These past few weeks have been incredible. Who would have ever guessed that a virus would literally shut down the entire world. While I had personally thought that a recession was on the horizon, I don't think that anyone could have guessed that the entire world would shut down with life coming to a standstill at a moments notice.
While I am sure that you are tired of hearing about COVID-19 (I sure am), the fact is that it is here and do not see it radically disappearing in the near future. This obviously has and will have tremendous effects on everyone's daily life but the one industry that is absolutely reeling from the effects is the travel industry.
Airlines have reduced services with some grounding their entire fleet, hotels have done the same and various other ancillary travel services are feeling the immediate contraction.
While I have no intention of downplaying the seriousness of the virus where people are sick and dying, traveling has become a way of life for a lot of people. Travel has so many benefits from seeing different cultures, trying new foods and making your realize that the world is actually a small place where everyone is really interconnected.
The entire blog was started in order to show people how timeshares can be used to travel around the world in luxurious accommodations for a very reasonable cost. Timeshares have such a horrendous reputation that most people simply have no desire to learn about them, much less purchase one, since they are widely considered a scam. While there are serious and material issues with timeshares, the goal is to understand them and use them for your benefit!
While most people likely have no immediate plans of traveling for the next few months or even the next year, I would venture to say that we will travel again. There is so much to see out there and people will travel again. Things will be as good as they were before. When, I do not know, but I am confident that things will boom yet again.
During this time while travel is non-existent and work has slowed down / stopped for many of us, this actually becomes a great time to take advantage of opportunities that do not come along too often.
I purchased my first Hyatt timeshare in 2008 via re-sale. I started the buying process and was just about to close on it when I was laid off from my job. With the Great Recession upon us and no foreseeable method to obtain income, I was left with the choice of walking away from the purchase or going forward. I ended up going forward with the purchase and paid $6,500 for that timeshare. About a year later during the most significant part of the recession, the same timeshare was selling for $1.00. Do I regret the purchase? Absolutely not.
While I would have loved to purchase the timeshare for a $1.00, having the timeshare during 2008 forced me to travel when I wouldn't have been able to afford it before. There were abundant airfare deals to encourage people to travel. The timeshare gave me the opportunity to travel affordably while I had no income but had the time to do.
There are some many times during our lives where we have the income to travel but don't have the time and there are others where you have the time but not the income. Travel doesn't need to be expensive and timeshares are one way to travel well and affordably.
I foresee this upcoming economic period as something similar to 2008 While the underlying reason for the recession is different and while this recession is directly targeting the travel industry, there will be some incredible deals with timeshare, hotels, airfare, cruises, etc.
Now is the time to do you research to figure out whether a timeshare can work for you and your travel style, determine what timeshare brand may be the most beneficial and to look throughout the marketplace to determine the current costs for timeshares so that you can snatch up the deals as they occur. There will be some fabulous opportunities to get some quality timeshares for cheap!
It may be hard to start thinking about traveling while the world around us is imploding but I am confident that this will pass. It will pass and we will get back to traveling and seeing the world. When we emerge from this difficult time period, the best thing to do is be prepared. Now is the time to review and research.
While there are likely a lot of lessons to be learned from the pandemic, the one that resonates the most with me is that life is short and we don't know what tomorrow will bring. We are all "stuck" at home with our families and hopefully enjoying some of this time where life has slowed down.
While we all have some more time on our hands to think about life and the future, I know that some of the best times that we have had as a family has been traveling, enjoying different cultures and foods and taking us out of our comfort zone. My recommendation is to use this time now to prepare for that future and make sure that travel stays a part of your life.
Timeshare Strategy: Interval Getaways and Interval Exchanges - a pricing discrepancy to be aware of.
For those of you who are new to the site or to timeshares in general, Interval International has two options to reserve timeshare weeks. Interval Getaways are weeks which you rent for cash and Interval Exchanges are those weeks where you trade your week or points in exchange for the week.
Interval Exchanges have exchange fees on top of whatever week or points that you use and currently run $209 per week. E-Plus (the ability to retrade your exchange for 3 times for no additional fee) is in addition to that fee for $59 but as discussed many times before, I highly recommend adding that to almost any exchange simply to give you added flexibility for your plans.
Here are some good posts to review on these subjects:
Most times, my preferred timeshare strategy is to use the points allocated to me via my Hyatt Residence Club weeks and use it to exchange for highly desirable weeks using Interval International. I find that it is a great way to maximize value out of your week and get outsized value for your timeshare.
While that strategy is my go to strategy, a recent week that I confirmed questioned this strategy. I booked a ski week at Sheraton Mountain Villas in Avon / Beaver Creek, Colorado for December 13-20, 2019 using points. I used 870 Hyatt Residence Club points to exchange for the a 1 bedroom suite.
While it is the week before Christmas, it is still a very good ski week.
I was very happy with this trade as I looked up retail pricing for this particular week and if I booked with a third party travel agent, the week would have cost me over $3800. Outrageously expensive in my opinion considering the out of pocket cost to me for an exchange.
As a reminder, I now pay about $1300 per Hyatt Residence Club week which provides me with 2,000 Hyatt Residence Club points. Just taking into account my maintenance fees, I pay about $0.65 per point. Since this reservation cost 870 points, the true cost to me would be $565.50 ($0.65 x 870 points) PLUS the exchange fee of $209 and my obligatory e-plus add on for $59.00.
Therefore, taking all the numbers into the cost for this one week rental would be $833.50.
When you compare the retail price disclosed above, $833.50 for a prime ski week in Avon / Beaver Creek, Colorado is an absolute bargain. It is roughly 78% off the retail price of the ski week.
As I stated, I thought I did very well with this trade and was happy with it. I have not been to a Sheraton property before but many of them get very good reviews and this one has been on my radar for a while.
I have discussed the benefit of using the Interval International iPhone app in the past. They recently updated it to provide more functionality but my general use is to provide the Getaway alerts.
In that post, I gave a better overview Getaway alerts but generally, you can set up alerts on the app so that you will get notified when certain resorts and weeks become available to book with cash. I always have plenty of ongoing alerts for high desirable properties as if they ever become available, they can disappear quite quickly. If you see a week that you want, book it immediately as it will likely disappear within minutes.
I ALWAYS have an alert set up for ski season to see if there are any deals to be had. The other day, my phone buzzed for an alert for Ski Season 2019. I quickly opened the app and looked at what one of my chosen resorts matched. It was a match for the same week which I confirmed at the Sheraton Mountain Villas.
To my amazement, the cash price of the week was ONLY $372!
As you can see, I could book the same exact week that I confirmed with points for $372 for the week or only $53 per night.
As you can see, even if I went forward with my exchanged week, I still came out materially better than if I simply booked directly with the resort or with a third party travel agent. $833 for a prime ski week in a spacious 1 bedroom condo in a top notch ski destination is hard to find and even if I didn't stumble upon the crazy deal above, I would have felt good about this exchange.
However, the point of this post is that you need to look / monitor multiple avenues to get the most value out of your timeshare. In this example, I purchased e-plus for this week for an extra $59. By paying this additional fee, I am able to re-trade the exchanged week for up to 3 times with no additional fee by Interval.
Since I had e-plus associated with this week, the best option to maximize my use of points would be to book the week using cash for $372 per week and use my exchanged week / already allocated points for a much higher and better use. By paying $59, I was able to save $461.50 (833.50 - $372) and get a great ski week for an extremely nominal amount of money.
