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How to Get the Best Deal with Priceline

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There are quite a few websites where you can get great airline ticket prices online. Some of them include Expedia, Hotels.com, Kayak.com, Travelocity, and Priceline. Some of these sites may have slightly wider availability for certain airlines or airports, but for the most part, they offer deals that are within a few dollars of each other.

However, Priceline has one feature that sets it apart from the other sites – the “Name Your Own Price” option. You can use Priceline the same as these other sites and purchase tickets immediately, or you can save over 40% on your airline ticket by bidding on a lower ticket price by using the Name Your Own Price option. While saving 40% on your purchase sounds great, it may not be the best option for everyone. If you choose the Name Your Own Price option, you won’t know your airline or flight time until immediately after you make your purchase – and the tickets are non-refundable.

How to shop for discounted airline tickets with Priceline

Choose Your Flights and Times. The most commonly used option is choosing your flights and times. This option is basically the same as all the other discounted travel sites. You search for tickets based on the time and date and choose the option that best meets your need. It’s important to note that tickets purchased through Priceline and most other discount travel agencies are non-refundable and non-transferable, though you may be able to exchange them through the airline for a fee. Most flights purchased this way are eligible for frequent flier miles.

Name Your Own Price. This option can save you a lot of money, but you need to have flexible travel plans in order to take advantage of these offers. When you select this option, you choose the date and airport(s) you are willing to travel from. Then you enter a bid price (name your own price), enter your credit card information, and click submit. Once you do this you have made a binding offer on the ticket and if the bid is acceptable to the airline, they will sell you the ticket. The only issue is that you will not know which airline you are flying, flight times, or even the airport you are flying in and out of (if you selected multiple airport options) until after you buy the ticket. Priceline’s Name Your Own Price is only a good option if you have flexible travel plans!

Here is some more information from Priceline about Name Your Own Price:

  • Flights and airlines shown immediately after purchase.
  • Domestic flights are scheduled to depart anytime between 6am and 10pm unless your city pairs require off-peak travel.
  • International flights can depart anytime on your travel dates.
  • We always look for non-stop flights first, however, priceline flights may make up to one connection each way, unless otherwise specified.
  • All tickets are non-refundable, non-cancelable and non-transferable.
  • We will issue convenient electronic tickets whenever possible.
  • Not eligible for frequent flier miles.

How to get the best airline deal with Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price”

Name Your Own Price won’t work for every trip, but it can save you money if you have the travel flexibility. Be sure to follow these tips to save money with Priceline:

Be flexible when you plan your trip. The Name Your Own Price feature doesn’t give you any say over what time of day you’ll be flying, the airline, or the airport if you select multiple options. The goal with this ticket option is to buy the cheapest ticket possible.

Check Priceline’s prices. First, determine the parameters. Enter the desired departure and arrival airport(s), desired departure and arrival times, and number of layovers (try limiting it to one or fewer). Use the Priceline price as a baseline for your search and your bid.

Check fares on the Internet or by calling the airlines. Some airlines offer special deals through their websites that the online discounters don’t have access to. You may be able to find a better deal there than with Priceline. If so, go ahead and reserve it, then try to beat it with Priceline’s Name Your Own Price feature. Most airlines will allow you to cancel your reservation within a certain amount of time at no cost. Note: Don’t go to these sites over and over and research the same round trip because their computers will pick up that someone wants to take that specific trip and that may trigger a price increase for a period of time. So just open as many tabs as you need.

Name Your Own Price at Priceline. Submit your bid at Priceline. Make sure it is below the price offered by the airlines and Priceline. Double check before submitting! Make sure you are satisfied with all the parameters and your bid price before you submit. You will be required to enter your credit card information when you submit your bid. If the price is acceptable Priceline will automatically purchase the ticket on your behalf. You should hear back from Priceline in about an hour or less. But while you hunt around, you may want to make a conventional reservation. You can always buy that ticket if your Priceline bid isn’t accepted.

Additional notes when using Name Your Own Price:

  • Don’t submit unrealistic bids. Priceline may not allow you to submit a second bid for the same trip if you bid too low the first time. I usually start at a price around 50% and then increase it in $25 increments until it is accepted.
  • Fees and taxes. Your bid price does not include fees or taxes, so your $250 bid may cost you almost $300 by the time you purchase the ticket (don’t worry, Priceline will give you an approximate total before you submit your bid). And don’t forget that some airlines charge for checked bags, so keep that in mind.

