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?
As I discussed here, I took my family for an extended trip to Costa Rica for the month of July. In addition to staying at a timeshare, the Breeze Private Residence Club, we spent a good amount of time (16 nights) at the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort.
In addition to timeshares, I am a miles and points fanatic and the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort is a great property to use points. As explained above, although I didn't use points on this stay, it is a great property to use your Hyatt points and your free night certificate from the Chase Hyatt Credit Card.
If you are wondering why you are reading a review on a non-timeshare property on The Timeshare Guru, it is simply because timeshares do not work for every trip. As discussed on my detailed post on my trip to Costa Rica above, you need to have multiple travel tools in your arsenal to travel well and affordably.
The Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort is a very easy drive from the Liberia airport. It took only about 25 minutes. The road to the Andaz has been recently paved and it is now a brand new paved road which is extremely easy to drive. Do not hesitate driving from the airport. We rented a car for the month and there are definitely a few non-paved roads which are less than ideal, the majority of the main roads are paved and easily drive-able.
When you make the first turn off the main road from the airport, it is about a 20 minute drive. There is not much on this road except for a tiny, tiny little shop for some beverages and chips and the Witch’s Rock Canopy Tour. You then arrive to a beautifully landscaped entrance that has a magnificent view of the bay. The above photos do not do it justice.
There is land on either side and it is a truly phenomenal view. The landscaping was immaculate.
The entrance is guarded 24/7 with a guard station. This is the entrance to the entire peninsula which has the Andaz property along with the Four Seasons, Prieta beach club, Exclusive Resorts, a marina and remarkable private residential homes.
Once you are through the gate, there is a winding road which will lead you to another guard gate. Once you get here, you have arrived at the Andaz. There is a small driveway where you can park directly in front of the open air lobby.
We were greeted by Marianela (front desk agent) and Ricardo (front desk supervisor). They were extremely pleasant and made our family feel very welcome. We were given a pineapple/mint drink which was very refreshing. I could have gone for an imperial or some other adult beverage but the pineapple/mint drink was nice.
Instead of checking in at the front desk, Marianela brought us directly to our room which was an Andaz Suite. Currently, I was only an Explorist (mid-tier Hyatt status) so an upgrade was not offered. I pried a bit to attempt to get into a large Andaz Suite which has its own plunge pool and is substantially larger.
I was very disappointed in that she claimed that the rooms were not available despite being able to book them online. I showed her this option and she claimed that it was an error. After some more prodding, she indicated that she would look into it and see if we could be moved during around stay. This was the last I heard about that option. No follow up occurred at all.
I got a great rate and the room was spacious so I didn’t pursue it but I was not pleased that it was not pursued. Even if they couldn’t offer it or could only offer it for a fee, I would have liked to at least be given that option. Notwithstanding this slight hiccup, I went on to enjoy our room.
The room was very spacious for our family of four. We requested a large refrigerator which was waiting in the room. We filled it up with all the kids snacks and plenty of adult beverages that we picked up on the way in. The room had a very nice size desk, a sofa with a nice TV, a separate ½ bath and a chair swing. The master bedroom had a walk in closet and a large king size bed. The master bathroom was quite large and had a separate room for the toilet and a large rain shower.
Some rooms have the rain shower outside or have a door that is movable. Ours did not come with that option but you could look out into the jungle from the shower.
The master bedroom also had a nice size patio with two comfy chairs. We could barely make out the ocean from our room. Some rooms truly had spectacular views but we were not lucky enough to be given one of the prime rooms.
Overall, the Andaz Suite was quite large and was ample for our needs. In terms of rooms, I actually preferred our accommodations at the Breeze Private Residence Club better since we had two rooms (three beds - one king bed and two twin rooms) and a full kitchen but for a hotel, the room was way above average.
Additionally, the price for the Breeze Private Residence Club was ridiculous at only $278.99 for the week which was about the price for two nights at the Andaz.
Free Hats and Free Sandals:
Every room comes with a couple of complimentary hats and free sandals that you can use for your stay and take home. The hats were quite stylish and were worn by many guests throughout the resort.
The Andaz brand offers a free mini bar. We have been lucky enough to stay at the Andaz Maui which provided local energy bars, Reed’s Root Beer and some local chips. We were expecting something similar. Instead, we were provided with Coke, Fresca, Water, and some local chips. I thought that the “free” mini bar had a lot to be desired. If there was any constructive criticism, I would say that they should put more effort into their mini-bar selections and offer a little more variety and more Costa Rican type items. A couple free Imperial beers would have been very nice.
The Resort Layout
The Resort isn’t very big but it is built on the side of the hill. There are about 9 buildings with three floors in each building. Some of the buildings are on the lower side, some in the middle and some up top. The buildings on the top tend to have the best view of the ocean and peninsula.
There are roads throughout the resort but these are only for golf carts. They have passenger golf carts to take you around the resort and utility golf carts to bring around maintenance workers, staff, etc.
Since the hotel is built on the side of the mountain, there are a lot of hills. When I say hills, I was definitely a bit out of breath walking up a few of them and I consider myself in good shape. If you do not want to walk, you can always summon a golf cart by calling the front desk.
Make sure to find Bernie if you do. One of the most genuine and friendly people that I have met in a while!
The resort has plenty of things to keep you busy. It is not like a Caribbean resort with loud music at the pool, water aerobics or silly games by the pool. If you are looking for that, this is definitely not the spot.
The resort has 2 large infinity edge pools that overlook jungle. During the dryer months, I imagine you can see the ocean when it is not as lush. By the one main pool, there is a 2nd smaller pool that sits a lit higher than the other two.
The main infinity edge pool has a beach entrance which is great for kids.
The other infinity edge pool is the adult only pool. It is by the fancy restaurant Ostra and away from the main part of the resort. Although the resort was generally quiet (but not too quiet that kids would feel out of place), the adult pool was very quiet. We spent a good amount of days at the adult only pool and we were treated to some complimentary sangria on one morning. The loudest things that you hear are the howler monkeys and they can be quite loud.
Despite high hopes of using the gym, I embarrassingly did not use it once during our stay. The gym was well equipped and located on the edge of the resort by the spa. I had high hopes that the gym would have a beautiful ocean view to entice you to work out. Unfortunately, it was in a dark / basement like area with no views. The equipment looked good and the room was quite large so it is definitely useful but getting to the gym over vacation can be challenging to me so I need it to be extremely enticing. This wasn’t.
The Spa is located on the edge of the resort. They have the reception on a hill overlooking the ocean. They then bring you to treatment rooms where some have beautiful ocean views. The spa does not have one main building but is rather spread out with the reception in one area, treatment rooms in another and the relax area perched high above the resort with spectacular ocean views. They also have separate facilities for men and women which included a steam room, shower facilities and lockers for your use.
They have a small co-ed areas between the two locker rooms that includes a small pool. It was a very peaceful spot to relax for a few hours.
I did not take part in the spa but my wife did. She is involved in the spa world for her business so she can be extremely critical. Most hotel spas fall short of her expectations but she actually enjoyed her treatment at the Andaz.
The spa services were very expensive to say the least but it is to be expected in a affluent resort.
A couple of items that they don’t advertise. If you are an Explorist member with Hyatt, you receive 20% off you treatment. If you are a Globalist, they apparently have certain extra benefits. When I pushed the spa staff on what they were, I didn’t get very far but they appeared to be add-ons rather than additional discounts. The spa supervisor was very pleasant so if you are an Explorist or above, ask for the 20% off.
Additionally, if you use the spa, they offer 30% off your following treatment for treatments between 8 and 11:30am. I’m not sure if they stack with the Explorist discount but I’m fairly certain that they do not.
Even if you do not get any spa treatments, you can use the facilities including the locker rooms and relax area. Definitely worth it to check it out as there was no one around while we were there (except the monkeys and lizards).
One nice amenity was the sno-cone cart.
The sno-cone cart was situated right next the main pool and was complimentary. They offered a choice of condensed milk or cherry topping. The sno-cone cart was a very nice amenity as some days it was very hot being by the pool. A cold sno-cone was a nice touch.
The Andaz has three restaurants – Rio Bhongo, Ostra and Chao Pescao.
Chao Pescao is the tapas bar / restaurant. They have small plates that are meant for sharing. They have some fresh fish items and other interesting menu items.
Ostra is the fancy seafood restaurant.
Rio Bhongo is the main restaurant. This is where breakfast is served along with lunch and dinner.
We had been traveling around Costa Rica for a few weeks before we arrived at the Andaz so we were familiar with general Costa Rican prices for meals. We had eaten some great meals for $15 (total) for a family of four including beers and drinks but most meals outside of the resort were generally around $20-$30 for a family of four. The Andaz prices were substantially more. A typical meal for a family of four with beers easily would be $75 - $100.
