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Priceline tries to encourage you to bid higher, and in bigger steps, than is optimum for getting the best deal.

But they've left open a small loophole that you can use to bid smartly.

 
 
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How to Bid Repeatedly for a Priceline Hotel Room

Save massively by following these guidelines
 

The hotel room you want can be yours for less money than you'd think when you carefully structure your bidding strategy on Priceline.

Part 3 of a series on How to book hotels at the lowest price on Priceline - please also visit

1.  An introduction to Priceline
2.  How much to bid
3.  How to rebid in less than 24 hrs
4.  The true cost of a Priceline bid

 

 

In theory, you can only make one bid every 24 hours for a hotel room through Priceline.  This is designed to persuade you to bid higher - so as to be 'on the safe side' - and, if you first don't succeed, to make you increase your bid by more than is prudent when you rebid a day later.

Use the information below and the chances are you'll be able to place multiple bids immediately after each other, allowing you to start your bidding lower, and to raise your bid amount in smaller increments.

This will surely get you your hotel room for less money.

Four Ways to Bid Again/Sooner

This is the other section of invaluable information that Priceline hopes you won't read.  The concepts in this section are absolutely vital that you must understand if you're to use Priceline to best advantage.

Priceline seeks to 'bully' you into starting your bidding higher than you otherwise would, and to further 'bully' you into increasing your bids in bigger increments than you'd wish.  It does this by only allowing you to make one bid a day - if your bid is unsuccessful, you need to wait 24 hours before you can rebid again.

Priceline believes this puts some pressure on you - to make, eg, four bids will therefore take you four days, and maybe you won't be willing to have four days of uncertainty about where you'll be staying; and of course if you're bidding for last minute travel, you might not even have four days until the day you need to check in.

This is a bona fide part of Priceline's 'swings and roundabouts', and it certainly can work exactly as Priceline wishes it to work, by pressuring you to bid higher and, if your first bid fails, to increase your bid by a larger amount for your next bid a day later.

But.

There's a loophole that will usually allow you to make multiple bids, one immediately after the other, so as to remove most of this pressure from you.  Not many people know about this loophole, but read on and you'll become one of the empowered few.  This loophole will allow you to start bidding at a lower rate, and to adjust your bid upwards in smaller amounts, and when combined with the knowledge of what other people are successfully bidding, will almost guarantee that you're getting your hotels at the very lowest possible rates.

Understanding the Zone System

To understand the first two strategies, which are the very best of the four strategies, you first need to understand how Priceline splits up a city or region into zones.

Go to Priceline and choose a city and dates at random, or, if you want to work along with my example here, choose Seattle and any dates in the future.

You'll be taken to a page that shows a map of the greater Seattle area, with 11 different zones shown on the map and listed alongside.  You can zoom and move the map around to see exactly the boundaries of each of the zones.

Now, let's say you want to stay in downtown Seattle.  This would be zone 9 or (better) zone 10.  You could select either or both of these two zones and then move down to choose a quality level of hotel and the rate you're bidding.

Choose zone 9 first.  After checking its box, look down to the options for hotel quality levels, and you'll see that you can choose from a 1, 2, 2, or 3 star hotel, but you'll also see that the options for a 3 and 4 star hotel have been greyed out (note that these details might change in the future, because Priceline is always adding and removing hotels).  This is because Priceline has no participating hotels at these quality levels in this zone.

So now unselect zone 9, and choose instead zone 10.  This time you'll see you can choose 3 and 4 star levels, as well as lower levels, but this time, the 1 star choice is greyed out - Priceline has no hotels in zone 10 at that star rating.

Last, one more experiment.  Leaving zone 10 checked, now also check zone 9.  You'll see that the 3 and 4 star choices remain, but you know, from having looked at the zones individually, that there are no 3 or 4 star hotels in zone 9, only in zone 10.

Before you bid, you should decide which zone(s) you want to stay in, and which star levels are acceptable for you.  Then list out on a piece of paper all the zones that do not have the star levels you want - that is, the zones which only have lower quality star choices.

This information is key to understanding the next strategy.

Strategy 1 - Adding unwanted zones to rebid

If your bid is unsuccessful, Priceline gives you two options.  The first is to wait 24 hours, and then to place your bid again, at any price point - probably higher of course.

