In the first part of my Priceline discussion, I wrote a post about Priceline covering the ins and outs of hotel bidding on Pricline: Priceline Hotel Bidding: How to Get Hotels at a Fraction of the Price. In the post, I covered the ins and outs of figuring out the hotel candidates and bidding strategies.
Priceline allows you to Name Your Own Price for a certain location and hotel level. Hotels may accept or reject your bid. You enter your credit card number and, if your offer is accepted, your credit card is charged and you are locked in. No refunds, no transfers, no cancellations. When you are bidding, two things are hidden from you:
- The specific hotel where you’ll be staying
- The lowest price Priceline will accept for a certain level hotel in the zone you’re bidding on
The first isn’t such a problem. As I explain in my post on how to use Priceline hotel bidding, you can go to BiddingForTravel and get a list of hotels in each zone that people have recently been winning. While this isn’t 100% foolproof and there is always a chance a new hotel came up, it is fairly reliable information especially in locations where many people bid. In my example, I was looking for hotels in Ka’anapali Beach in Maui. I am probably ok knowing I would stay at the Hyatt Regency Maui, the Westin Maui or the Sheraton Maui. Those are all reasonably nice hotels of similar level.
The second piece of information is a game changer, however.
There are a few reasons I really want to know what I’ll be paying before I make my decision about my vacation. First of all, if I am planning a vacation to Maui, I prefer to know in advance how much I can expect to pay for a hotel. I don’t want to buy a plane ticket and then have to try a bidding strategy. I also just like to know all my options. For example, if I knew I could get the Hyatt, Westin or Sheraton in Maui for $150 a night and I see most hotels my travel weekend going for $400, then I know doing more research is likely to turn up fruitless. $150 is likely to be the best rate. On the other hand, if hotels that weekend are going for $200, then it may be worth comparing rates or options on other sites.
When you make bids, you enter a credit card number. If your bid is accepted, your credit card is charged right away and you are locked in. Unless you actually don’t have enough funds on your credit card… then your transaction is declined and your card is not charged. So the trick is: Use a gift card with a low balance to make your bid.
Let’s go over what happens when I do this with my Maui example:
Finding out Priceline’s Secret Lowest Price: Priceline Hotel Bidding for a Resort in Ka’anapali Beach, Maui
Say I am thinking about visiting Maui from May 10 – May 14. Hotels are expensive and I want to see if I can get a better price through Priceline. If I can get a good deal on the hotel, I will look for plane tickets.
As explained in my previous Priceline post on hotel bidding, I want a Resort on Ka’anapali beach. I would like to inch up my price slowly, but I can only bid once per 24 hours unless I either add a zone, change dates or lower my hotel category. Since Kihei and Kahului have no resorts, I can freely add these zones and still be confident I will be staying in Ka’anapali if I win a Resort hotel. Let’s start bidding!
And, of course, when Priceline asks for my credit card number, I enter a Visa gift card with a $10 balance. (Fortunately, I actually have plenty of these since I only tend to spend money by first buying Visa gift cards at office supply stores, where I earn 5 points per dollar with my Chase Ink Bold card… but I digress).
Bid 1: Ka’anapali zone: I bid $120. I want to start slowly. After I submit my bid, a screen with William Shatner, our “Priceline negotiator” comes up and I wait a few minutes while he “negotiates” to see if any hotels accepted my bid. My offer gets rejected right away.
Bid 2: Ka’anapali + Kahului: I bid $135… Priceline negotiator times… Another rejection.
Bid 3: Ka’anapali + Kihei: I bid $150… Priceline negotiator time…. Now I know I am getting warmer! Rather than rejecting my bid outright as before, I am actually given an offer to increase my bid to $188 and try the exact same bid again. I now know one of the Resorts in the Ka’anapali zone will accept an offer of $188 a night + taxes and fees, but I want to see if I can do better.
Bid 4: Ka’anapali + Kihei + Kahului: I bid $170…
ignoring what Priceline says about the median retail price (you’ll soon see this is irrelevant)…Priceline negotiator time… and I get exactly what I was looking for! Priceline is letting me know that it tried to perform a transaction with the card I provided. It tried to charge me for the hotel, which means my offer was accepted! I now know I can get a Resort hotel in Ka’anapali for $170 + taxes, but I am not locked in! In fact, I can just enter a reasonable card number and just book the room.
Comparing the Secret Lowest Price to Hotel Prices on Other Booking Sites
The offer I made was $790.84 in total for all four nights for a Resort hotel in Ka’anapali beach, Maui.
According to the BiddingForTravel message board area on Maui, most people have been getting the Hyatt recently. So there is a good chance the actual hotel that would have accepted my offer is the Hyatt. Regardless, I check rates for all three hotels to see how much I would be paying otherwise.
- Hyatt Regency Maui: $289 a night + tax, costing about $1350 for all 4 nights
- Westin Maui: $359 a night + tax, costing about $1600 for all 4 nights
- Sheraton Maui: $369 a night + tax, also costing about $1600 for all 4 nights
Even with Hyatt being the cheapest, I still save over $550 by using Priceline rather than booking directly through the hotel.
A Warning About the Secret Lowest Price Strategy
Like with most booking sites, the hotel inventory on Priceline is dynamic. People book rooms, hotels adjust rates, all kinds of things happen. Just because the Hyatt (or Westin or Sheraton) was willing to accept a rate of $790.84 today for four nights, that doesn’t mean the same rate will be available tomorrow. This method should be used as an estimate.
Similar to regular hotel booking, nothing is guaranteed until you’ve actually booked the room and received confirmation.
And Finally: How to Enter Even More Bids within 24 Hours!
There is one last thing worth mentioning. As pointed out a few times, Priceline only lets you enter a bid once in 24 hours for a particular set of zones, dates and hotel categories. I showed in my example and explained in my previous Priceline post how you can add zones that don’t have the category of hotel you’re interested in to get free additional bids. In my Maui example, I got in 4 bids when I was interested in just a single zone.
But what if you want even more bids? Priceline is actually somewhat intelligent in making sure you don’t bid more than once on a particular configuration of hotel options. To enter a new bid on the exact same, you need to:
- Use a different email address
- Use a different credit card
- Use a different IP address
Don’t worry about your billing address and name. There’s no reason why someone in my building shouldn’t be able to also look for a Resort in Ka’anapali. Hopefully, most of us have multiple email address and credit cards (or nearly empty prepaid cards to use my trick to find out the secret lowest price!). But the third requirement is the hard one. You can try: switching browsers, clearing cookies, using Google Chrome incognito mode or, if all else fails, just go use a different computer somewhere else. Good luck!
- Priceline attempts to hide the hotel name and lowest acceptable price until your bid is accepted and you are locked in.
- You can get around this and find out the lowest price that Priceline will accept by using a gift card with insufficient funds to pay for the hotel you’re bidding on.
- Priceline will then let you know it tried to perform a transaction with your card and could not. This signifies your offer would have been accepted.
- Learning the lowest price gets you valuable information when planning your vacation, letting you evaluate all your options before committing to a non-refundable, non-transferable Priceline hotel booking.
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