There are a lot of things that happen in Las Vegas that don’t happen in many other cities in America. In this case, I’m not talking about “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” or anything related to the sin of Sin City.
I’m talking about the “$20 Trick.” This isn’t something exclusive to Las Vegas, but it’s something that has blossomed here. Over the years the $20 Trick has become sort of legendary and mythical. The goal of this “trick” is to get a free hotel room upgrade for the entirety of your stay. Free upgrades have been great while also being exaggerated at times.
Today, the $20 trick would be considered more of a travel hack than a trick. In fact, if the $20 Trick was created today it would be called something similar to “Vegas Room Upgrade Hack” or simply the “$20 Hack.” While it’s not always effective, the $20 Trick is real and sometimes can change your Las Vegas vacation in ways you never imagined. Here’s how it works:

  1. Take a $20 bill and place between your credit card and driver’s license when checking into a hotel.
  2. Ask for a complimentary upgrade.
  3. Mention if you’re in Las Vegas for a birthday, anniversary, or special event. That can only help.

That’s it.
The $20 Trick isn’t magic, but the results can be fantastic. There may be visions of upgrading a basic room into an opulent suite. That may happen but this is the exception and not the rule in Las Vegas today.
Since hotels on the Vegas Strip charge for every kind of upgrade imaginable today, the desk agent might not have much flexibility to bump you all the way up. Your $20 Trick upgrade may “only” be to the next level room or a better view. These are still upgrades but not to the best room in the hotel.
When the $20 Trick was first used in Las Vegas the hotels didn’t put much of a focus on selling upgrades. That’s changed in the past couple of years. Not only can you pay for an upgrade when reserving your hotel room, but you’ll be offered the upgrade again when you check-in.
Last year, MGM Resorts generated $9.3 million in upsell revenue for the fourth quarter alone. Thanks, in part to the $20 Trick, upgrades have become big business for Las Vegas hotels. Even though the free upgrades available may not be what they used to with the $20 Trick, you can still find them. After all, nontaxable income (your $20) is always welcome in Las Vegas.
Even if the $20 Trick doesn’t bring a suite that it might have 5 years ago, the Trick can still get you a better hotel room, nicer view, or save you money. If all else fails the desk agent might be able to remove those pesky resort fees for the tip. It’s not fancy but $20 may save you $50 for a weekend.
The $20 Trick works best when the hotel isn’t busy. You’ll have an easier time finding an upgrade on a slow weekday instead of a busy weekend. Likewise, you have a better chance of getting an upgrade when the hotel isn’t packed with people in Las Vegas for a convention. Room availability is your friend when you’re looking for a free hotel upgrade. This is something to keep in mind when booking a room.
Before trying the $20 Trick, you might want to do some research to see how others have done. and Front Desk Tip (Full disclosure, I also write for their blog) are excellent websites. You can also find information on the $20 Trick and other happenings in Las Vegas at Vegas Message Board forums.


Marc Meltzer covers Las Vegas, gaming and men’s lifestyle for various outlets. Check out his blog at Edge Vegas.
More Posts by Marc → Google Plus → Twitter →