Are timeshares still about timeshares?

Are timeshares still about timeshares?

I was talking to a friend recently, who owns a fair amount of timeshare points. She said "Timeshares aren't really about timeshares anymore. It's now about your entire travel experience."

What does that mean? Is it true? Is it a good thing for timeshare owners?

airplane wing Is this what timeshares are about these days?

Here's the pitch

At my friend's latest owner update, the salesman was pushing this concept...

Rather than focusing on the timeshare itself, think of the company as your sole travel provider -- your points can give you so much more than just timeshare accommodations. You can book your plane tickets with points, or hotel stays, or cruises, etc. It's like a one stop shop for all things travel related.

What's more, this such a good deal that it would be foolish not to take advantage of this opportunity! You could be paying $0.14/point in maintenance fees, and getting a value of $0.30/point when you use these for hotels. Sounds like a no-brainer, right?

That's the gist of the sales pitch. What do you think? Here's my take on it...

Smart move from the company's standpoint

From the company's perspective, this seems like a great idea!

  • Existing owners buy more points. They can sell you more points, even if you don't want to take any more timeshare vacations. Surely there are other travel expenses you'll have, so why not buy more points for those, too?


  • On-going revenue stream. Once you buy the points, they've locked in that extra revenue for years to come. If you buy a plane ticket from American Airlines, the airline only gets your money that one time, but if you buy points to use for airfare, the timeshare company gets that money year after year.
  • More attractive sales proposition. Providing more options makes a purchase seem more attractive. A potential buyer can see a whole range of possibilities, rather than one narrow avenue to use their points. Everything the company can add to the mix to make their offering more attractive could increase sales.
  • Rental income. Let's say a company has a billion timeshare points outstanding, which are tied to a corresponding amount of timeshare inventory. Now let's say that 10% of these points are never used to actually stay at a timeshare, but instead owners use them for airplane tickets etc. What happens to that 10% of the inventory? Could they rent it out for additional revenue?

What about the owner's perspective?

First of all, I'd like to say that I'm in favor of anything that gives timeshare owners more options. So I think it's great that a company wants to give you more choices. But...

The real question is -- should you buy more points for this reason? Should you use points for your entire travel experience?
Woman thinking What could this mean for YOU?

* Advantages *

  • Potential savings. You could get a good deal on travel purchases by using your points this way. I put this one as "potential" savings, because unless you shop around, you don't really know what kind of a deal you're getting. Paying $0.14 for $0.30 worth of value sounds good in principle, but often there are discounts on hotels or airfare available through other channels that could be competitive.
  • Simplicity. You get a one stop shop. This is probably appealing for many people, though it doesn't work for me. I prefer to do my own shopping around, and don't feel like I'm getting the best deal unless I've done that research myself.
  • More options. If you have more points than you need for your timeshare vacations, this gives you another way to use them. That's GOOD! Now hopefully you don't own more points than you need on a regular basis, but we all know sometimes things come up to prevent taking the vacation you want. If that happens, it's nice to have more options for how to use those points.

* Disadvantages *

  • The missing $$. This "no brainer" deal doesn't include the purchase price! It's looking only at the annual maintenance fees, not the substantial buy-in price. That changes the economics considerably.
    .

    It reminds me of the line in some timeshare sales presentations where they say you get "prepaid vacations for life", conveniently omitting the fact that you still need to pay every year. Make sure to count ALL the costs!

  • Deal may not continue. There's no guarantee how long this deal will continue. There's probably some legalese in the terms and conditions along the lines of "company reserves the right to modify the terms of this program or discontinue it, at the company's sole discretion." Instead of paying a $0.14 fee for $0.30 of value, it could be $0.18 for $0.20 of value next year, or the entire program for hotel stays could be discontinued.
    .

    It's like buying enough points to reach the next membership level, because that will give you free guest certificates, only to discover a year later that they no longer include that benefit. Unfortunately, it's easy for them to discontinue a benefit, but much harder for you to discontinue the fees you pay on those extra points!

  • Locked gate You could be locked in, while they're free to do what they want

  • Many eggs in one basket. If you buy enough points to cover all of your travel needs, that's putting a whole lot of money and trust in one company. What happens when they change ownership, or change their business model, or cancel one or more of the benefits you rely on? You're stuck with the fees, but you may have a significantly different deal.
  • You can't shop around. Well, actually, you can still look around, but you're already locked in to one solution. If you see a super-duper deal on a trip to Bora Bora, available only if you book directly through some other company (i.e. not possible with your timeshare points), then you've got a dilemma.
    .

