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

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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 | TravelingWellForLess.com
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 | TravelingWellForLess.com
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

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 | TravelingWellForLess.com
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 Hilton Honors card from American Express (learn more) and earn elite status. Depending on the hotel program, the entry level elite status gets you free room upgrades.

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 | TravelingWellForLess.com
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 | TravelingWellForLess.com
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 | TravelingWellForLess.com
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

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 | TravelingWellForLess.com
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.

Conclusion

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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Debra Schroeder

Debra is a former 12-year travel industry executive and has traveled the world using airline miles and credit card points since 1994. She'll teach you the secrets of traveling well for less.

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44 Comments

  • The below responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.
  • Doria March 17, 2017 at 9:02 am

    We’ve definitely used some of these tricks over the years! I think traveling in the off-season definitely helps. We’ve also found that sometime returning to a hotel that we visit once or twice a year builds a certain report 🙂

  • Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle March 17, 2017 at 9:51 am

    This is so great! Hotel upgrades are like Christmas come early. Thanks for such a great guide.

  • Vera Sweeney March 17, 2017 at 10:03 am

    Can I just say how much I love you! You have saved me so much money over my past half dozen trips. Your tips are so great!

  • Joely Smith March 17, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    These are GREAT tips! I am looking forward to traveling now so I can try this! We do not get to travel often, but when I do – I love extras!

  • Lois Alter Mark March 17, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    These are all great tips! I’ve tried many of these, and it makes me so happy when I get upgraded!

  • Kelly Dunning March 17, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    If you wrap a $20 bill around your credit card when you hand it to them… it’s not a free upgrade. It’s a $20 upgrade! That said, these are some good tips. Some friends of mine pretend that they are on their honeymoon every time they travel, even though they have been married for years. It works for them and often gets them upgraded.

  • Nancy @ whispered inspirations March 17, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    Excellent tips! I’ve never done the $20 trick but I’m so going to try it next time!

  • Cat March 17, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    Great tips! I’ve always wondered how to get a free upgrade, now I know! iI think joining the hotel loyalty program is a good idea! I will start looking into hotel chains that offer one!

  • LoveYouWedding March 17, 2017 at 10:54 pm

    Who wouldn’t want a free room upgrade. These are excellent tips! I will try this next time we travel.

  • Mimi March 18, 2017 at 12:22 am

    Travelling off season and special occasions must be our fave tips that always have worked. Great guide for anyone that wants to try their luck! I mean why not!

  • Noemi of Pinay Flying High March 18, 2017 at 4:26 am

    The $20 tip backfired on my friend. He gave a $20, the check in agent kept it (and thanked him) but then continued on giving the original room category booked. Lol. It was a slap on my friend’s ego. He was left there standing in front of the reception area wondering what the hell happened and where did his $20 went.

    I agree with almost everything listed here except the complain part, I work in the travel industry as a travel agent and I know how some clients can be a pain. I wouldn’t want to be like them towards anyone else who’s working in the same industry as I am. Being nice gets you somewhere though. We normally offer freebies or upgrades when a clients of ours is very polite and very nice to us.

  • Paulina March 18, 2017 at 6:05 am

    Wow that are some really good tips! You can also ask a friend that is a travel agent and book a room through him 😉 I will definitiely use some of these during my next trip

  • Rebecca Swenor March 18, 2017 at 6:06 am

    This is awesome information for anyone looking to book a vacation or just traveling. I didn’t know about some sites that offer free upgrades when you book with their programs but than again I don’t travel much either. This would be something I have to share with my sister who travels more. Thanks for sharing the information.

  • Sumti Bhadani March 18, 2017 at 8:11 am

    $ 20 is an amazing trick. Although it is quite hard to believe but quite interesting. Thanks for sharing the great tips 🙂

  • Only By Land March 18, 2017 at 8:47 am

    The last time I got an upgrade was when I was checking in a guest came up asking questions and being annoying. I shouted at him to stop asking questions and go wait, the guy checking me in enjoyed it so much that he upgraded me. The $20 would definitely work in Asia, probably as a $5 or $10 trick! I will definitely try it on my upcoming trip to Asia this month! Thanks, very useful post!

  • Tamara Elliott March 18, 2017 at 9:28 am

    I’ve heard a lot about the $20 trick, but not sure that I’m cheeky enough to try and use it!! If I knew it was very successful, I’d probably go for it 🙂

  • noel March 18, 2017 at 11:36 am

    Great post, I had to laugh at the $20 tip, do people still use that trick? I think all the other tips are great and a really good way to score an upgrade.

  • uprunforlife March 18, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    My husband typically gets upgrade perks due to the membership rewards program. He travels occasionally and always tries to book a specific chain just to earn a free night/upgrades.

  • Mel I TravelingMel March 19, 2017 at 12:46 am

    I’ve never thought about asking for a hotel upgrade, but why not? I wouldn’t be comfortable with the $20 trick, but certainly asking and being active on social media would be right up my ally. And being part of the rewards program makes total sense for getting an upgrade. I’ll read these again the next time I book a hotel!

  • Vicki Louise March 19, 2017 at 1:36 am

    These are great tips – but I feel like I’m never going to get an upgrade because I never book direct, but after hearing your tip about re-booking sites, I’m definitely going to start making use of that option! I am also a complainer – not the pain in the butt type, but I always make sure we get what we have booked – regardless of what time of the day or night we arrive! I just don’t think I’m upgrade material, but I’m willing to try everything!

