Matching up coloured candies, building a city in the Middle Ages or playing cards are some of the most popular pastimes for online gaming enthusiasts. Below we tell you how to enjoy these games without breaking the bank.

Online games played on smartphones, computers, tablets and game consoles are gaining a foothold in the entertainment industry. However, there are several things we need to know to make sure that what should be fun doesn’t turn into a nightmare and harms our financial health.

Online games require an Internet connection and enable real-time interaction with other gamers and with things in the game itself. The endless list includes traditional casino, sports, role play, action, strategy and other games.

In the digital era, more people are spending their free time gaming online. On top of the risk of addiction, failing to keep a lid on gaming can lead to financial problems. Though we tend to relate online casinos and bookmakers with spending, other seemingly harmless gaming options can hurt our pocket more than we think.

Online casinos and betting

Though the minimum age may vary between countries, access to online casinos and bookmakers is regulated and only allowed for people of legal age. Certain ID mechanisms exist to keep minors out.

After verifying users’ identity, online casinos and bookmakers will ask for a payment method (usually a debit card) to take funds from. That's why it’s important to follow these recommendations:

  • Stay safe. Gambling websites must have an operating licence from a competent authority, which you should check before entering your personal details. When signing in from a browser, domain names that begin with “https” and a closed padlock symbol left of the navigation bar mean the connection is secure and personal and bank details are protected.
     
  • Search for a low minimum balance. Many websites require you to have a minimum balance in order to gamble. Look for ones where the minimum balance is low so you won't shell out more than you can afford. The more money you put in your account, the more likely you’ll spend it.
     
  • Don’t treat it as a job. Though there’s money involved, online gambling should be seen as mere entertainment and never as a regular source of income.
     
  • Get out while you can. When results don’t go our way, the reflection effect (a form of cognitive bias) pushes us to take on greater financial risks to recover the money lost. That can lead to even more losses.
     
  • Don’t gamble borrowed money. Create a budget to plan how much you’re going to spend on entertainment each month. Include a line for online gaming and stick to the amount you set to avoid over-indebtedness. Maxing out your credit cards or taking out loans can ruin your finances and lead to considerable debt.

To learn more about the consequences of gambling online, check out this article (in Spanish) on gambling addiction from Finanzas para Mortales (Finance for Mortals). 

Online video games 

In addition to games of chance, there is a plethora of online games designed for all ages and tastes, from traditional board games to the latest action, strategy, simulation and other video games.

Many of them are free via websites or download. However, some charge fees for updates, additional content, upgrades on free versions and other features.

It’s important to check for in-game purchases before subscribing to a game. The most popular types of pay-to-play games are:

  • Premium: Payment to unlock all the game's features. While we previously bought games at shops (on a floppy disk or CD), we can now pay to download them or play them online, free of restrictions. We can buy them directly on the developer’s website or on specialized platforms, so we should make sure the provider is trustworthy before entering any payment details. Those games can also require in-game purchases for updates and other features not included in the original version.
     
  • Freemium: A popular way for developers to raise funds. They launch a free game with the option to charge for unlocking all features or an enhanced user experience. A typical example is going from one level to the next. In the free version, you may have to wait a while before the next level is available; but if you pay, you can access it immediately. Keeping an eye on payment methods and disabling them on devices is a good way of making sure you don’t fall into the in-game purchase trap.

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