The second option - and this is where the loophole arises - is to vary the details of your bid and place another bid immediately.  To vary your bid, you have to either change the dates of your stay, and/or the zones you will accept, and/or add extra (but only lower) categories of hotel.

Most of the time, you won't want to change the dates of your stay.  And you probably won't want to accept a lower quality hotel unless you are really desperate, and you also probably chose the most convenient zone to start with, too.  So, on the face of it, none of these choices are very appealing.

But - and here's the loophole - say you wanted to stay only in a 3 or 4 star hotel, and you only wanted to stay in the central downtown area of Seattle (zone 10).  So you set your dates of stay on the previous page, then entered zone 10, chose 3 and 4 stars and put in your bid amount (for example, let's say $50) and had your bid not accepted.

What you can do now is to add another zone in which there are no 3 or 4 star hotels (eg zone 9), and then place your bid again, with a slightly increased bid amount - perhaps $52 instead of $50.  Even though there are no 3 or 4 star hotels in zone 9, Priceline will still consider this a 'change' in your bid and allow you to immediately rebid at a higher rate instead of having to wait 24 hours.  You have no danger of getting a hotel in zone 9, because there aren't any at this quality level.  This is the loophole in the Priceline logic that you're exploiting.

Now, what happens if your bid is still unsuccessful?  Change zone 9 to another zone which also doesn't have 3 or 4 star hotels - for example, zone 7, then bid maybe $54.

And if that is unsuccessful, you can bid again with both zone 7 and zone 9 (as well as zone 10 of course).

And so on, repeated through all the combinations of other zones that don't have properties at the standard you want.  In most cities, assuming you are seeking to stay in a higher star rated property, you could end up with maybe ten or twenty different combinations of zones - each time being the zone(s) you want, and then a combination of any one, or any two, or any three (and so on) of the other zones you don't want and which don't have properties at the standard you seek.

This strategy removes the pressure you otherwise feel by only being able to bid once a day, and also allows you to adjust your bid price in smaller increments.

Strategy 2 - Adding more expensive zones

Sometimes you will find that strategy 3 will not work for you, because you're, for example, hoping to get a moderate/budget priced 2 or 3 star property, and all the zones have such properties included.

But you might still have a clever trick open to you.  If you're looking to stay in a moderately priced part of town, then you can add more expensive parts of the city when rebidding, in the knowledge that due to the much higher rates in the added zone, your higher bid is unlikely to be accepted in the unwanted extra zone, but might now trigger a win from a property in the less expensive zone you do want to stay in.

For example, in Seattle, maybe you were wanting to stay in Renton.  If your bid in Renton is unsuccessful, add the expensive zone 10 to your bid and try again at a slightly higher rate.  There's not much chance of any hotels in downtown Seattle being lower priced than a hotel in Renton.

This is a risky strategy and should only be done if you're reasonably familiar with the hotels and their rates in the different zones.

Strategy 3 - Swap IDs with your travel companion

After you've placed as many bids as you can yourself using the other strategies in this section, why not have any traveling companion you are traveling with continue the process using their name and a different credit card.

This will give you twice as many chances to successfully bid for your room.

Strategy 4 - Using a bad credit card code

This is a naughty thing to do and should only be done in an extreme situation, but if you want to find out what sort of price would be accepted and then work back from that, you could theoretically put in your valid credit card number but an invalid three digit security code so as to see what price starts to be accepted.

Then you'd simply not correct the wrong code when Priceline tried to charge your card, and could rebid using a correct card and code and starting at a price somewhat below the price that was accepted before.

I've not tried this and don't recommend you do it either, but it has been suggested elsewhere so I'm including it for the sake of completeness.

NOTE :  Reader Rich says he accidentally entered the wrong code and still had his bid accepted and card charged.  It is unclear which is more current - that a bad three digit code will or will not be accepted, so use this method with caution!

Read more in the rest of this series

This is part 3 of a series on How to book hotels at the lowest price on Priceline - please also visit

1.  An introduction to Priceline
2.  How much to bid
3.  How to rebid in less than 24 hrs
4.  The true cost of a Priceline bid

 

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Originally published 14 Aug 2009, last update 19 Dec 2013

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
 

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