Priceline is a bidding tool that gives people the opportunity to buy cheap hotel rooms, flights, and car rentals that are expected to go unsold. You bid on what you need but have no clue which company you’ll get if you “win”. If your bid is accepted, your credit card is charged. If your bid is not accepted, nothing is charged and you can’t bid again for 24 hours (unless you change the search). This post will teach you not only how to find the absolute lowest bid on hotels using “rebidding” but also will help you guess which hotel you’ll be getting. While most of the time we’ll talk about hotels, the same saving process applies to flights and car rentals too.
Priceline and Hotwire are updated by the hotels with bare-minimum rates that demonstrate the lowest they would sell hotel rooms at. Particularly if they are undersold they are willing to let the room go for cheap as otherwise they would make no money. Priceline and Hotwire get to keep anything above that rate but they work very differently.
Priceline has you bid on hotels (you select star-rating) in a particular region. You do not know the hotel until you win a bid. If you win a bid, you get charged immediately and if you don’t you have to change your bid. You get one bid every day for a particular thing. For example you can bid once on a 4 star+ hotel near the airport of a city and if you don’t get it, you can either change your bid or wait 24 hours. In the hotel example it could mean adding a region you’re willing to stay in or changing the star rating of the hotels to 3 stars and above.
Hotwire does tell you a little bit about the hotel and gives you a set price. In other words, there is no bidding and you do know a lot more about the hotel but you still don’t know which hotel exactly until you pay for it.
The two systems are often very close together and you can use Hotwire to figure out what hotel you’d be getting on Priceline. The reason I do this is because sometimes Priceline will sell the room at a lower price but if the prices are similar and you’re happy about the hotel description, you could just get the one on Priceline. Still, figuring out the hotel on Hotwire could be an important part as Priceline only tells you the star rating and Hotwire shares much more.
Of course you can never be certain that because you figured out Hotwire you’ll get the same hotel on Priceline. It’s a clue at best, depending on the area you’re in. Still it’s the best clue we have.
Read “How to figure out which hotel you’ll get on Hotwire” to learn more about using the clues Hotwire gives you to figure out the hotel randomly given.
The basic way to work Priceline is by figuring out rebids. It’s actually fairly simple.
You need to change your search in order to book again, otherwise you have to wait 24 hours. Obviously the bidding tool is a joke if you can just bid on the same thing over and over again, raising your bid each time. … or is it a joke?
Sometimes you can change your search without actually changing the search. Let me explain…
Let’s use my recent bidding in Puerto Rico again.
I wanted a hotel on the east side of the island, specificly in the Rio Grande – Fajardo area. I was looking at Hotwire/Expedia and decided the 4 star hotels are the best deal to go after. So I selected region 10 (as you can see), I selected 4 stars and above and bid. Let’s just say we bid $76 and it’s declined.
Now the rules are that you have to change your search to bid again, but the problem is that you don’t want a hotel in other sections or on other dates. So you could add San Juan and bid again, but you run the risk of getting a hotel in an area you don’t want. Except for one little loop hole…
Notice that there are 7+ 4 star hotels in region 10.
Then notice that area 9 has none!
So now you can select zone 9 and 10 and bid again and you don’t have to worry about getting a hotel in that region. Understand why? Because we selected 4 star and above and there are no 4 star hotels in region 9. You can’t win a hotel in that region because there are no hotels eligible, meaning 4 star or above. This way, you guarantee that the hotel will be in your region of choice and you get to bid again. This is referred to as “free rebids”.
You can have tons of eligible rebids in certain areas. Lets keep going with this example. We want a 4 star+ hotel in the Rio Grande/Fajardo area of Puerto Rico. By quickly checking the individual boxes for other zones I can see that regions 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, and 9 have no 4 star+ hotels. That means that we can select 10 and any other of these regions to get a free rebid, again, because we’re both changing the search to get another bid and because none of those regions have qualified hotels.
You can also use combinations to get free rebids. You can have different tries that look like this:
- 10 + 1
- 10 + 2
- 10 + 1 + 2
- 10 + 1 + 3
- 10 + 2 + 3
- 10 + 1 + 2 + 3
And on and on it goes. By having just three extra regions we got 6 “free rebids”, because each one is a different search. The more free zones you have the more free rebid combinations you can have. One could end up with 100+ free rebids. You could start your bid low and keep raising it using free rebids until you find the minimum price that the hotel is giving priceline. I can’t exaggerate how many good deals can be had on here. Of course, you can go broke saving money.
I will say that if the bid gets as high as hotwire and you’ve already figured the hotel out on Hotwire and like that hotel, there’s no reason not to book on Hotwire, assuming it’s a good deal.
Although there is one problem with using Priceline’s and Hotwire’s hidden deals; you don’t earn points or elite night credit on your stay. In other words if you “win” a Marriott hotel, that stay isn’t going to count towards the free night certificate promotion that Marriott has. If you’re not saving much money, you should really think about which is more worth it. Plus, if you have status, you’re not guaranteed a stay at your favorite chain. So there are a number of things to consider. Although, for those with status, I do recommend contacting the hotel and letting them know about your stay.
The best time to book on Priceline
I’m told the best time is 2-3 weeks out. I’ve had decent luck on last minute booking in off peak times/areas, but 2-3 seems safe. I personally don’t like having non-cancelable rooms, and “name your own price” on priceline is indeed non-refundable.
The same concept applies to airfare and car rentals. I find that 2-3 weeks out is best, although I’ve only used this on airfare once, I do see tickets start to sell out in the weeks leading up to the flight.
Bidding for travel and BetterBidding are sites dedicated to Priceline (and Hotwire). After a successful bid, people post what they got and for how much. You can go and see what to expect. Similar to Hotwire, this can tell you what hotels to expect and where to start your bidding. Maybe start a little under what everyone else is winning at and work your way up if you have the rebids.
Generally I find that the winning price is not a round number. It’s not usually $80 but instead maybe $79.
Hopefully this post will be a good intro to Priceline for those who were unfamiliar and for those who were familiar, I hope it’s a good introduction into rebidding – one of the best Priceline tricks.