    You're paying for the points anyway, so do you (a) use your points & pay a higher price for the trip (missing out on the super special), or (b) pay for the points AND buy the outside vacation deal separately, or (c) skip Bora Bora and take some other vacation instead? None of these seem ideal. If you weren't locked into the points, you could just buy the super-duper deal and be on your way to Tahiti.

  • You lose control. When you keep your travel money yourself, you make all the decisions. You decide how much to spend every year, and where to spend it. If you purchase enough points to cover all your travel needs, then you no longer have that level of control. You're locked into paying at least that amount every year, to one particular company.
  • Your expenditures go up every year. About the only thing you can count on for sure here is that your annual fees WILL keep going up every year. You don't know how much airfare those points and dollars will buy you, but you do know you'll be spending more every year, whether you want to or not.

Does this mean timeshares are a bad idea?

Now I know that some of the above points could also be viewed as an argument against timeshares entirely. However, staying in a timeshare unit can be a fundamentally different experience from staying at a hotel. The timeshare itself does provide a product that is differentiated.

However, booking an airplane flight delivers exactly the same product to you, whether you book it with your timeshare points, or use your credit card on Delta.com. There is no differentiation of the product, the only difference is the method to get there.

Bottom line?

Personally, I'd rather stick to buying what's in the contract.

When you buy a timeshare, you're entering a contractual relationship that will be with you for years. You will have an on-going obligation to pay the fees, which can be significant.

On the other side of the contract, what is the company's obligation to you?

What does the contract say? You're obligated to pay $$. What is their obligation?

If you're buying a timeshare in order to have rights to stay at a timeshare, and that's what your contract says, then this all makes sense, right? You pay them money, they give you a timeshare to stay in, and it's all documented in writing.

But if you're buying timeshare points in order to get a good deal on hotel rooms or airfare, then think about it. Does your contract say anything about ensuring that you'll continue to get deals on airfares and hotels?

Your points purchase (and associated fees) will go on for years to come. What if the deal you think you're buying doesn't?

Questions? Comments?

What do you think? Do you use timeshare points for other travel expenses? Is it a good deal for you doing it this way? Let us know in the Reply section below!

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If you're considering buying a timeshare, then extra options like this may make the deal seem more attractive. Before you buy anything, however, it's important to know exactly what you're getting into! A good place to start is with my free Consumer Awareness Guide to Buying a Timeshare. Check it out!
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Hi! I'm Deanna, founder of Winning the Timeshare Game, and author of the books. After running an international tour company, I'm now into the fascinating world of timeshares. I enjoy sharing all the tips I discover, and I'd love to see everyone have as much fun with their timeshares as we do!

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16 Comments

  1. Warren Silvers

    Never could figure if time share was a good deal or bad deal. Using points for air travel is not a good deal as you can book direct with low cosr air lines like Southwest or Frontier. Sites like Hotwire.com lease rental cars at very reasonable rates.
    Most timeshares give a good vacation except for the always present updates (sales presentation)

    • Hi Warren -
      Thanks for your comment! I agree with you assessment that there are often good deals on airfare and rental cars available elsewhere. And as for those sales presentations -- in my book they rank right up there with going to the dentist, but you can usually just avoid them if you're willing to forego whatever perk they're offering.
      Thanks! - Deanna.
      Deanna Keahey recently posted...How RCI Trading Power Protection works

  2. Herman Greene

    If you can use the upper level discount programs for making reservations, using the leftover saved points for other things may make sense. It was my experience that using full cost points generally was not cost effective unless you could not use the points and would loose them.

  3. Donna

    I've had my timeshare for about 11 years. As my life has changed it is no longer cost effective for me to continue to own a timeshare. I saved an old article from you regarding possible methods of relinquishing a timeshare back to the resort. Do you have any new information regarding this? I enjoy your articles immensely!

    • Hi Donna -
      Thanks for your message, and thanks for the good words! I think the article you're referring to is one that I wrote about Diamond Resorts: http://timesharegame.com/get-rid-of-diamond-resorts-timeshare/
      Unfortunately, for Diamond specifically, it is still practically impossible to sell your points, due to their severe restrictions on resale use. If that's what you own, you'll still need to try their relinquishment process to get out of your timeshare. If you own a deeded week at a Diamond property, or own some other sort of timeshare, you may be able to sell it through a timeshare broker, or sell it yourself on eBay or other site.
      Good luck with it! - Deanna.
      Deanna Keahey recently posted...Are timeshares still about timeshares?

