Getting the best deal when you bid on hotel rooms on Priceline can be tricky.
Once you've done your homework, decided how much to bid on the hotel rooms, and placed your bid, your offer may still be rejected. When that happens, you must wait several days for another chance to place a free bid again for the same trip.
Or do you?
Many Priceline customers are taking advantage of a loophole in the system, casually known as "using non 4 star zones," to turn in a free re-bid immediately. It sounds complicated, but it's fairly simple -- and effective -- to re-bid on hotel rooms once you get the hang of it.
To understand free re-bidding, you have to first know a little about how bidding on Priceline works. After a bid you've placed has been rejected, Priceline allows you to bid on hotel rooms again, but only if you significantly change your bid. To qualify, you would have to add another zone (area of town), lower your quality requirements, or change the dates of your stay. Simply raising the amount of your bid doesn't qualify you for a free re-bid. Hotels on Priceline are rated by quality using a star system. Lowest quality hotels are 1 star, and highest quality (resorts) are 5 stars.
Herein lies the key to free re-bidding: not all zones have hotels in every quality category. What does that mean? Simple. Imagine you are looking for a 4-star hotel in the zone closest to the airport. Your bid on hotel rooms is rejected. You'd like to bid again with a slightly higher price for the same hotels, but Priceline won't allow that. So you locate a zone in the same city (perhaps across town) that does not have any 4-star hotels in it, raise your bid price, and try again. Adding a new zone to your bid qualifies you for the free re-bid Priceline offers. And, since the new zone you've chosen doesn't contain any 4-star hotels, you will not be stuck with a hotel in that zone.
It's important to remember when using this system to raise your bid price with the free re-bid. Otherwise, adding the new zone will do you no good; your new offer will be an exact duplicate of your previous offer, and will be rejected again.
So, how do you find out which zones have which star quality levels? It's easy -- in fact, Priceline will tell you. Start over as if you were creating a new bid. Once you get to the screen which lists all the zones in a particular city, choose one and select "Next." On the next page, you will be allowed to choose a star level from the levels listed. If the zone you've selected has 4- or 3-star hotels listed as a choice, use your browser's "Back" button to try again and select another zone. (For this trick to work, make sure you only select one zone at a time.)
Once you find a zone that has no 3- or 4-star hotels listed, you've found the "dummy" zone you can use. Start your re-bid and add this dummy zone to your offer. When using the free re-bid system, always double-check to make sure the dummy zone you're using does not contain any hotels in your star quality range -- even if you've bid in this city before.
Zones -- and the hotels included in them -- are subject to change daily, so you will want to confirm that your dummy zone is still empty of the star quality hotels you are requesting.
Here's another helpful site to check Priceline price ranges and to pick up great bidding tips.
Questions? Having success bidding? Can't get an offer accepted? Post a message in our "Bidding for Travel" forum1!
Update: A reader adds, "There is one important caveat that you did not mention (probably because you didn't know). When you are checking for 'no 4 star zones' you have to make sure that the zone you are checking doesn't have a little palm tree next to it. The palm tree indicates that there are resorts in that area. You may check the spot and see there are no four star hotels, but when you go to bid and include that new location, they may end up sticking you at a resort. I just got caught by this while booking a place in Vegas. I wanted a four star on the strip. I went back and forth a few times, including other locations. I ended up including 'Henderson' which showed no four stars, but my bid was accepted by a resort in the area, certainly not my intention. Not that it's a big deal in this case, it is a nice place and it's only 17 miles from the strip. But I could see some of your readers ending up getting stuck in a bad situation because of this little detail." Thanks for the tip!
By Charlyn Keating Chisholm, About.com Guide