Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

December 29, 2005

Las Vegas and the $20 Trick

Posted by Hunter

I'm starting a new category on the blog called 'Vegas Tips'. The category is for articles designed to be helpful to Las Vegas travelers instead of the news headlines that dominate the blog.

The first in the series discusses the infamous '$20 Trick'. I get more questions about this than anything else. I'll share what I know here and hopefully answer a few questions.

What is the $20 Trick?

An important part of Vegas lore, the $20 trick is a common technique designed to obtain free or discounted room upgrades from the check-in clerk after slipping them a $20.

Does it work? How do I do it? Will I get in trouble?

Want the answers? Keep reading...

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Does the $20 Trick Work?

The answer, as with most things in life, is 'it depends'. It certainly can work and many people have used it successfully.

It seems to rely on a few factors, none of which you can control:

  • Hotel Capacity - If the hotel is totally full, the better rooms usually fill first. That means they aren't available for you, no matter how big of a tip you're leaving.
  • Supervisor Observation - Many hotels officially frown on this and that can mean that a clerk that might want to help can't if their boss is hovering over their shoulder.
  • 'Do You Have a Case of the Mondays?' - Sometimes these guys checking you in just aren't in a good mood. They had a bad night drinking or their house burned down or they just don't like the way you're looking them in the eye... If they don't want to help you they certainly don't have to.

Perhaps you can use this information to help pick a line to stand in but mostly you just have to be lucky.

How Do I Do It?

There are no doubt countless variations on technique. The most common goes like this:

As you are handing over your credit card, fold up a $20 so that it fits neatly under the card. Make sure that it is peeking out so the clerk can see the bill slightly exposed from under the card.

Right before you hand over the card but with the 'tip' in the clerk's view, ask them if any upgrades are available. If they say 'yes', hand them the bill and the card. If you get a no, hand over the card and keep your $20.

If they can't help you they'll be polite about it. They don't expect a tip for nothing, just don't try to ask for it back after you've handed it over. That's low class.

Any Other Tips To Help Me Get The Better Room?

It always helps to ask for a specific upgrade by name. I.e. if you are checking in at The Mirage and you ask for a 'Tower Deluxe' room and hand over the $20, your chances may improve vs. just asking for an 'upgrade'.

Will I Get In Trouble? Will They?

There is nothing criminal about offering a tip - you are doing nothing wrong. Since hotel policy may discourage employees from taking tips, it is possible they could be reprimanded, hence the stealthy operation. If they are game to take the tip, the risk is on them.

Is There a $50 Trick

If you want the room this bad, just book it in advance.

Bottom Line

Like many things in Las Vegas, this is a gamble. You don't know how it will play out but it has paid for many people (just read any of the zillions of Vegas forums out there). It can be a little scary for first timers but keeping your cool and acting like you know what's up is part of the gig.


Read archived comments (8 so far)
December 29, 2005 4:01 PM Posted by socalduck

It's been a few years since I've tried this, but I would agree that room availability is the biggest determining factor of getting an upgrade. Using this trick right after the Aladdin re-opened, I was able to upgrade from a standard room on a low floor to a "Strip Suite" facing the Bellagio water show. There have also been a couple times when I suspect my "upgraded" room was probably the same room I originally had reserved.

December 29, 2005 5:54 PM Posted by Mike C

Please don't do this for the rest of us. Tipping the folks at the front desk is fine but do it AFTER they've given you a good room, as I've done. I've gotten some amazing views and tipped the person at the desk appropriately after they've given me the keys.

By throwing money at them before they even assign you a room, you are essentially setting a precedent that will cause workers to EXPECT money up-front before giving any kind of decent room away. With companies like MGM already charging extra for strip views as it is, the last thing we need is an arms race in gratuities for that "good" room.

December 29, 2005 6:38 PM Posted by Hunter

Just to be clear, I'm not recommending this procedure, just explaining it.

Based on the 100+ times I've been asked on the Q&A, this is something people frequently want to know about.

Mike has a decent point though - one to consider.

January 21, 2006 9:31 AM Posted by John Gorniak

As stated, this trick has been around for a while. I used this tip to upgrade to a petite suite at Paris in 2000 during the Memorial Day weekend. Worrying that this will change things "for the rest of us" is a little late...

November 14, 2006 5:00 PM Posted by Johnny

Hello. I highly recommend using the $20 trick in Las Vegas. Infact, there is a site that talks about about using the trick and users past experiences. Its at Its your best bet in Vegas . . . if the front desk person says no, you keep your $20! A win win situation!

February 21, 2007 5:59 PM Posted by MrE

I was turned on to this many year ago by a Friend who was also a desk clerk on the Strip. Since then I�ve used it every time I�ve visited Vegas and it�s worked 90% of the time (including getting a corner room upgrade at TheHOTEL and a two level upgrade on a suite at the MGM). Places where it didn�t work include New York, New York (it was the desk clerk�s first day on the job and he refused the tip) and the Bellagio (no surprise there).

I have also found that being patient and friendly goes a long way (especially when there is a long line full of frustrated, tired tourists). Just smile and let them take their time, after all your on vacation. Between that, treating the Desk Clerk like a human being, and slipping them $20 � I�ve almost always received a better room.

March 30, 2008 10:22 PM Posted by Gene

Actually, 2 years ago, i got an upgrade on a sunday at the venetian just by asking. I didnt even offer a tip before hand. I had 2 regular rooms and was upgraded to 2 Conceirge level rooms in the newest area. It was sweet. The tip helps, but just ask sometimes.

February 24, 2009 5:27 PM Posted by soxfan777

Worked for me at Treasure Island... got a top floor room with a view. I booked the cheapest room they had. The young check in dude was really nice!