Use Name Your Own Price for other travel deals


no one deals like we do!
You can also use Priceline’s Name Your Own Price feature for other travel deals including hotels, rental cars, cruises, vacation packages, tours, and more. I chose to use the airline example because I needed to buy an airline ticket this week. In many instances you can save 30-50% on your total bill. For more information about these deals, visit Priceline.

Name Your Own Price isn’t for everyone. I don’t recommend using it if you absolutely need to be somewhere at a given time. But if you have the flexibility in your travel schedule and want to save a lot of money, Name Your Own Price may be a good option.


Published or updated April 14, 2010.
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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ryan

Kate: Fees are always something to consider before making a purchase. Priceline showed me the final price of my tickets (including fees) before I made the purchase, and I thought that was their policy. I haven’t used them for international purchases in several years though, so things may have changed.

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2 MoneyMateKate

Most of my travel is international, so using Priceline is very risky. Why? Because some airlines include the fuel surcharge in the ticket price, while others classify it amongst the taxes and fees that get added on. Picture a $400 ticket with $400 surcharges v. $600 ticket with $150 surcharges…the second ticket costs you less, but Priceline will give you the first one. Otherwise, I’d happily use their service!

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3 No Debt Plan

I’m guessing Southwest doesn’t participate since their prices are so low already — and no extra fees, as the commercials say.

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4 Ryan

No, Southwest and some other airlines don’t participate in these deals. So it always pays to shop around. Our local airport doesn’t have Southwest, so I usually use Priceline or one of these other discount sites.

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5 Katie

A year ago I used Priceline’s Name your own price option for a round trip ticket from Oklahoma City to Frankfurt Germany… I bid $250. I was accepted. I flew American Airlines, had no hassels, and even after taxes and fees the ticket only came to $489, which was $500 cheaper than I was being quoted on other websites. Did I mention that my flight date was 2 days before the departure date? Yes, I had flexible travel plans as far as times of departures and arrivals on both ends of the flight and maybe it only worked because I was bidding so close to flight time that the airline was just trying to fill an empty seat since the plane was going anyway and they were most likely not going to sell the seat for that flight, but I was actually suprised to see my bid was accepted. Happily, suprised.

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6 Marc @ JustThrive

Great tips Ryan, I don’t use their “name your own price” for airlines much because of time/date constraints when I travel, but I used them all the time for renting cars and booking hotels.

One thing I like to do there is to start with a low bid that 30-50% below retail for a midsize car or 2 star hotel, except I put the bid in for a luxury car, or 4 star hotel. This usually gets rejected, but sometimes I get lucky (I once got a Cadillac CTS for $20 a day in Vegas). When it gets rejected, you can rebid the same amount if you change the class of car or star rating of the hotel, so I’ll go resubmit the bid for a Premium or 3.5 star hotel, then on down the line until I get a hotel/car that is accepted.

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7 doctor S

I am an expert with the “Name Your Price” option. For the past few years, my friends and I would go out in Philadelphia and use this option the morning of the day we are going out in the city. We usualyl enter in about 70 bucks for the room and end up getting very nice hotels. The closer to the evening hours you do it, the better chance of getting a cheaper price as hotels are just trying to get rid of rooms for whatever they can get. Amazing!!!

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8 Ryan

Great tips, Doc and Marc! Thanks for sharing. :-)

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9 Jon

Six years ago, my wife and I decided we were going to get out of town for a weekend. We kept plans very open but we decided we were definately going to Montreal. Right before we got in the car for what we thought would only be a day trip, turned into a great weekend! As my wife was putting the suitcases in the car (She always packs just in case), I jumped on Priceline.com and threw in a bid for a hotel. I wanted to suprise my wife if I could on a low budget. I put in that we wanted a 3 star hotel for $50.00 and it went through! My wife was stoked when I told her! You see, we don’t make much money and it was hard to just pick up and go.

Then, that first night at the hotel, which turned out much better than we had imagined (They took in your bags, had a gorgeous fireplace in the lobby, very elegant indeed), I decided since we saved good money the first time around that I’d try Priceline again so we could extend our stay; hopefully for the same price or better. I put in for a 4 star hotel for $40.00 never thinking that it would get accepted. It went through. We drove 2 or 3 blocks after we checked out the next morning from the first hotel and checked into an even better hotel and we were catered to more than the previous hotel, and we paid less!!! We had just had our first child (actually we brought Little Jon with us too!) and we needed a great experience on a very low budget. I recommend Priceline. I also recommend putting in a low dollar amount in and aim high. Hey, you never know!

