cover photo by Photographersnature
- Priceline is an opaque bidding system that allows you to specify your star level, neighborhood and willingness to pay. If your bid is successful, you will find out the name of the hotel and be charged. Bids are non-refundable
- Priceline normally limits you to 1 bid per 24 hours but you can circumvent this by adding other neighborhoods which do not have your desired star level- see below for tutorials
- Look at forums (Better Bidding , Bidding Traveller , Biddingfortravel) where people report successful bids to know where your bids should start
- Priceline bids are eligible for cashback through Topcashback and Ebates
Priceline can be a tremendously useful tool for bagging luxury stays on the cheap if you’re willing to put in a bit of effort.
Hotels invariably have have extra inventory they can’t sell. But (especially for the 4 and 5* hotels), they’re in a bit of a catch 22. Do they offer this inventory at a cut-rate price on their site (And cheapen the brand/risk annoying those who paid full price), or do they let it go to waste?
Step in Priceline. Priceline is known as an “opaque booking channel”. This means that you don’t book a specific hotel. You’re allowed to specify several pieces of information – namely the hotel’s star rating and its neighbourhood. Then you indicate how much you’re willing to pay, click buy and within seconds you know the name of the hotel you got (or whether your bid was rejected)
In other words, you only find out the name of the hotel ex-post. Well, you say, that’s a really big risk. Why would I want to do that? Because you can still specify star rating and neighbourhood, so you won’t end up in some sort of sleazy crack den. Plus, you can get 4 or 5* hotels at deep discount rates. I got the W Hotel in New York City during the Christmas period for US$150. Had I bought the room from the official website, it would have cost me upwards of US$350.
As with all travel hacking tools, there’s an art to go about doing this. And that’s what I’m going to teach you today- how to bid with Priceline
Let’s start by looking at New York. Everyone wants to go to New York, no?
You can see that Priceline has split New York into 18 different zones according to neighbourhoods. Different cities will be divided differently, and the granularity of the divisions influences how useful Priceline is to you. For example, if Priceline split New York into its 5 boroughs, that wouldn’t be too helpful- I could end up anywhere from the Financial District all the way up to 232rd street.
Anyway, all you need to do is select
- Which neighbourhood(s) you want to stay in (Step 1)
- What minimum star level you’re willing to accept (Step 2)
- What amount you are willing to pay (Step 3)
Click ok, and you’ll be brought to a summary page
Scroll down, initial to show you understand the terms. You’ll then be prompted for your credit card details. Click buy, and remember- if your bid is accepted, no refunds!
Let the website do its thing, and if your bid is accepted, congrats! If not, you’ll need to wait 24 hours before you can place another bid (unless you’re willing to change star level or neighbourhood).
Oh. You don’t want to wait 24 hours?
Well then, there is a simple work-around to this, especially if you’re aiming only for 5 star hotels.
First, identify which neighbourhoods do not have 5 star hotels. In the New York example, we see that Zones 1,3,7,8,9,10,12,13,15 and 18 do not have any 5 star hotels. How do I know this? When I click on Zone 1, for example, 5 star is ghosted out
Then, suppose I want to stay in Zone 16, Times Square- Theatre District. Instead of 1 bid per 24 hour period, I effectively have 10 bids per 24 hour period, because every time I make an unsuccessful bid, I can simply add on an additional zone without a 5 star hotel, increase my bid by $3-$5 and try again.
The upshot is, I will never get a hotel outside of Times Square- Theatre District, because I specified 5 star only and Zones 1,3,7,8,9,10,12,13,15 and 18 do not have 5 star hotels
My (sample) bids will be something like this
Bid 1: Zone 16, $70 per night —Assume rejected
Bid 2: Zone 16 & 1, $73 per night —Assume rejected
Bid 3: Zone 16 & 1 & 3, $76 per night —-Assume rejected
Etc etc, allowing me to bid a range of $70- $97(Assuming bid increments of $3 and starting bid of $70) within a 24 hour period.
Do you see what we’ve done here? I can start with a lowball bid and edge it upwards about 10 times, each time adding a neighbourhood I have no intention of staying in. This allows me to “feel” the market and not have to wait 24 hours in between bids
Remember that name your own price bids are eligible for cashback as well. Use my sign up links to get some bonus cash on your first purchase
- TopCashBack –http://www.topcashback.com/ref/aaronwongxm
- Ebates –http://www.ebates.com/rf.do?referrerid=xmiCAPP6foa6SRBc14PPhQ%3D%3D&eeid=28187
How do I know what to bid?
Priceline will try and nudge you during the bidding process, telling you that your bid only has a “low” change of being accepted and encouraging you to increase it. Well, of course they would. But there’s got to be a more impartial source of information.
Indeed there is-
- Better Bidding (betterbidding.com)
- Bidding Traveller (biddingtraveller.com)
- Biddingfortravel (biddingfortravel.yuku.com)
These sites compile recent member-reported winning bids for different cities, so you can be better informed how you should bid
These websites are also useful for Hotwire bidding, which we’ll cover in another post.