Myth Busting the $20 Trick

What is the $20 Trick? Is it real? Does it really work? What in the world am I talking about? Those are some of the questions I’m asked when I mention the $20 Trick. Even after answering those questions, I still get a reaction mixed with doubt and disbelief. In short, the $20 trick is method to getting very travel hack to get upgrades at hotels. This article is everything that you need to know about the $20 Trick!

What is the $20 Trick?

Obviously in order to check-in to a hotel, you’ll need to present your credit card and identification. The first step to pulling off the $20 trick is to slip a folded $20 bill (of course) between your ID and credit card. The front desk host will likely set it aside. When they do, you should make your intentions clear – ask for an upgrade. Do not demand one!

What You Should Know Before Trying

When attempting the $20 Trick, you should not try it without some due diligence. You need to know a few things:

  • What kind of room did you book?
  • What do you want to end up with if you succeed?
  • What rooms are available?

Why should you know what you booked? The cheapest rooms aren’t always the worst rooms. You’ll want to know what you have reserved so you will be able to know how what you get compares to it.

Why do you want to know what you want to end up with? As with many things in life, it’s good to know what you want. With regards to the $20 trick, it doesn’t hurt to be specific. So doing a few minutes of research and knowing what kind of rooms a hotel has would aid that.

Seating Area of Deluxe Suite at InterContinental DTLA
Seating Area of Deluxe Suite at InterContinental DTLA

Why should you know what rooms are available? This is simple. Let’s say you want to stay in a corner suite at the Aria. If you ask for a corner suite and there isn’t one available, they may not offer you an alternative.

Does This Really Work?

Allow me to be snarky and answer that by asking a question. Would I really be spending time to write this if it weren’t real or didn’t work? Of course not! So yes, this does work. Does it work every time? No. Does it work everywhere? Not at all. When it doesn’t work, you’ll likely have your $20 returned to you. On rare occasions will they keep your bribe tip without giving you an upgrade.

Aria Hotel Corner Suite Living Room
Aria Hotel Corner Suite Living Room

The $20 Trick works at places where tipping is not just customary but also expected. While there may be other places the $20 trick will work, it is most common in Las Vegas. In fact, it works most of the time at most hotels. That depends on how vacant the hotel is. Keep in mind that vacancy in Las Vegas is quite seasonal and higher during the week.


MYTH: CONFIRMED…with a technicality.

While it’s possible for the $20 Trick to work outside of Las Vegas, it is fairly unlikely. It is more likely that it will work if you follow the steps above. In Las Vegas, you should find yourself getting some kind of upgrade roughly 75% of the time.

Here’s what one of my friends said about it recently!

Aim high. Don’t be afraid of tipping more than $20 if there is a very nice room available. Jeanne at LeChicGeek once tipped $100 and almost got a villa at the Bellagio!

Have you tried the $20 Trick? If so, what kind of upgrade did you get? Share your experiences below and while you’re at it, check out the latest hotel rates in Las Vegas!

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16 thoughts on “Myth Busting the $20 Trick”

  1. I once did $20 at the Trump hotel in Vegas. We booked the basic room and because of how busy it was during the summer, I understood why they were going slow. I was trying to be nice to the front desk to let them know they’re doing a really good job considering the lack of staff they had that day and they were happy to know their hard work was noticed. I slipped the $20 between my card and ID and they upgraded us to a 1 bedroom suite with a view with a kitchenette, living room, a guest bathroom, and an en suite bathroom complete with a dual shower and hot tub. Moral of the story: be nice to hard working people and tip them 🙂

  2. Haha! I have to laugh because I’ve worked in hospitality for 8+ years and in my opinion, I would say most agents wouldn’t do it for you especially if they have strict General Managers or Front Office Directors (which I was both and very strict :P). I would have busted this myth for ya! Thanks for joining Fly Away Friday, hope to see you again this week! xo

    1. Kana, I completely understand! I think there’s a good reason it only really works in Las Vegas. There are multiple teams of people that can “sell” any hotel room for almost any price. That isn’t the case almost anywhere else.

  3. Pingback: New Security Procedures, Fly JetBlue Mint for Free!, Does the $20 Trick still work? - BaldThoughts

  4. I’ve never heard of this trick but obviously it’s a thing among travelers. Maybe when too many people start doing it, the people at the desk will be less likely to accept the bribe… umh… tip. Or just on the contrary! lol

  5. I’ve only tried the $20 upgrade trick twice in my life. IMO, it’s kinda ballsy and the perfect opportunity rarely presents itself (an unusually slow day of business or no one else on line). That said, on both occasions I was successful: Chicago O’hare AVIS and The Belliago in Vegas … Avis Upgrade from “standard 4 door” to BMW 5 series, lower level Belliago standard room with fountain view to upper floor 2 bedroom suite w/ oversize hot tub, tv in the bathroom glass, “executive desk”, and an impressive panoramic view overlooking the fountain. My only “tips” … arrive as late as you can in the evening and project confidence at check-in counter.

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