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The Ultimate Guide on How to Get a Free Hotel Upgrade

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Do you dream of a hotel upgrade to a luxurious suite or a room with a stunning view? Then you should read these tips and tricks on how to get a hotel upgrade.

Can you walk up to the registration desk and get a hotel upgrade because you dressed nicely? Or get upgraded because the clerk is having a great day? Sometimes. But other times it takes a little more work. Here are all ways you can give a polite nudge or gentle finesse to score a free hotel upgrade.

The Ultimate Guide on How to Get a Free Hotel Upgrade

Dreaming of a hotel upgrade to a luxurious suite or stunning view? Use these tips and tricks to get a free hotel upgrade. | hotel hacks | travel hacking | Traveling Well For Less

You could get anything from a room category upgrade to a suite. It all depends on the desk agent’s generosity and willingness to play aka accommodate.

But there are a few subtle tricks you can use to shift the balance of power in your favor. Keep reading to learn all the tips and tricks get a hotel upgrade.

Pro-tip: Be discreet when asking for an upgrade. You don’t want to put the desk agent in an uncomfortable position. Especially if you’re going to use the $20 trick (see below).

What You Should Do Before You Ask for an Upgrade

Before you ask about an upgrade, you should always check to see if there are upgrades available. Because if there are no rooms to upgrade to, you aren’t going to get upgraded.

How to Check if Upgrades are Available

You can check the hotel’s website to see if suites and other upgrades rooms are available. If suites are not showing as bookable, then there’s little chance that you’ll get upgraded into a suite.

Pro-tip: Know the hotel you’ve reserved. Some hotels like Hyatt Place and don’t have suites and only have standard rooms.

21 Tips to get a Room Upgrade

1. $20 Trick

Use the $20 trick to score a hotel upgrade. | hotel hacks | travel hacking |

The $20 trick

Commonly and more likely used in Vegas, the $20 trick can score you a hotel upgrade. The $20 trick is also known as the $20 sandwich trick and credit card sandwich.

When you check in, wrap a $20 bill around your credit card. Then ask, “Are there any free upgrades?” Prompted by a $20 tip, the desk agent may work hard to find you that upgrade.

2. Special Occasion

You can get a free hotel upgrade if you're celebrating a special occasion. And sometimes the hotel sends up a free cake. | hotel hack | travel hacking |

A delicious chocolate cake from the Grand Hyatt Kauai

If you’re celebrating a special occasion like a honeymoon, anniversary, or birthday, you may be able to get a free upgrade. Hotels want to be part of your celebration and sometimes will come through with an upgrade, treat or another memento.

You should let the hotel know in advance so they can make proper arrangements. A good rule of thumb is two month’s notice. And then follow-up a week before you’re scheduled to arrive.

Pro-tip: Send your email to the hotel’s general manager.

3. Paid Upgrades

When booking online some hotels will offer you an option to pay for an upgrade. These paid upgrades are common with Hilton, Radisson, and more recently Hyatt.

You should decide if it’s worth upgrading now for a fee or taking your chance when you arrive. Because I’d rather save money, I prefer to take my chance when I check in.

4. Book Through Sites that Offer Automatic Upgrades

Some sites offer free upgrades when you book with their program. You get free hotel upgrades from American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts and the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection.

Usually, these are one category room upgrades which mean an upgrade to a room with a view or a higher floor. The nice part is that it’s a free upgrade and you don’t have to negotiate.

5. Use a Travel Agent

Booking through a travel agent can increase your upgrade chances. But not all agencies are equal.

Some travel agencies like Virtuoso agencies have special relationships with certain hotels. And when book those hotels you may get upgrades and VIP treatment.

6. Stay at New Hotels


You can increase your chances of getting an upgrade when reserving a room at a new hotel. The trick is to book when the hotel has a lot of rooms available.

An easy trick is to check their website. If you see a lot of rooms available for reservations, then you have a greater chance of an upgrade.

Read: Park Hyatt Mallorca Review: How to Get There

7. Travel During the Off or Slow Season

Travel during the off season and you may get a free hotel upgrade. My upgrade to a business class room at the Radisson Blu Hotel Edinburgh during the winter. | hotel hack | travel hacking |

Upgraded to a business class room at the Radisson Blu Hotel Edinburgh during the winter

Rooms often go unoccupied in the off or slow season. This increases your chance of getting a hotel upgrade.

Pro-tip: Arrive on a weekday in vacation destinations and on a weekend in business areas.

8. Join the Hotel Loyalty Program

Joining the hotel’s loyalty program will increase your chance of an upgrade. Hotels are more likely to upgrade members of their loyalty program. You can sign up for a hotel’s loyalty program for free.

Pro-tip: Remember to add your loyalty number to your reservation.

9. Travel Hack a Hotel Loyalty Program

Most hotel loyalty programs offer free upgrades to their elite members. Don’t have the time or money to earn elite hotel status from hotels stays? You can travel hack your way to elite status.

You can sign up a hotel credit card like the World of Hyatt Business Credit Card or Hilton Honors American Express Card and earn elite status. Depending on the hotel program, the entry level elite status gets you free room upgrades. Enrollment is required for select benefits.

Pro-tip: BestWestern offers an easy status match. If you have elite status with another hotel, you can match it and earn elite status with BestWestern.

Find the latest travel rewards and hotel credit cards.

Read how to travel for free with travel rewards cards.

10. Become a Frequent Guest

A sweet free hotel upgrade to a suite at the Hilton Abu Dhabi. | hotel hack | travel hacking |

Upgraded to a suite at the Hilton Abu Dhabi

If you travel to the same city often, staying at the same hotel increases your chance of getting a hotel upgrade.

