Priceline Hotel Bidding: Trick to Find out the Secret Lowest Price Without Paying

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 MauiThose are all reasonably nice hotels of similar level.

The second piece of information is a game changer, however.

Looking for Maui on Priceline

Maui. (Photo Credit: Dmitry Brodsky)

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.

Priceline Hotel Bidding offer reject

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.

Priceline Hotel Bidding Try Again Right Now

Priceline is letting me try again the exact same bid immediately, but only if I raise my price significantly

Bid 4: Ka’anapali + Kihei + Kahului:  I bid $170…

Priceling Hotel Bidding Entering Price

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.

Priceline Hotel Bidding Try Again

Priceline is letting me know it tried to charge my card, but was unsuccessful. This means my price would have been accepted!

Comparing the Secret Lowest Price to Hotel Prices on Other Booking Sites

Priceline Hotel Bidding Offer Preview

My total Priceline offer with all taxes included

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.

  1. Hyatt Regency Maui: $289 a night + tax, costing about $1350 for all 4 nights
  2. Westin Maui: $359 a night + tax, costing about $1600 for all 4 nights
  3. Sheraton Maui: $369 a night + tax, also costing about $1600 for all 4 nights
Maui Hyatt

Maui Hyatt

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:

  1. Use a different email address
  2. Use a different credit card
  3. 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!

Summary

  • 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.

Other posts you may like:

How to Get Priority Club Hotels for $35 a Night: Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza on Point Breaks

Hotwire Hotel in Mexican Riviera Maya: The Valentin Imperial Maya All-Inclusive Adult Resort for $250 a Night

Comments

  1. JakePB says

    Now that gift card trick is a new one to me, and I’ve been playing the P-line game for years now…another brilliant post Miles Prof!

  2. Jose A says

    Another trick to make a test bid and avoid being charged is to “mistakenly” enter the CC security code when submitting a bid. I have mistakenly entered 356 instead 355 (or something like that) many times and either got rejected OR was told my CC info did not go through. Being told my CC did not go through means I bid at a price that is going to be accepted. I use this trick to set up my bidding strategy by using re-bids (or the other tricks mentioned in the post) to see how much lower I can get a room for.

    I had not come across the GC before. Thanks.

    • says

      That’s a good idea if you’re comfortable putting in your credit card number. I honestly would feel a little worried to put in the card number as, at that point, there is some small amount of risk they can charge you; I can’t say I’m an expert on how credit card authorization works and whether they truly need the security code. With a gift card, there is no chance they can charge you for your bid; the card simply doesn’t have the funds on it.

  3. says

    Great post! On the IP Address part, if you have a smartphone to tether to the computer you can ‘change’ your IP address. Or hop onto a different wireless network, like Optimum or Time Warner has free wifi in certain areas.

  4. Ash says

    Thanks for this great post. I have a question. Can you use a prepaid visa card like the kind you find in pharmacies and grocery stores for this kind of transaction on priceline? I am bidding newbie and have never bid!

  5. Sam Romins says

    Hi Miles Professor!

    Thank you for the great tip about the gift card!
    I usually look compare the offers at http://www.ibidlow.com/, because I find it more friendly than http://biddingfortravel.yuku.com/.

    iBidLow also has a rebidding tool that directs you what to offer in any city and let you get many options for example in Lahaina, Hawai http://www.ibidlow.com/search/Better-Bidding-For-Travel-in-Lahaina-HI-USA/?#rebidding

    Thank you for the great post!

  6. Marc J says

    Great article. Big Priceline fan, and I didn’t know about using a different IP / email address but will try for sure.

    Hey, one thing I noticed… I don’t think your example will work. From the 2nd bid to the 3rd bid, you are swapping one zone for another zone, but when I try, Priceline doesn’t let me unselect zones. I can only add new ones. This is talked about extensively on http://www.hoteldealsrevealed.com/forum/

    Its not impossible to achieve the 4 bids you’ve shown, but it has to be in this order.
    Bid 1: Zone 1
    Bid 2: Zone 1 + Zone 2
    Bid 3: Zone 1 + Zone 2 + Zone 3 (Priceline won’t let you do Zone 1 + Zone 3)
    Bid 4: Restart the bidding process and do: Zone 1 + Zone 3

    • says

      It’s true that you need to restart your bid in order to be able to drop a Zone from a previous bid. I assumed people bidding already knew this, but perhaps I should point this out. But you cannot switch the order of bids from what I have written. If you try to enter your Bid 4 after your Bid 3, you won’t be able to as you had already previously bid on Zone 1 + Zone 3 and the system will not allow this for 24 hours. In order for this to work, you cannot switch steps 3 and 4 and you must enter Bids 1, 2 and 3 (or, in your case, bids 1,2 and 4) prior to entering Bid 4 with all 3 zones. Hope that helps clarify your question!

  7. Jacqueline says

    Another bidding method I use when there are multiple zones that I would be willing to stay in (e.g. NYC) is to bid one zone at a time first at incrementally lower star levels, then retry with groups of zones. Many people will unsuccessfully try multiple zone levels at the same time and that basically wastes bids. I’ve found that it lets you bid Zone 1 alone, Zone 2 alone, then Zone 1+2 without noticing that it is basically the same bid.

  8. JC says

    THIS is smart. And shows that people are finding ways to fight back. The Internet is being turned on it’s head. What was supposed to be a way to consolidate information for the benefit of the users is being so malformed now we’re just getting ridiculous quotes. They showed one corporate type saying how he hates to leave $ on the table? What in the world does that even mean? This is exactly what people should do.

    “Revenue” people are flat out just crazy anymore. Heck I’ve had supposed agents tell me, well what do you expect? I don’t expect anything but if you’re going to be given supposed inside access, my business should mean something. These are total a$$ hats who nobody’s ever sought any refund from whatsoever who act like every transaction is a problem. The level of passive aggressive nonsense in this industry is reaching a fever pitch.

  9. Wendy says

    I rarely travel, but am headed to California for 4 weeks for the birth of my first Grandchild, yay!
    I’ve never bid for a hotel before, either. Is it possible to bid on something with a kitchen(ette), & should I split up my 4 weeks into 2-week stays or smaller to get the best price?

Trackbacks

  1. […] Priceline’s Name Your Own Price®  Once I’ve chosen my destination, it’s own to Priceline to book my flight and/or airfare. If I’m flying domestically and have some flexibility with flight schedules, I always book my plane tickets using the Name Your Own Price® option. I’ve also scored some pretty fantastic hotel deals all over the world using this option. I could probably do a whole post on optimal bidding strategies. in the mean time, does a pretty good job of explaining the process. […]

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