However, just so you are aware, booking Getways are completely non-refundable. Once you book it, you cannot re-trade a Getaway booking so you need to be absolutely sure that you can make the trip.
Finally, always make sure to check exchanges and getaways to determine the best pricing. Even great exchanges could be available for less money using Interval Getaways. It can definitely pay to do you research.
A good tip would be to set up an alert on the Interval app following an exchange so that you can monitor whether that week becomes available for paying cash. If it does, you can do a similar calculation and see if you wanted to keep you exchanged week or pay cash and use the exchanged week for something more valuable.
Have you discovered any similar pricing discrepancies? Make sure to comment below.
Last week was spring break for many schools around the nation. It is a very hectic time to travel. Unfortunately, when you have children in school, if you want to travel, you are forced to travel on their schedule.
We usually take a ski trip during spring break and this year was no exception. As you may know, we are very fond of Park City.
The issue with this year was that our school district changed the standard week of spring break. Instead of it occurring during the 2nd week of March, they changed it to the 3rd week of March.
As an avid planner, this thoroughly disrupted my timeshare strategy of booking 2+ years in advance. I had various weeks and resorts selected for the second week of March and was patiently waiting for a match. Once the school schedule came out about a year ago, I had to revise the request first and only had one year to make a match.
Since this was almost the end of ski season, I wasn't extremely worried as I did not think that it would be very desirable week. We generally go to Park City for various reasons (easy travel, great skiing, good restaurants, and plenty of timeshare options) and we made the trip last year for the second week of March. Last years ski season was horrible and we skied on slush while it was 70 degree weather.
Fortunately, this year was much, much better but didn't think that getting a desirable timeshare would be an issue.
Unfortunately, I was wrong and nothing came through. I was quite surprised with that but I only put in requests for the top resorts in Interval International, which for Park City are the Marriott Summit Watch, Marriott Mountainside and the Westgate Park City. There are some nice properties with RCI including the Wyndham Park City, Sundial Lodge and Hilton Grand Vacations but do not exchange my week with RCI and only use RCI for Extra Vacation (cash bookings).
If I chose lesser desired properties, I may have had better luck.
In any event, this was a timeshare fail for this year. For those of you that need to travel during peak times such as Christmas and Spring Break, this is a good example of why timeshares may not be ideal. Getting top quality resorts during these peak time periods can be difficult, if not impossible, so if you have to travel during these time periods, you may be disappointed with timeshare ownership.
If you are flexible and can travel during cusp seasons or off-peak times, timeshare ownership can be very worthwhile.
As I have explained before, timeshare availability can be difficult which is why you need to always have a "plan B". Many times, my plan B entails making a reservation using hotel points so that in the event that my timeshare does not get confirmed, I still have a hotel reservation to use and can therefore buy my non-refundable airfare or use frequent flyer miles without worrying about accommodations.
Generally, hotel points have flexible cancellation policies so you can reserve a week using points and once you get confirmed into a timeshare, you can cancel the week and get your points back. If nothing gets confirmed, the worst case is that you use your points for a "free" vacation.
Here is a post I have done on the topic.
Here is also another one of my "timeshare fails" which actually worked out extremely well. This is a great strategy and definitely encourage you to use this strategy.
For this week, while a timeshare did not come through, I had booked a week at the Hyatt Place in Park City. The hotel is located on the main road and about a 2 minute drive to the base of the Canyons, 5 minutes to the base of Park City and about 10 minutes to Deer Valley. The location is ideal.
The hotel use to have a complimentary shuttle that would bring you to any of the above resorts but apparently discontinued it. Without the shuttle, you generally need a car or you can use the free bus system. While the bus system is free and convenient, a car is generally easier to go around the area when and where you desire.
The hotel is fairly new but without the shuttle, it is hard to recommend.
Regardless, the hotel is a category 4 hotel (will likely decrease if there don't reinstate the shuttle) which requires 15,000 points per night. During ski season, rates can be $300-$400 per night so it is a decent return on points.
Since I needed to buy non-refundable flights, I used my strategy and booked a week on points waiting for the timeshare to get confirmed. As months went by without any activity, I started to get a bit nervous and was thinking about alternatives. While doing so, I came across rates at the Hyatt Place for $132 per night for my needed week.
Hyatt points are very valuable to me and have been lucky enough to get almost 8 cents per point on some hotel redemptions. You can read about our recent stay in Maui at the Andaz Maui where we had $28,000 vacation for about $1,200 out of pocket.
Getting less than 1 cent per point is awful so I cancelled my points stay and booked using cash. I'll save my points for a better redemption value.
While I still wanted to get a timeshare, the "plan B" was to stay at the Hyatt Place for $132 per night. Not a bad alternative even though I really wanted a timeshare.
As you can see, you need to use a strategy to ensure no issues. If I didn't have this as a back up plan, I would have either lost my non-refundable tickets and not went on vacation or would be forced to book last minute rates during ski season which likely would have been astronomical in price.
Timeshare availability can be unpredictable so you need to have good backup plans in place to avoid an undesirable expensive vacation or be stuck at home.
Despite not getting a timeshare, we had a great week in Park City. The conditions were great and the weather was perfect. It was ideal spring skiing.
We headed to the airport on Saturday, checked in and patiently waited for our flight. The airport was extremely chaotic as there were a lot of people traveling. It was spring break in a lot of destinations. The customer service representatives indicated that the flight was oversold and they were looking for volunteers. I immediately sprang up and ran to the desk and put our family of four on the list.
The entire day of flights back home were full so they offered to book us on the next flight or would give us additional compensation if we wanted to fly out the next morning. Being a Sunday and flexible, we took them up on their offer. We got a decent amount of compensation, gave each of us $15.00 per meal voucher (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and put us up in a hotel for the night. We were very happy with the deal.
In the past, the airlines generally offered vouchers to be used for future flights. After the United incident where they dragged a passenger off the plane, the airlines re-thought their compensation offers and now offer about a dozen options for gift cards. This includes retailers such as Amazon, Best Buy, Gap and others. They also allow you to receive an Amex prepaid card which is basically good as cash.
We all chose an Amex gift card for our "troubles" and had an enjoyable day exploring Salt Lake City.
The next day we returned to the airport and found the same chaotic airport. We again headed to the gate and were again greeted by customers service representatives requesting volunteers. Again, I sprang up and volunteered again. Unbelievably, they needed our seats again and offered us even more compensation. We again got Amex gift cards, meal vouchers and another hotel stay. We headed back to Salt Lake City for another enjoyable day of sightseeing.
As you know, we fly a lot and travel a lot and if we are flexible, I am always looking to get bumped and receive some compensation. I have probably volunteered about 3-4 times in the past year and they never seem to need me. Getting bumped 2 days in row was lucky and extremely beneficial and extended our fantastic spring break without too much inconvenience.
The next day we went to the airport again and were met with the same situation. I couldn't even believe that they still needed volunteers but they did and we volunteered again and they gave us even more compensation. 3 in a row. We got our hotel, meal vouchers and compensation and went on our merry way yet again.
By day 4, we were a little tired of this routine and our kids were missing school so we were prepared to get on the plane and finally make it home. It was unbelievable but they still needed volunteers. My wife and I looked at each other and said why not. We put our name on the list and went for 4 bumps in a row. Instead of offering overnight accommodations, they put 2 of us on the next flight and 2 of us on standby with us confirmed for an evening flight.
I didn't think it was possible and was prepared to go home. However, they needed our sits again and we received even more compensation and more meal vouchers. WE GOT BUMPED 4 TIMES IN A ROW!
We all proceeded to the next flight and it was truly unbelievable but they were still asking for volunteers. We were on a roll and put our name on the list again. Unfortunately, another family beat us to the list and we didn't get bumped again. However, 4 bumps in a row was great and we were nicely compensated for our troubles and enjoyed our added time in Salt Lake City.
The craziest thing about all of this was that our original flights were FREE! I booked us all using frequent flyer points so they essentially paid us to get back their free seats! Crazy!
I hate traveling during the busy time periods as everything is more of challenge. Getting timeshares, getting to your destination, getting rental cars, getting restaurant reservations and just getting around is more difficult. However, when you have school age children, we don't have much choice if you want to travel.
For those of you that need to travel during this time, plan as far in advance as possible and use my timeshare / hotel point strategy. It has saved me multiple times and highly recommend it. Take a look at this post for some good ways to get a bunch of points quickly.
While I hate traveling during these peak times, this ended up working in our favor. I won't give you the final tally of our compensation but we arrived home with large smiles on our face having had our entire week paid for by Delta plus much more! This was definitely a very memorable spring break! I'm not sure whether we will ever experience a similar windfall but it was fun while it lasted.
Have you been bumped multiple times before? Share your story below!
In case you did not read my recent post concerning my 3 week trip to Hawaii (read about it here), while I did use a timeshare for one week of the trip, I failed to obtain a timeshare for the other two weeks and used A LOT of points in order to stay at the Andaz Maui.
I have written about the Andaz Maui before as it is a fantastic resort and a very worthwhile redemption for your Hyatt Points especially if you have Globalist / top tier status with Hyatt.
As you can see, I spent 315,000 World of Hyatt points for those stays and spent 22,500 United Mileage Plus frequent flyer miles per each family member for one way flights to Maui and 22,500 American Airlines miles per each family member for one way flights from Maui.
In total, I spent:
315,000 World of Hyatt Points
90,000 United Mileage Plus frequent flyer miles
90,000 American Advantage Miles
The total amount of miles spent for this trip was 495,000.
Doing the math, this is simply a ton of miles. While I did receive a $28,000 worth of hotel stays and probably $6,000 worth of airfare for this, it is simply a lot of points.
Accumulating Points / Frequent Flyer Miles
While we were at the Andaz Maui, I spoke to various people about their trip and inevitably a discussion would ensure about points. A lot of people were staying at the hotel on points and a decent amount were not. One question that kept coming up is how I accumulate my points / miles.
The easiest answer is generally credit cards. Credit card bonus have increased dramatically over the past few years as competition has significantly heated up in order to motivate credit card issuers to be at the top of your wallet. Credit cards get paid by the merchants every time you swipe the card and get paid for those who keep balances (NEVER KEEP A BALANCE!!!). The credit card issuers want you to use your card for every purchase.
Over the years, I have taken advantage of a lot of credit card sign up bonuses. It is generally the easiest and quickest way to accumulate a lot of miles. However, before you start applying for various cards, you need to have a strategy.
Credit Card Application Strategy
In this post, I took the position that the lucrative credit card sign up bonuses are on their way out and timeshares could potentially be the next frontier on cheap / luxurious travel.
The reason why I take this position was that in the past, you could simply apply for a credit card, get the bonus, cancel the card and reapply. It was a GREAT way to accumulate points. It wasn't too longer for credit card issuers to catch on this strategy and began making adjustments to their offers and limiting how many times you could get the bonus.
Before we get into the specific rules on various credit card issues, before you begin applying for cards, you need to know where you stand in terms of a credit score. I use CreditKarma which is a great FREE tool to receive your credit score. Take a look at your credit score so you know where you stand. 760 and above should put you in a good place to get almost any card you desire.
The other tool that I recommend is the Experian app. Here is the link for IOS. Experian also provides you with a score but also allows you to view your credit report and most importantly, what accounts you have opened and the when you opened them. This is important for the rules outlined below.
The reason that you need to know the amount of credit cards you have opened is because of a fairly new rule termed 5/24. This is Chase's rule where you will be automatically denied for any new application if you have opened up 5 new credit card accounts with ANY bank within the past 24 months / 2 years. When you apply for a Chase card, they will review your account and if you have more than 5 accounts opened, you will get denied regardless of your credit score, whether you a Chase Private Client Customer or whether you have millions of dollars in the bank with them. It is a hard rule.
The other important rule is from American Express. Instead of a 5/24 rule, they have a lifetime rule. If you have received the bonus offer for a particular credit card in the past, you are prohibited from receiving it again for your "lifetime". While I do not have any data points, a "lifetime" for American Express used to be considered 7 years but I do not know whether that is still accurate. Fortunately, American Express has rolled out a new tool so that when you apply for a credit card, if you are not eligible for the bonus offer, they will inform you BEFORE they run your credit.
Citibank has also implemented their own rules for their Thank You card. Basically, if you have received any sign up offer for their Premier Card, Thank You Reward Card or Prestige card within 24 months of opening OR closing an account, you are not eligible for the bonus. With Citibank, not only do you need to be aware of the opening date, but if you received a bonus offer 3 years ago, closed the account and attempted to reapply, you would be denied the bonus since you closed the account within 2 years.
The best strategy is to open an account, have it for 2 years, apply for a different variant of the card and close the previous card after you receive the new card. If you mess this up and close the card before you reapply, you will get denied the bonus.
There are other credit card issuers that all have similar rules. Barclays and Bank of America are others who have some type of similar restrictions. However, the vast amount of great credit card offers are generally offered by Chase, AMEX and Citibank. In order to try to keep this post readable, I am not listing the rules for Barclays and Bank of America.
Once you are aware of your score, how many accounts you have opened in the past 2 years and understand the restrictions in place, you should have a strategy in place to go forward and apply.
Since Chase has the most restrictive policy, I would generally start applying for Chase cards. This way you can avoid the automatic denial for having more than 5 cards. However, depending on how many you cards apply for, you will almost certainly be denied further cards for 5 years so you need to make the determination on how many to apply for as new offers constantly appear and you may be denied a stellar bonus if you have 5 or may applications.
An interested strategy that often seems overlooked at times is that if you are married, there are 2 people eligible for the bonus offer. It is not one per household but rather one per person. The best strategy for good offers is to apply for each spouse. You can accumulate double the amount of points. The other potential / questionable strategy that you can use is one spouse applies for the card and once approved, you can refer your spouse to apply for the same cards with additional bonus points. A simple but effective strategy to get even more points.
Personal and Business Cards
The credit card issuers make a lot of money off personal cards but they also want your business spend. There are personal and business versions of various cards. if you have a legitimate business with its own employer identification number, most business cards will not report to your personal credit report but if it is Chase, they will still review your report to determine if you have surpassed the 5/24. However, for future cards, the business card application will not count towards the 5/24 since it does not show up on your personal credit report.
If you do not have an EIN, you can still apply for a business card as a sole proprietor and use your social security number. You need to have a bonafide business but selling on eBay or doing some side gigs definitely qualifies. Business cards are a great way to add to your points / miles stash.
I have been doing the credit card application game for a while now which is why I have some many points accumulated. As a result, I am limited to the amount of American Express cards available to me and generally always have about 5 cards opened in the past 2 years which limits my ability to get new offers.
However, if I was to begin with a clean slate, here is what I would do. I would start by applying for Chase cards, both personal and business, and apply for up to 5 cards. I would then move on to American Express and Citibank.
