Can I Get Hotel Upgrades by Tipping Front Desk Agents?

Oct 23, 2016

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TPG reader Royal emailed me to ask about hotel upgrades:

“Do you believe in the $20 trick at hotels? I’m going to Las Vegas in December and staying at the Palazzo. I don’t have any status with IHG, and it’s my first time staying there. Do front desk agents really have the power to upgrade me if I tip them?”

The $20 trick is real, and it can be a great way to score an inexpensive upgrade. If you’re not familiar with it, the idea is to fold some cash between your credit card and ID, and slip it to the front desk agent who checks you in — I don’t think you really have to be sneaky about it, but it’s more fun that way! If all goes well, they’ll get a nice tip and you’ll get a nicer room well below the normal rate.

I’ve heard of this strategy working in hotels around the world, but it’s particularly effective in Las Vegas. The big resorts on The Strip offer a lot of different room tiers, and agents have a fair amount of latitude to move guests around as they see fit. This is especially true on weeknights, when there tend to be more rooms available.

That said, results of the $20 trick will be all over the map. You’ll often be upgraded to a higher room class, or you may be moved to a room in the same class that has a better view or is in a more convenient location. You might also be offered comps or waived fees, depending on what’s available and how generous the agent is feeling. Of course, you might also get absolutely nothing. Front desk agents usually won’t take your money if they can’t help you, but it does happen sometimes.

It helps to have a sense of the available room types before you arrive. Make sure you know how the rooms differ in price and amenities, and figure out which ones you’re realistically targeting for an upgrade. Don’t be shy about specifying what you want — The Palazzo is an all-suites property, so if you’re booked into a standard Luxury suite, you can ask if there are any Fortuna or Siena suites available as you slide your cash across the counter.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Las Vegas properties like Paris are good spots to try the $20 trick. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Another thing to mention is if you’re in town for a special occasion (like a honeymoon, anniversary or birthday). It can’t hurt to chat up the front desk agent a bit and let them know that you’re celebrating. As is the case with most customer service interactions, being likable will probably help your chances more than a tip.

Thanks to IHG’s relationship with The Palazzo and The Venetian, elite status is another good way to score an upgrade.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at

Featured image courtesy of The Palazzo.

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