Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
& Kellie Jez
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You are probably familiar with Priceline, an online travel agency (OTA) you can use to book flights, hotels, rental cars, cruises, and more.
The key thing that differentiates Priceline from its competitors is its opaque travel booking products. If you’re willing to be flexible with your travel plans (to the point of not knowing which airline you’re flying or what hotel you’re staying at when you make a reservation), you might be able to snag a deep discount.
As part of Booking Holdings Inc. — which includes Booking.com, Agoda, Kayak, Momondo, and other OTAs and metasearch sites — Priceline has also been able to use its combined resources to build its published-rate hotel offerings. Its Name Your Own Price tool has ceased to exist as an option, but low prices are offered through its other opaque tools — Express Deals and Pricebreakers.
Below, we’ll take a look at the various services offered by Priceline, including how to use it to find the best prices on flights, hotels, rental cars, and more!
Booking a hotel on Priceline is straightforward. Enter your search preferences, pick a hotel, and confirm your reservation, just like with any other OTA like Travelocity or Expedia. Although Priceline has a few extra options to help you find a great rate, there can be some additional terms.
To search for a hotel on Priceline, enter a destination, choose your check-in and check-out dates, and specify the number of rooms you need.
By default, results are organized in recommended order, determined by a combination of user reviews, general ratings, and price. You can change this to sort results by price or customer rating instead. Semi-opaque Pricebreaker options, in which you’ll get 1 of 3 hotels listed, will also be suggested at the top of the search results. If you have tons of flexibility, check out the Express Deals, completely opaque bookings in which you won’t know the hotel you booked until your reservation is complete.
At the top, you can switch to Map View, or even select from top filters. On the left sidebar, you can adjust filters for amenities, budget, guest rating, neighborhood, and hotel brand. If you have a specific property in mind, you can also search for it by name.
The terms and conditions vary between properties, so make sure to read everything before making a reservation. If your travel plans are concrete, you can usually save money with a prepaid and/or non-refundable rate.
Some properties require payment at the time of booking, while others allow you to pay at check-in. You can see each hotel’s policy on the results page — if a hotel says Pay Later your card won’t be charged (unless you choose to pay upfront). If the hotel allows you to cancel the reservation without penalty, Priceline highlights that as well.
Hot Tip: Keep in mind that taxes aren’t included in the rate shown on the results page or a specific property’s profile page — you’ll see all additional fees included once you choose a room and rate. When comparing prices between different websites and services, it’s always good to check the total price rather than the initial per room rate.
Select any hotel by clicking Choose your room, which will bring up the hotel’s page to select your room type. You’ll be able to review payment and cancellation terms, guest ratings, and amenities. Scroll further down to select your room type, then click Book.
Toggle the button above the results to see the true total price, including taxes and fees. This will also be displayed before you checkout.
Enter your personal and payment details, then click Complete Booking.
Before completing your reservation, you’ll be offered the opportunity to add Trip Protection, a travel insurance product offered by Allianz through Priceline.
While adding this protection is a personal choice, it’s important to understand that there may be no need to purchase extra insurance if you have a credit card with travel insurance like trip cancellation insurance or travel accident insurance. in your wallet.
Hot Tip: Check out our guide to credit card insurance for more information about the various protections and benefits offered by different credit cards.
Priceline VIP members that can find a better deal within 24 hours of making their air, hotel, rental car, and cruise reservations can submit a Best Price Guarantee claim to Priceline for the difference.
For Express Deals, Priceline members who find a better price up to midnight before they travel can be refunded 200% of the difference.
To make a claim for a hotel, you’ll need to contact Priceline by phone at 800-PRICELINE (800-774-2354). The representative will check the lower rate to verify it. Note that to qualify, the lower rate must be available to the public and have the same availability.
Hot Tip: Rates booked through loyalty program discounts are excluded from the Best Price Guarantee, meaning that if there’s a membership discount (even one that’s available to the general public), Priceline may not honor it.
Let’s take a look at some price comparisons to see how Priceline stacks up against other online travel agencies and hotel websites.
We priced out a 3-night stay in a deluxe king suite at the Conrad New York Downtown for 2 adults (refundable rate) and here’s how the prices stacked up.