Some links provided are my referral links. I would greatly appreciate you using those links to help support the blog!
Chase Personal Cards:
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card that generally offers 50,000 Ultimate Reward Points. This is a solid card to start.
The new Chase World of Hyatt card is a great card. While it was just offering 60,000 World of Hyatt points, it is now been reduced to 50,000. You may way to wait on this one. World of Hyatt points are great and this card gives you one free night in a category 1-4 hotel each year. This easily pays for the annual fee.
The Chase Southwest cards just came out with a great offer where you can get a companion pass after a $4,000 spend. There is a lot of buzz about this offer. A better strategy is to open a Chase Southwest Business Card where the introductory offer is 60,000 Rapid Reward Points and another personal card (in flight offers are currently 50,000 Rapid Reward Points) which would get you the 110,000 Rapid Rewards Points to obtain the companion pass for this year (2019) and NEXT YEAR (2020). However, I think that the companion pass offer is decent and had I not applied for the Priority card before the offer was extended, I would have taken advantage of it.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a good card but Chase restricts the bonus to either the Sapphire Reserve or the Sapphire Preferred. Either one is a good card but the Sapphire Reserve use to be offered with 100,000 Ultimate Reward Points and now just offers 50,000.
Chase Business Cards:
The Chase Business Southwest cards offers 60,000 Rapid Reward Points and is a great addition to a personal card if you want a 2 year companion pass.
TheChase Ink Preferred is a stellar card and offers 80,000 Ultimate Reward Points. This is a must get card for 80,000 Ultimate Reward Points.
Chase Ink Business Cash card is actually a great card. Even though it states that it is a cash back card, if you have another card that earns Ultimate Rewards points, you actually get Ultimate Reward Points instead of cash and while it can be redeemed for cash, you are much better using it for travel and particularly transferring those points to Chase partners.
American Express use to be my favorite card issuer but after a few denials for bonuses that was assured of receiving from multiple representatives and supervisors, I don't generally use them for much spend. However, they do have some great bonus offers.
The American Express Platinum Card is expensive but comes with various perks. Offers range from 25,000 - 100,000. 75,000 American Express Rewards Points or higher would be worth it for at least the first year.
The American Express Gold Card just went through some changes and can be a decent deal if you use the perks that come with it. A big plus is the 4x points on dining.
The American Express Everyday Card is not a great card but does not have an annual fee. It is one of the only cards that earns American Express Reward points without having a fee. The reason you want to have this card in your wallet is if you cancel some of the other American Express cards that have high annual fees, you will forfeit you points earned unless you transfer them out to another program or have another Amex reward point earning card. By having this no annual fee card, you can keep you Amex reward points even after you cancel other cards. It is great to have and could be useful for some spending.
American Express Business
The American Express Business Platinum card is another good card and while the fee is expensive, it could be worthwhile. Bonus offers vary for this card but it now currently 75,000.
The American Express Delta Skymiles Business Card has been offering some great signup offers between 50,000 and 75,000. Also, this card does come with one free companion airfare certificate which can easily make up for the $195 annual fee if used.
The Citi Premier Card is a good card that I keep in my wallet. 3x points on travel and gas makes it worthwhile. 50,000 sign up bonus is decent as the highest I have seen is 60,000.
The Citi Prestige Card is also a good card but it just got revamped. The fee went up and the perks went down. I do not recommend this card at the moment but if a worthwhile sign up offer comes along, it could be beneficial. There are no available applications at the moment.
The Citibank Aadvantage Business card currently offers 75,000 Aadvantage miles. I think that this one is worthwhile.
A lot of people will read this and be extremely worried that your credit score will be obliterated after applying for the amount of these cards. In actuality, you credit score will likely immediately decline but after a few months will actually go up. Your credit score depends on a number of factors but the two most important are paying on time and utilization.
Utilization refers to the amount of credit available and how much you use. If you have a $1000 credit limit and use $900 during a month, you are utilizating 90% of your credit which will cause your score to materially decline. If you have a $10,000 credit limit and use $900 during a month, you are using 9% of your credit which should positively impact you.
Essentially, having a lot of credit available to you through multiple credit cards but only using a small percentage will actually help your score. Between my wife and I, we have about 30 credit cards and both of us have an over 800+ credit score.
This post became a lot longer than anticipated as there is a lot of information to cover on this topic. While I attempted to be concise, there is a lot of knowledge to pass on in order to apply for credit cards with a good strategy. As you can see, the bonus offers of 50,000 to 100,000 per cards can be extremely worthwhile especially if both spouses apply for personal and business cards. It is not uncommon that you can easily accumulate 1,000,000 bonus points by simply applying for a combination of personal and business cards.
In some follow up posts, I will go into some more details on how I spend on my various credit cards and some additional beneficial ways to accumulate miles cheaply and easily.
The goal of the blog is to explain timeshares but if you want to truly maximize timeshare ownership, you should also have good strategies to obtain credit card points, hotel points and frequent flyer miles. Besides getting free flights to various destinations, many timeshare strategies involve using hotel points.
Make sure to comment below!
3 Week Christmas vacation in Hawaii: $28,000 value vacation for under $1200 out of pocket - How I did it
Last Christmas, in this post, I explained my “timeshare fail” where I stayed at the Andaz Maui resort using points instead of obtaining a timeshare for Christmas week.
Despite not getting a timeshare last year, we had planned on going back to Maui again for Christmas. The Andaz Maui was a great resort and while I hoped to get timeshare instead, I used my same strategy that I used last year and booked using points while waiting for a timeshare to match. Despite my efforts, I again failed to obtain the desired timeshare for Christmas week but was able to get a timeshare for the week before Christmas.
Christmas week is notoriously difficult so if you want to or must travel during Christmas, you always need a “Plan B” as getting a good timeshare will be difficult. DON’T BUY A TIMESHARE EXPECTING TO TRAVEL OVER CHRISTMAS. DISAPPOINTMENT IS LIKELY.
While I failed to obtain a desired timeshare for Christmas week, I was able to successfully plan a three-week vacation in Hawaii over Christmas break staying at extremely nice properties. While vacations like this typically cost at least $25,000, I was able to secure this trip for my family of four for approximately $1200 plus a decent amount of miles and points.
Here’s how I did it.
Before I get into the details on this trip planning, for any new readers, I wanted to direct you to review this post on my month-long trip to Costa Rica. In that post, I explained how I use multiple strategies, travel tools, multiple different points, credit card perks, and other “travel hacks” to create an incredibly affordable month-long vacation. This post is not that different but wanted to show my readers yet another successful trip that was planned using these strategies and resulting in a truly 5-star vacation for less most people spend on a long weekend.
While flights to Hawaii have been relatively inexpensive over the past year with some great deals (check out some of these), flights over the Christmas time period are always extremely expensive. Fortunately, by planning far in advance, I was able to secure flights using frequent flyer miles on both the outgoing and return. The key was diversification.
Diversification in points is extremely important. I’ll do a deeper dive into this concept in later posts but by having points spread throughout multiple programs and having transferrable points (Citi Thank You Points, Chase Ultimate Reward Points and American Express Membership Rewards Points), you have more options available to you.
For these flights, I could not locate 4 round trip tickets for the date and times desired at the lowest cost pricing. However, I did find 4 one-way tickets to Maui on United and did find 4 one-way tickets from Maui back home on American Airlines. I ended up booking one-way tickets using miles in order to further reduce out of pocket expenses. These tickets cost 22,500 each way for each passenger.
For the flights between Kauai and Maui, I booked them using United miles which was approximately 7,000 miles per ticket instead of paying about $140 per ticket. Not the best use of miles but decent.
Week 1: Kauai
As I explained in this post, I originally secured a timeshare property for the week before Christmas at the Marriott Ocean Club in Kaanapali Beach. The reviews of that property looked great and generally have a very high regard for Marriott Vacation Club properties. Despite being a Hyatt owner, I stay predominantly with Marriott properties since my Hyatt points trade favorable for Marriott’s. You can review some of these strategies here.
While I was looking forward to that stay, about a month before the trip, a 2-bedroom unit became available at the Marriott Waiohai Beach Club property in Kauai. The last time I was in Kauai was about ten years ago and I actually toured the property at that time. I remember it being a very high-class property located directly on Poipu beach which is a top beach on the island. Due to the fond memories and additional space for a 2 bedroom unit, I switched timeshares. Fortunately, I used e-plus for my Interval International Exchange (read about it here) and was able to exchange my week into the Marriott Waiohai Beach Club. Despite the extra fee, I always add E-Plus as it has saved me multiple times by allowing me to switch resorts, times or vacation spots.
I originally had a 1-bedroom unit in Maui but was very happy to have secured a 2 bedroom unit. Having the additional space for a family of four is essential since we all have beds and ample space to spread out. I will be doing a review of that property shortly with pictures so stay tuned. Overall, the property was fantastic but had higher expectations for the finish out of the units. While decently appointed and while having a nice ocean view, it appears that the units are getting close to their end of life and need of a significant refresh.
In order to secure a 2-bedroom unit, I needed to use 1300 Hyatt Residence Club Points. Based on my current maintenance fees of approximately $1300 per week for which I receive 2,000 points, the cost per this reservation was $835 ($1300 / 2000 = $0.65 per point - $0.65 * 1300 = $835). In addition to the exchange fee of $219 and the E-Plus fee of $59, the total cost for this week was approximately $1123. This is not exactly cheap but considering that going rates for this week at this property in a 2-bedroom unit was approximately $900 per night, the price per week looks like a tremendous bargain.
Take a look at this post for further information on the economics of timeshare ownership.
Week 2 – 3: Maui:
After having failed to obtain a timeshare during Christmas last year, I thought that I would have success this year. As explained in my original post, I put in my request a full year in advance and waited patiently for a match. I also consistently looked for available inventory as some units can come available via bulk deposits or simply by luck. As discussed here, as I did in the years past and as I try to do for each and every timeshare trip, I booked a hotel using points which would be cancelled in the event that my timeshare came through.
While I definitely wanted a timeshare for Christmas week, the Andaz Maui is a truly spectacular property and would not mind using points for this stay. While I had some opportunities to secure a timeshare for Christmas week, they were not the top resorts that I generally target (Westin, Hyatt, Marriott, etc.) and elected to use my points for the Andaz Maui.
The Andaz Maui does play a lot of games with their inventory for point redemptions so if you want Christmas week, you need to book as soon as it is available – generally in November the year before. I booked this year’s trip last year while I was at the property last year.
In case you’re interested, last year, I wrote this post about how my stay at the Andaz Maui broke my loyalty to Hyatt. This was somewhat true and despite not making a tremendous effort to hit Globalist tier, a few beneficial promotions and the World of Hyatt card made it possible to hit Globalist again. We’ll see if I achieve it for 2020. I’ll give you additional details on how to achieve Globalist in a few creative ways in a later post.
Having Globalist for this stay is extremely worthwhile and arguably some of the best use of Hyatt points. In this post, I explained the various perks received. I was easily receiving about $270 per day in real perks at the Andaz Maui (breakfast, parking, waived resort fees).
For this stay, I was finally able to use a suite upgrade and stayed in a suite for 7 nights. The going rate for a standard room was over $1600 per night and the going rate for the suite was in excess of $2500. Outrageous!
While we were originally planning on staying 9 nights, a fortuitous weather event occured through our stop over city and a travel waiver was issued for our day of travel. While we could have easily gone to the airport and take our chances, I elected to call American and see if they could re-accomodate us for other flights. While there were some real chances that our travel plans could have been significantly interrupted, if timing works and things align with hotel/timeshares, I tend to always reschedule our flights when these weather events occur. Getting stuck in an airport with young kids or having to stay at a less than ideal airport hotel is a poor way to end the trip and would rather “wait it out” on the beach for a few extra days.
As I mentioned, the cost for a standard room at the Andaz Maui was going for $1600 which is simply too expensive for me. Rooms were not available using points which was a disappointment but there were points at the Hyatt Regency at Kaanapali Beach. I had been wanting to check out the other Hyatt hotel on the island and was curious to see the Hyatt Residence Club next door and the Marriott Ocean Club (where we were originally scheduled to be) so this made a good option. The Hyatt Regency on Maui was 20,000 points per night as opposed to the Andaz Maui which costs 25,000.
The general perk of most Hyatt Regency’s is that they have a club lounge which offer food and snacks throughout the day. I have been to a few stellar lounges and you could easily eat there all day long for free. I had high hopes for this Hyatt Regency but ended up being extremely disappointed. A full review on this property will also be forthcoming.
While we were upgraded to an ocean front room with a spectacular view, the rooms are in dire need of refurbishment. I was not impressed and neither was my family. We checked out the club lounge the next morning for breakfast and it was in stark contrast to the unbelievable spread at the Andaz. They provided a fairly limited continental breakfast with no eggs and some frozen waffles.
After breakfast, I immediately began checking on using points to get back to the Andaz. If you have a choice between properties, don’t even think twice and stay at the Andaz.
One of the “perks” of achieving Globalist is to receive a dedicated concierge to assist with travel plans. I reached out to her for assistance in getting us back to the Andaz for the last 2 nights. After a few e-mails, she simply said that there was no availability and could not help. This was troubling as the Andaz had plenty of rooms available and plenty of standard rooms with a slightly elevated view. As I mentioned, they play games with their inventory so that only a select few rooms are available for award nights despite having plenty of standard rooms available for cash bookings. The only difference is the view which is arguably different than the room types allocated for award nights.
After several more e-mails, she reached out the hotel directly and they were able to open up a room using points. The concierge handled the adjustments and contacting both hotels. Overall, the concierge perk has not been that worthwhile for me as there are only a select few times that I need assistance in getting something accomplished. I was frustrated that this request was not simply handled but rather required multiple e-mails and arguments to get it done. At the end, it happened as desired but it was not as smooth as process as I would have expected considering that these agents are supposed to be at Globalist’s beckon call to assist with their travel plans.
We checked back into the Andaz Maui for an additional 2 nights, all using points. In the end, we stayed 11 nights at the Andaz Maui and 2 nights at the Hyatt Regency. The total amount of points used was 315,000 Hyatt points – a very large number and while we had an absolute spectacular time, I can say with certainty that I still would have preferred a timeshare.
I am not saying this simply because I am “The Timeshare Guru”, but rather because I value space and value the convenience of being able to cook some meals in the hotel. The Andaz Maui is absolutely fantastic but drinks are expensive ($19 cocktails and $10 beers) and the food is extremely expensive. Saving a few bucks on having a few meals would have been nice and not having to share a bed with small kids is a nice convenience and becoming more and more necessary.
