Twenty Dollar Trick: My Experience in Las Vegas

As you may well know, I was just in Vegas. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve been there, and the last time I was there all we collected were Aeroplan points and I actually had no recollection of where we stayed (I was around 13?), so what better time than to try the $20 trick? My parents booked the Monte Carlo (and also we flew in on Allegiant – don’t ask) so I thought it would interesting to share my experience and what happens.

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For clarification, the description of the twenty dollar trick is as follows:

The Twenty Dollar Bill Trick is sweeping the travel industry and becoming extremely popular, especially in Las Vegas. When you check into a hotel you simply slip the front desk clerk a $20 bill with your confirmation credit card, while asking “Do you have any complimentary upgrades available?”. The general rule of thumb is that the front desk clerk will check for upgrades and if they cannot find anything they will return your tip, making it risk free for you!

This is from the website The Twenty Dollar Trick, which is a great resource to see reviews of whether others got upgraded. Some people might have ethical issues, and I have that too. But the way I think about it (and how I reason with myself)  is that I just happened to leave a bill in my passport, and asking about complimentary upgrades is just coincidental. 

I’m sure there’s discussion over what kind of check-in clerk you should be looking for, but honestly, I didn’t really mind as long I didn’t get thrown into jail for fraud. We made small talk, and I put the $20 bill in the photo page of my passport. I asked him whether it would be possible to get a complimentary upgrade at the same time I handed him my ID. It was actually quite casual. The clerk saw the sandwiched bill, took it out, and just let it lie right in front of the computer and definitely wasn’t very secretive at all. He asked me what I wanted and I said that a high-floor room would be nice, so eventually he “upgraded” my parents and I to the 30th floor. At the end of the conversation, of course he stuck the bill in his pocket. It was super cheesy, actually.

When I got to the room it wasn’t a suite, but it definitely was better than the base level room category room that was booked. The view was also simply sublime and I think was definitely worth it. In hindsight, I should have asked for something more specific. I’m fairly sure occupancy wasn’t 100% so definitely if I wanted something nicer I could have asked as the check-in agent did ask whether I wanted a room on a high floor or on a mid-level floor (obviously I picked the former). But at the moment when I was talking it certainly slipped my mind. For a three night stay, that works out to only just over $7 dollars a day, which wasn’t too bad. The upgraded room would only be a bit above $45 for the three nights so if you look at the numbers I didn’t “profit” that much.

But then who could say no to this view? Okay, I instagrammed this (follow me here!) but I swear it was just as pretty in person.

I also have a thing for tall buildings so YMMV.

Day

Night

There have been reports of people getting huge suites, buffet coupons, waived resort fees, and the like, but honestly when I do this its the luck of the draw. In my opinion you shouldn’t be expecting an upgrade with this, so obviously you should keep in mind the possibility that your money will be taken and you still won’t get an upgrade. But it’s nice to have the possibility of getting a mindblowing suite the next time you hand the clerk a bill sandwich when you check in. While I didn’t get that this time, it’s something everyone should be doing while in Las Vegas until the hotels catch on. 🙂

I think I learned quite a few things about the process. First and foremost, it would be very good to relax. It certainly wasn’t like I was bargaining for something illegal and the check-in agent did not flinch at all so I could guess that this “tip” could be fairly common. Next time I also think I will try and tip a bit more. Partly why I didn’t tip $40 in ten dollar bills (just to emphasize I had a wad :P) was that I didn’t want to stand out. So now that I know, I tip more, and then hopefully I get more. Probably asking for a specific room category would also be good then you’d know judging by the expression on the agent’s face whether it would be possible to accommodate that request. The tip means both parties benefit – the check-in agent gets a nice bonus, and the customer gets a nice upgrade, so common sense would dictate that both parties would try to make the transaction as pleasant as possible to continue the possibility of this transaction recurring. But whatever happens its a fun bit of bargaining that’s almost like the fun that happens in the casinos (and I don’t have a qualified opinion here – I am not legal in the US :)).

