Careful Priceline Bidding Yields Bonus

Two things to know about bidding for hotel rooms on Priceline:
1) There’s no substitute for doing the homework;
2) Sometimes when you do the homework, you get a little bonus!

We’ll get to that bonus, but first – the work part.

Priceline deals are trade-offs, and the first trade-off involves time and money. You put in some some time, Priceline saves you some money.

It’s not brain surgery, rocket science or even complex math, but Priceline is a sophisticated system that pays off only if bidders understand the fundamentals. There are levels of bidding strategies, and every hotel room “bargain” comes with enormously important qualifiers and disclaimers.

Ignorance about any of the fine print is a serious risk.

Need to guarantee a king bed instead of two queens (or vice versa), or ensure that you get a pet-friendly (or pet-free) hotel? Then Priceline isn’t for you: The company very clearly cautions that successful bidders have no control over such details.

A percentage of customers report feeling cheated, even when they’re clearly expecting things that Priceline said up front it can’t promise. If you win a bid for Nov. 3 to 9, can you later extend it to Nov. 10? Priceline’s website says “yes” … but adds “keep in mind that the rate available may not be the same as what you paid originally and availability is not guaranteed.” Yet some people assume availability IS guaranteed:

Others complain about getting two queens rather than a king, or a king instead of two queens – or about hotel “resort fees” that are added after the bid is accepted. Yet these, too, are concerns that Priceline warns about up front.

Thetravelinsider.com gives an solid, easy-to-read overview of the whole system: It’s a “must” for smart newcomers to Priceline.

And if you’re following that guidance, then you’ll be checking in occasionally at betterbidding.com and biddingfortravel.com. Once in a while, that will pay off with an extra bonus.

For weeks, I’ve been bidding up to the $65-$68 range for a 4-star hotel in San Antonio with no success. This little notice solved that, and got me an even better price. This “$50 bonus cash” is a great (but limited-time) deal for previous Priceline bidders. It let me bid $70 a night and pay just $60 a night – an offer that the San Antonio Hyatt Regency took me up on. (Overall savings for a three-night stay look to be 65 percent – a remarkable deal even with Priceline).

FYI: If you’re eligible for the $50 bonus cash deal, know that you don’t need to sign up for the Priceline VISA card. That offer comes up on a screen when you bid using the “$50 bonus cash” link, and it may appear to be related. But you can just skip past it.

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