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10 Ryan

Thanks for sharing, Jon. :)

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11 Daniela

I am confused, and cannot find a straight answer, Let’s say I bid $ 400 for an international flight. The next page shows 400+50 of taxes+7 of processing fee. If my offer is accepted is my credit card going to be charged 457 or there are more taxes added?

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12 Ryan

The $457 should be the final price. The initial listed price is usually without taxes and fees.

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13 Erin

What is the general price that people would put on priceline’s name your price? I dont know if I should put half of what the general price is or more then that. I’ve never used priceline. Most prices Im coiming up with are at least $280 or higher. What is a good price to start out with? Please let me know if anyone has an answer.

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14 Ryan

Erin, try starting around 60% of the price and if that doesn’t work try increasing your bid by about 10% until it does.

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15 Erin

Thank you I will see what I can get. Im going to see what I can find on other sites and if I cant find a good flight by the time I run out of time I will give it a shoot with priceline.

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16 Veronica

I’m just starting to use Priceline, scoping out the “Name Your Own Price” for an international flight. For grins and giggles, I tried a $400 bid (not putting in my credit card info but just wanting to see what came up). The site thought for a few seconds and came up with $407.85. Is this the price their willing to sell me the ticket for? Or is this just an approximate price?

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17 Lorraine Carey

I am flexible with my times and am traveling to Lagos, Nigeria and just wondering if making my own bid on Priceline is a good idea or if it is to risky. Never flown before and looking into different options. If you do make your own bid how long does it take before you find out if goes through or not. And does it end up actually costing more do they give you total price when they do it or is there hidden costs afterwards too? Also do they give you enough time to transfer to next plane if have to get on another one. And will they give you the airport you choose to be at. Thank you for your help in this matter.

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18 Ryan Guina

Lorraine, you will usually find out very quickly whether or not your bid was accepted. The costs are normally listed in full, so you shouldn’t have to worry too much about any unlisted fees. As long as you book your itinerary at one time, you should have plenty of time to make all connecting flights according to schedule. You should be able to choose your airport in most instances, but it may vary – I haven’t flown to Lagos, so I can’t speak for that exact destination. My recommendation is to spend some time reading different reviews or forums to get more information about Priceline’s options, or try contacting Priceline. If you determine there is too much risk, then book at the advertised rate, and skip the bidding process. Best of luck.

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19 Sam

I’m considering using the Name your price option for an international flight. Just curious, if my bid is accepted, will Priceline give me an itinerary requiring me to stay overnight somewhere? I don’t want a 24 hour trip to be a 48 hour trip to save a few bucks. Or are they pretty good with giving customers a sensible flight schedule with only a moderate layover?

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20 Ryan Guina

Sam, I recommend reviewing their policies, but Priceline generally doesn’t schedule travel over a 48 hour period. The only time I have seen their itineraries go into another day was when you catch a red-eye flight and go a few hours into the next day. International travel can be different of course, since you are dealing with longer flights and time changes. But I haven’t seen any itineraries require travelers to get a hotel.

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21 Dennis

Traveling from Japan to the U.S., various travel companies advertise roundtrip prices for $200 + other charges. A $500 fuel surcharge + other charges addd up to a $900 final price! Priceline points out clearly that baggage fees are not included in the price. Priceline fine print indicates the government taxes are included.

“For certain international destination Name Your Own Price® airline tickets, government imposed taxes and fees and airline imposed fees will be included in your offer price; however, for these international destination itineraries, the priceline processing fee will not be included in your offer price. The total cost of the ticket including all taxes and fees will be disclosed to you prior to purchase. For international flights, as described below, Entry or Exit Fees may be charged that are not included in your fare or itemized separately on your checkout page.”

BUT, nowhere can I find about fuel surcharges. If fuel surcharges are not included, I should be bidding less than 30% of the ticket price, and not the 60% price. Am I missing a link on priceline which provides information about fuel surcharges on international trips?

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22 Dennis

For international flights on priceline, fuel surcharge is not necessarily covered.
http://www.priceline.com/Customerservice/faq/ShowHelp.asp?faq=ext(AIRPOP_TAXFEES_E)

“Airline Surcharge: For many international destinations, airlines impose a surcharge. This could include either a fuel or security surcharge. The amount varies widely depending on the destination and/or carrier.”

This means for people wanting to fly internationally, it is important to lowball the bid, otherwise a low price carrier will pick up on the bid and could add what seems to be an exorbitant amount for fuel surcharge. ($500+)

This link provides answers to many priceline oriented questions:
http://www.priceline.com/Customerservice/

SO…. no thank you for priceline international flight bidding!

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