Nobody likes it when the time comes to pay your maintenance fees. They usually are more than last year and it always feels like a surprise even though you knew it would be arriving.
In order to get the maximize value out of your maintenance fees, it is essential to use the proper credit card. All maintenance fees are generally categorized as “travel” within the credit card category and many credit cards provide bonus points for expenses relating to travel.
However, most of the major timeshare companies such as Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt and Starwood each have their own branded credit cards. All of these co-branded cards give you bonus points for spending at their properties.
The best secret is that the maintenance fees will generally trigger this bonus!
If you use the right credit card to pay your maintenance fees, you can generally receive a free night at many hotels.
Depending on the how you choose to redeem that night can essentially result in a 10-25% discount off your maintenance fees. In some circumstances, you can get even more value out of a hotel redemption.
In order to show you how this is possible, I will assume that the maintenance fees are $1200 per year. Based on this amount, if I owned with Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt or Starwood and I used a specific co-branded credit card, I would receive bonus points.
The Hilton Hhonors reserve card is one of the Hilton branded hotel cards. It currently offers 2 free weekend night certificates after making $2500 in purchases within 4 months of the account opening. I have this card and used the initial bonus at the Grand Wailea in Maui. We can discuss the value of the initial bonus later but this saved me close to $1000 off hotel nights.
For these purposes, the Hilton Hhonors reserve card provides 10 HHonors Bonus Points per $1 spent on hotel stays within the Hilton Portfolio.
A $1200 spend would result in 12,000 Hilton Hhonors points. As per the following chart, 12,000 Hhonors points would get you almost to a free night in a category 2 hotel. There are approximately 76 category 2 hotels to choose from. Based on a few examples, I would say that this easily equates to about a $120 hotel room, therefore saving 10% off your maintenance fees.
The Marriott Premier card is one of Marriott’s branded hotel cards. It is currently offering 80,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. 80,000 bonus points is quite good as this is on the high end of recent bonuses.
For these purposes, the Marriott Premier card provides 5 Marriott bonus points per $1 spent at over 4,000 participating Marriott® locations worldwide.
A $1200 spend would result in 6,000 Marriott points. As per the chart here, 6000 bonus points would almost get you into a category 1 hotel or would definitely get you in on a pointsavers reward night for a category 1 hotel.
Assuming that you can secure a pointsavers night in a category 1 (this is not difficult), I would value the Marriott points at about $100, potentially more depending on the redemption. In this scenario, I would say that paying with a Marriott Premier card would result in about an 8% discount to your maintenance fees.
Additionally, you should be aware that card members receive an annual free night for category 1-5 hotels which can be very valuable.
The Hyatt Credit card issued by Chase is the only Hyatt branded credit card. It currently offers 2 free nights in ANY hotel worldwide after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months. The initial signup offer is fantastic since there are no restrictions on use. These two free nights can be used at very expensive hotels such as the Hyatt Ka’anapali in Maui, the Park Hyatt New York or the newest arrival, the Park Hyatt St. Kitts.
Nightly rates can be close to $1000 per night so this initial signup bonus can be tremendously valuable.
For these purposes, the Hyatt credit card provides 3 points per $1 spent on purchases at all Hyatt properties.
A $1200 spent would result in 3,600 Hyatt points. 3,600 points is just shy of minimum of 5,000 points for a category 1 hotel. However, 3000 points does get you a club upgrade on a paid night which can be very valuable. Club rooms do get you access to the Regency club which offers complimentary food, beverage (sometimes alcohol) and breakfast.
Based on a few examples, I view the upgrade as potentially worth $150. If you assume that that you will obtain the additional points for a free night at a category 1, I would view this to be worth about $150, again, potentially more depending the redemption.
The Hyatt card also offers an annual free night for category 1-4 properties. This can easily be worth a few hundred dollars, again depending on its use.
I personally have this card and typically use my free night for a ski trip in Park City, Utah which usually would cost $500 per night in a hotel.
The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express is the credit card for Starwood. Their current signup offer is 25,000 bonus starpoints. It has gone as high as 30,000 but this is generally their signup offer. Starpoints are very valuable currency as there are not as many ways to receive starpoints as other hotel currents.
The initial bonus offer is very valuable and could offer you 8 nights in a category 1 hotel, 6 nights in a category 2, 3 in a category 3 or 2 nights in a category 4 or 5. The award chart is found here:
The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card provides "you up to 5 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating SPG® hotels – that's 2 Starpoints for which you may be eligible as a Card Member in addition to the 2 or 3 Starpoints for which you may be eligible as an SPG member. Get 1 Starpoint for all other purchases."
