CLEVELAND — One month since becoming legal, sports betting is off to a blazing start in Ohio. However, some first-time bettors are noticing an unwelcome surprise fee on their credit card statements.
Like many Ohioans, Stark County resident Larry Murgatroid decided to take sports betting for a spin in early January just as it became legal in Ohio. He input his credit card information into FanDuel and put $10 into his sports book account, just enough to qualify for the promotional free bets that FanDuel and others have been aggressively marketing.
Then, on Thursday night, he opened his credit card statement.
“I see I got charged $10 for my bet but then I got charged another $10 cash advance fee and interest charges on that $10 to boot,” Murgatroid said. “I started looking at it and said, ‘okay, what went wrong here? Did I miss a payment?” No. They’re charging me $11.50 on top of that $10 bet.”
Murgatroid’s $10 bet had actually turned into $21.50. He called his bank Friday morning and a customer support specialist informed him that the $10 cash advance fee and $1.50 in accrued interest were not mistakes.
“[With my credit card], anything that you do with gambling — that is automatically considered a cash advance with the bank,” Murgatroid said.
According to Sara Rathner, a credit cards expert at NerdWallet, the normal rules associated with purchasing goods and services via a credit card don’t always apply to online gambling. For starters, not all gambling websites and sportsbooks allow credit cards as a method of payment.
“Even if it is allowed, the bank that issues your credit card and the payment network your credit card operates on (i.e. Visa, Mastercard) could each have different rules for how they process gambling transactions. Some credit card agreements even specifically list gambling as a form of a cash advance or cash equivalent,” Rathner said in an email. “NerdWallet recommends taking a close look at the terms and conditions of your card to see if there are any stated rules about gambling transactions, and if so, what kind of charge it is. The terms and conditions may also mention if these types of transactions are excluded from earning any credit card rewards, like cash back or travel points/miles.”
Cash advance fees, which can vary from bank to bank, also begin racking up interest on day one, hence the $1.50 in interest on Murgatroid’s statement.
Murgatroid said he signed up for his credit card two decades ago under what was then National City Bank, which was later taken over by PNC Bank. He said he has asked for clarification from PNC Bank as to whether the cash advance fee is permissible under the terms of his credit card agreement.
No matter the outcome, Murgatroid doesn’t want others to find surprise fees on their statements.
“Watch your credit card statement,” Murgatroid said. “Maybe think twice about pulling that credit card out. That’s for sure.”
To avoid racking up cash advance fees while putting money into a sportsbook account, experts recommend using debit cards, bank transfers or services like PayPal. Experts also encourage consumers to check with their specific bank for additional information.