  4. JEFFREY W WEIR

    Deanna: very good analysis but obvious point is that TS companies are promoting options to persuade existing owners to upgrade and newbies to buy into the vacation experience. I have not found a single owner who was able to utilize the additional options in a way that was less expensive then securing them independently. All TS companies now acting as travel agencies to provide one-stop shopping.
    Beyond that, flying to Phoenix Friday; we should meet. Jeff 310-801-3479

    • Hi Jeff -
      Thanks for your comment! Yes, the big benefit to the company is to sell more points. It's distressing that this is the direction things are going, while as you report, you haven't found a single owner who's been able to benefit from these options in a cost-effective way. Using a high-pressure approach to get people to spend money on something that doesn't benefit them is not a business model I like to see.
      Sorry I missed you in Phoenix, and thanks again! - Deanna.
      Deanna Keahey recently posted...Interval Gold and Platinum - Are they worth it?

  5. Joanna .

    I am fed up with Timeshare.They never have the Timeshare I need when I need it .You end up having to take what they give you and not what you want and especially in high season.I was told that I must book a year in advance if I need to book anything in July , August or Christmas.
    I had a search on for six months and no timeshare was found .I agree with all you have said .
    One question I would like to ask and that is , has Timeshare reached its sell by date ?????? . With all that is out there these days. So many on line Company's .I would love to have your openion.

    • Hi Joanna -
      I'm sorry to hear that you haven't been able to get the timeshare vacations you want. High season and holidays are always hard to book. There are things you can do to improve your odds, but the fact is that demand is much higher than supply for peak times, and so there will always be people who are disappointed.

      I still feel that timeshares can offer good vacation experiences, but with the high prices and lack of a resale market, people who pay retail prices are going to have a really hard time making the numbers work in their favor financially. If you can buy a bargain resale timeshare, then it can make a lot more sense financially.

      Even then, whether you can get what you want on vacation will depend on what you own, what you want, and how you play the game. It is definitely simpler to just rent something on VRBO or AirBnB, though there's less certainty about the quality of accommodation you'll get than staying with a timeshare company you know.
      Thanks for your comments! - Deanna.
      Deanna Keahey recently posted...RCI Changes their Combine Deposits feature

  6. Arlene

    Is it worth it to join Marriotts rewards program instead of interval?

    • Hi Arlene -

      Thanks for your question! These two things are very different.
      - With Marriott Rewards, you can get points from your Marriott timeshare, hotel stays, credit card, etc, and then use those for hotel nights at Marriott properties, room upgrades, etc.
      - With Interval, you exchange your timeshare (could be Marriott or other) for a stay at a different timeshare resort, including many resorts which are not part of Marriott at all.

      Hope that helps! - Deanna.
      Deanna Keahey recently posted...Are timeshares still about timeshares?

  7. Bonnie OConnell

    My husband and I own two timeshares that we bought years ago as weeks. Recently we were invited to a presentation where we were offered the opportunity to "get rid of" our timeshare and buy into a points program. It would only cost us $6,000.00 to join !! these people said as weeks owners we are only offered a very small part of the inventory and that is why it is so hard for us to exchange. We walked away from this deal. Isn't there some other way to exchange weeks for points ? It is so unfair that the system changed and left many of us in the dust !

    • Hi Bonnie -
      I'd say you did the smart thing by walking away from that deal. There's no guarantee that you'd find any better vacations if you went with the points deal. And would this be worth another $6K? I doubt it.

      Let's say there are 1,000 timeshare owners who own 1,000 weeks. Converting those same people to points doesn't increase the overall inventory. You can split it into "weeks inventory" and "points inventory", but there are still only 1,000 weeks that exist. To me, it seems like it's just a way for companies to get more money from owners, without actually providing any more vacation inventory.
      Thanks for sharing your experiences! - Deanna.
      Deanna Keahey recently posted...Are timeshares still about timeshares?

  8. When you bank your Time Share .What do the Company do with it ?
    Sell it on as extra holidays or sell it to a travel company ? .How many actually go back to time share owners ? ,especially in high season. I would appreciate your thaughts .

    • Hi Joanna -
      That's an excellent question!
      The timeshares that are deposited *should* be made available to other timeshare owners for exchanges. At some point, deposited inventory that's low-demand, off-season, and not picked up for exchanges, always turns up for cheap extra vacations, so that's seems to be the normal process. But as for the high-season, high-demand inventory, can I guarantee that some of that inventory isn't being siphoned off for cash rentals instead? No, I can't.
      I will have to see if I can dig up more answers to write about this in the future. Thanks for the suggestion!
      - Deanna.
      Deanna Keahey recently posted...Timeshare owners win this round...

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