11. Book a Cancelable Rate

You can increase your chances of getting a hotel upgrade by paying full price. A hotel is more willing to give an upgrade to a guest who pays more for a room than the guest who pays the cheapest rate.

Pro-tip: Using discounted rates like AAA and AARP can hurt your chances of an upgrade.

12. Reserve Through the Hotel

I scored a free hotel upgrade to a junior suite at the Park Hyatt Zurich because I booked through the hotel's website. | hotel hack | travel hacking |

Junior suite at the Park Hyatt Zurich

Whether you book on the hotel’s website, app, or call, you improve your upgrade chances when you book direct.

Booking directly with the hotel cuts out the middleman. The hotel makes more money on your reservation because they don’t have to pay someone a commission.

The more valuable you are to the hotel, the higher the likelihood of getting an upgrade.

13. Rebooking Sites

You could get free upgrades by using a rebooking site like DreamCheaper. DreamCheaper watches your hotel bookings and if prices drop, automatically rebooks you into an upgraded room.

14. Be Polite

Being polite and nice when checking in can be rewarding. And not just for the psychological benefit. It could pay off in a free upgrade to a fancy room.

15. Ask

I got a free hotel upgrade to the Park Suite at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place. All I had to do was ask. | hotel hack | travel hacking |

Ask and you shall receive. I got upgraded to the Park Suite at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place

When checking in, ask for an upgrade. The desk clerk can’t read your mind. So always ask. You can email the hotel general manager in advance.

Read my Hyatt Regency McCormick Place review.

16. Complain

I don’t mean be a total pain in the butt. Nor do I mean complain about everything. Instead be a demanding customer.

Some people swear by this technique. They’ve received free hotel nights, wine, champagne, chocolates, and upgrades.

But I don’t use it. I will only complain or mention a legitimate problem. For example, if I’m assigned a smoking room vs a nonsmoking room.

Pro-tip: Use with caution.

17. Short Stays


Want to score that sweet suite? If you’re only staying one or two nights, you’re more likely to get that suite upgrade than if you’re staying a week. Especially if you’re looking for a free upgrade.

Hotels are more likely to upgrade short stays because it costs less. In other words, they lose less money by upgrading you for a one or two-night stay. And they can resell that suite or upgraded room to someone else sooner vs later.

Read my Review: Saatchi Suite, Hyatt Regency London – the Churchill.

18. Arrive Late

Arriving late got me an upgrade to the Tower Luxury Suite at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas. | hotel hack | travel hacking |

Upgraded to the Tower Luxury Suite at the Luxor Hotel in Vegas

Like driving, avoid the rush hour and consider checking in when the front desk isn’t crowded. This could mean very early in the morning or late at night.

Know the hotel’s check-in and check-out times. Plan your arrival for a few hours after check-in.

By arriving late at night or early in the morning, I’ve gotten upgraded great upgrades.

Remember, that the later you arrive, you risk the hotel giving away all their better rooms.

Pro-tip: This works on weekdays in Vegas. But doesn’t have the best success on weekends.

19. Share on Your Social Platforms

Sharing your excitement on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can get you an upgrade. Hotels have gotten savvy about checking and engaging in social media.

The more influence you have, the greater your chance of a free upgrade.

20. Write Hotel Reviews on TripAdvisor

If you write a lot of reviews on TripAdvisor, you could get upgraded. Some hotels check and respond to traveler’s reviews on TripAdvisor

Pro-tip: Reach out to the hotel in advance and include a link to your TripAdvisor profile.

21. Be Well Dressed

Chances of upgrades are more likely if you’re dressed well. Showing up looking like a backpacker could mean no upgrade. Save changing into your sweat suit until after you get to your room.


Getting a hotel upgrade to a luxury suite and the best room in a hotel isn’t only for the rich and famous. You can enjoy an amazing room without having to go into debt.

Use these simple tips and tricks to score a free hotel upgrade. Sometimes all it takes is a simple, “Is there an upgrade available?”

Booking directly with the hotel, arriving late in the evening, and staying only a few nights all increase your chances of getting a hotel upgrade.

But if you want to guarantee an upgrade, you can book through the Fine Hotels & Resorts or Visa Signature Luxury Hotel collection. When you book through either of those sites, you’ll automatically get upgraded.

And if you don’t mind paying, you could take advantage of upgrade offers when you book or use the $20 trick.

Be sure to let the hotel know if you’re planning a special occasion or if you’re a member of their loyalty program. Because you may get upgraded.

Remember to check the hotel’s website to see if better rooms are available before you ask for an upgrade.

Did you enjoy these 21 ways to get a hotel upgrade? What’s your favorite trick to getting a hotel upgrade?

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Shrona Fengins

Wednesday 5th of April 2017

Thanks for sharing this amazing tricks. I used your $20 trick and It really works. I will definitely share this trick to my family and friends.

Honor Zelda

Wednesday 5th of April 2017

Thanks for sharing this ultimate guide. It really helps to save money on trips. I like your $20 sandwich trick and I will share it to my friends.


Sunday 26th of March 2017

I love these tips. I never really knew for sure if the $20 tip was real, but now I guess it is. I personally love saving my points and getting free rooms, then it all seems worth it.

Archana Singh

Friday 24th of March 2017

Very useful post. I didn't know the tips you shared. Now i am gonna try what you suggested. Thanks for sharing.

aziel morte

Thursday 23rd of March 2017

Brand loyalty has its benefits. With so many websites for hotel booking these days, hotels will often give out upgrades and perks to guests that show loyalty to the brand.

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