In this example, Priceline had the cheapest overall rate, with Hilton itself coming in ~$72 more. You would have to weigh the overall cost savings compared to any benefits you may receive from a loyalty program like Hilton Honors since you don’t receive any elite status benefits or earn any hotel points when booking through a third party like Priceline.
One of Priceline’s opaque products, Pricebreakers gives travelers a heavily discounted price on one of 3 similar hotels. You will be able to see details for the 3 hotels before your purchase, including the shared amenities, location, reviews, and average retail rates. You will be guaranteed to secure a room at one of the 3 properties at the price shown, with the “winning” hotel revealed after confirmation of your purchase.
Pricebreakers is similar to Hotwire’s Hot Rates with the added benefit of narrowing down the possible hotel to one of 3 guaranteed options across various amenities and star ratings. You can also create your own deal at the bottom of the options by selecting 3 amenities and 3 neighborhoods that will help narrow the deals shown to you.
The basic premise of Express Deals is that Priceline can provide a deep discount on a hotel, but it won’t tell you where you’re actually staying until you confirm the reservation. Bookings are prepaid, non-refundable, non-changeable, and non-transferable … so basically, you’re stuck once you make the booking.
From the main Hotels page, you can scroll down until you see an option to Search Express Deals, or you can simply enter the city, the number of rooms, and check-in and check-out dates and filter by Express Deals at the top of the results page.
The results page looks exactly like the standard hotel search results, except that instead of hotel names you’ll only see star ratings. For example, the top result might be “4-Star Hotel.” If you click the What Hotel? link, you’ll see a map with the hotel’s general location shaded and a list of similar hotels in the area.
Because you can’t even read guest reviews before committing — only an average rating by guests — any hotel booked through Express Deals is a bit of a gamble. You have no way of knowing exactly where you’re staying. If you’re flexible or more easy-going, this means you can get a great deal. Otherwise, it might be worth paying a bit more so you know the details of the hotel before you book.
The good news is that Priceline’s Best Price Guarantee applies, and Priceline members who find a better price up to midnight before they travel can be refunded 200% of the difference.
Booking flights on Priceline is a straightforward process, similar to any other OTA.
You start by entering details of your trip: the departure and arrival cities, dates, cabin, and the number of people traveling. You can also search for a one-way or multi-stop trip instead of a standard round-trip flight.
If your dates are flexible, you can see variable pricing across the calendar when inputting your search parameters.
By default, results are shown in price order. You can use controls on the left sidebar to filter results by the number of stops, departure or arrival time, total travel duration, and airline. If your travel involves a city with multiple airports, you can also specify which one you’d prefer.
At the top, you can also search by flexible dates to see pricing a day before and after your selected dates.
Once you select any departing flight, you’ll see options for the return flight. Any pricing at +$0.00 will not affect your total price, but you may see cheaper or more expensive options for your return.
Once you have selected your flights you’ll see a confirmation of the departure and return, baggage information, and also have an option to select your seats before continuing to checkout. Enter your passenger and billing details, then review and book.
Using the straightforward flight-search function, prices compare favorably with other tools (though Express Deals may be cheaper, see below).
We searched for the cheapest round-trip flight between Los Angeles (LAX) and Tokyo (NRT) and here’s what we found:
|Google Flights||$678||ZIPAIR Tokyo|
Priceline actually came out as the most expensive in this example. Keep in mind that this won’t always be the case, so it’s good to check prices on a few different websites before you book a flight.
Hot Tip: When comparing prices on different OTAs, make sure the results you find are valid! In some cases, the cheapest fare you find may no longer be available.
To search for a rental car, enter the airport or city you’re traveling to and your pickup/drop-off dates and times. You can also specify whether you want a different drop-off location in the same city or a one-way rental.
You can sort and filter your results by a number of different parameters, including car type, location, cancellation policy, rating, and more.
Once you select Choose, you’ll be able to view the terms and conditions — these vary by the rental company, although many reservations are cancelable.
You will then be prompted to enter your contact and driver information, as well as optional information like adding child seats, loyalty program information, and flight information.
