The $20 Trick

I have an upcoming stay booked at the Bellagio. It’s a real cheapie rate over a long weekend, but it was booked through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts so in theory I’m entitled to an upgrade of some kind at checkin subject to availability.

I’m used to having a little more juice, but the places I have status don’t give me many options on the Strip.

So I’ll be walking into the Bellagio, I’m not a high roller, and I’ve booked the lowest category room. I can try my schmooze at checkin or I can try the $20 trick (though at the Bellagio perhaps it’s the $50 trick — or more).

The morals of it are questionable. Most of us wouldn’t agree if a grocery store clerk offered not to charge us for groceries in exchange for a tip. But hotel clerks are generally given some leeway to upgrade guests, and hotels are a place where tipping is the norm.

So questionable, perhaps, but the squeaky wheel sometimes gets the suite. I suppose one can be high-moraled and sitting in a ‘garden view’ room on the second floor…

Flyertalk’s skofarrel summarized the technique as follows:

    Walk up to the counter. Hand over your card and id (if required). Look the clerk in the eye while leaving the $20/50/100 in plain sight on the counter. “I was wondering if I could possibly get an upgrade into a mega luxury fantastico suite?”. The clerk will do one of three things:

    1. Eye the bill, and get you your upgrade (if this happens, you press the bill into your hand, shake the clerks hand while passing the bill. Mission accomplished.

    2. Look in the computer and say, I can upgrade you for $X per night. You the realize that you’ve lost the bribe game and scored a clerk that does not know how to supplement their income. You than have to decide if the up charge is worth it.

    3. Sorry no upgrades tonight, we’re full up. You may be in a pickle here. They may really be full, or you may not have offered enough. Move form a $20 to a $50 or $100 if you really want the suite and ask “are you sure”? If they say their sure, see number 2 above. If the $50 or $100 shakes a suite loose, you should be a bit embarrassed for not offering enough the first time, but are back in the game.

There’s also a thread in Flyertalk’s Las Vegas forum on the subject.

And here’s my advice on how to score a hotel upgrade without coming out of pocket.

Comments are open if you’ve tried this at checkin, let me know if you’ve succeeded or failed.

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, 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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. IMHO, the biggest issue in The Vegas is timing. Timing with regard to the weekend (is it a fight weekend etc.) and timing with regard to check-in. I feel, later is better, since if you are checking in for the weekend very early on Friday, they might be reluctant to give away certain rooms; but by 11PM, they pretty much know who and who isn’t coming. Your odds are always pretty good in Vegas since hotel properties have many more suites than most regular (non-casino) hotels. Has the trick worked for me, YES — but, I am very upfront, I make sure I know the suites by name and have an idea of what I want; then I “specifically” tell the person at check-in that I would really appreciate an upgrade for this special weekend and that I will take VERY GOOD care of him/her (though, honestly, I seem to have more success with men) — then, as long as you are given an upgrade to a “real” suite, I usually hand over $100 at minimum. (if it turns out to be just a slightly larger room or view, I always tip at least $20) also, I think you are in a very good position, since, you are due an upgrade due to FHR.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *