Maximize Timeshare Ownership
The ultimate resource to understand, maximize and leverage timeshare ownership to travel in luxury accommodations on a reasonable budget.
Timeshares are very complicated. There are tons of rules, terms and conditions. The systems have changed dramatically since the initial days of buying a week and using that week. Now, there are a multitude of different systems with various point systems, internal and external trading and other intricacies that come along with various rules on how to use them.
In this post here, I explained how some Hyatt owners (those who purchased directly from the developer), can convert their Hyatt Residence Club points into World of Hyatt points.
In this post, I want to explain how Vistana / Starwood owners can convert their Staroptions points into Starpoints.
Immediately, this becomes confusing thanks to their rather poor choice of terminology of using "starpoints" and "staroptions" so let's get some basics out of the way.
Basic Understanding between Starpoints and Staroptions:
Interval Leisure Group (parent of Interval International) currently owns Vistana. Vistana was originally spun off from Starwood and now has exclusive rights to manage the timeshare portion of the Starwood brands. Vistana currently consists of Sheraton and Westin branded timeshares along with a few (3) other non-Starwood branded properties (Vistana legacy properties).
As many of you probably already now, Starwood is generally considered a hotel company and operates under many different brands. As part of their loyalty program, they offer "starpoints".
Starpoints are arguably one of the most valuable hotel point currency since there are not a ton of options to easily acquire Starpoints. In addition, you can transfer Starpoints to various airline programs where for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred, you will receive 25,000 frequent flyer miles.
Also, you can use Starpoints to reserve hotel units. They have a very favorable award chart where you can reserve free nights from anywhere between 3,000 per night (Category 1) up to 35,000 per night (category 7).
Staroptions are completely different than Starpoints.
Staroptions are the timeshare point currency being used under the Vistana system. You can use Staroptions to exchange into other Vistana properties. Here is the guide to the Vistana system.
So, with that introduction, we should be clear on the difference between Staroptions and Starpoints.
Unfortunately, like many other timeshare systems, the developers restrict the ability of resale purchasers to convert their timeshare week into hotel points. Vistana does restrict this so if you purchased a week on the resale market, you will not be able to convert your staroptions into starpoints.
If this feature is potentially useful, you will want to look at purchasing directly from the developer and determining whether the price differential makes this option worthwhile.
For those who have this ability, you can convert your staroptions into starpoints and use those starpoints for hotel stays or transfer those starpoints into frequent flyer miles.
Vistana currently bases the conversion values on the resort, size of unit and season. The chart below should be fairly easy to understand.
As you can see from the chart above, the values per week fluctuate widely and range from over 103,000 starpoints to only 7,500.
Fees to Convert:
Not surprisingly, Vistana does charge a fee to convert your staroptions to starpoints. The current fee is $130 per Vacation Ownership Interest (VOI). Basically, this should equate into $130 per week but Vistana does offer other packages where this may not always be correct.
Is it worth it?
As I stated before, the answer will almost always be "it depends". Starpoints are definitely a valuable currency and you can likely use those converted points to get many nights at Starwood branded hotels. The amount of nights will greatly fluctuate based on the category of the Starwood hotel.
Generally, I find that most timeshare points to hotel point conversions are generally not the best value for owners. While in certain circumstances, it can make sense to convert and use the hotel points for high priced hotel stays, the conversion values are generally low and there can be many other free or low cost ways to quickly obtain these loyalty point currencies (credit cards, shopping portals, various promotions, etc.).
Since you be giving up your entire week and all of your Starpoints for the year in order to convert, you need to do some math to see how much you are essentially "buying" starpoints. You will then need to do the math for the amount of value that you will be receiving from using your starpoints.
For example, if you pay $1,500 in maintenance fees for your Vistana timeshare and you receive 67,000 starpoints, you will be essentially paying approximately 2.3 cents per starpoint. (1,500 divided by 67,000).
If you choose to you use 10,000 starpoints at a category 4 hotel and the category 4 hotel price is $200 per night, you are essentially redeeming those starpoints for approximately 2 cents per point. ($200 divided by 10,000).
In this example, without including the conversion fee, you actually lose money on a redemption in my example.
To determine whether it makes sense, you need to add together the maintenance fee and conversion cost and divide that total by the amount of starpoints received. You will then come up with the cost that you are essentially paying for each starpoint.
Then, if you have a specific redemption in mind, you need to divide the cost of the stay by the amount of starpoints required. This will give you the redemption value.
If the redemption value is above the cost, you come out ahead. If it is lower than your cost, you come out behind.
During this past year, Marriott and Starwood have merged together and as part of that process now offer the ability to transfer Marriott Reward Points to Starwood Starpoint and vice-a-versa. You can transfer 1 starpoint to 3 Marriott reward points or 3 Marriott reward points to 1 starpoint.
This option opens up even more possibilities for using your starpoints. If you are interested in this, the Frequent Miler (a good resource for obtaining loyalty currencies for cheap) put together a great guide on various sweet opportunities. Take a look here!
Change is Coming:
While I wanted to discuss this conversion option sooner rather than later, as I mentioned, Marriott and Starwood have merged together and will be merging their loyalty programs sometime in 2018. This will likely mean that the conversion option discussed above will completely change.
While there is no definitive answers at this time, I believe that Marriott's loyalty program (Marriott Reward Points) will be the surviving loyalty program. Therefore, it is entirely possible that the conversion rates in the above chart will simply remain the same but multiplied by 3 or it can be entirely redone. Time will tell but one thing is for sure - this will be changing in 2018.
I personally like to determine the economic value that I receive from various options on using my timeshare week or exchanging it in various different ways. However, economic value is not the only value that you should consider. If you own a timeshare week and you won't be able to use the week or points or prefer to use those points for a hotel property, there is definitely value in doing so.
One of the main goals of having a timeshare is to actually encourage traveling so if your travel plans bring you to a destination where timeshares are not available, I think that it can be good to have the option to convert into starpoints and use those points for hotel stays or even airfare.
However, I would not blindly go forward and convert your staroptions into starpoints.
There can be some excellent ways to internally exchange starpoints to other Vistana properties or use those starpoints to exchange within Interval International.
What are your thoughts? Do you own with Vistana and do you convert your staroptions in starpoints?
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?