The prices were expensive but the biggest item was that they add 10% service charge and 13% sales tax. This adds a lot to the bill. Additionally, the alcohol prices were expensive where beers were about $6 for an Imperial (local Costa Rican beer) and about $11-13 for cocktails.
Outside of the resort, it appeared that restaurants handled tax and service charges different. Some included both in the prices on the menu, others included the tax in the menu prices and added a service charge and some didn’t indicate either additional expense.
Most of the resorts and restaurants that catered to tourists (menu prices were in dollars) either added these charges or included them in the prices. The Andaz prices were definitely high so you need to be aware of that.
For those of you who have Globalist status or who elect to pay for the bed and breakfast rate, the breakfast was fantastic. They have an omelet station, freshly squeezed juices (pineapple, watermelon and green juice), freshly baked pastries, typical Costa Rican fare (gallo pinto and plaintains), smoked salmon, bagels, yogurt, oatmeal and more. Instead of describing everything, I tried to take a picture of everything.
The breakfast was excellent. I have stayed at the Andaz Maui and while I still think that the Andaz Maui breakfast was better, this was a close second. It is expensive ($32 for adults) so it is a big perk to get it with your Hyatt status.
Here are some of the various menus from the resort.
Restaurants outside of the Andaz
Since the Andaz is located on a peninsula, there is basically one non-resort restaurant. This restaurant, the Dive bar, is located at the Marina which is about a 15 minute drive from the resort. The hotel provides a complimentary shuttle to bring you there. The Dive Bar is associated with the Prieta Beach Club and the food is overall good. The prices were slightly less expensive than the Andaz restaurants but definitely not by much.
One huge benefit to the Dive Bar is their daily happy hour specials. From 5-7, they have a happy hour with half price drinks. The drinks become approximately $4-5 and their beers are approximately $2. This is one of the better places to grab drinks as this is much less expensive than the Andaz.
Also, the Dive Bar has daily food specials where one dish will be half price each day. The menu items fluctuate but they have ½ price Pizza, Flank Steak, Taco Tuesday ($2 tacos), as well as some other rotating items. The daily special turns out to be approximately $8-9 per plate which again is much cheaper than the Andaz.
Four Seasons Restaurants
The other major hotel on the peninsula is the Four Seasons. The Andaz shuttle will bring you to the Four Seasons where you can dine at their restaurants. While we were there, the Four Seasons was beginning renovations so we were not permitted to go to their restaurants so I cannot comment on them. My understanding is that they were just as expensive as the Andaz if not more.
The hotel does not have a ton of activities going on but does offer various classes. They offer a Ceviche class, mixology class, coffee class, snorkeling tour, bike tours and a few more. Despite being there for 16 nights, we didn’t do much of these with the exception of the Mixology class.
We generally hung around the beaches, went to the Prieta Beach Club and went off site with our rental car to do zip lining, ATV excursions, trip to the National Parks and exploring other beaches.
One of my biggest complaints about the Andaz is that they charge for all of these activities. It is not a lot as the snorkeling tour and bike tour were about $10 per person, the Ceviche class was $21 per person, the mixology class was $40 per person and the coffee class was $15 per person. All of these fees are PLUS the 10% service charge and 13% tax.
My complaint is that they charge a fairly heft resort fee of 10% of your room charge and then proceed to charge you for these resort activities. I would like to see them remove these fees and have them included in the resort fee. For those activities where you use goods, I can see a small fee but still think that these should be included in the resort fee.
The room rates are high so adding a few more dollars and including these activities would be a very nice touch.
I despise resort fees and when they charge you a resort fee and then charge you extra for resort activities, it really rubs me the wrong way.
My wife and I did the mixology class. We were the only two in the class and the bartender went through 4-5 drinks and showed us various strategies for mixing drinks, how to prepare infused simple syrup and what drinks / ingredients go well together.
The bar tender was very pleasant, the drinks were very good and we had a very good time. I thought the $40 per person (which turns into about $50 when you add service and tax) was a bit high but we did have 2-3 full drinks per person and the going rate at the hotel was about $12-$15 per drink.
It was a good activity but for $100 a couple, we probably could have had a couple drinks and appetizers and been just as happy!
The hotel actually has two beaches – the Sombrero Oscuro and the Sombrero Claro.
The Sombrero Oscuro is the black sand beach and the main beach area. The beach is small and pretty much disappears during high tide but there are plenty of lounge chairs, a small bar, and beach activities that are actually included. You can borrow snorkel gear, stand up paddle boards and kayaks. This is actually included in the resort fee which is nice.
The water is very calm and very clear. You can see straight to the bottom. The snorkeling is not great but there are tons of blow fish and a few other colorful fish. I did see turtles and a spotted mantra ray. The water is very nice and is a perfect area to do stand-up paddle boarding.
The Sombrero Claro beach is the white sand beach. It is about a 2-3 minute walk past the Sombrero Oscuro. There are no chairs at this beach and no activities. They have a towel hut for your use but this is definitely a quiet beach. I did not see much use of this beach during our time there.
Overall, the beaches were fine but not nearly as nice as the Caribbean beaches or Hawaiian beaches.
Prieta Beach Club
In addition to the Sombrero Oscuro and the Sombrero Claro, the Andaz allows you to use the Prieta Beach Club. This is a private beach club that is mostly there for the residences on the Peninsula. It is about a 20 minute drive from the Andaz. Again, the hotel provides a complimentary shuttle to bring you there and back.
It leaves the Andaz on the top of the hour and picks up on the bottom of the hour.
The beach club is awesome. The beach is a black sand beach but much bigger than the one at the Andaz. This beach also has some significant waves so it is a great beach to boogie board or learn to surf. It was very nice just to bob in the water with the waves.
The beach club also has two infinity edge pools and a hot tub. The services there are impeccable and the food, while very pricey, was delicious.
The Prieta Beach Club does have rentals for boogie boards and some other water sports. We spent a few days at the Prieta Beach Club and would highly recommend it.
Cambi Kids Club
Believe it or not, one of the major reasons that we chose the Andaz was for the Cambi Kids Club. We travel with our young kids frequently and we learned that both the kids and parents need a break from one another every now and again. It allows all of us to do our own thing for a few hours. A lot of resorts charge quite a bit for their kids club so we don't take advantage of it frequently when there is a charge. Without a charge, it is a different story!
The Cambi Kids Club is completely complimentary and you can drop off your kids from about 8am to 4pm. The Cambi Kids club is located in the middle of the resort in its own separate building. It has an indoor playground, video games, movies and arts and crafts.
The staff was extremely attentive and really cared about the kids. Our two kids (ages 6 and 4) thoroughly enjoyed the kids club. Many days they wanted to go there instead of hanging out with us which is just what we wanted!
The kids club does offer to bring in food for the kids so that they can stay there the entire day without having to pick them up for lunch. This is definitely a nice option but you need to be careful.
After a few days, we took a look at our bill and the resort charged $25 for a kids plate of pasta and a drink! The kids menu at the restaurants charged $9 for the same thing.
I was told that the Kids Club orders off the in-room dining menu as opposed to the restaurant menu which is what created the difference in price. After discussing this, they agreed to a 50% discount for these meals but we were sure to look at the menu before letting our kids order anything from this point forward.
A huge perk at the Andaz is that kids under 5 eat free. There were no restrictions to this and we ordered many meals for my daughter without even ordering anything ourselves. For those of you with kids under 5, this is a great destination with the free kids club and free food!
Additionally, kids can order off the main menu for 50% off. This was a great option so that my kids did not always eat pasta, chicken fingers or hamburgers and could actually order some fish and local cuisine without having to pay for a full dish at full price.
The resort is filled with monkeys, lizards and plenty of other insects and animals. The monkeys are throughout the property and are very cute. The howler monkeys really do howl and can be quite loud. It was very cool to be living along side these animals.
Overall, the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort is a stellar property. The grounds, rooms, pools, beach and food are really spectacular. The Cambi Kids Club is great for those with kids. The service was spectacular and the staff really care.
My biggest complaints are that the resort activities are not included in the resort fee and that the food and beverages are very expensive. I also did not like that it was so secluded where you needed to drive for about 30 minutes to eat at any local restaurants. However, despite these items, we are definitely returning and will likely go for even longer next summer!
If you are interested, please e-mail me and I can put together a way to get a week or more at the Andaz for completely free using points! There are some great ways to accumulate points quickly and redeeming them for the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort is a great use!
Hope to see you there next summer! Let me know your thoughts in the comments and if I missed anything!
The Hyatt Residence Club is undergoing a momentous change in the way that their program is structured. Instead of a hybrid system where you have a deeded week that you can either use or convert to points, the new system will be solely a points based system.
I have discussed the various rumors of the program here.
I had the opportunity to review the new program which is being called the Hyatt Residence Club Portfolio Program.
I wrote up an overview of the program here. There are still many questions to be answered but this overview provides some good information on the program.
If you have additional details or thoughts on the program, please leave your comments below.
In other posts, I will go through some of the pros and cons of the new system
Like many readers, I am a tremendous points and miles fanatic. I have about 30 credit cards and am constantly earning and churning my points for free flights and hotel stays.
I really enjoy our timeshare and use it for many trips but timeshares simply do not have the same footprint as hotels. Timeshares associated with the major brands know this and as a way to entice ownership, offer the ability to convert their timeshare points into hotel points for use at hotels.
In this post, I will explore this option with a Hyatt timeshare. In other posts, I will go through a similar analysis with other timeshare brands including Marriott, Hilton and Vistana (Starwood). Stay tuned for more.
Hyatt Residence Club Points to World of Hyatt Points – Major hurtle
The significant issue with converting your timeshare week/points into hotel points is that Hyatt does not allow this conversion if you purchased your timeshare from someone other than Hyatt. As a result, this likely will not be a viable strategy for most since you need to purchase through the developer and therefore, are likely paying top dollar for your timeshare week.
Most programs have a resale program where they will sell you a resale week that does not have the same penalties as buying outside of the developer but these resales are still generally much more expensive than purchasing from the individual owner.
Despite this important limitation, I wanted to go through the economics and potential use of this feature of the Hyatt Residence Club.
Hyatt Residence Club Points to World of Hyatt Points Chart
Here is the current conversion chart:
The chart is fairly simple to understand. Basically, the conversion values will be based on the size of the unit and the season which you own.
As you can decipher from the chart above, be cautious about buying a Mountain time unit as they do not offer this feature for those weeks. I have talked about Mountain time here but definitely do not purchase one of those weeks if conversion is of any interest. As discussed above, Mountain time can be an awesome value but has major limitations.
Economics of Conversion
Let’s use my current Hyatt week as an example. I own a 2-bedroom unit in Platinum season. I purchased resale but, if I was eligible for the conversion feature by purchasing directly, I would be able to convert my week into 82,000 Hyatt World of Hyatt points each year that I can then use those points to book Hyatt hotels. The Hyatt Residence Club charges you a fee of $133.00 for this option.
Let’s do some math based on my week:
Comparison to Purchasing with Hyatt
For those of you who do not know, Hyatt offers the ability to purchase World of Hyatt points. They offer the ability to purchase a maximum of 55,000 per year. They usually run promotions that give you a bonus depending on the amount you purchase – either 10%, 20%, 30% or 40% more.
For example, if I wanted to purchase the maximum amount of points (55,000) and their standard promotion is running, I would be able to purchase 55,000 plus a bonus of 22,000 for a total of 77,000 points for a purchase price of $1,320.
$1320 divided by 77,000 = $0.017. Therefore, Hyatt offers you the ability to purchase points during a promotion period of about 1.7 cents per points.
Absent the promotion, the math would be as follows: $1320 divided by 55,000 = $0.024. Without the promotion, the cost per point is 2.4 cents. If you are in the miles and points world, there are various subjective measures of how much points are worth. While this is very subjective, many people value Hyatt points around 1.8 cents.
Breaking Down the Math
There is a decent of amount of math is this post so let’s break down the final figures:
Is this a good option?
With all the math, the question remains on whether this is a good option. Like most questions, the answer is “it depends”. The tremendous flaw in the above math is that it excludes the cost of purchasing directly from the developer as compared to the cost of purchasing resale.
Unfortunately, the retail prices of timeshares are not very transparent as the general mantra is to get someone to purchase for the largest price possible. In all presentations that I have been to, they start out with one large number and continue to go downward to a price that could actually make sense to the purchaser. It is extremely difficult to say the developer price that you can obtain a similar 2-bedroom unit to the one discussed above but it will likely be many times the resale value.
If this is something that could actually make sense based on your travel style, I would inquire about purchases / resales directly with the Hyatt Residence Club and do the math from there.
If you simply ignore the initial price, and just base the math on the comparison from purchasing points, there is a decent discount ($0.16 as opposed to $0.24) to using this option. If you only purchase during a promotion period, the discount is much less ($0.16 as opposed to $0.17).
Regardless of the cost of the points, the true value of the points is how you use them. 82,000 is not a tremendous amount of World of Hyatt points but can give you some good options to travel in Hyatt hotels around the globe and with much more flexibility than timeshares.
Value in World of Hyatt
Hyatt has category 1 through 7 hotels where category 1 hotels cost 5,000 points per night while category 7 costs 30,000.
If you used all your points for a category 1 hotel, you would receive about 16 nights (82,000 divided by 5,000 = 16.4). Values can fluctuate but let’s assume that most category 1 hotels cost about $100 per night. This is an estimate – I have seen some less than this but I have also seen some much more. If that is the case, by converting your week, you would get about $1600 of value from $1333.00 – about a 20% increase in value.
If you used all your points for a category 7 hotel (30,000 points per night), you would receive under 3 nights.
Let’s assume that you have extra points so that you could get a full 3 nights. Category 7 hotels prices fluctuate wildly based on the hotel and timing. Let’s assume that the cost per night is 7x the amount of a category 1 hotel, therefore $700 per night. Therefore, if that is the case, by converting your week, you would get about $2100 of value from $1333.00 – about a 57% increase in value.
Overall, I get tremendous value out of my Hyatt Residence Club points so the conversion option is not very relevant to me. Even if it was available to me, I would likely never do it. I think that there are much better ways to get World of Hyatt points (i.e. Hyatt credit card, Chase Ultimate Rewards, etc.) so I would not run out to purchase a timeshare for this option.
However, Hyatt’s hotel footprint is significantly larger than its timeshare footprint (though much smaller than the other major hotel brands), so I can see the potential value in giving timeshare owners this option and in many cases, the timeshare owner can actually come out way ahead in electing to convert their week depending on how and when to use those points.
I have received close to 6 cents per point in value for some of my Hyatt redemptions so if I could replicate that year after year, I would happily pay $1333 to convert into 82,000 World of Hyatt points. The key question is the differential in the price to acquire an eligible Hyatt timeshare versus the resale cost.
What do you think of this analysis?
Would you convert with these prices?
Do you think that the ability to convert is a worthwhile feature that would encourage you to purchase from the developer?
Make sure to leave comments below!
A Month Excursion to Costa Rica - How I used timeshares, hotel points, frequent flyer miles and credit cards to create a luxury affordable trip!
My family took an extended trip to Costa Rica for the month of July. While I would have highly preferred to be able to stay in timeshares for the entire trip (mostly due to space and having a full kitchen), this was not doable for a few reasons.
Costa Rica is a wonderful destination but they simply do not have a ton of timeshare options. There are a few but not many high-quality timeshares which is an absolute must.
We did stay at the Breeze Private Residences for one week (review is here) which was a timeshare property but I simply could not find suitable timeshares in Costa Rica for the entire month.
Booking a month vacation has its various challenges but doing it in a very cost-effective manner is difficult. As I mentioned in other posts, I am a huge points and miles fanatic so I have plenty of points and miles available to use.
Using Citi Thank You Points
For this trip, my family of four flew American Airlines to Liberia. I used Citi Thank You points for our fights. As a Citibank Prestige Credit Card holder, I was able to redeem my points for 1.6 cents per point. This option just vanished on July 23, 2017 and points are now worth less.
Southwest Rapid Reward Points
For our return flight, we flew Southwest Airlines. I am a huge fan of Southwest as they are the last airline that offer customer friendly policies – free bags, free cancellations, free changes, etc. Additionally, their customer service agents are generally friendly and helpful which is very noticeable when comparing it to other airlines.
My wife and I both have a companion pass with Southwest so we are able to have our 2 kids fly with us for free. We were each able to score the companion pass through the option of exchanging our Marriott points to Southwest points with the available Marriott travel packages. Unfortunately, this option is now no longer available as of January 1, 2017.
With the above methods, my family of four was able to get free roundtrip flights to Costa Rica. A good start.
Week 1: Playas del Coco
I was able to grab a fantastic deal through RCI for staying at the Breezes Private Residence Club. I paid $278.99 for the entire week in a 2-bedroom unit. This was an absolute steal as nightly rentals for this particular property were approximately $450 per night.
The Breezes Private Residence Club is located in Playas del Coco and is a great area. There are tons of restaurants and activities right out the front door. I would highly recommend this destination and would definitely recommend the Breezes Private Residence Club.
Week 2: Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna
For week 2, we traveled to La Fortuna / Arenal which is located inland in the rainforest. La Fortuna / Arenal was a very cool destination with the volcano as the centerpiece.
For our trip to Arenal, we stayed at the highly rated Hotel El Silencio del Campo. We chose this based on the Tripadvisor reviews which were stellar.
The property generally lived up to those expectations but would say that the rooms, although spacious, needed a refresh. The décor and bedsheets were older than I would like. It was clean but definitely felt old and tired. However, breakfast was stellar, they had hot springs on the premise, fruit trees galore to pick throughout the property and had an awesome view of the volcano when the weather permitted.
Citibank Prestige 4th Night Free Benefit
For this stay, I again used our Citibank Prestige Credit Card in order to utilize our 4th night free benefit. If you are not familiar with this benefit, it can be extremely rewarding in that you will receive the 4th night free on any hotel booking made through the Citibank portal. This can literally save you thousands of dollars.
The Citibank Prestige Credit Card has done an overall of its card and has revised some of its offers but they have kept in the 4th night free benefit and made it easier to get by expanding the ability to book online.
For those of you interested, here is a link to the offer with 75,000 bonus points. A complete no-brainer to apply in my opinion.
For our stay in La Fortuna / Arenal, I paid about $200 per night for 4 nights and I will receive a $200 credit through Citibank’s 4th night free benefit. This effectively gave us 25% off our stay in Arenal which is decent considering that there are no timeshares or points based hotel chains in this area.
Week 3 and 4: Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort
For those of you in the miles and points world, there is a ton of buzz about the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort. The reason that there is so much buzz is because it is an extremely nice resort and is only a category 4 hotel in Hyatt’s World of Hyatt program.
This is significant in that the Chase Hyatt Credit Card gives you a free night stay in a category 1-4 hotel each year upon paying the annual fee of $75. Essentially, for $75, you can get a free night at the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort where nightly rates are generally somewhere between $250-$1200 where the $1200 a night has been seen over Christmas.
Also, since the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort is a category 4 hotel, you can use 15,000 Hyatt World of Hyatt points per night which is a very good deal. The cash plus points rate of 7,500 points per night plus a payment of $100 per night is also a stellar deal.
I will be posting a full review on our stay so stay tuned.
Using my Chase Hyatt Free Night Certificate
We ended up staying at the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort for a total of 16 nights. I used my free category 4 certificate from my Chase Hyatt Credit card for the 1st night.
Using Hyatt Points or Cash
For the remaining 15 nights, we actually paid cash (a rarity as I almost always use points for our hotel stays!). This was not expected as I had planned on using the points plus cash option for 15 nights. If I had done this option, I would have used 112,500 Hyatt World of Hyatt Points and paid approximately $1500 for 15 nights.
The cash plus points options is highly beneficial and would definitely recommend it. $100 per night for this resort is almost unheard of and I would pay that in a second.
Using Hyatt's Best Rate Guarantee
As I mentioned, I actually paid cash for the 15 night portion of our stay since I got a great rate with Hyatt. I was able to use Hyatt’s best rate guarantee.
Hyatt’s best rate guarantee provides that they will match any rate you find on other websites and give you an extra 20% off your entire stay. I was lucky enough to find a lower rate for this time period and was successfully approved for the best rate guarantee. As a result, my nightly rate for 15 nights was approximately $156 per night.
The Hyatt best rate guarantee has been revised as of July 31st where instead of giving you 20% off the matched rate, they will give you a $50 voucher for future travel. While they will still match the lower rate, they will not give you the extra 20% off.
Hyatt can make you jump through various hoops to get their Best Rate Guarantee but I have been successful in using it. This revision is really bad for the way that I use the Best Rate Guarantee.
I am not happy about this change as this will likely affect my hotel choices going forward. Marriott offers a 25% discount for its best rate guarantee and is much more accommodating than Hyatt but I definitely like Hyatt's properties.
We'll see how this plays out before I switch my loyalties. Despite preferring timeshares for our travels, I will actually be a Globalist (top tier elite status in Hyatt) this year so we'll see how Hyatt treats me going forward.
As stated, I was able to secure a rate of $156 per night. While higher than the per night cost of using the points plus cash rate of $100, I chose to pay cash instead of using 7,500 points per night. If I used points, I would be redeeming them a rate of less than 1 cent per point (0.007) which is a horrible deal. I generally get 2-3 cent per points and have received upwards of 6 cents per point for various redemptions.
Therefore, I elected to pay cash. The total bill was about $3,000 for 15 nights. Higher than I would normally like to pay but still a good deal. Rates for our room (the Andaz Suite) during our stay were approximately $600 per night so we did well.
Using Gift Cards for Further Discounts
In an effort to get even more of a discount for our stay, I ended up purchasing Hyatt gift cards through cardcash. Cardcash is a second-hand reseller of gift cards. They buy gift cards from people who do not want gift cards for a discount and resell them to people who can use them and make a profit of the difference.