  • Mel and Marcus March 19, 2017 at 1:52 am

    Some great tips, it’s always good to get an upgrade. We recently got one in Iceland, it was in a new hotel.

  • Samantha Sparrow March 19, 2017 at 3:50 am

    I’ve never received an upgrade so these tips are golden – although I have received free prosecco in the room for a birthday etc. I mainly travel out of season so some of these tips should work for me, although would never have though the the $20 trick would actually work!

  • Eloise March 19, 2017 at 11:13 am

    I used to work at the front desk of a hotel and yes, your tips are right on point… the BIG tip ‘BEING POLITE’ will get you a lot… It amazed me how mean/cranky people can get when traveling and they choose to take it out on hotel employees which is NEVER OK! I put a lot of effort in helping those who were nice to me! $20 tips were nice too ; )

  • Kelly Hutchinson March 19, 2017 at 11:25 am

    I have never thought to try and get an upgrade when I travel. I think the $20 sandwich trick is so funny! I bet it works often!

  • Ann Bacciaglia March 19, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    I usually use my reward points to upgrade a room. I will have to give these great tips a try my next trip.

  • Claudia Krusch March 19, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    Who would not want a free room upgrade?? I looooved your tips. I will try them on our next trip!

  • Aduke @ Aduke Schulist March 19, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    I agree that being polite is the way to go. So many people seem to think they will get what they want by being rude. If anything, I think it makes them end up with less. Also, I’ll have to remember that $20 trick.

  • Francesca March 19, 2017 at 7:13 pm

    I’ve got several different hotel stays set for the next month or so. I’ll have to give these tips a go, as everything I’ve tried so far hasn’t worked.

  • Megan Jerrard March 19, 2017 at 10:45 pm

    This is a fantastic guide – LOVE that you started it with actually checking if there are any upgrades available to start with, because the rest is worthless otherwise! These are all really great points – I used to work as a hotel receptionist and honestly a lot of the time it came down to people being polite and just having the courage to ask. Sometimes if we were in a good mood we would say yes.

    Loyalty programs also a great tip – we stay with Marriott almost exclusively now, and our status with their loyalty program means we receive automatic comp upgrades with is lovely 🙂 $20 trick always seemed like bribery to me lol which I guess it is 😀 But I never knew how to slip the $20 in a non ridiculous embarrassing way – wrapping it around your credit card is a great trick!

  • Oyinkan Ogunleye March 20, 2017 at 2:35 am

    Such great tips! I’m trying this!

  • Gareth March 20, 2017 at 3:13 am

    A really interesting read! I have always just kind of considered myself unlucky on the travelling front- I never get free upgrades, whether that’s on hotels or on flights. I guess however, there’s a lot more to it that just luck and having the right approach. I am certainly, intrigued about the $20 trick, not only because it seems to work, but it would also really feel like you were a baller!

  • Lara Dunning March 20, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    I’ve gotten lots of hotel upgrades for being a loyal member, but I’ve never asked for one. Not sure I’d feel comfortable slipping someone a twenty, but that would be such a great way to get an upgrade. I like the suggestion to travel in the offseason. That is my favorite traveling time!

  • Sandy N Vyjay March 20, 2017 at 8:50 pm

    Ah ha! A hotel upgrade is on my way now. These tips are stored in my memory and i am definitely using these to pamper myself on my next trip.

  • Reshma Narasing March 21, 2017 at 1:24 am

    Thanks for some great tips here. Never tried for upgrading before. I loved the 20$ trick especially. I have tried offseason and weekday bookings and I have got cheaper prices, but maybe, now I should also look for upgrades!

  • Jenna March 21, 2017 at 2:56 am

    Lots of great tips! Thanks for sharing–we will have to try some of these. DreamCheaper sounds like a great site to check out. We’ve scored several upgrades by being a member of loyalty programs–either as a benefit of being a member or by using points. Always nice to get a better room! 🙂

  • Gabriel March 21, 2017 at 5:28 am

    I thought the $20 sandwich was just an urban legend. I think I’ll give it a try the next time I’m on the road.

  • Maria March 21, 2017 at 7:38 am

    Those are some amazing tips, Debra! I have to admit, that with some of them, I probably not feel comfortable myself, like the complaints or $20 trick. But arriving late and booking directly through the hotel? That sounds like a great way to score a free upgrade. I will pin this for later, this is super useful!

  • Marielle Altenorm March 22, 2017 at 12:18 am

    I like the 20$ trick lol It’s not technically free but if you can score a free upgrade then it’s so worth it!

  • sophie March 23, 2017 at 6:29 am

    Well this is amazing, not sure if it would help me but many of my friends would love this , they are always in need for this, I shared this piece with of them and they loved it .I hope they will sharing it ahead also. Thanks for sharing this amazing travel hack! i have already pinned this in my board!
    Cheers

  • aziel morte March 23, 2017 at 11:47 pm

    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.

  • Archana Singh March 24, 2017 at 7:51 am

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

  • Corinne March 26, 2017 at 12:43 am

    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.

  • Honor Zelda April 5, 2017 at 12:05 am

    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.

  • Shrona Fengins April 5, 2017 at 2:51 am

    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.

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