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For Seniors: How to Make Your High Bid by Proxy in an eBay Auction

To bid on eBay, you don’t have to sit in on an auction 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, manually upping your bid every time someone bids against you. You can make your high bid by proxy in an eBay auction. By proxy means that eBay’s automatic-bid feature stands in for you so that your bid rises incrementally in response to other bidders’ bids.

When you make your maximum bid on the bidding form, you actually make several small bids — again and again — until the bidding reaches the maximum you specified. If the current bid is up to $19.99, for example, and you put in a maximum of $45.02, your bid automatically increases incrementally so that you stay ahead of the competition — at least until someone else’s maximum bid exceeds yours. Basically, you bid by proxy. No one else knows for sure whether you’re bidding automatically, and no one knows how high your maximum bid is.

The bid increment is the amount of money by which a bid is raised. As a buyer (or seller), you have no control over the bid increments. The current maximum bid can jump up a nickel or a quarter or even $100. To determine how much to increase the bid increment, eBay uses a bid-increment formula that’s based on the current high bid. The following table lists the bidding increments.

eBay’s Bidding Increments
Current High Bid ($) Next Bid Increased By ($)
0.01–0.99 0.05
1.00–4.99 0.25
5.00–24.99 0.50
25.00–99.99 1.00
100.00–249.99 2.50
250.00–499.99 5.00
500.00–999.99 10.00
1000.00–2499.99 25.00
2500.00–4999.99 50.00
5000.00 and up 100.00

Here’s an example:

  • A 5-quart bottle of cold cream has a current high bid of $14.95. The bid increment is $0.50 — meaning that if you bid by proxy, your automatic bid will be $15.45.

  • A 5-ounce can of top-notch caviar has a high bid of $200. The bid increment is $2.50. If you choose to bid by proxy, your bid will be $202.50.

When you place an automatic bid (a proxy bid) on eBay, eBay’s bidding engine places only enough of your bid to outbid the previous bidder. If there are no previous bidders and the seller hasn’t entered a reserve price, your bid appears as the minimum auction bid until someone bids against you. Your bid increases incrementally in response to other bids against yours.

To place a proxy bid in an auction, type your maximum bid in the appropriate box or click the Place Bid button. A confirmation page appears, and you have one last chance to back out.

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Before placing your proxy bid, give serious thought to how much you want to pay for the item. Be sure to take into account any other costs (like shipping and tax) you’re expected to pay.

If everything is in order, click Confirm Bid. Or, if you get cold feet, click Back to Item. After you’ve placed your bid, the acknowledgment page lets you know whether you’re the high bidder.

If you’re not the high bidder in an auction, just scroll down the acknowledgment page to the rebidding area and place another bid.

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