Cardcash has mixed reviews and there are definitely times when gift cards arrive with zero balance or the balance disappears after purchasing. They offer a 45-day guarantee where they will refund your money if the cards value is not as described or disappears within 45 days.
I have had good experiences with Cardcash but I only purchase on the day that I will be using it. I purchase it and immediately apply it to my room. This limits the chance of getting a bad card or having your balance disappear. I did receive one bad card and my order was refunded within 48 hours of purchase.
For this stay, I was able to get Hyatt gift cards for a discount of 16% through Cardcash. Their discounts fluctuate but I was able to purchase $3,000 worth of Hyatt gift cards for about $2520.
Using the Chase Ink Card for 5x Points
One of the added benefits of using Cardcash is that purchases through Chase Ink Credit Card are coded as utilities which generate 5x Chase Ultimate Reward points. Therefore, by purchasing $2520 worth of Cardcash gift cards through my Chase Ink credit card, I received 12,600 Chase Ultimate Reward Points.
Chase Ultimate Reward Points are very valuable and can transfer into multiple travel partners including Hyatt or can be redeemed for about 1.25 cents per point or for 1.5 cents per point if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card.
Final Tally and Summary
As you can see, I used multiple different strategies to get a month of vacation in Costa Rica.
For our flights, these were completely free using Citibank Thank You Points and my Citibank Prestige Credit Card to redeem for American Airlines for our flight to Costa Rica and used Southwest Points for our return flights. Our kids fly free with us on Southwest since my wife and I both have the Companion Pass at the moment which we achieved by redeeming Marriott travel packages.
For the first week, we used a timeshare and rented it through RCI’s Extra Getaways for a purchase price of $278.99 for the week in a 2-bedroom. No timeshare presentation required even though I did attend one ( I am The Timeshare Guru so I kind of needed to do it).
For the next 4 nights, I used my Citibank Prestige Credit Card to take advantage of the 4th night free benefit. The total cost for these 4 nights was $800 minus the $200 credit for a total of $600.
For the following 16 nights, I used my annual free night certificate for my Chase Hyatt Credit Card and paid cash for the remaining 15 nights. I was able to get a great rate using Hyatt’s Best Rate Guarantee. I was able to purchase discounted Hyatt gift cards for a further discount of 16% off our entire stay so the total was $2520 for 15 nights which is $168 per night which includes the resort fee and taxes.
By purchasing the gift cards, I was also able to get 5x Chase Ultimate Reward Points by using my Chase Ink Credit Card for Cardcash. Therefore, even if I valued these points at only 1 cent per points, this equates to another discount of approximately $126.
Here are the total numbers for accommodations for our month of travel:
The above is an actual real world example of how I utilize timeshares, frequent flyer miles, hotel points, credit card points and perks, hotel best rate guarantees and gift cards to maximize my travel. This can be complicated but it is doable.
As you can see, we saved multiple thousands of dollars off of retail prices and traveled in luxurious accommodations for an entire month!
I will be doing a detailed review of the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo resort in an additional post as this is definitely a property to check out (even though it is not a timeshare).
The intent of this blog is to explain timeshares and how they can be a great tool for your travel arsenal. As you can see in the above, it is not the only tool that I use but they can be very useful and affordable.
My goal is to show you how to incorporate timeshares in your travel plans and demystify timeshares, their costs and how they can work to your advantage. Timeshares are simply one tool among many to travel well and affordably.
What are your thoughts on the above? Did I miss any strategies that I could have implemented?
If you find this useful, please share this post across your social media channels! Your support is highly appreciated!
This is a guest post written by Jonathan Lewis at My Vacation Rentals. If you enjoy this post then make sure to check out their site. He has some great information on timeshares.
Unfortunately, the timeshare industry experiences a lot of fraud and scams as many people prey on owners who want to get out of their timeshare at any cost or those who follow the allure of free gifts. You need to be vigilant and here is some good information on what to look out for.
What are the Common Timeshare Scams?
It seems that many people see timeshares as a scam when in reality the scheme is a genuine offer and can be an excellent vacation investment if the model suits your vacation habits. However, many have been ripped off have had the unfortunate experience of meeting with a deliberate fraud. Buying with a reputable timeshare company with a long record will keep you safe from being scammed.
Below find the common Timeshare Scams
Thanks again to Jonathan Lewis and his team at My Vacation Rentals for posting this information. Fraud and scams are prevalent in many areas so knowing some quick red flags can help you avoid getting tangled up in any unwanted transactions.
Make sure to check out My Vacation Rentals for additional information on timeshares.