How to “Priceline Hack” a Luxury Hotel on the Cheap

I Saved $85/night—a 57% Discount—the Last Time I Used This Trick

If you’re like most people, you don’t want to overpay for a hotel. At the same time, you don’t want to spend forever squeezing out every last dollar of savings. You want to quickly find and book a great hotel at a great price. If you’re going to pay cash (rather than points) for a hotel, the absolute best way I know of to quickly get a great hotel at a great price is to use the Priceline hack I describe in this post.

Times Square with "Phantom of the Opera" sign -- used to illustrate the Priceline Hack

Times Square, New York — one of the many places the Priceline hack works

The last time I used this method I booked a $150 4-star hotel in Miami for $65—a savings of $85 or 57%. Saving $85 is great. But imagine saving $85/night on a 5-night stay. That’s a savings of $425. Now imagine doing that four times per year. That’s a savings of $1,700. The savings add up quickly when you make this method of booking hotels your default method.

In this post I will explain how Priceline works. Then I’ll share the key to the trick. Finally, I’ll include a video I recorded of me using the method. That way you can see, step-by-step, exactly how to do it.

Priceline Basics

With 99% of hotel booking sites, you get to see the name and address of the hotel before you book it.

Not so with Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” booking method, which I’ve written about before. You don’t get to see the name of the hotel or its precise address before you book. But you do get to specify what neighborhood your hotel must be in and its star class (5-star, 4-star, etc.).

You then submit a bid to Priceline for what you are willing to pay for a hotel of such-and-such star class in such-and-such area.

Priceline knows the lowest rate each hotel in their extensive database is willing to sell a room for on any given night. If your bid is equal to or greater than the minimum amount a hotel matching your criteria is willing to sell a room for, you get the room at the price you bid. (At that point Priceline reveals the name and address of the hotel.)

The Problem

Let’s say you want to stay in a 5-star hotel in New York’s Times Square. What you’d like to be able to do is bid, say, $80 for a room. If Priceline rejects the bid as being too low, you’d like to then immediately up your bid to, say, $100. If that bid is rejected, then $120, and so forth. By that means you would eventually tease out the lowest rate (within $19) for which a 5-star hotel in Times Square will sell a room.

But Priceline doesn’t want you to be able to tease out the minimum. Priceline wants you to overbid. The higher you bid above the minimum, the more profit there is for Priceline.

To hinder you from teasing out the lowest possible rate, Priceline only allows you to place one bid every 2 hours for the same hotel star class in the same area. So, if you bid $80 for a 5-star hotel in Times Square, and that bid is rejected, you’d then have to wait 2 hours to try your $100 bid. It would take a while to tease out the minimum possible rate.

The Raw Materials of the Solution

Miami Beach, Florida hotels and restaurants at sunset on Ocean Drive

Miami – where I got a 4-star hotel for $65 using the Priceline hack

Under two circumstances, however, Priceline will allow you to enter another bid without having to wait.

One is if you change the star class of the hotel. If you decide you are okay with a 5-star or 4.5-star hotel in Times Square, you can go ahead and submit your increased, $100 bid right away. The problem with this approach, however, is that you would soon be bidding $160 for any hotel in the 3-star or higher range. If and when Priceline accepts that bid and you end up in a 3-star hotel, you probably won’t be happy.

The second way that Priceline allows you to enter another bid right away is if you add additional areas in which you are open to landing a 5-star hotel. At first blush, this approach doesn’t seem great either, right? After all, you want to stay in Times Square, not one of the neighboring areas.

But, in fact, adding other areas is the key. Here’s why:

The Priceline Hack

The key to getting the lowest possible price on a luxury hotel revolves around adding additional areas, one by one, to your search, while slowly increasing your bid. But only certain areas. Let me explain.

Times Square is where you want to stay. And Priceline shows that there are one or more 5-star hotels in the Times Square area on which you can bid. (See video below for details.)

Don’t Add These Areas:

When you click on surrounding areas, you see that some have 5-star hotels as well. Central Park South and Upper West Side, for instance, also have 5-star hotels. As your bids get rejected, you do not want to add these areas into your search because you might end up with a bid getting accepted for a 5-star hotel in one of those areas instead of in Times Square.

Do Add These Areas:

You see, however, that a number of areas surrounding Times Square do not have a 5-star hotel in them. Examples include Midtown East and Grand Centeral Terminal. That’s great! Those are the sorts of areas you’re looking for. Because now you can execute the Priceline hack.

