Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Review: How To Win With Priceline.com


What is Priceline?
Priceline is a site famously known for their Name Your Own Price for flights, hotels and cars. You choose a price, put in your credit card details and they will tell you if your price has been accepted and by which hotel/airline etc. If you play it right you can get some unheard of prices.

They also have a regular section where they tell you the price (like Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity).

This review is mainly for Priceline hotels.
Priceline is great for car rental cars too. For flights, you have to be extremely flexible as you don't know what time the flight will be and if there will be stopovers.

Priceline’s policies:

Priceline only lets you put in a offer once, if it gets declined, they make you change one of your options (E.g. date, area or star rating), in order to try again. They do this to force you to put in a high price in the first place, for when you run out of options to change you cannot bid again for another 24 hours.

The tips and tricks listed here, are ways to be able to bid again and again. Doing that will allow you to start bidding very low, and slowly working your way up until you reach the price that Priceline will accept.

Steps to take to ensure a positive Priceline experience:

  • Know the going rate:
    Start by checking the going rate in your chosen star rating/location through travel sites, e.g. Hotwire, Expedia and Travelocity. Seeing the lowest room rates available allows you to avoid overbidding on Priceline. If you do overbid, Priceline has a guarantee that if you find a cheaper published price that is publicly available for the same night and room type, Priceline will refund the difference. So you will never be overpaying. At least not more than the ‘Regular’ rate.
  • If you have the patience, you can check forums where people write about their Priceline experience in your destination. How much they paid, which hotel they got, what star was it etc. Two sample sites are Betterbidding.com and Biddingfortravel.com.
  • When you are given a list of area's to choose from, if you are OK with more then one area then first bid on only one of the area's, if you're offer doesn't get accepted then include the second area in your next try.

  • Start out bidding for high star rating hotels. If you start your bid with 2 stars, Priceline checks for 2, 3, 4 and 5 star hotels for the price you entered. If your offer gets declined, you cannot rebid by changing to a 3, 4, or 5 star hotel (even if you want to bid a higher price). But, if you start with a 4 stars, you can rebid for a 3 star.

  • Remember, when you rebid, you do not have to raise your price. If your $50 offer wasn’t accepted for a 4 star, that doesn’t mean you can’t bid $40 for a 3 star…
  • Even if you are planning on staying for a few nights, still book just one night. If your bid gets accepted, Priceline will allow you to add on additional nights at the same price. So once your bid is accepted, research the hotel online, and if you like it, then reserve more nights, and if not, reserve a different hotel for the other nights.

When you place a bid, Priceline will tell you your total cost, including all taxes and fees (besides for parking and some resort fees), before you confirm payment. If the total is more than what you want to pay, go back and adjust your offer.

You can always use a different Priceline account (Family, friend etc.) once you’re out of options to change... although you may have to delete your internet cookies first, or else Priceline may see it as the same person.

Take it to the next level:

Bid again and again without changing your star rating or location:

Say you are traveling and want to stay in a hotel with at least a 3 star rating.
What you can do is as follows:

Say there are 2 locations within your destination city: A and B . First thing you need to do is check which star levels are available in each location. Do this by clicking each area separately and taking note of which star levels are available for that area, and note all that information down.

Now, you want to stay in location A in a minimum 3 star hotel. You try a low price (say $20) and it doesn’t get accepted. You then put in that you are willing to stay in area B (which doesn’t have a 3 star hotel or higher) but you still leave checked that you want to stay in a 3 star hotel and raise your price slightly. If you win, your hotel will for sure be in area A because area B doesn’t have the hotel level that you requested!

If there are many locations to choose from you can really work this to your advantage.

Cancellation policy:

Priceline’s official policy: No cancellations, No Refunds, No changing dates. Unless there is an obvious price mistake (you entered $999 instead of $99).

I did manage to cancel some reservations after much badgering. Basically what it boiled down to was that if the hotel agreed to cancel, then Priceline will refund the money. The hotels were much quicker to help out, as they don’t want any negative reviews on Tripadvisor. (Something that Priceline doesn’t need to worry about.)

The interesting thing was that Priceline said the hotel needs to cancel the reservation and the hotel said Priceline needs to cancel! So I made a 3 way call to let them figure it out themselves...

Some excuses that may help convince the hotel to allow you to cancel:

“Hotel is pet friendly, I am allergic to pets. “
”There is construction going on there.”
”My friend was there last week and it was dirty.”
Plain old begging…

Risk Factor:

Many people have a phobia of dealing with sites such as Priceline and Hotwire, as they are afraid of the risks and don’t know what they will be getting. I will try to explain the risks involved with using Priceline/Hotwire.

Flights: Medium risk
You don’t know what time the flight will be, which airline or how many stopovers. You need to be extremely flexible.

Hotels: Small risk.
You do know the neighborhood of the hotel and the star rating. The only risk involved is that you might think a 3 star should be very nice because you once stayed in a nice 2 star, but not all ratings are created equal. Priceline has its own rating system. Currently, there isn’t a universal rating system.

Minimize that risk: Check which hotels Priceline lists for the star rating you want. You would do that before you click on ‘Name Your Own Price’. Read reviews on the hotels at Tripadvisor.com. Chances are that Priceline will give you the lowest priced hotel for the star rating you have chosen - so make sure you will be happy with that selection. This works well in a small place, where there are only a few hotels in each star level.

Car Rentals: No Risk!
True, you don’t know which car rental company you will be using till you pay, but Priceline only works with these 5 major companies: Alamo, Avis, Budget, Hertz and National.

The only real difference between these companies, besides for their car selection will be: some have different insurance costs the others, and some may be off-airport (with a shuttle) while others will be right by the Terminal.

How to get the cheapest car rental possible!!!

Update: It seems that Priceline is starting to fix this glitch, so it might not work. It seems to work a few times back and forth, then Priceline doesn't let you continue doing it.

With Car rentals there is now a glitch on Priceline. It lets you keep on changing back and forth between two locations however many times you want.
So, say you want to rent a car in JFK, you start out with $8. If it gets declined, switch to LGA and bid $1, which definitely gets declined, then go back to JFK and enter $9… and so on and so forth. Bidding like this will guarantee you the lowest possible price that would get accepted!


A way to know if your offer was accepted without paying:
Try this at your own risk!
If, when entering the credit card information, you either enter the wrong security code (This seems to work only on a card you never used yet on Priceline) or use a prepaid visa etc., then, if Priceline accepts your bid, it will ask you to correct your credit card info, and if Priceline doesn't accept your bid it will tell you so. This could be a way to know if Priceline will accept your offer without committing to pay...

Some of the deals I have gotten on Priceline:
star hotels for $40 a night in Chicago.
in Orlando for $6.95 a day.
$300 New York–Tallahassee flight for $80!

no one deals like we do!


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