Before confirming your purchase you’ll be offered an option to purchase collision damage protection, an insurance product offered by Allianz through Priceline.
Make sure to check if you have a credit card with car rental insurance, and then use it to make the reservation. This coverage usually requires you to decline coverage from the rental agency and pay for the entire rental with the card.
Let’s take a look at how Priceline’s car rental rates compare to other OTAs and car rental agencies.
Both of these examples are for a week-long rental in Denver including all taxes and fees. The first example compares prices for the cheapest option available, and the second example compares prices for a specific type of vehicle.
|Type of Car||Budget||Enterprise||Expedia||Hotwire||Priceline||Rentalcars.com|
|Cheapest car available||$503||$969||$362||$353||$354||$362|
As you can see prices are all over the map, with the most expensive coming from individual car rental agencies. Priceline was essentially tied for first place for the cheapest available and tied for second place when it came to the mid-size SUV. While you can absolutely save money by booking a rental car through Priceline, it’s always smart to compare prices on a few different websites before you make a reservation.
Often you’ll need to book both a flight and hotel and maybe even a rental car at the same time. You can do that all in one go by booking a Bundle + Save package from Priceline.
Priceline offers the opportunity to bundle a combination of hotel, flight, and car rental together to assemble a discounted vacation package. Start your search on the homepage by clicking Bundle + Save in the main search area or on the top navigation bar.
You’ll have 4 bundled options to choose from:
Enter your departure and arrival cities and dates as well as the number of adults and rooms, then click Find Your Trip.
On the left-hand side, you’re able to sort by recommended hotels, hotel name, price, and star and guest rating. You can also filter by amenities, neighborhood, star and guest rating, and hotel name and brand.
Once you select your hotel by clicking Choose your room, the rest of the booking process is just like if you were booking a hotel or flight separately. Note that there are 2 prices displayed for your Priceline vacation package — a per person rate and the total price.
After you select your hotel and begin to select your flights, you’ll see how the various options affect the package price you were initially quoted.
You’ll get a chance to review your selections fully before checking out, then add the passenger information and payment details before completing your booking.
Hot Tip: Take a peek at our guide to the best credit cards for vacation packages before making your purchase.
Let’s see if this Priceline vacation package will have you on your way to saving $382 as advertised.
This package included 2 round-trip flights from Chicago (ORD) to Cancún (CUN) plus a 7-night stay at Grand Oasis Cancun All Inclusive for a cost of $1,089 per person. The total price for this package is $2,178.
We quoted the individual components of the bundle separately for review:
|Hotel Price on Priceline||Price on Hotel’s Website||Price for 2 Flights on Priceline||Flights Price on Kayak|
If paid for separately, the total cost when booking through Priceline would be $2,446, so the actual savings for the Bundle + Save rate is $268. The savings are a bit shy of the advertised $382, but still a substantial discount nonetheless.
The thing to note is that while you can save money with Bundle + Save vacation packages from Priceline, often the flights included aren’t great. We found many packages with flights that had long overnight connections, which, in addition to being annoying, reduced the vacation by 1 night.
Start your cruise search by selecting Cruises from the top navigation bar or the main search menu, enter your destination, cruise line, departure month, cruise length, and whether you’re under 55 or not, and then click Find Your Cruise. You can fill out minimal information to see a wider variety of search results, like all destinations or all cruise lines, etc.
You can then sort by featured cruises and departure date, or refine your search further at the top to adjust destination, length, departure date, cruise line, cruise ship, departure port, and additional discounts.
Click View Itinerary to see more details about the cruise. Choose your sailing date and click Select.
Input the number of guests in your party and the ZIP code of your current residence and click Continue. Select your room type by clicking Select. Finally, enter your full guest details and preferred dining time and click Continue.
On the final booking screen, you’ll be able to review your fare, taxes, and fees, as well as special offers like onboard spending credits. You can opt to add travel protection and choose how to pay — deposit-only, payment in full, or monthly payments. When you’ve entered all the required details, click Complete Booking.
Will Priceline save you money when booking a cruise? Let’s take a look.
