New Tool for Simplifying and Automating the Priceline Bidding Process

I haven’t played too extensively with the site yet, but The Bidding Traveler looks to be a very useful tool for novice and intermediate Priceline users. It both helps lay out a bidding strategy and automates that strategy in order to save on effort.

It’s certainly simpler one-stop shopping than using a site like Biddingfortravel.com or Betterbidding.com, searching through recent bids to determine what folks are generally winning hotels for and identifying which ones are similar to your circumstances (e.g. weekday versus weekend). And it takes care of the work of identifying your ‘bidding strategy’, figuring out which zones to use as free re-bids in order to order to bids from lowest to eventual highest that you make. (Priceline bidding permutations are explained here.)

Ultimately, the site just sets up your bidding for you. It develops the bidding strategy based on your preferences, and then executes for you. The bidding done by your computer, not by the site itself.

Now, this site isn’t for true novices who aren’t familiar with what Priceline is all about (if that describes you, see this). But it’s a useful site for simplifying things for sure.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The site only works with Internet Explorer. In 2003, that would have been fine. In 2010, it’s beyond lame. I don’t know anyone who still uses Explorer.

  2. I took a quick look at the site. It looks interesting. Nice to see somebody put a little innovation into the “hotel bid help website” category. The existing help sites have been a little, um, lame. I doubt I’d use it myself (as an experienced priceline user, I can easily map out my own bid strategy, and would rather pocket the 3% fatwallet cashback for myself). But (assuming we hear reports that “it works”) I think I could recommend this to others.

    But I wonder what priceline will think about it. I think the existing (somewhat lame) bidding websites help priceline attract customers and are a win-win, but this may be TOO sophisticated. In other words, it might snag too much of priceline’s overbid margin for the customer. Of course, it’s possible that priceline may be happy enough to collect its per booking fee, and not mind this “system” for motivated bidders.

  3. Very interesting site. Not only do they take care of “free rebid zones” but they also repack the way bids are done so you can wring out more free rebids. Bottom line, they optimize Priceline bidding better than any other strategy I’ve seen spelled out. (Very few sites, including old-timer BiddingForTravel, goes much beyond free rebid zones.)

    However, I have one concern: I agree with Will that if the process screws up, what happens? The way it works is, you tell the site what you want, then it takes you to Priceline to enter your credit card, then the site takes over and runs the automatic bidding that it’s computed for you.

    Incidentally, I am GUESSING that this is very, very, very against Priceline’s rules. Maybe not. It’d be nice to see a blog post from them addressing that.

    The fact that it requires IE is no big deal to me. I’m happy to launch IE for 5 minutes if it means I save $100+ on a hotel 😉 They seem smart (the whole “Why IE?” popup is spot-on) and I’m sure they’ll support other browsers when they can.

    I wish there were contact info on the site (Twitter account?) — I’d love to say hi to the folks behind the site. It’s smartly done and I think I might use it next week.

    Eric Mueller – Themepark – @ericmueller / em@themepark.com

  4. I agree that the “computer screw up” potential is high here. Like what if, for example, priceline adds a 4-star hotel in a formerly 3-star zone. Can this site catch such changes in real time?

    It would seem very wise to me for them to offer a money-back guarantee that this won’t happen.

    Of course, there are potentially other bidding errors that would be hard to know about in an opaque process.

  5. @iahphx the “priceline adds a 4* hotel in a former 3* only zone” doesn’t seem a big risk, the site seems to pull in data from Priceline real-time and would appear that it checks each zone for rebids fresh each time rather than relying on past data tables.

  6. Thanks for writing about us. Just to clarify a bunch of points:

    – Non-IE users still get to see a lot of useful past winning and rejected bid data, just no bid automation for now. The idea was to get something out there to see if people liked it and then do the other browsers if there was interest. Don’t worry, we have something in store for the other users which is really going to be awesome. Just pretend you’re waiting for your favorite iPhone app to show up on Android. 🙂
    – It’s not like we’re insensitive to Priceline. I wrote a little bit about this at Flyertalk, but the tool was designed to more or less replicate what a normal user would do bidding at Priceline.. reasonable increments. We’re offering Priceline convenience, not exploitation. An upcoming improvement is going to make this point moot, anyway.
    – Yes, we do a lot of validation and checks to make sure there are no nasty surprises. There have been a lot of successful wins so far.

  7. Feedback from an actual user- thanks for the link, Gary.

    Just used The Bidding Traveller to bid on two hotel rooms in San Diego for Dec 30th.

    Best feature is the maps with the hotels and previous bids- easy to navigate through the rebid zones, explore your options and get a good sense of successful bids in your area.

    Tried the rebid engine, not as successful an experience. Good guidance on the range to bid (what I would have done manually). Took a while to download the software and start the bidding process (~5 minutes- my internet connection here is pretty slow). Log into Priceline was the same as always, first bid placed and rejected, then the application came back with an error.

    Actually was able to chat on line with a support person- very unusual for a free application. I had to finish up my bidding process manually on the Priceline site, but would probably try The Bidding Traveller again, at a minimum to research other successful bids.

    Friendly

    PS @AKTCHI- the best way to get hotel points is to buy directly through the hotel sites, but take advantage of their Low Price Guarantees. Typically they will give you 10% off of the lowest alternate rate you can find on a direct site on the internet, so I’ve been able to get up to 40% off of the direct hotel rates by taking advantage of their price matching (and of course, you still get all the points)

  8. My recent bid was (by design)at the very low end and, as expected, all permutations were rejected. Nonetheless, the program executed the optimal strategy just as I would have and I can see it saving me a great deal of time in the future

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