Advanced Priceline Hotel Bidding Strategy

Priceline allows hotels to sell excess inventory at low prices without offending retail customers who are paying full-price. They sell hotel rooms directly to consumers with a name-your-own-price system.

The key limitation is that you are only allowed to make one bid, per selection per 24-hours, so you are forced to guess the minimum that a hotel is willing to sell a room for. If you bid too low, you don’t get a room and have to wait until the next day to bid, and if you bid too high, you paid more than you needed to.

It would be great if there was a way to make multiple bids within a given day so you could find the lowest price possible for hotels in a particular area — fortunately, there is a way.

In this post I will show you how you can get hundreds and sometimes thousands of re-bids to ensure that you are getting the rock-bottom hotel price.

I have never seen a hotel price lower than what you can get with this technique. I have stayed at a 4-star hotel in San Francisco for $56/night.

Priceline Basics

Priceline only allows you to make one bid per day for a unique combination of the following:

  • Dates: These are your checkin/checkout dates

  • Star Rating: The number of stars represent the quality of the hotels. Some cities have star ratings that go from 1 (economy) to 4 (deluxe). Some cities such as Los Angeles and Las Vegas have 5-Star (luxury) hotels.
  • Zone: Each city is broken up into multiple zones. Priceline doesn’t tell you which specific hotels are in a zone, they just guarantee that if your bid is accepted, you will get a hotel located in the zone(s) you selected. After a bid is accepted, Priceline immediately tells you which specific hotel you will stay at within your selected zone(s). Number of zones in some large cities:

    • Dallas: 24 zones
    • New York: 18 zones
    • Las Vegas: 15 zones
    • Miami: 15 zones
    • Denver: 15 zones
    • Seattle: 13 zones
    • San Francisco: 13 zones
    • Chicago: 11 zones
    • Los Angeles: 11 zones

You can make one bid every 24 hours for a unique combination of the above — a daterange, for a particular star-rating in a particular zone (or set of zones).

The key to this strategy is to get a high number of free re-bids by choosing combinations of additional zones that only have hotels with a lower star rating than what you are looking for. Since those other zones do not have a hotel that meets your criteria, you will not get a hotel in them — you are just using them to get free re-bids. With a large number of re-bids, you can start with a low amount, and gradually increase your bid until it is accepted by a hotel. This way, you are getting the lowest possible price that a hotel is willing to sell a room for.

To make this clearer, let’s go through the process of bidding on a hotel in San Francisco:

Start by clicking the “name your own price” section on the homepage








Note that Priceline also sells fixed-price hotel rooms, so make sure you are entering the “name your own price” section.

On the next screen, you just enter the city and dates of your stay

After that you are sent to the page where you enter the zone, star ratings and bids. In the following Priceline screenshot, notice that I have ticked the first checkbox for “Civic Center South”





At the bottom of the screenshot above, you can see that the Civic Center zone only has hotels up to 3 stars — the 3½-star and 4-star options are greyed-out.

Next untick the first zone, and try the second zone

To uncover the highest star-rating per zone, you must untick all zones except the one you are investigating.



As you can see, the Financial District (zone 2) does contain 4 star hotels. Go through each zone, and note the highest star rating within that zone. In San Francisco, the highest star ratings at the time of this writing are:

Highest Star Rating
Zone 1
Zone 2
Zone 3
Zone 4
Zone 5
Zone 6
Zone 7
Zone 8
Zone 9
Zone 10
Zone 11
Zone 12
Zone 13





Then, you need to choose the zones you are willing to stay in. When I visit San Francisco, I like to stay in any of four zones near downtown: Financial District (zone 2), SOMA (zone 9), Union Square East (zone 12) and Union Square West (zone 13). The more zones you pick the wider the net you are casting, thereby increasing your chances of getting a great price. The technique still works if you have one particular zone you are willing to stay in.

Next you need to choose the star rating that you want to bid on. Note that you can choose any star rating you want, as long as there are additional zones with lower star ratings. The higher the rating you choose, the more re-bids you will get.

For the purposes of this example, I will choose 4-star hotels. Let’s add a couple more columns to the previous table. I have indicated the four zones that I will bid on each time (the “target zones”), and in the rightmost column, you can see which zones serve as re-bid zones. All zones that are a lower star rating than your target zones qualify as re-bid zones. You have to be careful to never bid on zones with the same or higher star ratings as your target zones — i marked those with a red X.