In another post, I’ll explain how to obtain points quickly through credit card sign-ups and spend. If you do it strategically and intelligently, you can rack up a lot of points quickly and book a similar “expensive” vacation for cheap.
Despite my desire for a timeshare, spending 315,000 Hyatt points for the Andaz Maui was a fabulous use of points. If I was paying cash for this stay, here are the total potential out of pocket spend:
7 nights in a Suite: ($2500 per night): $17,500
4 nights in a standard room ($1600 per night): $6,400
11 nights of complimentary breakfast ($180 per day): $1,980
11 nights of waived parking ($45 per day): $495
11 nights of waived resort fees ($45 per day): $495
2 nights at Hyatt Regency ($450 per night): $900
2 nights of waived parking ($32 per day: $64
2 nights of waived resort fees ($32 per day): $64
Total cash value of the Andaz Maui portion of the vacation (11 nights): $26,870
Total cash value of the Hyatt Regency portion of the vacation (2 nights): $1,028
Total Points Used: 315,000
Value per point: 8.9 cents – not too shabby!
My family and I had another spectacular vacation using timeshares, frequent flyer miles and hotel points for a fraction of the retail cost. It was truly a vacation that would be out of our price range to mimic if we were paying cash. While my timeshare strategy failed, my plan B worked flawlessly in that we were able to enjoy the Andaz Maui for yet another Christmas.
Timeshares are great but they do not work for all travel plans so the ideal strategy is to have multiple travel tools at your disposal. Diversification is key, not only in points and programs but also having multiple avenues for finding reasonable accommodations.
Getting a $28,000 three week vacation in Hawaii over Christmas for about $1200 out of pocket seems ridiculous but I did it and you can to with various strategies.
What did you do Christmas week? Any stellar redemptions / exchanges? Make sure to comment below.
As you probably know, I a big proponent on using timeshares to exchange. As a Hyatt owner, I am given access to Interval International for exchanging. I find that I get tremendous value out of exchanges as oppose to using my timeshare week or even trading my Hyatt Residence Club points for other Hyatt properties.
A few years ago, Interval International implemented E-Plus. Here is a general overview of the E-Plus benefit. As a quick refresher, if you purchase E-Plus, which is $59, in addition to the exchange fee, Interval International lets you exchange your exchanged week for up to 3 times for no additional fee.
The availability of E-Plus significantly changed the ability to use exchanges. Previously, if you exchanged a week and your plans changed, you would cancel your week and be given a replacement week to use BUT you had to pay an additional exchange fee which is currently $219 per week (a sizable amount). Since you need to reserve so far in advance to get good weeks (2+ years), you were taking on a significant risk that you would need to cancel the exchanged week sometime in the future.
E-Plus solved these problems and created a great loophole to extend the use of your points and see inventory for over 2 years. You can read about that here.
For this post, I wanted to showcase my recent use of E-Plus and how I was able to score a fantastic week.
Hawaii for Christmas
If you read my blog, you should definitely read this post about my timeshare "fail". In that post, in addition to showing some unbelievable perks of hotel status, I explained that my plan to receive a timeshare for Christmas week failed and was "stuck" using my hotel points. While it was hardly a fail, I definitely did not receive a timeshare week in Maui during Christmas despite putting in a request a year in advance and searching constantly.
Hoping for a change of luck, I attempted to try to get a Christmas week in Hawaii for 2018. I used the same strategy and booked a hotel stay using points and put in a request first for Christmas week. I was hoping that this year was going to be different.
To my dismay, I DID NOT get a timeshare for Christmas week again. This goes to show you how hard it really is to get a great timeshare for Christmas week. If you are thinking of buying of timeshare with dreams of traveling anywhere you want during Christmas week, think again. The harsh reality is that even with advance planning, Christmas week in prime resorts is almost impossible.
Despite the odds being against me, I put in a request first and did not get Christmas week but did receive the week before Christmas in a one bedroom at the Maui Ocean Club. I have not been to the Marriott property but I have heard good things. There are newer properties that I attempted to get (Westin Nanea and Hyatt Kannapali) but was satisfied with the Marriott.
Despite being a Hyatt owner, I predominantly stay at Marriott properties and have yet to be disappointed.
While I was satisfied with my confirmed week in a one bedroom at the Marriott in Maui, I ALWAYS add E-Plus. While I hate the extra fees involved with exchanging, E-Plus has a lot of benefits with the most important being flexibility. Timeshares are well known for being not flexible and E-Plus has changed that. Despite having a confirmed exchange, you can still view available inventory and make exchanges for no fee.
I find that some prime weeks and resorts are available sporadically throughout the year but a lot of times, some truly spectacular weeks become available at the last minute. As you are aware, plans can change at the last minute and if they do, people have to cancel their confirmed weeks which they may have made 2+ years ago.
When this happens, since the check-in date is so near, these weeks usually get tossed into the general inventory. As a result, if you exchanged into one property but really want to stay at another, keep checking until the day before check-in. E-Plus allows you to exchange your week up to 24 hours before check-in. Some great weeks show up at that point and you can take advantage of it for no fee if you paid for E-Plus!
In my scenario, I had a great week at a very nice property but a one bedroom with a family of 4 is a little tight. I have altered my timeshare strategy to get more points / weeks because I find that for a family of 4, a 2 bedroom is ideal as everyone has their own bed, their own bedroom with TV and there is ample space for everyone to enjoy their vacation.
A studio or one bedroom just isn't big enough to fully stretch out without being on top of one another. While it is doable, a 2 bedroom is ideal and that is predominantly what I aim to get when traveling with a family of 4.
Since I had E-Plus on my confirmed reservation, I started searching periodically for other potential options. Since I know that a lot of good inventory gets deposited at last minute, I increased my searches about 30 days out and made sure to check for any other weeks that was superior to what I had already confirmed.
In another post, I can review Interval International's new app, but the gist is that they now allow you to exchange weeks on the app instead of just getaways. While we were out for dinner, I was playing with the app and saw that a 2 bedroom unit at Marriott Waiohai Beach Club became available for the same week that I had reserved in Maui.
I have never stayed at the Marriott Waiohai Beach Club but we did visit the property about 10 years ago on our first trip to Kauai. It appeared to be a stunning property and the reviews are phenomenal. Since the exact week that I needed came up, I quickly exchanged my week on the app and got confirmation of a 2 bedroom unit at the Marriott Waiohai Beach Club. SCORE!
It did not cost any extra in fees although I did have to "pay" the difference in points which was an extra 430 points.
Therefore, by having E-Plus, I was able to exchange 1 bedroom into a 2 bedroom unit at the last minute for no additional exchange fees and got the desired 2 bedroom at a very prime property in Kauai.
E-Plus is a fantastic addition to Interval International as it provides significant flexibility. Timeshares have never been very flexible but the timeshare companies realize the appeal of flexility which is why so many programs have gone to points instead of weeks and now allow single night stays instead of the historical minimum of 7 nights.
I use E-Plus for EVERY reservation that I do since I love having the extra flexibility. Even I end up getting a great week, I still add E-Plus as you never know when plans can change or life gets in the way of a vacation. Knowing that you have the option to exchange the week for something else in the future without added fees can be very valuable and find that the $59 for that peace of mind is well worth it.
Also, even if you are planning on using the confirmed week, spend some time searching close to check-in as something better could even come along!
Have you used E-Plus? Any wins that you want to share?
