What is the $20 tip trick?

twenty dollar tip trickWhat is the $20 tip trick? 

It’s a technique used to get a hotel room upgrade by slipping the clerk a twenty when checking in.  The idea is that you can save anywhere up to a couple hundred bucks per night for just twenty dollars up front.   It works a surprisingly large number of times and when it doesn’t,  the clerks will politely return your money more often than not. 

The twenty dollar tip trick works best in Las Vegas or other hotel-casinos because staff are used to people tipping for extras.  The twenty dollar tip trick works in other cities too, but not quite as high a success rate.  

How does the $20 tip trick work?

You simply slip a twenty dollar bill under your license or credit card when checking in.  Then you politely ask the clerk if they have any upgrades available.  It helps if you are very friendly and schmooze a little bit before asking.  It’s best to be subtle and it’s very rare that a clerk will not catch the hint when you hand them the tip.

Sometimes it helps if you research the hotel in advance online and know what types of upgrades are available.  Find out if there is a particular type of suite name to request.  Do you want an ocean or pool view? Maybe a breakfast comp or complimentary gym pass?  Perhaps access to the concierge level?

Also, avoid using multiple bills (like 4 fives).  The hotel clerk may not notice you put out multiple bills and you don’t want to look cheap or make her count it out.

My experiences with the $20 tip trick

I’ve used this trick about a dozen times mostly on trips to Las Vegas.  I’ve been upgraded about 75% of the time (including some very cool suites) and had money returned to me all other times except for one.  One time at the Hard Rock Hotel I was even offered free concert tickets when they were out of rooms!

Another related trick I’ve used is mentioning my anniversary when asking for an upgrade.  Ok, this isn’t really a trick since the times I’ve done it have actually been on my anniversary, but some unscrupulous folks may want to try this out as well.  It also helps to call in advance and ask them to note in your reservation that it is your anniversary.  I did this at a Marriott and an hour after we checked in they brought us a complimentary bottle of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries, a $150 value!

My questions to you:

  • Have you ever tried the $20 tip trick?  If so, where?
  • Do you think it works better if used by a woman or a man? 
  • Does it work better against someone of the opposite sex?

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