Highest Star Rating Target Zones Re-bid Zones
Zone 1
Zone 2
Zone 3
Zone 4
Zone 5
Zone 6
Zone 7
Zone 8
Zone 9
Zone 10
Zone 11
Zone 12
Zone 13



Note that zones 8 and 10 are marked with a red-X because they do not have a lower star rating than what we intend to bid on (zones 2, 9, 12, 13).

So the first bid will be in all four of the target zones. I start with a very lowball offer that should be rejected (more on bid amounts later in this post).

Target Zones
2 9 12 13
Bid 1






For the next bid, we’ll bid on the four target zones along with one re-bid zone. In our example, there are 7 re-bid zones, so that gives 7 additional bids:

Target Zones Re-bid Zones
2 9 12 13 1 3 4 5 6 7 11
Bid 2
Bid 3
Bid 4
Bid 5
Bid 6
Bid 7
Bid 8






Thats a substantial number of re-bids, but there 120 more available because we can construct combinations of zones. Note that from this point forward, you will need to close the Priceline tab in your browser and reopen it to ensure that you are starting a new browser session.

In this round, we are bidding on the four target zones, and combinations of two re-bid zones (note that each row has two checkmarks in one of the re-bid zones):

Target Zones Re-bid zones
2 9 12 13 1 3 4 5 6 7 11
Bid 9
Bid 10
Bid 11
Bid 12
Bid 13
Bid 14
Bid 15
Bid 16
Bid 17
Bid 18
Bid 19
Bid 20
Bid 21
Bid 22
Bid 23
Bid 24
Bid 25
Bid 26
Bid 27
Bid 28
Bid 29






There are a total of 128 bids that you can make with 7 re-bid zones. I have posted the remaining combination tables at the bottom of this post. Here are the total number of bids you can make based on the number of re-bids:

Number of Re-Bids
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
Target Bid 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Target +1 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
Target +2 1 3 6 10 15 21 28 36 45 55 66 78 91 105 120
Target +3 1 4 10 20 35 56 84 120 165 220 286 364 455 560
Target +4 1 5 15 35 70 126 210 330 495 715 1001 1365 1820
Target +5 1 6 21 56 126 252 462 792 1287 2002 3003 4368
Target +6 1 7 28 84 210 462 924 1716 3003 5005 8008
Target +7 1 8 36 120 330 792 1716 3432 6435 11440
Target +8 1 9 45 165 495 1287 3003 6435 12870
Target +9 1 10 55 220 715 2002 5005 11440
Target +10 1 11 66 286 1001 3003 8008
Target +11 1 12 78 364 1365 4368
Target +12 1 13 91 455 1820
Target +13 1 14 105 560
Target +14 1 15 120
Target +15 1 16
Target +16 1
Total Bids 1 2 4 8 16 32 64 128 256 512 1024 2048 4096 8192 16384 32768 65536



Let’s look at some examples to make sense of the table above. The first column is for cases when you have zero re-bids. In such instances, all you can do is bid once on your target zone. Now lets jump ahead to the column for 2 re-bids. Of course you start with the target bid. Then you get a total of three re-bids: one on the first re-bid zone, another on the second re-bid zone, and a third re-bid where you tick both re-bid zones — this makes a total of 4 bids as is indicated in the “Total Bids” row.





What should the initial bid be?

With so many re-bids, you can theoretically start the bidding at $1 (Priceline only accepts bids in whole dollar increments), but that is likely a waste of time. You can visit BetterBidding’s Calendar of Wins to see if anyone has posted some recent winning bids in the zones you are interested in. You can also check Hotwire (but note that Hotwire and Priceline have different star ratings, so you will have to normalize them). Your initial bid should be low enough that you are sure that it will be rejected. If you bid an extremely low number, Priceline notifies you that it is highly unlikely to be accepted — I personally have never won a bid that was below this number.

Bid increments

After you lose your initial bid, you have to decide how much time you are going to devote to this process. With a huge number of re-bids, you have enough firepower to go with $1 bid increments. For example, you could start bidding on hotels in San Francisco at $40, and with $1 bid increments, you could get to $168 (I have never had to pay more than $120 for a 4-star hotel in San Francisco). That is going to take you a long time, and it probably isn’t worth it. A more reasonable approach is to go with $3 or $4 increments so you don’t spend so much time entering bid after bid.

