Can You Get Hotel Upgrades by Passing the Hotel Employee $20 with Your ID?

Hand holding credit card

The concept of tipping has been long-established as a sign of appreciation for services rendered. But when it comes to checking into a hotel, can a well-placed tip in the form of a discreet $20 bill between your credit card and ID really secure you an upgrade? Let’s explore the ins and outs of this phenomenon often referred to as the “$20 Trick” or “Credit Card Sandwich.”

Origins of the $20 Trick

This tactic first gained traction in Las Vegas, where visitors would attempt to gain room upgrades by slipping a $20 bill between their ID and credit card upon check-in. Some guests swear by its success, recounting tales of complimentary suite upgrades, view improvements, and late check-outs. However, there is no guarantee, and the outcome largely depends on factors such as hotel occupancy, the staff’s discretion, and perhaps, a dash of luck.

Does it Really Work?

  1. Success Rate: Anecdotal evidence suggests that the trick has worked for many, but certainly not all. Some guests have walked away with significant upgrades, while others merely get their $20 returned with a polite decline.
  2. Hotel Policies: While some hotels may tolerate the practice, others might have strict policies against such incentives. There’s also the risk of encountering an employee who may find the gesture inappropriate or unprofessional.
  3. Availability: The most significant factor influencing the success rate is room availability. If the hotel is fully booked or there are no rooms to upgrade to, no amount of tipping will change the situation.

Tips for Trying the $20 Trick

  • Be Polite and Discreet: Remember, this is a personal gesture, not an official transaction. Approach it with humility and ensure you’re respectful, regardless of the outcome.
  • Ask Open-ended Questions: Instead of demanding an upgrade, phrase your request as, “Is there any possibility of an upgrade tonight?” This opens the door for a conversation and doesn’t put the employee on the spot.
  • Be Prepared for a No: Always be gracious, even if the trick doesn’t pan out. Remember, the employee is under no obligation to upgrade you.

Ethical Considerations

While the $20 trick can be seen as a harmless attempt at getting more value, it’s essential to consider the ethical implications. By offering money in such a manner, are we perpetuating a culture where services are only accessible to those who can tip? Or where employees feel compelled to bend the rules for a quick cash incentive?

Moreover, many hotel employees pride themselves on their professionalism and commitment to hospitality standards. Attempting the trick could be seen as undermining their integrity and suggesting that their services can be “bought.”


The $20 Trick is a gamble. There are tales of its success, but also stories where it didn’t quite hit the mark. If you decide to try it, approach the situation with tact, respect, and preparedness for any outcome. And, as always, tip for genuine service and not just for potential perks.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *