Today's Best Deals:

Today's Best Deals and Cheats:
1. AirBnB offers one night free until January 17 for travel through March 31 (value up to $300)
2. 10%-30% off HomeAway rentals across the country, like here in Wisconsin; here and here in Seattle; here, here, and here in Colorado; and here and here in Maui.
3. Enter in your three digit credit card code incorrectly to know Priceline's winning bid without being charged.
4. Check out betterbidding and their calendar of wins to see what other Priceline and Hotwire winners paid for their hotels.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Steal the Hotel: Priceline Cheats

So you're ready to dominate the Priceline Negotiator...

Learning this cheat is going to require some serious patience in the pursuit of money saved. If you're budget-conscious AND your time is pricey, stick to Hotwire or Priceline's new "Express Deals." 

Otherwise, here we go...

Learning Priceline's bidding system is complex at first, but easy when you get the hang of it... 

The system in a nutshell: Hotels have extra rooms. They want to sell them, but they don't want customers willing to pay more to see their rock-bottom rates. So Priceline hides the hotels' names. You bid on a star-rating and an area. If you win, you get the room. You can't change your mind because you pay as soon as you win.

Pros for bidding: (1) save $$$ (sometimes 65% or more), (2) beat the system.
Cons: (1) complicated, (2) can't cancel, (3) can't know exact location, (4) sometimes you get a hotel that is older and really should be a half star-level lower or it has poor ratings (hence: they can't sell the room easily).

Here are some real-world wins I've had:
-$46 for the three-star Hilton Garden Inn in Arlington, VA (usually $150+/night)
-$50 for Hyatt Regency in downtown Chicago (usually $150+/night)
-$99 for the four-star B Ocean Front For Lauderdale (usually $300+/night)

Ready to play the game? Here's how: 

1. Set a price limit; know the market. Use kayak to find the cheapest hotel at the lowest star-level you'd accept:

$75 total and 3 stars are the things to beat. In thirty seconds, I know I'd pay $65 for a 3.5 star or up to $75 for a 4 star. 

2. But wait! Hotwire and Priceline's Express Deals might be the way to go (when you buy this way, you know the price and approximate location but not the hotel and you can't cancel). Check these prices out before bidding (add $12-$14/night for taxes and fees):

Express Deals beats my Kayak rate: 3-star for $64, a 3.5-star for $65, and a 4-star for $70. All good deals, you could stop now. But you said you wanted to beat the system. So keep on trucking...

Here's Hotwire's similar deals (add $12-$16 for taxes/fees):

These are the best yet! Keep in mind, they're the same hotels probably as on Kayak and Express Deals, but at better rates. That 4-star is $2 cheaper after taxes. The 3-star is $7 less after taxes.

Because it offers the best prices here, I'll use Hotwire to set my bidding limits: $50 for a 3 star, $60 for a 3.5 star, and $65 for a 4 star. These are after taxes. Really, in pre-tax bids, I'm talking $38 for a 3-star, $47 for a 3.5 star, and $52 for 4-stars.

Let's keep on the mission...

3. The Priceline game is one of permutations and combinations and factorials... or something...

...But you don't need to know any of that. Go to Priceline. Click on the hotel tab. Click on "Name Your Own Price." Enter your information. Start with your IDEAL star-level not your lowest. And your ONE favorite area. Don't click multiple areas to begin with.

(We already know what the secret "Best Deal" is because we've looked at the Express Deals. Hiding there is probably that 4-star for $57 ($70 after taxes).)

 Maybe we're feeling nervous, so we check to see what hotel might be lurking on BetterBidding's calendar of wins, a site where other Priceline users list their wins to help us make a better educated guess:


Someone else won a 4-star in River North; looks like we're bidding on the Allerton Hotel. (We won't go into how that poor sucker overpaid because he bought way too far in advance...) Lets read about his experience by clicking on the link:

Wait! We don't want to stay at the Allerton with its tiny rooms! We want to spread out.

 A quick check of TripAdvisor confirms this. So, to avoid getting this deal (though it is still a really good one), we will actively not bid on "North Michigan Ave - River North" because if we do, we will get this less-than-ideal hotel. Go big or go home. Checking back to our "Express Deals" though, there was a 4-star for Millenium Park that was a guest favorite and had a rating of 9.0. We want to get that.

Key Idea Alert! You can only bid once a day on any particular combination of star-rating and location. That way, Priceline hopes you'll put down your top bid first so you don't have to wait 24-hours to bid again. However, by including areas that don't have your designated star-rating, you can get free bids. Notice how I have selected five areas and the 4-star button is shaded, i.e. not available. These areas, I can add one by one as I slowly increase my bid and still I am only bidding on a 4-star in Millenium Park.

What number should I start at? I have lots of chances, so I want my first bid to be rejected. If I'm going to put in all of this effort, I like to get the best deal possible. So I start at that sweet spot where the red warning changes from "Based on recent data, your offer has almost no chance of being accepted" to "Based on recent data, your offer has only a small chance of being accepted."

In this case, that's $40 ($49 after taxes). Skip the page where they warn you that you should bid higher; you aren't fooled by these tactics!

Because if you don't win, you can just add a location with no 4-star hotels... And keep on bidding in one or two dollar increments...

Math question: You can do any combination of Millenium Park with one, two, three, four, or five of the above areas. How many chances do you have?... I think 31?

In one dollar increments, you can go from $40 to $71! Remember your top limit though: $65 after taxes. That means you can bid up to $53. With so many chances, you will find their rock-bottom price.

But... if the 4-star isn't available at your price limit, start all over at 3.5 stars (and remember to bring your price back down to the lowest amount possible). Don't forget your 3.5 star price limit.

And if that doesn't work... you can start all over at 3 stars too. But keep to the 3-star limit you set.

Bored of the game? Not lucking out?

You can always just bid on the Hotel Allerton with its small rooms at the super low price you know is waiting for you (my guess? $48 or $60 after taxes) or you can go back and book through Hotwire, too.

Got it?


(And for the real cheats: I don't recommend this, but if you enter your three digit credit card code wrong, you will be asked to re-enter it only if your bid is accepted. Then, you can cancel or continue. That's one way to know the price without actually buying the hotel room. This could change though, so I don't use the tactic.)

Key Ideas:

1. Know the market on Kayak.

2. Know the market on Hotwire and Priceline's Express Bids.

3. Set your prices for star limits below market value. Don't forget to factor in the heavy taxes.

4. Start bidding at rock-bottom because you have more chances than you think. Always start at a number which prompts you have no chance or a very small chance.

5. Never take their counter-offers.

6. Check Better Bidding's Calendar of Wins for a history of successful prices.

***7. When bidding, use areas that don't offer your star limit to increase your number of chances.

8. Unless you're bored of bidding or in a hurry, don't raise your price by more than a dollar or maybe two.

9. Don't use Priceline when you might need to cancel, need to know your location specifically, don't have the time to bid, or would be mad if you got a hotel that has lower ratings for its star category.

Happy Bidding! Share any experiences you've had with bidding on Priceline hotels below. 


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