Timeshare Presentations and First Time Purchasers:
Timeshare presentations have become a finely tuned science. NO ONE ever goes into a timeshare presentation wanting to buy a timeshare. They have refined their sales process where they know exactly how many people will buy a timeshare based on the number of presentations.
I obviously advocate owning a timeshare as I think that they can be a great travel tool to travel well, affordably and comfortably.
However, timeshare ownership ONLY makes sense if the upfront cost is reasonable, maintenance fees are reasonable considering the amount of potential weeks you can receive, and you purchase with a reputable high quality brand (Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Four Seasons, Wyndham, etc.) that give you a reasonable opportunity to sell your timeshare if you no longer want to and cannot use it.
Timeshare ownership also will ONLY make sense if you understand the systems and how to use them to maximize their value.
If you purchase a timeshare and use it for one week of travel during the year, it will rarely if ever make sense (with the potential exception of ski weeks). The key is to obtain more value from your week and transform that into multiple weeks of vacation. Then, the numbers make more sense and timeshare ownership can be very worthwhile.
The vast number of first time timeshare purchasers end up purchasing from the developer through these timeshare presentations. They have responses to every question you can throw at them and their pitch makes a lot of sense.
Even the main players like Hyatt and Marriott have fine tuned their presentations so it is no longer a high pressure environment but now they have transformed these pitches into a fear of losing out (FOMO). Buy now before you lose the opportunity or before the price goes up!
It is effective but it is not the best way to purchase a timeshare.
What the timeshare salespeople rarely disclose is the economic value of the timeshare. They sell timeshares for a lot of money and as soon as you purchase from the developer, the economic value of the timeshare just plummeted. Timeshares are sort of like cars. The moment you drive it off the lot, it loses value.
Some timeshares literally can lose 99% of its value after purchase and some can almost lose 100%. When you purchase some timeshares, there is literally no resale market for them so it is difficult if not impossible to sell. Even though you may have purchased it for $10,000 - $20,000, the value can be almost $0.00.
These facts continue to perpetuate the ideas that timeshares are scams and not worth purchasing. I agree that some timeshares are never worth purchasing even if they are selling for one dollar or someone is paying for you to own them.
However, there are plenty of other timeshares that are re-sellable and will retain "some" value. Again, if you stick with the main timeshare brands, you will likely have a much better experience.
In my opinion, buying a timeshare on the resale market is the most economical and can actually make timeshare ownership beneficial and can make tremendous economic sense.
As I mentioned, most timeshare owners purchase their first timeshare through a timeshare presentation. The pitch made economic sense and the ability to travel around the world was intriguing.
Many times, immediately after signing the purchase documents, these buyers will race to google and attempt to confirm that they received a great deal (as likely stated by the salespeople) and find glorious stories of many happy owners traveling around the world.
What they normally find is a bunch of information discussing how timeshares are awful investments, many disgruntle owners and sometimes, they even find their week that they just purchased selling for pennies on the dollar.
Unfortunately, this is common and people should do research on timeshares BEFORE going to these presentations. If you understand some of these simple facts concerning timeshares, you can go into these presentations with more information and ask tough questions concerning the program and their broad statements concerning usage.
For those people who made a purchase and immediately have buyers remorse, all is not lost.
Almost all timeshare purchase contracts have the right of rescission. The right of rescission gives the purchaser a set number of days to cancel the contract with no fees and receive their money back. It will essentially be like the agreement never occurred.
The time period for rescission varies from state to state but is generally around 3 to 15 days.
The Rescission Process
The terms of the rescission process will normally be buried in the fine print of the contract. They do not make it easy but you actually will need to read the fine print, find the rescission clause and FOLLOW THE STEPS PERFECTLY!
Unfortunately, it is never as easy as simply going back to the developer and requesting a refund. Even if you go back the next day, the sales people will tell you to read the contract and will likely not be much help.
The general process is that you need to send a written letter to the specific address in the contract with details of the specific timeshare that you purchased including the contract number with a clear and concise statement that you would like to cancel the contract pursuant to the right of rescission found in the contract. I would specify the exact clause as stated in the contract.
The letter should be signed by all people who signed the contract so if both spouses signed, both spouses should sign the rescission letter.
I would also include a copy of the timeshare agreement.
MAKE SURE TO SEND IT WITHIN THE REQUIRED TIMEFRAME AND MAKE SURE TO USE TRACKABLE MAIL WITH A SIGNATURE!
SEND IT VIA TRACKABLE MAIL WITH SIGNATURE, VIA REGULAR POSTAL SERVICE AND VIA CERTIFIED MAIL! MAKE SURE YOU HAVE PROOF THAT YOU SENT IT TO THE RIGHT ADDRESS WITHIN THE REQUIRED AMOUNT OF TIME!
It is extremely important to make sure that you abide by the rescission dates. If you miss it by one day, don't expect them to cancel it. The salespeople were likely very friendly and easy going during the sale. Expect the exact opposite in their assistance in cancelling their sale.
Despite their reputation, timeshares are not that bad provided that you understand what you are buying and how to maximize use. The vast majority of timeshare owners do not understand everything when they first buy and get roped into a purchase by smooth talking salespeople.
Too often, buyers only realize the mistake after the purchase and only do research on timeshares once they are owners.
The goal of the blog is to educate people BEFORE a purchase or help you maximize ownership after the purchase.
As I stated, most timeshare owners purchased a timeshare directly from the developer for their first timeshare purchase. They likely overpaid but hopefully they get enjoyment from it.
If you purchased a timeshare from the developer and you missed the rescission period, don't dwell on it. Try to understand the program and use strategies to maximize its use and have great vacations. Use this information to make a different decision for your next purchase.
Buying resale for a fraction of the price of the developer pricing makes a lot of sense and can make timeshare ownership very beneficial. The general idea is to rescind if you are within the applicable time period and search for another timeshare on the resale market.
You will always be able to find a timeshare to purchase so do not worry about FOMO! (Fear of Missing Out!)
Have you rescinded a timeshare purchase before? Share you story below!
While there are many things to consider if you actually want to own a timeshare, one easy question to ask yourself is whether you are a Christmas week traveler?
What I mean by this is whether you will want or need to travel over the standard Christmas break that generally occurs from December 21st through January 2nd of each year.
Prior to having kids, I HATED traveling this week and generally avoided it at all costs. Flights were expensive, hotels are overpriced, restaurants are booked and everywhere was busy.
Now that I have kids, we are somewhat forced to travel with these crowds as if we do not travel during Christmas break, there is very little time throughout the remainder of the year when there are any decent size breaks where it makes sense to travel far.
Christmas week is a tough week to travel as almost the entire world has off during this time or this is when most people take vacation time since you can use fewer vacation days and combine them with the national holidays to get a good chunk of time off.
Since most people travel during this time, most people will plan far in advance in order to get there desired resort. Additionally, many people who purchased Christmas week at whatever resort they own at will likely use that week. Therefore, the timeshare inventory during this time is sparse.
As I wrote about here, my particular strategy for Christmas break last year DID NOT work as I did not get Christmas week despite putting in a request a full year in advance.
Key Consideration Prior to Considering Timeshare Ownership:
I try to be very transparent and explain that timeshare ownership is NOT for everyone. Timeshares have significant issues and the systems are complicated. However, I think that a simply question to ask yourself on whether you are a Christmas week traveler is a solid question to consider prior to ever consider being a timeshare owner.
If you purchase a timeshare solely to exchange (my particular strategy) and you want to travel during Christmas week in popular destinations (Hawaii, Ski destinations, Disneyworld, etc.), you are likely to be disappointed with timeshare ownership.
Getting high quality resorts during Christmas week is incredibly difficult and even when I plan a year or two in advance, I rarely succeed in getting my top pick for this week.
Strategy for Hotel Points:
As I have explained in other posts, I think that it is extremely important to have hotel points in order to maximize timeshare ownership. The general strategy that I have discussed previously was to book a hotel using points (generally fully refundable) and then proceed to put in a request for a timeshare at that destination. If the timeshare does not get confirmed, you still have a hotel room for "free" since you used points.
Once easy way to get a ton of points is through credit card signup bonuses. I wrote about one particular offer here which is a very solid deal.
This particular strategy has been very useful to me but is EXTREMELY important for Christmas week travel. Getting rooms with hotel points can be difficult as well so you need to book far in advance for Christmas week but hotel rooms are generally available even in the most desirable locations if you plan far enough in advance. Since the rooms are generally refundable, you still have flexibility and you can attempt to receive a timeshare for Christmas week.
If you are a Christmas week traveler, meaning that you typically only travel during Christmas week or potentially one other week during the year, timeshare ownership is probably not the best for you. While I have had success in getting some great Christmas weeks through exchanges, these are not guaranteed and it is actually quite rare to get top quality resorts during this time.
However, if you are not just a Christmas week traveler, timeshare ownership can be a great tool to travel for cheap. The week before Christmas and the week after Christmas usually has tons of availability at high quality resorts. If you are flexible for your vacation time, you can do very well with timeshares.
My goal is to keep showing you how!
What are your thoughts on traveling during Christmas week?
As I mentioned in this recent post, I just purchased a second Hyatt timeshare at the Hyatt Beach House. In that post, I went through some details on what I own and why I made those choices.
As I mentioned in that post, the Hyatt timeshare that I purchased ended up being the second one that I tried to purchase since Hyatt exercised its right of first refusal.
What is a Right of First Refusal?
For those of you who don't know, a right of first refusal gives the timeshare company the right to purchase your timeshare before you can sell it to a third party. There are various reasons on why most timeshare include a right of first refusal but the one most generally used by salesmen are that it keeps resale prices up since anything that will potentially be sold for a significant discount will not pass the right of first refusal and the timeshare company will purchase it back.
There is some "truth" to that statement but I think that the general reason that most timeshares have the right of first refusal is so that the timeshare companies can essentially control the resale market. I can dig into this more in other posts but for this post, I wanted to explain what I learned during my process.
My Attempted Purchase
My strategy is to always make a low ball offer for any timeshare. You may lose some but you can end up purchasing one for a tremendous discount from "retail" pricing.
The first Hyatt timeshare that I attempted to purchase was listed on Discount Timeshares. I found a low priced week that equated into 2000 Hyatt Residence Club points and contacted them to make an offer.
I ended up making a low ball offer of $50.00 for this particular timeshare and after some back and forth, the seller agreed on this price. The going rate for a similar week on eBay was somewhere around $2,000-$4,000 so I thought I got a great deal.
In a separate post, I will put together a complete guide to purchasing a timeshare on the resale market. As part of the process, the seller or its broker, must submit paperwork to Hyatt which details the terms and conditions of the purchase and the price for the week.
Hyatt Resale / Transfer Procedures:
Once Hyatt receives this paperwork, they have 30 days (15 for the Grand Aspen and Kaanapali) to inform you of their decision.
Here are the specific transfer instruction provided by Hyatt:
If you decide to sell your interval on your own or through a resale company, please follow these three easy steps:
For this particular purchase, while the purchase price was $50.00, I was obligated to pay for the transfer fee and the closing costs. The total out of pocket cost for me was about $1,200. When Discount Timeshares submitted paperwork to Hyatt, they indicated that the purchase price was $50.00. This was accurate but as described below could have been structured in a more favorable way to benefit both the buyer and seller.
After around 30 days, I was informed that Hyatt DID exercise their right of first refusal and Hyatt succeeded in buying this timeshare out from under me for a purchase price of $50. Hyatt will likely now include this week in their new Portfolio Program.
The seller of the timeshare probably did not care either way as he or she was successful in selling the timeshare and getting out of the annual obligation to pay for the maintenance fees.
For me though, it was disappointing as $50.00 or $1,200 (when including the fees) for this week was a very good price. Once this occurred, I began my search for an alternative week.
As I mentioned in my other post, upon trying to make additional offers for similar timeshares, the representative from Discount Timeshares refused to remit my low offer to a seller despite being obligated to remit ALL offers.
Since Discount Timeshares receives a commission for their sales based on the purchase price, I believe that they refused to do so in an effort to increase their own commissions despite it not being in the best interest of the seller who can make their own decision on whether the offered price was satisfactory or whether they should hold out for better offers.
As a result of this experience with Discount Timeshares, I would NOT recommend them for future purchases.
What I Learned in this Process:
For Hyatt resales, my understanding is that they have some formula or metrics in which they determine what weeks / resorts to repurchase. They will not disclose these items.
For me, when I attempted to purchase an alternative Hyatt week (which I succeeded), my strategy was to attempt to increase the submitted purchase price as high as possible while still having a low purchase price.
For my second attempt, my offer of $2,000 was significantly higher than the original $50.00 attempted purchase but unlike my first offer, I had the seller be responsible for the transfer fee ($650) and the closing costs ($500). Additionally, as part of the offer, I indicated that I would pay for maintenance fees that had not been paid for the current year ($1250) and would be responsible for one additional year of maintenance fees ($1250).
Therefore, when they submitted the purchase price for this week, they indicated that the purchase price was approximately $4500 instead of the $2000 that I paid since I indicated that I would pay the current year and future year maintenance fees.
The reason to structure this in this manner was if Hyatt exercised their right of first refusal for this week, they would have to pay the seller $4500 as this was technically my offer even though it was somewhat disguised through transfer fees, closing costs, reimbursement of maintenance fees (past and future).
Therefore, to compare my first attempted purchase to the second attempted purchase, my original offer price was $50 versus about $850 - definitely higher but not transparent as offering a set amount and having the buyer be responsible for various fees.
From this experience, if you need to submit a purchase price where a timeshare company has a right of first refusal, I would try to have the purchase price be as high as possible by having the seller be responsible for all the various ancillary fees (transfer fees, closing costs, recording fees, existing maintenance fees, etc.).
By presenting the purchase price as high of possible by including the fees and by indicating the obligation to pay maintenance fees in advance, you can present a legitimate purchase price to the timeshare company at a price point where there is less risk to them exercising the right of first refusal.
In most resale transactions, the timeshare company probably does not have to pay itself any transfer fee and probably has little to no expenses for closing costs. If the buyer is responsible for these fees, they cannot include it in the purchase price.
The obligation to reimburse the seller or the obligation to submit the maintenance fees for the current or future years will be the buyers responsibility in almost all cases but you can include them in the purchase price submission so that the timeshare company would be obligated to remit them to the seller if they exercised their right of first refusal.
By structuring a purchase price in this fashion, there is less risk of the timeshare company from exercising their right of first refusal and this structure can even benefit the seller as if the timeshare company actually exercises their right of first refusal, they would receive more funds than if the right of first refusal was not exercised.
Overall, I think that this can be a win-win strategy for a buyer and seller and decreases the odds of the timeshare company from exercising their right of first refusal.
What do you think of this strategy? Have you lost any timeshare purchases to a right of first refusal? Leave your comments below!