For more details about what people have gotten as upgrades, you can check the list of hotels that the Twenty Dollar Trick website has here. From the statistics, over 80% have reported getting some sort of an upgrade, so it’s something that consistently works. Have you ever tried the trick? What sort of results have you gotten?

Yes, Las Vegas is really hot right now and it was definitely very hard to adjust to the scorching 40+ highs!

(Las Vegas Highs/Lows for the next 7 days)

The American Version

Comments

  1. You never know what you would’ve gotten without the tip, but it’s most likely the smallest gamble you’ll make in Vegas, and it gets you in the Vegas swing of things.

  2. I appreciate this tip. I’ll be landing in Vegas in less than a week for a couple nights of relaxation with my wife!!!

  3. Speaking as a former front desk agent and former employee of a Vegas Casino, if someone tipped me and I had an upgrade available, I would always put them in a nicer room. Some of the Vegas Casinos do offer their front desk agents a percentage of paid suite upgrades now though. So if their percentage of the paid suite is more than your $20, they might save the best suites for paid upgrades. But you will still likely get some sort of upgrade. In Vegas especially, but anywhere you travel, tipping a hotel employee can go a long way. It shouldn’t be a “trick” as much as an appreciation for good service. We often work long hours, holidays, weekends, so tips can make the hectic work life a little better. It doesn’t hurt that we also have a lot more discretion on upgrades than people think. 🙂

  4. I checked into the Mirage back in 2007 and tried the $20 trick. It took a couple tries before getting a room with a jetted tub.

    It was the week before Christmas and the hotel was pretty empty so I’m not sure why it took going through several people…then they kept miskeying my key.

  5. I tried it once at Encore and they told me to get stuffed, all it was good for was tipping the bathroom attendant with.

    I’ve stopped doing it now, since most places I stay in towns where it works can’t upgrade me anymore.. so it’s hardly worthy for a couple more floors at best.

  6. Tipping for absolutely everything is nothing new for Vegas. I did it twenty years ago, and I still do it today. The $20 trick would always get me a front row booth at Legends in Concert! I’ve never tried a room upgrade tip…I’ve always got them for free! 😉

    The Vegas tip that bothers me the most is the hotel taxi line attendant. Yeah, let’s hand him a fiver or a wad of ones for opening the cab door for me. Sheesh…

  7. Check out the movie Lost in America where the guy ends up tipping the front desk clerk at the Desert Inn $100 to get a junior bridal suite. It’s a very funny scene about halfway through the movie.

  8. so sick of the expanded Las Vegas tip nonsense, I had breakfast at Treasure Island last week and the Omelet Station guy had a tip tray…give me a break

  9. There seems to be a ton of people saying the sandwich trick will not work at Wynn properties. This is definitely not the case! I checked in on a Sunday (6/8/14) around 6 PM for a 4 night stay. My package was 1 night comped and 3 nights at casino rate ($149/night) in a standard Resort King room at Encore, set up though my executive host (I am a Red Card holder and definitely not a high roller). I handed the check in lady a $50 sandwich and asked if there were any complimentary upgrades available. She let the $50 fall on her monitor, where it stayed for the entire transaction. She said she would check and asked if I was celebrating anything special. I told her we were celebrating my wife’s birthday (which was actually a month away). The woman asked where my wife was and I said she was still in the parking garage (which was true – she was too embarrassed to be with me when I tried this trick). She also asked if I had any preferences. I said something high and with a nice view of the strip. I ended up with a Tower Suite King on the 54th floor. The view to the left was of the golf course, straight ahead was the Wynn, and to the right of that we could see down the strip. Looking straight down, we could see the two Encore pools. It was a fantastic view. Checking out the rates online, this was a $90 per night upgrade, so we saved $360 total! This was the first time I tried this trick and will be doing it each time we check in from now on! (I used a $50 instead of a $20 because I read another report of someone at Encore getting a big suite with a $50. I didn’t get that big of an upgrade..)

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