Whether it’s a weekend trip to Vegas or a night out to a local casino, carrying more cash than usual can be both inconvenient and stressful. Credit cards reduce the clutter in your wallet in certain situations, but they’re not universally accepted in the gambling world.

Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer to where you can use a card to gamble; the rules not only depend on the way you choose to gamble, but vary state-to-state and card-to-card.

Being prepared and conscious of your limits is vital any time you’re chancing your money. The most important thing to remember is to only gamble with money you can afford to lose, which means setting limits and boundaries for yourself.

But, when it comes to knowing what card to use, how the process works or the restrictions wherever you’re wagering, let’s go over the house rules when it comes to the capabilities of your credit card.

Gambling using a credit card: How it works

Before knowing when and where you’re able to use a credit card, you should know what’s in store when it’s possible.

By definition, gambling is the purest way of risking your money, so card providers often make it expensive when you’re taking the chance.

Is gambling with a credit card a cash advance?

Credit card companies treat gambling charges on a credit card as cash equivalents. Therefore, the majority of credit card companies that do allow for gambling expenses will categorize these charges as cash advances.

There are a few things to know about cash advances. You’ll likely be charged a fee anywhere from 3% to 5% on any transaction — often matching the cost you’d face at an ATM. In the moment, this percentage might feel negligible given the distractions of a casino, but it can add up quickly. And, a cash advance has a high APR which isn’t granted a grace period, so you’ll be incurring interest charges right off the bat. It’s also worth noting that cash advances aren’t eligible for rewards-earning.

Can you dispute a charge?

Any time you decide you’d like to dispute a charge, it will start by you contacting your bank. That being said, you can certainly try, but getting past your bank and the merchant (a casino, online gambling site, etc.) to repeal a legitimate gambling charge has worse odds than the roulette table flashing green.

Being responsible and disciplined is lesson number one in any gambling handbook, so avoid putting yourself in a situation where you feel the urge to dispute a charge.

Where you can gamble with a credit card

Borrowing in order to gamble isn’t always a great idea, but preparing yourself prior to your gambling endeavors certainly is.

At the casino

If you’re planning a trip to Sin City or any other casino-hub, you should know that you can’t use your credit card directly to buy chips or play slots. In most states, casinos require cash or check to buy-in, and will send players to the ATM machine or cashier’s cage in order to play.

ATMs charge a hefty fee but the best way to prep for a trip to the casino or sportsbook is by carrying cash or setting up a line of credit beforehand.

The state of New Jersey allows for credit cards to back slot machine and table game players, but finding a casino that elects to do so is rare. These establishments keep limits on their payment methods to avoid dealing with the potentially rampant disputed charges.

It’s important to check your statement after any casino trip. There are times where dinner or drinks at the casino are categorized as cash advance charges due to the establishment’s merchant category code. There are two ways to best avoid unwarranted interest and charges in this case:

  1. Contact your card provider prior to spending to clarify whether these charges will be considered cash advances.
  2. When making a purchase at a casino, hold onto any receipts and report them to your card issuer if any charges are wrongfully categorized as cash advances.

Gambling online

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could decide for themselves when it comes to online gambling, which allowed New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island and West Virginia to join Nevada in its legalization. This has led to the recent emergence of online sportsbooks, casinos and daily fantasy sports, which you’ve likely seen ads for on your TV or when browsing the web.

These organizations will accept your credit card in order to establish a balance on their site, which you can then use for online poker, sports betting or any other offered wager. You’ll want to shop around and consider more than one site; the majority will charge a percentage when you deposit your money and even worse — some hit you with another fee when making a withdrawal.

It’s crucial that you weigh your options here, there are legitimate sites that will unfairly charge you and illegal sites or scams that seem all too convincing.

Other gambling ventures

Although it’s often thought of separately from gambling, the purchase of lottery tickets has state-to-state rules as well. Many states allow retailers to sell lotto tickets with credit card purchases, but several leave it up to the retailer:

Credit card lottery purchases allowed state-wide: AZ, CA, DE, ID, IL, KY, MI, OH, OR, RI, VT
Credit card lottery purchases at the discretion of the retailer: IN, KS, LA, ME, MO, NE, NY, PA, SD, WA

States left off these lists accept exclusively cash when it comes to playing Mega Millions, Powerball or scratch-off tickets.

Another endeavor commonly sought out for gambling is cruises. It will depend on the company, but you can typically buy-in with a credit card while aboard. When you embark on a cruise, you’ll have the option to put a credit card on file to avoid the hassle of carrying your wallet to the pool, restaurants or any other offered entertainment. Most cruise lines allow this card to be used to easily charge expenses on the ship and in exchange for chips or casino credit.

What cards are accepted?

No matter the state you’re in or game you’re looking to play, you must know whether your card provider is accepted and allows for gambling purchases. Visa, MasterCard and American Express permit the use of their cards for gambling and are the most commonly accepted by online casinos and sportsbooks. Most sites will allow you to withdraw credit back onto your Visa card, but that ability is seen less often with MasterCard and American Express cards.

Regardless of the card you carry, it is ultimately up to your bank to determine how to handle gambling expenses — some will disallow them completely. As a general rule, the more well-known your card issuer and bank are, the more likely it is that your card will be able to make gambling purchases.

Does gambling affect your credit?

While simply making a gambling purchase with your credit card won’t directly hurt your credit, the repercussions of that decision could make it a bad bet.

Given the nature of cash advances, you could find yourself in a tough situation when dealing with the immediate impact of heightened interest and an additional fee. Anytime you do elect to gamble with a credit card, plan ahead of time to be sure to avoid finding yourself in a “sixteen against a ten” scenario.

Should you gamble with your credit card?

Credit cards provide a convenient way to make any payment, including if you’re looking for some action online. However, anytime you are looking to gamble, there are likely better options than using a credit card.

The best way to start playing at the casino is by bringing cash, setting up a line of credit or through a check at the cashier’s cage. When looking to bet online, look for sites that accept other forms of currency such as bitcoin or gift cards. By using one of these alternative options, you can avoid the steep APR and fees that come along with cash advances — a responsible way to hedge a loss or possible hit to your credit score.

All in all, using your credit card as a means to gamble isn’t a great idea. Borrowing money with the intent to risk it away puts you in a dangerous financial position. Gambling losses are easy to chase and what initially seems like a fun hobby can become a crippling addiction, so always exercise caution and set limits no matter your buy-in method or game you’re playing.