Timeshare ownership may not be for everyone but for many, owning a timeshare can open up new destinations and provide you with spacious accommodations for much less than the cost of renting hotels or even through Airbnb. There are so many negative views on timeshares that most people simply shut down the thought of ever buying one since their reputations are so horrendous.
Despite many issues, my view is that if you understand timeshares and understand how to maximize their use, they can be very worthwhile.
The older timeshare systems generally had people buying week intervals for use at that resort year after year. Over time, exchanging became popular where you could exchange that week into other weeks at other destinations. As the system progressed, many timeshares evolved into points based systems where owners purchase points or get allocated a certain amount of points based on their owned week which can be exchanged into a certain amount of nights stays at resorts.
Today, most timeshare systems have evolved into points based systems. Timeshare systems are actually quite familiar to hotel, airlines, or credit card loyalty programs. Instead of earning points through stays or credit card spent, you purchase your timeshare points or your timeshare week.
Once you have the points, you can use them in various different ways. Like loyalty programs, you can use them for top tier properties or spread out your points for staying at lower quality properties.
Unlike hotels, generally speaking, timeshare points systems do not vary based on the quality of the resort. Timeshares are not based into categories or tier levels but rather use seasons or time periods to change the amount of points necessary. For lower demand periods, less points are required whereas in high season, more points are required.
Hyatt Sweet Spots
In other posts, I explained some portion of the Hyatt system. While the Hyatt system is undergoing a switch to an all points system, their existing system for owners will remain in place. For the purpose of this post, I will discuss the current system.
Here is the exchange chart for Hyatt:
As you can see, the amount of points are based on the season, size of unit and amount of nights. The choices are 2, 3, 4 or 7 nights.
While this chart may be a little daunting, if you do some math you can see that there can be tremendous value in using points for 2 or 4 nights. These 2 or 4 nights stays are midweek stays so they must be either a Sunday and Monday night, Tuesday and Wednesday night or a Thursday and Friday night. The 4-night stays are Sunday through Thursday or Monday through Friday.
For example, if we take a 1-bedroom week during Diamond season, it would cost 1,450 points per week. Per night, this is approximately 207 points. If you elect to use 2 nights during Diamond season, this would only cost you 145 points per night. If you elect to use 4 nights during Diamond seasons, this would also cost you 145 points per night. This results in a 30% discount on the amount of points – not too shabby.
Basically, if you owned a 1-bedroom week worth 1,450 points, you could either use it for a one week stay for all 1,450 points or you can use it for two 4-night packages and one 2 night package and receive a total of 10 nights instead of 7.
Hyatt Mountain Season
I have mentioned mountain season before but it should be mentioned again since it is such a tremendous deal. Mountain season is for the ski properties in Aspen, Avon, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Park City. Mountain season occurs during the absolute lowest time as it is between seasons but the amount of points to stay in these properties is absolutely miniscule. For an entire week in a 1 bedroom unit is only 130 points – about 18 points per night.
Therefore, if you owned the 1 bedroom above, you can literally stay in a 1 bedroom unit for 11 weeks for the same amount of points.
Here is a post on this subject for those of you interested.
Marriott Sweet Spots
Unlike Hyatt, Marriott has exchange charts for each individual resort. Instead of seasons, Marriott uses dates to determine the amount of points required. Unlike Hyatt, Marriott owners can reserve as little as one night.
For example, here is the chart on the Marriott’s Maui Ocean Club.
As you can see, the amount of points will be based on the time of travel, the size of unit, type of view (Island View, Mountain Garden, Ocean View or Ocean Front) and the day of the week.
For example, if you have a one-bedroom island view unit for August 25 to November 15, it would require you to use 2,525 for a week. This would be about 360 points per night. Instead of using a week, during the same time frame you could reserve four nights (Sunday through Thursday) and only use 325 points per night – a savings of about 10% per night.
Since each property has its own exchange chart, you need to dig through to see the various potential savings. The key is that most mid-week stays (Sunday through Thursday) are significantly cheaper in points requirements that staying a full week or during the weekend.
Here is the link to the Marriott Vacation Club charts.
Timeshare and Points Strategy
As I have mentioned before, I am an avid fan of travel points and have tons of frequent flyer miles, hotel loyalty points and exchange credit card points. For those of you that are familiar with this, you realize that there is a tremendous value in obtaining these types of points and determining how to maximize their use.
Like these types of loyalty points, timeshare points systems are similar in that there are ways to maximize them if you understand the exchange charts. As shown above, some of the easiest ways to maximize timeshare points is to use points during mid-week stays (Sunday through Thursday).
Depending on the program and depending on the resort, traveling on these times can produce a significant savings on points and can turn your one week of timeshare ownership into multiple weeks of travel.
Like most people, I am sure that you are thinking that while it may be cheaper, no one travels mid-week as most people would want to take advantage of two weekends so that they only have to use 5 days of vacation for a 9-day trip.
The way that I use a lot of my timeshare points is to book them for a 4-night stay and use my hotel loyalty points for the weekend portions. Most hotel loyalty programs do not change the points requirements for staying over a weekend as opposed to staying on a Monday night.
Therefore, in order to maximize both types of programs, I use my hotel points for weekend travel and my timeshare points for weekday travel. This can be a great way to maximize both types of programs and can be great for those types of travelers who either do not like to travel for a full week at a time or prefer to stay in different hotels / locations.
My favorite way to use this strategy is for ski trips. I can book a Saturday night stay at a hotel and then book a four-night mid-week stay using timeshare points. A lot of the timeshare ski properties are ski-in / ski-out and can cost multiple hundreds of dollars per night so using timeshare points for mid-week stays can be very advantageous and literally can save me thousands of dollars.
Without timeshares, most ski trips would simply be prohibitively expensive for me!
Timeshare points systems are very familiar to other popular loyalty systems and both systems, if used correctly, can really stretch the value of your points. The key is to really understand the systems and find the various sweet spots. These sweet spots described above relate to the internal exchanges but there are others when dealing with external exchanges as well.
We'll cover those in later posts!
What are your timeshare sweet spots? Leave your comments below!