Tips / Notes / Key Reminders:

  • When you are determining the highest rating in a particular zone, make sure you have unticked all the other zones. This way, you know you are isolating for the top hotels in that particular location.

  • Once you start bidding on combinations of zones, you will have to close your browser tab and reopen it between each bid.
  • Priceline charges some additional taxes/fees above and beyond your bid, but these are clearly displayed on the confirmation page, before you actually submit a bid.
  • Although rare, some places do have a resort fee and those charges are in addition to everything that Priceline charges.
  • To make the San Francisco example above work for lower-priced hotels, you have to find hotels that have a lower star rating than you are looking for. So in the case of San Francisco, if you wanted to stay in a 3 star hotel, you would only have 2 re-bid zones (zones 5 and 6).
  • If you don’t have many re-bids, you can alter your target zones. In the example above, you could quadruple the number of bids by bidding on the combinations with each target zone independently (instead of with all target zones together).
  • This technique only gets you at (or near) the lowest price hotels are willing to sell their rooms for. In most cases, you can get excellent deals, but on some occasions (usually around the holidays or conferences) the deals are mediocre. In one instance I tried to get a room during the annual SF Bay to Breakers, and PriceLine was unable to get me a reasonable price.
  • Sometimes Priceline responds to your bid with a buy-it-now-offer. On multiple occasions I was able to continue with my pre-established bidding strategy and got a better price than their offer. On a recent attempt, my winning bid was $8 less per day than their offer.
  • If you are booking a long stay, and your bids are not being accepted, you might try splitting up your stay. For example, if you plan to stay for a week, you can bid on two days and then in a separate process, bid on the remaining three days. This can be particularly helpful if there is a special event in the city on a particular day. The disadvantage of this is of course that you may be forced to switch hotels midstay, unless you were fortunate that both bids happened to be accepted by the same hotel.





Bids 30-64 (Combinations of 3 re-bid zones)


Target Zones Re-bid zones
2 9 12 13 1 3 4 5 6 7 11
Bid 30
Bid 31
Bid 32
Bid 33
Bid 34
Bid 35
Bid 36
Bid 37
Bid 38
Bid 39
Bid 40
Bid 41
Bid 42
Bid 43
Bid 44
Bid 45
Bid 46
Bid 47
Bid 48
Bid 49
Bid 50
Bid 51
Bid 52
Bid 53
Bid 54
Bid 55
Bid 56
Bid 57
Bid 58
Bid 59
Bid 60
Bid 61
Bid 62
Bid 63
Bid 64





Bids 65-99 (Combinations of 4 re-bid zones)


Target Zones Re-bid zones
2 9 12 13 1 3 4 5 6 7 11
Bid 65
Bid 66
Bid 67
Bid 68
Bid 69
Bid 70
Bid 71
Bid 72
Bid 73
Bid 74
Bid 75
Bid 76
Bid 77
Bid 78
Bid 79
Bid 80
Bid 81
Bid 82
Bid 83
Bid 84
Bid 85
Bid 86
Bid 87
Bid 88
Bid 89
Bid 90
Bid 91
Bid 92
Bid 93
Bid 94
Bid 95
Bid 96
Bid 97
Bid 98
Bid 99





Bids 100-120 (Combinations of 5 re-bid zones)


Target Zones Re-bid zones
2 9 12 13 1 3 4 5 6 7 11
Bid 100
Bid 101
Bid 102
Bid 103
Bid 104
Bid 105
Bid 106
Bid 107
Bid 108
Bid 109
Bid 110
Bid 111
Bid 112
Bid 113
Bid 114
Bid 115
Bid 116
Bid 117
Bid 118
Bid 119
Bid 120





Bids 121-127 (Combinations of 6 re-bid zones)


Target Zones Re-bid zones
2 9 12 13 1 3 4 5 6 7 11
Bid 121
Bid 122
Bid 123
Bid 124
Bid 125
Bid 126
Bid 127





Bid 128 (all 7 re-bid zones)


Target Zones Re-bid zones
2 9 12 13 1 3 4 5 6 7 11
Bid 128


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