Basically, you will receive 2 Starpoints for each dollar and potentially receive an additional 2 or 3 points per dollar if you have Starwood Status.
For this example, we should assume that we don’t have status. A $1200 spend would result in 2400 Starpoints. As per the chart above, 2400 starpoints is just shy of a free night in a category 1 hotel. Based on a review of their category 1 hotels, I would view the free night to be worth approximately $100. Again, this gives you an 8% discount off the maintenance fees.
CHASE SAPPHIRE RESERVE:
If you are involved in the credit card travel game, you have definitely heard about the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. This is a new awesome card that offers 3x points on Travel and Dining. The initial signup offer is huge and gives you 100,000 Chase Ultimate Reward Points.
Chase Ultimate Reward Points are transferrable currency that allows you to transfer into frequent flyer accounts and hotel award programs. While it carries a $450 annual fee, it provides a $300 annual credit for travel related charges.
A key perk to the Chase Sapphire Reserve is that the travel credit applies towards your maintenance fees! Basically, this is a very easy way to get $300 off your maintenance fees. The travel credit gets replaced in January so if you get the card now, you can save $300 now and $300 again in January. $600 easy savings!
The initial bonus is easily worth $1500 but if used properly, can be worth thousands. Without too much work, this can easily be worth $3,000.
In our example, a $1200 charge for your maintenance fees would be categorized as travel and you would earn 3,600 Chase Ultimate Reward Points. This can be used for travel and redeemed for $54.00 through Chase or can be transferred into various programs including Hyatt.
I would value 3,600 Chase Ultimate Reward Points at about $75 but this is just a guestimate. The value would depend on how you use them. You could transfer them directly to Hyatt and get a club upgrade as discussed above.
Chase Ultimate Reward Points are very valuable and in later posts will describe how to use these in relation to timeshare vacations.
This is a stellar card and is highly recommended. The 100,000 sign up bonus is huge as it is rare for sign up bonuses to be that high.
The Citi Premier card is a solid card that earns Thankyou Reward Points. You can earn 3 points per $1 spent on Travel including Gas plus 2 points per $1 spent on Dining Out and Entertainment and 1 point per $1 spent on other purchases.
Citi’s Thankyou Reward program has gotten much better in recent years and you can now transfer points into various partners. These can provide tremendous amount of value if you redeem them properly. The Citi Premier is not offering any signup bonus so I would not apply at the moment but wait until a bonus appears.
In this example, a $1200 charge for maintenance fees would result in 3,600 Thankyou Reward Points. Redeeming these points for travel expenses would result in them being worth $45 since Citi values them a 1.25 cents when redeeming for airfare and other expenses.
As discussed in other posts, you could also transfer these points to Citi’s partners that could result in better redemption rates.
As stated above, if you use the proper credit card, a $1200 maintained fee would result in the following amount of points and potentially give you a material discount on your maintenance fees.
As shown, using the right credit card for your maintenance fees can essentially result in a significant discount. You should definitely make sure to use the right credit card when paying your maintenance fees.
Even if you own a timeshare not affiliated with the companies stated above, these charges still are categorized as travel and you can earn at least 3x the amount of points which can easily result in a meaningful discount.
This blog is not meant to show you how to maximize frequent flyer, hotel or credit card points. There are already plenty out there to do so.
However, if you travel each year, which I anticipate you must if you own a timeshare, you need to get reasonably versed in these types of program. They can be complicated but I know that they save me thousands of dollars per year in travel and you can use these tools for your advantage and to travel to some great destinations for much less or even free.
More importantly, they provide me with the ability to travel to exotic locations for free.
Over time, I will discuss the basic mechanics of these programs and how to use these programs, miles and points to complement timeshare ownership to allow you to travel in luxury for less.
Additionally, as discussed in other posts and as I will discuss later, you always need to have a Plan B for timeshare planning. Since availability can be difficult to get in prime weeks or resorts, you need to be able to book airfare reasonably in advance to secure reasonable prices or use your frequent flyer miles.
You can use hotel points to book a hotel room for the desired destination and be confident in your ability to book non-refundable airfare. We will discuss these types of strategies in other posts but it is absolutely necessary.
Otherwise, if your desired week becomes available, the cost of airfare can quickly derail that vacation and you will need to start the planning all over again.