What is an Owner's Update?
Most if not all of the major timeshare brands offer an "Owner's Update" when you are staying at one of their properties. As it sounds, the Owner's Update is for owners of one of their timeshare properties and is generally meant to give Owner's an update on the program, new properties, tweaks or changes to the program and to make sure that owners are happy with their timeshare.
The Owner's Update is generally much more relaxed that a typical timeshare presentation since they are talking to actual owners who have already bought into the program.
Most of the timeshare developers offer incentives to go to these owner updates. In my experience, I have been offered visa gift gifts, points, free or discounted activities, resort credits and other similar incentives.
The Owner's Update definitely has a much different feel than the other timeshare presentations since they no longer have to try to convince you to buy into their program. However, the reason that they give you incentives to attend these Owner Updates is to assess your use of the program and attempt to upsell you into more points, a bigger unit or try to get you to purchase additional weeks or points.
Additionally, the representatives have full access to your entire history of the week/points that you own so they can see the amount of reservations you have made, the purchase price of the week/points, whether you purchased from the developer or resale, the amount of exchanges that you made through Interval or RCI and various other interesting tidbits of information that gleams some interesting information on your vacation style and how you have historically used the program.
If you are not sure whether you are truly maximizing your ownership, this information can be very helpful. It always surprises me that many timeshare owners do not exchange their weeks or simply use the week that they purchased. For some people, this is fine but there are many, many more ways to get tremendous value out of your timeshare instead of just using your owned week.
They generally try to use this information to show you how to get more value of your weeks/points or how additional weeks/points can help you travel more. Most times, these types of conversations have been low key and without the high pressure sales tactics that give timeshares a bad name.
I recently visited the Hyatt Wild Oak Ranch in San Antonio and as an Hyatt owner, we were given the option of an $100 resort credit or 7,500 World of Hyatt points in exchange for sitting down for at least 60 minutes.
I obviously took them up on their offer as free money / points is almost always worth it to me and I was curious to hear more about the potential new rollout of the pure points system which Hyatt is allegedly creating that has been briefly discussed here.
I chose the 7,500 World of Hyatt points instead of the resort credit since I find that I can get greater than $100 of value out of the 7,500 points. I can generally get 2-6 cents of value with World of Hyatt Points which would value this gift at anywhere between $150-$450 in value. An awesome value for only about 60 minutes of our time.
In my opinion, the Owner's Update is a very informal way to get more information on the timeshare system and could be a good way to learn about the various intracies of the program and to better understand exchange options, reservation windows and various other details of the timeshare system.
The incentives that they provide can be meaningful and I generally do not mind giving them some of my precious vacation time in exchange for their various incentives. They are generally low pressure and if the representative does not sense any potential ability to upsell you for additional weeks/points, the meeting generally goes very quick and you can get back to your vacation.
Have you been to an Owner's Update? What has been your experience? If so, leave your comments below.
Chasing Marriott / Starwood/SPG Status? Might want to book some cheap timeshare weeks to boost your night credits
Despite highly preferring timeshares to hotels, I still end up staying in plenty of hotels over the course of the year. Some trips only require a few nights which is not ideal for timeshares and some destinations simply do not have timeshares or timeshares that meet my high standards.
In other posts, I discussed that chasing hotel status for personal travel was not ideal as it takes a lot, and I mean a lot, of nights in hotels to achieve top tier status in the various hotel chains. If and when you achieve these status levels, they can provide you with some meaningful benefits but I still believe that timeshares provide more space and comfort than hotels.
For those of you who do not follow the various merger and acquisition activity in the hotel / timeshare world, Starwood, who owns various brands such as the Westin, the W, St. Regis, Aloft, Element and so agreed to purchase Marriott who owns such brands as Marriott, Ritz Carlton, Courtyard, JW Marriott and more.
The merger has closed but their loyalty programs continue to operate separately at the moment. This has created some unique opportunities to leverage each program. One of the biggest advantages is that Marriott and Starwood each matched each other status levels so if you held status with Marriott, you would now hold status with Starwood and vice-a-versa.
Unfortunately, since both programs operate independently for now, stay and night credits must be posted to each program and do not count for both. Marriott brands each Marriott stay/night credits and Starwood brands earn Starwood stay/night credits. Once you hit status in either program, it is then matched to the other.
One of the benefits of the Marriott program is that Marriott gives you night credits for those nights spent at Marriott Vacation Club properties even if those stays were booked using Marriott Vacation Club points or if you exchanged into a Marriott property using a unrelated timeshare. The other benefit is that you are generally given credit for 7 nights even if you stay less than that amount.
Since most weeks are booked for 7 nights, the key to get all 7 nights credit is to have the property check you in on the first day and check you out on the 7th night even if you only need to use the room for a few nights in between. Since you have the reservation for all 7 nights, most, if not all properties, will accommodate you.
If you already have a Marriott Vacation Club property vacation lined up, make sure to get Marriott night credits for it. It can't hurt and its free. If you are chasing Marriott status, a potential option to obtain top tier status could be through renting inexpensive timeshare weeks.
It currently takes 75 nights to get Marriott Platinum status which will also get you SPG Platinum status. If you are close to 75, it could make sense to reserve a few cheap weeks at Marriott properties in order to get the night credits. These would likely be in very low demand locations.
Here are a few good options that I found on Interval International. Interval International is the exchange company that Marriott uses and the following are available Marriott weeks using their Getaways options where you use cash to purchase the weeks.
