When I first started Travel Hacking, Priceline was one of the first frontiers that I tried to conquer. It represented an opportunity to get a 5 Star hotel for 1 Star prices and isn’t that what this hobby is all about?
There were many ups and downs associated with trying to win Priceline bids when I first started out and there sure was a lot to learn. I remember telling a lot of friends and family about this new discovery but due to the complexities of how Priceline worked, very few people ever tried to emulate my successes.
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An Introduction to Priceline
At its core, the Priceline concept is simple. You name your own price and see if a hotel is willing to accept your bid. You don’t get to know your hotel until you’ve won the bid but you are guaranteed a star category and a geographical location.
This means that while you don’t know exactly what hotel you will win with your bid, you do know that it’s going to be a 4 star hotel in Times Square or whatever criteria you set out in your bid.
But why would hotels do this?
Well, hotels often have excess inventory of rooms and in order to sell those rooms, the use a third party like Priceline. The reasons for this are plentiful but the largest among them is that hotels would rather sell their rooms at a deep discount than to have them go empty.
That being said, these hotels cannot simply lower the price of their inventory because it would destroy the value of their rooms in the future. If you knew that the normal price of a hotel was $199 a night but also knew that they hotel often discounted the price of the room to $65 a night, you would never purchase the room in advance … you would simply wait out the clock and lock in the lower rate.
From many years of experience, I know that you can often score hotel deals at up to 80% off the rack rate, which is insane. My Priceline wins were almost alway less than $100/night with most being in the $75-80 range and this was for 4-5 star hotels. My biggest win was at the Sheraton Waikiki when I managed to get the hotel for $94/night for a week. At the time the lowest level room was going for over $250/night!
What’s the Catch?
Outside of not knowing the exact hotel you will win, there is no catch except that you will most likely not earn any points or status nights at the hotel you stay at, though I have definitely been able to in the past. If loyalty isn’t as important as getting very well priced accommodations, Priceline may be for you.
This is where I would lose almost everybody I talked to about Priceline, and I understand why. It’s complicated. No ifs ands or buts.
Essentially, what you are trying to do is incrementally increase your bid until a hotel accepts your offer. The problem here is that you are only allowed one bid per 24 hours unless you change one of three criteria:
- The date of your stay
- The location of your stay
- The star level of your stay
If you changed one of the above, you were allowed an additional bid. Building a strategy around this became quite complicated. I remember writing out my bidding strategy after doing 30-60 minutes of research just so that I wouldn’t get confused during the bidding process.
It worked for the most part but it was incredibly time consuming and most people weren’t willing to put in that kind of time.
Wouldn’t it be better if you could just plug in your information and have a system tell you what the minimum bid to win would be?
The Priceline Secret Weapon
There’s an underground website out there called BidPriceCheck.com and it is an absolute godsend and a HUGE timesaver.
Essentially, what this site does is tells you the minimum bid that is required in order to win a hotel bid based on the location of the hotel and star level of the hotel you want.
There is a slight catch … it’s a paid service but trust me. The amount of time you will save with this, easily pays for itself … plus it’s very cheap.
How It Works
The first thing you need to do as a new user of the service is get an Invitation Code. The Invitation Code can be acquired by clicking on the red text link on the homepage. You are required to purchase the invitation code for $1.99 USD but it comes with 1 point. I’ll explain points later.
Once you pay, you will get access to the system which allows you to input your hotel information.
The Points System
So how does the point system work? Well it’s quite simple. Each point will pay for one search, which will give you the minimum required price needed to win your hotel. You have to specify the area that you are searching for as well as the star level of the hotel you want and your dates of stay.
Your Invitation Code comes with 1 point and if you want to purchase more points you can do so for $5.99 for 3 points.
Finding Out the Minimum Price
Let’s go through an example. I am planning on going to New York for the New York Time Travel Show at the end of January and need a hotel. Hotels in New York are notoriously expensive so maybe Priceline can help find me something a bit more affordable. Let’s plug in the information into the search form. Everything is straight forward except for the Zone Number.
The Zone Number is the designated zone that Priceline assigns to its geographical areas. You can see the map if you click on the red “Check zone list” button.
The conference/convention is happening in the MSG Convention Area (Zone 5) so that’s what I put in the Zone Number box below.
Another key thing to check is to make sure what star category hotels are available in your area. If you check off the box next to the zone in Priceline and scroll down, it will show you what’s available. Make sure to choose one area at a time so that you don’t have mixed results.
Once you have all your information plugged in, simply click on Submit.
You will be given a confirmation screen to review one last time. If you click submit, your search will be run.
It takes a few minutes for the system to figure out the minimum bid required but once it is completed, you will receive an email. In this particular example, it took about 5 minutes from the time the request was submitted to get the result.
As you can see, we now know that the minimum bid needed to win a 4 star hotel in the MSG Convention Area is $98!
With this information, you can save yourself a TON of time, bid $98 and be sure to win your hotel.
BidPriceCheck.com is a total life saver for me because it eliminates all the learning that you needed to do prior to the service being available.
BidPriceCheck also works for car rentals! How amazing is that? It works exactly the same as hotels except that you specify the car category rather than the star category. Other than that, it’s pretty easy-peasy.
Help Out PointsNerd
If you do plan on using Priceline as a way to bid on your hotels or car rentals, you can help PointsNerd by going to Priceline using the link below:
As always, your patronage is very much appreciated and helps keeps this blog afloat!
Also published on Medium.