Explanation of The 20 Dollar Trick

Chances are if you’ve spent any amount of time reading about Vegas you’ll have stumbled across references to the “20 dollar trick” in one article or another.  The premise of the twenty dollar trick is pretty simple – when you are checking into the hotel, the front desk agent will ask you for your ID and a credit card as they are checking you in.  When they do this, you wedge a $20 bill in between the cards and as they are registering you in the computer simply ask if they “have any complimentary upgrades available”.

Basically it’s an unspoken tip with the expectation that they will give you a free room upgrade that would have cost a lot more than twenty bucks.  Lots of people get really nervous about doing this but it’s pretty common place in Vegas (a city run on tips) and you really have nothing too lose (except in rare cases $20).  In most instances, the desk agent will either upgrade you, return the money if they can’t, or offer a premium upgrade that you must pay for at a discount.  For those of you think that this would only work in the lower end hotels, you couldn’t be more wrong!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Should I Waste $20 For A Potential Upgrade?

It’s your money so do what you want, but personally I feel that having a great room just adds some extra excitement and enjoyment to the trip.  This could especially be the case if you are traveling with a significant other, enjoy a more spacious environment or simply want access to something that you usually couldn’t afford but can get at a hugely discounted rate.  As long as you have $20 to spare (and you absolutely should if you’re in Las Vegas) I really think it’s worthwhile, but where I sleep matters to me a lot.

Will The Trick Work Everytime?

Nope.  As you can see from the chart above the twenty dollar trick has varying degrees of success depending on which hotel you are trying it at.  That being said, it’s very rare that it won’t be returned to you if the front desk agent can’t help you out so don’t worry to much about trying it – worst case you lose $20 and best case you get an awesome suite and a great start to your trip.

What Kind of Upgrade Can I Expect?

This really depends on which hotel you are staying at but at a minimum if you booked a standard room typical upgrades would be things like moving to a higher floor, a strip view vs. a mountain view and so on.  In some cases, the trick works exceptionally well (luck and timing?) and people have been upgraded from a standard room to multiple bedroom suites, given free buffet passes, nightclub entries and much more.

Should I Give More Than $20?

Some people give more (usually up to $50) when trying this trick and personally I believe that if you are staying at one of the higher end properties (Wynn, Venetian, Bellagio) this is probably a good idea.  I think it gives you a better chance of getting a really great upgrade and lets face it, money makes the world go round and the more you give the more you’re likely to receive, better to be generous if you can afford it.

Are Employees Allowed To Accept It?

This is somewhat of a grey area but in most hotels there is no explicit policy against front desk employees receiving tips from guests upon check-in.  The great thing is that most properties empower their agents to give upgrades at their discretion based on availability so they are free to process upgrades for you if they are available and willing to do so, so don’t feel like you are doing anything wrong testing out the trick.

Who Invented The $20 Trick?

No one really knows who came up with the idea for this trick and how it became to popular amongst people traveling to Vegas.  The earliest references I can find about it are in around 2006 although I’m sure that people have been using this tactic long before then, it probably just wasn’t publicly known.