In this example, we searched the 7-Night Western Caribbean cruise for 2 adults on Ruby Princess in a balcony stateroom.
|Website||Total Cost of Cruise|
|Cruise.com||$1,848 + $50 onboard credit|
|Cruise Direct||$1,848 +$50 Visa gift card and 10% off shore excursions booked through cruisedirect.com|
|Expedia||$1,848 + $50 onboard credit|
|Priceline||$1,718 + $50 onboard credit|
Priceline had the cheapest price in this example but if you were planning to book shore excursions, the Cruise Direct price could end up saving you money.
Priceline’s loyalty program is called VIP. Once you join Priceline VIP, you’ll be eligible for various bonuses and perks.
There are 4 levels of status within the Priceline VIP program:
|VIP Member||VIP Blue||VIP Gold||VIP Platinum|
|Best Price Guarantee||x||x||x||x|
|Hotel Savings||Up to 10%||Up to 50% on over 15,000 hotels||Up to 50% on over 30,000 hotels||Up to 50% on over 45,000 hotels|
|Rental Car Discounts||Up to 10%||Up to 15%||Up to 20%||Up to 20%|
|Add-on Deals||Up to 50% on hotels and 20% on rental cars when added to an existing trip|
|Insider Coupons||5% Express Deal coupon after every trip||5% Express Deal coupon after every trip||8% Express Deal coupon after every trip||10% Express Deal coupon after every trip|
|Access to VIP Family||x||x|
|Premium Customer Service||x|
VIP Gold and Platinum members can share their benefits with family by creating a VIP Family account. This allows up to 3 users to pool their activity and status to gain benefits 3x faster.
The app offers exclusive app-only hotel deals as well as Late Night Rates daily at 9 p.m., showcasing the best hotel deals nearby to help with last-minute check-in.
For people who use Priceline consistently, Barclays offers the Priceline Rewards™ Visa® Card that earns rewards on everyday spending and bonus points on everything booked through Priceline.
Hot Tip: Because Priceline itself codes as travel, you can also use a card that offers bonus points for travel purchases, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve card or the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, both of which earn 3x points per $1 spent on all travel, not just Priceline purchases.
As a standard online travel agency, Priceline performs solidly, and it is roughly on par with other OTAs in terms of selection and pricing. What makes the website stand out is its various opaque pricing tools that sometimes offer steep discounts on flights and hotels … if you’re flexible and willing to commit without knowing all the details.
Before purchasing one of Priceline’s opaque options, make sure that you’re certain about the trip, timing, and any other details you can confirm. Once you make a reservation, there’s no refund or cancellation!
The information regarding the Priceline Rewards™ Visa® Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
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Priceline is an online travel agency (OTA) you can use to book flights, hotels, rental cars and more.
Priceline is a great way to search and compare flights and hotel rates. It also offers a Best Price Guarantee, so there’s no risk of finding a lower price later and feeling like you missed out.
The bigger reason to use Priceline, though, is that it offers huge discounts on flights and hotels for making an opaque booking.
An opaque booking is when you book a flight or hotel at a discount (sometimes a huge one), but you don’t know the exact details of what you’re reserving.
For example, if it’s a flight, you won’t know the exact time of your flights, or what airline you’re flying until you confirm the reservation.
If you’re booking a hotel, you’ll only know the hotel’s star rating, general location, and price until you pay for the reservation.
Your reservation may be refundable or cancelable depending on what you’ve booked on Priceline and how.
Opaque bookings through Pricebreakers and Express Deals are not refundable, changeable, transferable, or cancelable.
If the reservation is cancelable or refundable, just call 800-PRICELINE.
If you booked the hotel as an Express Deal or Pricebreaker reservation, the official policy is that it can’t be canceled. However, some people report luck by calling the hotel and asking to cancel it, then contacting Priceline if the hotel is willing.
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Born and raised in New York, David still remembers his first flight when he was only four years old: a U.S. Airways trip from New York-La Guardia to Palm Beach, Florida. He formed his love of travel around that and other family vacations, including to England at age eight and Namibia when he was 13. During college, a four-country trip around Europe with a friend cemented his passion for seeing the world.
David is currently Senior Aviation Business Reporter and a photographer at The Points Guy.
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