Hack Away:

What you do is place your opening bid (of, say, $80) for a 5-star hotel in Times Square. If Priceline rejects that bid, you then place a bid of, say, $100 for a 5-star hotel in either Times Square or one of the other areas in which you have already determined that there are no 5-star hotels (e.g., Midtown East). If Priceline accepts your $100 bid, you know that the 5-star hotel will, in fact, be in Times Square. Because that is the only area you’ve selected in which Priceline offers a 5-star hotel.

If Priceline rejects that $100 bid, you then add a third area in which no 5-star hotel exists (e.g., Grand Central Terminal), and you up your bid to $120. And so forth.

By this means you will quickly tease out the lowest possible price (within $19 dollars) that Priceline is able to sell a room at a 5-star hotel in Times Square. (If you don’t like the possibility of overpaying by even $19, then increase each bid by only $5 or $10 instead of $20.)

The Priceline Hack Step-by-Step Tutorial

If you’re confused, watch the following video. The savings are worth it.

If you totally get it and just want to see how to do it step-by-step, watch the following video.

Note on the video: For illustration purposes, I start with an opening bid of just $10 for a 5-star hotel in Times Square, and I only increase my bid by $10 each time. In real life, I would probably have started by bidding something like $70 as I wouldn’t guess that a bid lower than that would be accepted.

Conclusion

Like so many of the money-saving and time-saving tactics I write about, the Priceline hack is fine for a one-time savings. But the real power comes when you make a habit out of it.

Once you understand how to book hotels this way, it only takes a few more minutes per booking to use the Priceline hack rather than to book the way you are accustomed to booking. But as I showed above, those few minutes can easily save you $85/night— $1,700 per year if you have 20 nights/year of paid hotel stays.

Question: Do you have any questions about the “Priceline Hack” and how to execute it? If so, let me know, as I’d be happy to answer them. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

If you liked this post, sign up here to be the first to receive future posts.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

6 thoughts on “How to “Priceline Hack” a Luxury Hotel on the Cheap

  1. That is awesome Brian! I am just getting into travel hacking and I tend to find these travel sights confusing (seeing as I am such a newbie to the travel world and have yet to get over the learning curve), but this is ingenious and I will totally be attempting it when trying to book a hotel for an upcoming stay in Arkansas for a wedding. I planned to put the hotel charge on my Chase reserve card to use part of the $300 travel credit to cover the cost, since it is use it or lose it. Do you know if booking through Priceline codes as travel in a Chase card (thus qualifying for the credit)? Thanks again.

    • Thanks, Anne.

      I can’t say 100% for sure, but there are two reasons I do think that Priceline purchases will count toward the Chase Sapphire Reserve $300 annual travel credit.

      First, Chase lists “travel agencies” and “discount travel sites” as being in the “travel” category.

      Secondly, users on FlyerTalk have confirmed that “Priceline ‘opaque’ hotel purchases” have been reimbursed.

    • Great question, Karen. I’d suggest you hold off for two reasons.

      First, and most importantly, hotels booked on Priceline are nonrefundable. I don’t like booking nonrefundable rooms until closer to my trip when I’m more certain I won’t cancel.

      Secondly — and this is just speculation — I would guess that prices drop on Priceline as the desired date approaches and hotels are desperate to unload unbooked inventory.

      Here’s what I’d recommend. For now, just book a hotel “the standard way” that will allow you to cancel up to the day or two before your stay. That way you know you’ve got something you can count on.

      But then, a day or two before the last day to cancel that hotel for free, go for the Priceline Hack. If it works, which it probably will, you can cancel the room at the other hotel. If it doesn’t work for whatever reason, you can fall back on your original booking.

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

  2. Hi Brain,

    Thank you for this helpful trick, I applied this method to hotels in my area and it’s a very helpful trick. However, I did want to share a few things that might be helpful when it comes to Priceline. There is an app that you can download through Chrome Apps called “Hotel Canary.” This app allows you to know which hotel Priceline will provide you when you use the Priceline Express deals before purchasing the Priceline express deal. I have personally utilized it on many occasions and it’s always been accurate. With the express deals, there are some “questionable” hotels that are 3 stars or 3.5 stars on there and usually, when I use the hotel canary it shows which hotel Priceline would provide me before I make any purchase through the express deal. With that being said, I used this hotel canary app on the express deal and I searched Troy, MI for a 3 star and 3.5-star hotels. The hotel Priceline wanted to offer me was a 3-star run-down hotel Marriot Residence hotel and for the 3.5-star hotel, it was at the edge of the shaded map of the Troy, MI area. So, with your method, it compliments the knowing the express deal hotel they would provide and which hotel Priceline would offer to you. Thus, I can go based on the assumption if I did the “name your own price” for a 3 star and 3.5-star hotel in Troy, MI area that it would provide me this hotel. I hope this helps!