Budget Tips, Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

How to Bid on Priceline

December 29, 2008 • By

A Step by Step Primer On How to Bid on Priceline


Priceline logo

Priceline is tricky, but it can be a very rewarding experience for those who are looking for great deals on hotels.  I’m not fond of using them for airfare that much because you may find yourself on flights that have the most undesirable departure times.  While I am pretty flexible with flight times, they offer too much of a mixed bag for me.

But if you are looking to try your luck at securing a great price on a hotel room, by all means, try Priceline!  In December 2005, I was planning for my trip to Vancouver for March 2006 and decided to see if I could luck up on a room at a good price.I was aware that it was pretty early to be looking for a room because Priceline typically sells excess inventory for Hotels at almost the last minute.

So, booking it early didn’t exactly heighten my chances of getting a good deal.However, I’d noticed that a couple of people had already booked great deals for that location on Priceline according to their posts on www.biddingfortravel.com.  So, I threw caution to the wind and decided to go for it.

How Priceline works

Hotels would rather sell a hotel room at a discount rather than have a room sit empty.  The folks at priceline fill this niche by selling the hotels’ available inventory to travelers looking for a deal.  In order for this to work like it’s supposed to, the traveler must be very careful about the amount that they are willing to bid.  Because, after all, if you bid high why bother to go through Priceline?  You could just book directly to the hotel where you can find low fares (at times), but never as low as you can find if you book it through Priceline.

The goal is to get the room at the cheapest price regardless as to the number of days you plan to stay there.  Before you bid on a hotel room, make sure that you know what area you would like to stay in.  Priceline segments the hotels into geographical zones so you will have to select which area(s) you desire to stay in.

I can not stress enough that it is YOUR responsibility to figure out what area you need to stay in.You do not want to bid on a hotel that is too far out from the area that you desire to stay in.Take advantage of the website that I mentioned to learn what area to bid for in order to secure a hotel room in your desired area.

For my purposes, I can stay in Vancouver, Delta, Langley, or Surrey Pitt-Meadows.  See screen below:

Picture 1

Even though they suggest that you select two or more areas, I like to select just one, so Vancouver would be my first pick.  The fewer that you select in the beginning, the more chances you will have to keep bidding (rebidding) if your first try is rejected.  At the bottom of the page, you will be able to key in the amount that you are bidding per night for the hotel in your desired location.  If they are willing to accept that amount, you will win the reservation.If you are rejected, you may be able to try again.

Why would my bids be rejected?

Hotel inventory varies from one day to another. There may be only a certain number of rooms available at participating hotels during a given day.  By the time you decide to bid, they may have been taken by someone else who made the same bid as yours.  Or there may be a convention going on during the times that you would like to book and there simply are no rooms available and if there were, they wouldn’t make it available on Priceline due to the fact that they can make so much more by booking the conventioneers.

If am I rejected, how can I rebid?

The good news is that you can still try to bid again, providing that you have not run out of selections to choose from.  That means as long as you have not selected all geographic areas, you can bid again for a room using a hotel grade (1-5 stars) that has up to one grade lower than your original bid.  Just keep in mind that with each rebid, you must also up your bid price.

Let me explain how…….

Looking at the Vancouver example again, there are only three other areas that I truly desire to stay in.  Of course, I could get a room anywhere in Vancouver, but why not try to find a place in the middle of all of the attractions?  I started my bid for a four star hotel in the prime downtown Vancouver area at $45.00 per night.  It was rejected.If that happens, immediately you will be informed that you can try again.

Picture 2

After I was informed that I could rebid, I added another zone, Delta to my bid.Vancouver is still in the running because once you select a zone, it will be grayed out and Priceline will continue to search for hotels in that area because your rebid will be at a higher price than your original bid.  Delta works because it has no hotels higher than my original request of a four star, so I will automatically be allowed to rebid with the confidence that I will not get anything in the Delta area because it doesn’t match my original request of a 4* property.  I upped my price to 50.00 for my rebid and I was rejected again.

Picture 3

Before I started bidding, I decided to stop bidding at $60.00 since that was the median winning bid by other priceline customers on the bidding websites.  I knew that if I was unable to secure anything that day, I could come back in 24 hours (and they mean 24 hours!) and start all over.  I still had four months before I needed a room so why rush it or panic by bidding too much?

Next, I decided to try the Langley area at 55.00 and the rebid qualified because they only had up to 2* properties to bid on:

Picture 4

However, I was rejected…..

My final try (because I am now at my limit) was Surrey-Pitt Meadows at 60.00 and their properties only went as high as 3*:

Picture 5

And after submitting it, I got this!

Picture 6

I’m certain that I could have gotten my reservation with one bid if I had not been stubborn and bidded $60.00 to begin with.  But you never know…..they could have had inventory for a room at less than that.  As long as I could rebid, it would have been foolish not to have tried.

I think that I got a great hotel and the reviews are favorable on www.tripadvisor.com for the most part.

Picture 7

How and who do I pay for the room?

The people at Priceline require you to divulge your billing information before you can actually place a bid.  So, as soon as your bid is accepted you will be automatically billed for the room. And…..it is very difficult to get a refund…..it has happened but it’s a RARE occurence….just understand that going in.  Therefore, it is important that you do your homework and be absolutely certain that you select the areas where you want to be and you visit websites like www.betterbidding.com or www.biddingfortravel.com to learn more about bidding on priceline so that when you finally get around to bidding so that you will feel comfortable about doing so.

The aforementioned websites will give you a lot of guidance on how to bid and will actually give you assistance on how to bid beforehand.  You will need to follow their guidelines in giving them the required info so that they can help you with that.  They also have hotel reviews and a list of hotel grades.  I always bid on four star hotels, but keep in mind that these grades can change on a dime depending on the hotel’s upkeep.

Good Luck!!

Your friend in travel,