Last week, I wrote up a post about our cheapest travel deal ever. Unfortunately, those deals don’t come by all too often. But even when Joanna and I don’t benefit from some weird booking glitch or from the travel gods smiling upon us, we always make sure to get some sort of deal. I’ve got an unhealthy obsession with snagging deals, and not just on the sticker price. Even after a transaction, I continue looking for any deal I can get. And so that’s how I came across something called… the $20 trick.
Our college basketball team of choice has a tournament in Vegas right before March Madness each year, and Joanna and I have attended it almost every year of our marriage. During one of our Vegas visits, I started hearing from some friends about living like a king in Vegas without spending (read: losing) a fortune on the casino floor. And how do you do that? The $20 trick, of course!
The $20 Trick
So what is it? Put simply, it’s a way to get a hotel upgrade in major metros bustling with nice hotels (Vegas, NYC, LA, Atlantic City). When you check in at the hotel desk, you slyly slip the desk attendant a $20 bill and ask if they have any complimentary hotel upgrades. Here’s how I do it:
- First, I book the cheapest, most basic room I can find at the hotel where I plan to stay.
- I look at the kinds of room upgrades that hotel has to ensure the $20’s worth the hassle.
- When I check in, I present the hotel attendant a sandwich: credit card on top, $20 bill in the middle, and driver’s license in the middle.
- After I hand them the sandwich, I ask if they have any complimentary upgrades available. Since managers are sometimes lurking nearby, I make sure to add the complimentary part instead of saying, “Yo, you see that $20 I just snuck between my plastic? That’s to pay you off for a sweet upgrade. Capiche?”
- Await the verdict.
Our results have varied. The first time I tried it, it kind of worked. We snagged a Priceline Negotiator deal of $50 per night on our room at the Hilton. Like most Negotiator deals, our room was going to be on a low floor, facing a parking lot. Blah. So I mustered up my courage, approached the check-in counter, and tried the $20 trick. AND?!!! …the front desk gave me my sandwich back, $20 included. BUUUT she still gave us an upgrade! We got a studio room on one of the top floors overlooking the golf course.
A year later, we tried it again, but this time at Excalibur in Vegas. We Negotiator’ed a room for less than $30 a night for three nights. Good deal. But again, we were going to be relegated to a low-floor room in the unrenovated wing of the hotel. So I passed the front desk clerk the sandwich and he knew the drill. He searched his computer, found us a high floor room in the newly renovated wing, and casually pocketed the $20. We saved a good $40/$50/night for the upgrade with the help of Andrew Jackson.
We asked our friend Brian, an OFB reader, if he could share some of his experiences with the $20 trick as well. Here’s what he had to say:
I have found Vegas to be the best area for the $20 upgrade. The last time two times we went we gave the person at check in (I have heard rumors it works better with dudes, but I cannot confirm or deny this) $20 with my credit card and asked if they had any complimentary upgrades:
First: Monte Carlo (Halloween weekend) – We booked a standard room but were given a Spa Suite with a view of the strip.
Second: Paris (MLK Jr. weekend) – We booked a standard room and were given a high level premier room at the end of the hall, which gave us an amazing view of the Eiffel tower and the Bellagio fountains!
From talking to others it seems to work best in cities where tipping is more prevalent (Vegas, LA, NYC, Chicago). I have a reservation booked in LA in a couple months and I’m going to see if it works for me out there.
As you can see, Brian’s results were pretty sweet. We’ve also only tried it in Vegas, but we’re excited to try it in some other cities as well. Also, this site lists the success rates of the different Vegas hotels, if you care to give it a try the next time you visit Sin City.
Have you tried the $20 trick? What were your results? If you haven’t, do you think you have the guts to try it?