Last Sunday I found myself in Raleigh, North Carolina needing a hotel room for one more night.
The Days Inn where I was staying wanted $103 for that night, and I’d have to move to a smoking room, which didn’t interest me at all.
I looked at some nearby chain hotels, and the Sheraton wanted $229 plus tax or 7,000 Starpoints, which I valued at $175.
I checked kayak.com for other options, and I didn’t find anything I liked. All the offers were too expensive or in the wrong part of town.
That’s when I decide to use Priceline’s Name Your Own Price feature to book a hotel room for the night.
How does the Name Your Own Price feature work? What’s the one big trick? How much did I pay for my last night in Raleigh?
In short, Priceline’s Name Your Own Price system works like this:
- Hotels offer Priceline deeply discounted rooms to sell as long as Priceline sells the room in an opaque way.
- Priceline makes the process opaque by letting you pick a city, a zone of the city, and the minimum quality (in stars) of your hotel, but not the hotel itself.
- You enter a credit card number and then make a bid.
- If your bid is accepted, your credit card gets a non-refundable charge, and you are told which hotel you got.
- If your bid fails, there are strict limits on when you can re-bid to make it impossible to just keep bidding $1 higher until you get the hotel at the lowest possible price.
I had a great experience booking a room in Raleigh with Priceline. I followed the steps I laid out in “Free First Class Next Month: Name Your Own Price on Priceline to Save Hundreds on Hotels” exactly.
1. I identified the one or more zones in the Raleigh area where I wanted to stay.
I wanted to stay in the Arena Area zone to be able to walk to a basketball game that night.
2. I identified zones that only had very low quality hotels.
This is the key to getting free rebids, which I’ll explain in a later step.
You need to find all the zones that only have worse hotels than the quality level you plan to bid on. I was going to bid on three star hotels. There were three zones that had no three star or better hotels: zones 8, 11, and 13.
3. I made a low ball bid for a three star hotel in the Arena Area zone.
I bid $45, which after taxes and fees meant I was authorizing about a $60 charge on my credit card if my bid won. It didn’t win, so I went to the Free Rebid Strategy.
4. I made my first Free Rebid.
Priceline doesn’t just let you bid $1 more until you find the lowest price that gets you into a room.
You either have to wait 24 hours to bid again or change your dates, add lower quality hotels, or add zones.
The secret to Free Rebids is to add zones that only have very low quality hotels.
Remember that I wanted a three star or better hotel in the Arena Area and that the Wake Forest zone had no three star hotels (see Step 2).
If I add the Wake Forest zone to a rebid, Priceline lets me rebid immediately since I’ve added a zone. But there’s no danger of a winning bid actually placing me in the Wake Forest zone since I’m bidding on three star or better hotels and the Wake Forest zone has no such hotels.
I added the Wake Forest zone, bid $5 higher, and again my bid was rejected. No worries. I had five more possible Free Rebids.
5. I used the “permutations method” for Free Rebids to get the maximum number possible.
With three dummy zones with only low quality hotels, it’s easy to see how I could get three Free Rebids by adding them one at a time to my search. But you can actually get many more (in this case six) by using the permutations method laid out here. It’s extremely easy, and everyone can understand it.
On my second Free Rebid–$55 plus fees–I got the lovely Try Again Right Now offer screen. When you get this screen, Priceline is offering you the chance to break its normal rules and bid again without changing anything, and they even tell you what bid is likely to work hint, hint, wink, wink.
Ignore Priceline’s hints and winks if you still have Free Rebids left. I had four left, so I ignored the suggested bid size and moved to my next free Rebid knowing that $67 would almost certainly succeed, so I should try lower to save a few bucks.
6. I Made a Successful Bid
With four Free Rebids left and a small window between my failed bid of $55 and the price Priceline wanted me to offer of $67, I could have started to inch up by smaller increments on my bids. But I stuck to my strategy of increasing my bid $5 at a time to save time.
My next bid was for $60, which meant I was authorizing a total charge of $77.62 on my card after taxes and fees.
The bid was successful!
My hotel was revealed to be the Hyatt Place Raleigh-West.
Priceline said I had saved 49%, and that does match up with the rate I saw on hyatt.com of $119 plus taxes ($134.28) for the room.
I was extremely happy with the hotel I had been awarded, although I was a little disappointed in myself for failing to look it up before using Priceline to see what it would have cost in points. The hotel is a Category 1 Hyatt that costs only 5k points per night and had availability the night I stayed there.
I still preferred paying $77 to using 5k Hyatt points though because I don’t have 5k Hyatt points, so I would have transferred in 5k Ultimate Rewards to Hyatt points, and I value 5k Ultimate Rewards at more than $77.
I used the Name Your Own Price feature on Priceline to save $60 on my hotel in Raleigh on Sunday. If you know how to take advantage of the system’s rules, you can get very close to the lowest price offered by Priceline, which can be 50% or more off of the retail price for a hotel room.
If you’re confused about any of the steps I followed, please read “Free First Class Next Month: Name Your Own Price on Priceline to Save Hundreds on Hotels.”
Have you used the Name Your Own Price feature on Priceline to save money on hotels?