MARRIOTT CANYON VILLAS AT DESSERT RIDGE PHOENIX, ARIZONA
MARRIOTT'S STEAMSIDE AT VAIL, VAIL, CO
MARRIOTT SHADOW RIDGE VILLAS, PALM DESERT, CA
As you can see from above, there are some weeks that are as low as $38 per night with a platinum discount. If you are chasing hotel status, booking a few of these low demand, low cost weeks, can be a great deal to get you closer to status. There are very few, if any, Marriott properties that are less than $38 per night. This could be an easy "mattress run" for those looking to get Marriott and Starwood status.
In my opinion, hotel status is generally overrated but free breakfast and access to various club lounges can be worthwhile especially in very expensive locations.
Have you done a timeshare / mattress run for status before?
Should I buy a timeshare or a vacation home? Key considerations to review before either purchase.
Most vacation properties are only used a few times a year. The timeshare industry became immensely popular since owners were basically allowed to purchase a week interval at popular destinations and in prime locations for a fraction of what similar properties would sell for and only for the time period that you would actually use it.
For a lot of lucky individuals, there comes a time where you may want to and have the ability to purchase a second home or condo for vacations. I personally have been looking for a second home and I truthfully have run into a difficult situation where I might actually purchase additional timeshares instead of a second home.
There are definitely a lot of pros and cons associated with timeshares but there are also a lot of pros and cons about home / vacation home ownership.
In my opinion, here are the potential benefits of purchasing a vacation home:
1. You will have your own place in a location that you love to travel.
2. You can go to your vacation home at any time without worrying about reservations or availability.
3. You can keep you things at the vacation home so that traveling will be easier.
4. You could rent out the vacation home and make some additional money or help you offset your expenses.
In contrast, here are some potential downsides of purchasing a vacation home:
1. You have to either have cash to purchase the property outright or have a large upfront deposit and be able to obtain financing.
2. If you obtain financing, you will have a second mortgage payment each month in addition to your primary home.
3. Repairs, maintenance and landscaping need constant attention.
4. You will need to spend time and attention to rent it out and you may not want to rent it out to complete strangers. Strangers will never care for your place as much as you do.
5. Unplanned maintenance issues can arise so you need to have extra funding set aside for those expenses.
6. Vacation homes can take a while to sell if and when you want to sell it.
Additionally, in my opinion, the benefits to timeshare ownership are as follows:
1. The initial upfront cost would be much lower than purchasing a property;
2. You will not need to worry about repairs, maintenance or other ownership issues;
3. You can afford to "own" in very desirable areas that would normally be out of the price range for most individual owners.
4. You can trade or exchange your ownership to other weeks or locations
Additionally, in my opinion, here are the following downsides to timeshare ownership:
1. You will have to buy multiple weeks in order to use it for more than one week at a time;
2. You will not have the same opportunity to rent it out or make additional money;
3. The value of the timeshare will likely be much lower than the initial purchase price.
4. Timeshares can be difficult to sell so if you cannot sell, you will still owe maintenance fees forever.
5. You cannot leave any personal belongings at your timeshare.
6. Although you may "own" your week, you are essentially a guest and you cannot decorate or otherwise personalize your timeshare unit.
While I highly doubt that I touched on all benefits or downsides to both vacation ownership and timeshare ownership, the general idea is that neither is a perfect situation and both have pros and cons.
The financial considerations for either purchase can be significant but purchasing property in a very desired vacation spot can be extremely costly. Timeshare costs can be pricey but will almost always be cheaper than comparable properties since you are only buying a week or a certain interval of time.
I do not think that there is an easy answer to this question and I think each individual will be unique in their decision making process. Both types of vacation purchases have unique attributes and there is no wrong answer.
The key is being able to travel where you want to travel so however you can accomplish this is the right decision for your.
Does anyone have any additional considerations or comments?
Transferring points from Marriott Vacation Club to Interval International: Key Differences between "Request First" and "Deposit First"
A reader recently contacted me concerning a transfer of his Marriott Vacation Club points to Interval International. After the transfer, Interval International did not have the desired week or location and wanted his points transferred back into Marriott Vacation Club points.
Unfortunately for our reader, there are two distinct methods to transfer points into Interval International.
With "Request First", a Marriott Vacation Club owner will request a week in Interval International. This can be one or many weeks and one or many resorts. The Marriott Vacation Club points will be taken out of your account immediately BUT if the request goes unfulfilled or you decide to cancel that request, the Marriott Vacation Club points will transfer back to your Marriott Vacation Club account.
With "Deposit First", the Marriott Vacation Club owner will immediately transfer points into Interval International and will request the specific week and/or location. If the request is not immediately filled, the Marriott Vacation Club points now become Interval International points and WILL NOT be transferred back. Deposit First is a one way transfer - you cannot transfer those points back into the Marriott Vacation Club.
It appears that neither the Marriott Vacation Club or Interval International made this policy clear and our reader mistakenly transferred points from his Marriott Vacation Club account to Interval International under the "Deposit First" mechanism. His attempt to transfer back these points was unsuccessful and was upset that this policy was not made clearer before he made a irrevocable transfer.
While this is unfortunate, Marriott Vacation Club owners who make a "Deposit First" have 3 years to use these points within Internal International. Three years is a long time so I would anticipate that these points would not go to waste. The key to getting awesome exchanges is to plan far ahead so I would recommend putting in a request now for various times and resorts as far in advance as possible.
The various timeshare point systems are very complex and not every agent or customer service representative fully understands the intricacies of various transfers. Make sure to ask questions up front.
The big downside to timeshares is that most reservations and transfers, once confirmed, are in stone and cannot be changed or altered. This is change a bit but is not completely flexible.