. Funds may be deposited by bank transfer or wire for free, or by credit card for a rather large 5% fee.
Withdrawals can be made from a QuickTender account, but the process is slow and expensive. The fee is a flat rate of US $30 per transaction, and it takes 3 to 5 days to process. Withdrawals must be made by wire transfer into a bank account.
The service can be used at any online merchant that displays the UseMyWallet logo.
Click2Pay works differently than most payment companies. Instead of filling an e-wallet account with funds and then transferring them to a casino, at Click2Pay your casino deposits are processed on-the-fly, by taking the funds straight out of your bank account or by charging the transactions to your credit or debit card.
Another benefit of Click2Pay is its Spending Limit system. Every transaction you make is deducted from your limit, and the limit isn't restored until 7 days after your last purchase. That makes Click2Pay ideal for people who have difficulty controlling their spending.
Click2Pay is not available to customers residing in the US or to applicants under the age of 18.
Neteller is one of the most widely-used banking systems, and is accepted at many internet casinos. It is available in over 160 countries and accepts most major currencies. Loading your Neteller account from a bank account is free, but using a credit or debit card incurs a fee of 1.75%.
Two account types are available. Neteller Express accounts have limits on deposits and spending, and do not allow withdrawals. Upgrading to a Neteller Extended account introduces rolling limits on bank and card deposits, allows withdrawals, and also provides the customer with a debit card that can be used to draw on the account at ATMs and points of sale.
A major advantage of Neteller accounts over some other similar systems is that gambling winnings from internet casinos can be paid directly into a Neteller account.
Please note that the Neteller service is not available to US residents.
EcoCard is a typical e-wallet banking system that works much like a pre-paid debit card. It was specifically made for the European market. Funding an EcoCard account requires either a European bank account or a credit/debit card.
Registering for an EcoCard is complicated, and there are a lot of security checks to pass and documents to verify. This ultimately leads to better security, so it should not stop you from signing up.
Withdrawing from an EcoCard account is possible, but each separate withdrawal incurs a flat fee of US $30. This can be beneficial when withdrawing large amounts since the fee is not commission based.
US residents are allowed to sign up and use the EcoCard service, but they are specifically forbidden to use it for funding online gambling.
EntroPay is a unique service that actually provides members with a virtual Visa debit card that can be used at any online retailer that accepts Visa. An EntroPay account is funded by either credit card or by another debit card. Be aware EntroPay takes a 4.95% cut out of every top-up.
Limits are set on both deposits and on how much a member can spend using the card. Unfortunately, spending limits are not revealed until an account is opened, and are difficult to predict, meaning members can get stuck with accounts that have low limits.
Withdrawals can be made at any time from an EntroPay account. Fees are applied, but they are considerably less than the deposit fees.
EntroPay is only available to applicants aged 18 and over, and is not available in the US.
MoneyBookers is another standard e-wallet system. Signing up is less complicated than with other, similar companies. Accounts can be funded straight from a user's bank account, or by using a credit or debit card. Topping-up from a bank account is free, but depositing into a MoneyBookers account using a card incurs a 1.90% fee.
Withdrawals can be made, but they take some time - usually 2 to 5 business days. Deposits made from a MoneyBookers account to an online retailer, however, are instantaneous.
Making payments from a MoneyBookers account is as easy as entering the email address of the person or company you wish to pay. Over 2,500 online outlets accept the service. Many items, however, are forbidden to be purchased using a MoneyBookers account, including tobacco products and prescription drugs.
MoneyBookers is unfortunately not available to US residents.
WebMoney is the most complex service discussed here, and the service is not accepted at very many casinos. First, two versions are available - Classic and Light. The Light version is web-based, but the Classic version requires software, so deposits into a WebMoney account can only be made from one machine. The Classic version is less convenient, but is good for security's sake.
Internally, WebMoney isn't just one big vat of funds, but is divided into 'purses'. Each purse can only be in one currency, so if deposits are made in a different currency than the payment will be made in, the purse needs to be converted.
Payments into a WebMoney account are made by wire transfer from a bank account. Withdrawals happen the same way.
The service has its advantages, but is very specialized, and is not for everyone. WebMoney cannot be used by customers in the US.
UKash is perhaps the most unique of all online banking methods covered here. Customers do not need to register, provide bank details, or even give proof of age to use the service - only an email address and a mobile number are needed.
UKash works using vouchers, which are purchased from banks either online or in person. To use a voucher, simply enter the its unique voucher number wherever UKash is accepted. Vouchers are for set amounts, but 'change' is given in the form of a new voucher.
Some rules apply - there are limits on the amount and number of vouchers that can be purchased in a day, and vouchers expire after 12 months. Change vouchers can take several days to arrive. Otherwise, UKash is an excellent and totally anonymous service.
UKash is not available to US residents.