U.S.-Friendly Online Poker Rooms: Where to Play, How to Pay
Here at Pokernews.com, we're all about customer service. One of the current topics of confusion among U.S.-based poker players is not so much which online rooms are open to American players, but how one gets their bankroll funds onto and off of these sites. With that in mind, we'd like to run down the options at six sites, each of which continues to accept U.S. players. Options aren't as widespread as they were a few months ago, but with the exception of one set-in-stone rule --- "No Personal Checks!" --- players still have ways of moving money into and out of poker accounts. In addition, another service, YouTeller, is reportedly on the horizon but is not yet available at any member site. Here's the current status of our sponsoring sites:
Poker Stars: Poker Stars currently lists three main pipelines for U.S. poker players seeking to fund one's bankroll. Poker Stars currently lists ePassporte as its online e-wallet service of choice, although establishing an ePassporte account is in itself a several-day process. ePassporte is a pre-paid and reloadable virtual Visa-branded online account, which functions in much the same method as other, previously popular e-wallet services. Since the account is essentially a virtual Visa card, fees are a bit higher then for e-wallet services that used to function more as online banking accounts.
Poker Stars also continues to accept Visa and Mastercard credit-card deposits, though U.S. players most often find that their own cards are blocked by the issuing banks for deposits to gambling sites. However, a minority of cards can still be used in this way. Poker Stars also accepts cashier's checks, bank drafts and money orders, though the player must pre-arrange this form of 'paper' deposit to ensure that funds are accurately tracked and deposited into the user's account.
As for withdrawals, U.S. players at Poker Stars can either pull back money into their ePassporte account, effectively reloading the virtual card, or then ask to receive checks directly from Stars' well-established paper-check system. There is a $50 minimum on checks, effectively creating a current baseline for funding and maintaining a Stars account, and all checks of $1,000 and over are sent via courier instead of normal mail.
Full Tilt: Full Tilt's new payment-processing options have been the subject of much recent hullabaloo, with the recent addition of Wire Card, only to be withdrawn almost immediately when the company changed its U.S. facing policy. Now, Full Tilt has brought on MyWebATM as a new way of both depositing to and withdrawing from one's account. MyWebATM is a virtual account/debit-card service with physical debit cards also available, much as with other comprehensive e-wallet services. MyWebATM does charge a $3.95 monthly user fee and has smaller flat-rate fees attached to most types of transactions, so it's less attractive to the once-in-a-blue-moon player.
MyWebATM joins ePassporte among the e-wallets still currently offering services between U.S. players and Full Tilt. Full Tilt also accepts credit-card deposits for those players able to use that method, and Full Tilt also accepts cash transfers through MoneyGram outlets, with this form of deposit needing to be pre-arranged through Full Tilt customer service.
At present, withdrawals in amounts under $300 must go into either a MyWebATM, or ePassporte account, meaning that small-bankroll players must register with one of these services. For amounts of $300 and larger, Full Tilt does send out physical checks, although Full Tilt is currently difficulties in obtaining new check-processing services, resulting in unexpected delays. In any event, players must contact Full Tilt support before paper checks will be issued.
Bodog: Bodog continues to maintain a variety of funding channels, including credit cards (if usable for the purpose), and direct money transfers.
Bodog has also now implemented a direct "Money Transfer Deposit" system, wherein players contact Bodog Customer Service directly to arrange the money transfer. As an added incentive, Bodog is currently picking up the transfer charges as well for deposits of $200 and higher. Players must contact Bodog Customer Service directly to arrange transfers.
Withdrawals from Bodog also remain possible. Bodog will do a direct money transfer for withdrawal purposes, again by pre-arranging the transfer through Bodog's customer support. Bodog also sends out physical checks by priority post, though these checks do take a couple of weeks to process. Bodog was recently picking up the FedEx fees associated with larger withdrawals via check, but that arrangement may or may not be temporary, and should again be verified with Bodog support.
Ultimate Bet: Ultimate Bet continues to make use of existing channels such as Visa/MC deposits, ePassporte (now likely the method most often used), MoneyGrams, bank drafts and money orders, and wire transfers made directly from a user's bank account. For each of these later methods, players need to contact Ultimate Bet support to set up or verify the information needed to ensure that the transfer goes into the account as intended.
Withdrawals from Ultimate Bet are currently done via check, or through an ePassporte account. Checks have a $50 minimum, but are processed free by Ultimate Bet for a limited time. Players can also request a check to be sent by FedEx, though a $25 delivery fee applies, which is subtracted from the amount of the check.
Absolute Poker: Absolute Poker has also introduced a new payment system in the form of Add-Funds, where units of value are long-distance phone-time minutes, rather than cash. An Add-Funds user finances his account by making a deposit from an existing credit or debit card, even of the "throwaway" variety. Add-Funds' virtual cards are available in $100, $150, $200 and $300 denominations, and then this value in phone minutes can be deposited into an Absolute Poker account. Absolute instantly re-converts the phone minutes into their cash equivalent for the player's use.
In addition, Absolute maintains other deposit options, such as credit cards, ePassporte (widely used), and now also offers bank wire, bank draft and cashier's check options. As with other sites, contacting Absolute's customer service to ensure proper linkage between a player's intended physical-check deposit and account is required.
Withdrawals from Absolute are currently being processed through ePassporte, or by paper checks, sent via regular mail. Withdrawals by check are free for a limited time.