Posted by William Charles on July 26, 2017
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Published on July 26th, 2017 | by William Charles

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Timeshare Strategies

This is a guest post written by The Timeshare Guru. He has previously written ‘Economics of Owning A Timeshare‘ ‘Benefits Of Owning A Timeshare‘, ‘Complete Guide To Renting Timeshare Properties On The Cheap‘ & ‘An Introduction To Timeshare Offers‘. If you like those posts or this post please check out his site. 

All timeshares are not created equal and strategies are essential when purchasing and using a timeshare. In this post, I thought I would explore some general timeshare strategies. By having a general strategy outlined, you can better choose which timeshare can be the most economically beneficial and in line with your vacation and planning style. If you want to actually own a timeshare, you should thoroughly understand how that timeshare week or points correlates with the following strategies. But remember, TIMESHARES ARE NOT FOR EVERYONE! My goal is to allow readers to understand timeshares and make their own independent decision. They definitely have plenty of flaws but they can and do work for many.

Buy And Use

When timeshares first were developed, they were based on the standard system that most people equate with timeshares. Buy a specific week at a specific resort and use that week year after year. Some people like going to the same destination and the same resort year after year so if this is something that you enjoy, you can simply buy a specific week at the resort that you want to travel to. Depending on the initial upfront cost and ongoing maintenance fees, ownership may work out to be less expensive if you have been accustomed to paying cash for that particular week.

For example, if you have school aged children and you know you will be traveling over Christmas or Spring Break for the next 15 or so years, purchasing that particular week may be beneficial. Exchanging into the same week or same year after year is definitely not guaranteed and can be challenging. This is not my vacation style as I generally prefer to never go to the same resort or destination twice but many people travel go to the same place year after year. Depending on the economics, this can be a real strategy but you should definitely do the math before committing.

Buy And Use For Internal Trading

As I have briefly mentioned in some other posts, most timeshares can exchange through two different systems, the internal trading system and the external trading system. Internal trading is when you own a specific timeshare brand and trade through their internal system. For example, if you own a Marriott, which is now a points based system, you can use their internal system to trade for other Marriott properties. With Marriott, each property has its own exchange/point grid so depending on the amount of points you own, you can then use those points to trade within the Marriott family.

Most timeshare brands have an internal system where you can trade into other properties. Most, if not all of the major timeshares, Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Wyndham, etc., each have an internal trading system where you can exchange into their family/brand of timeshares. Internal trading can be very beneficial depending on where and when you want to travel. If you are not stuck on school schedules or prefer to travel in low or shoulder seasons, the internal trading charts for many of the points based systems can be beneficial. In other posts, I will do a review of some of these sweet spots in the internal exchange systems.

One other major benefit to internal trading is that most internal systems generally allow you to book vacations for less than 7 days whereas external exchanges are generally for 7 nights. Each system is different but some allow you to book 1-night stays while others require you to book 2,3,4 or 7 nights. The amount of points generally differ if you want to stay over a Friday or Saturday night or if you wanted to stay during the week with weekend nights being more expensive than weekday.

Buy And Use For External Trading

In my opinion, one of the best ways to maximize timeshares is through the use of external trading. This is generally how I use most of my timeshares. External trading basically is when you use your timeshare to exchange through the exchange companies – Interval International or RCI. Each timeshare is usually affiliated with either Interval International or RCI.

You need to know the exchange company affiliation prior to purchasing as you want to make sure that there are quality resorts where you want to travel and the various options.

With external trading, there are generally two systems – trading your week or trading your points

External trading – week based systems

If you have a timeshare that does not have a points component, you generally can exchange your one week for another week through the exchange companies. For example, if you own a 1 bedroom, you can generally exchange that one week in a 1-bedroom to another 1-bedroom unit.

If you are on a week based system, you need to understand “lock-offs”. Basically, the way that many timeshares are configured are that they are sold as 2 bedrooms which really consist of a 1 bedroom and as studio unit. This is not all 2-bedroom units so you need to know if it is a lock-off. If it is a lock-off, you can essentially close one door to create a 1 bedroom and a studio. The benefit to having a lock-off is that you can trade your 2-bedroom week for a 1 bedroom and a studio – getting two weeks out of your one timeshare week.

External trading – points based systems

As indicated previously, if you own timeshare that is a points based system, you are generally allocated a certain amount of points. You can use those points to exchange internally or externally.
When you exchange externally, there are different charts that show you have many points are needed to exchange through the external exchange companies. I personally think that this strategy is one of the best ways to maximize timeshare ownership since there can be various sweet spots in the external exchanges. This will highly depend on what you own and the chart provided by the specific timeshare.

I did a review on how Marriott, Hyatt and Vistana (Starwood properties) trade through Interval International found here.  Instead of going through this type of analysis again, I thought the above post would be a good overview.
External trading can be very beneficial but this strategy is probably not the best for those who vacation for 7 days or less. External exchanges are generally for 1 week. Interval International does have short-stay exchanges where you can exchange for less than 7 nights but the exchange rates are generally not as beneficial as exchanging for 1 week.

Conclusion

While there are many issues with timeshares, one of the main issues is that most timeshare owners do not have a good understanding of the ins and outs of each program when they purchase. As a result, they can be disgruntled with timeshares since they broad promises guaranteed during the initial purchase generally end up not being true. Having a timeshare strategy based on how and when you travel can help you assess the various programs and determine if timeshare ownership can make sense and if so, what program, brand, size of unit, season, week or points, is the most beneficial.

These strategies are not mutually exclusive but when assessing a specific timeshare, you should do an analysis of how that particular timeshare can work with the various strategies above. For example, if you own a specific week, you need to determine whether you would actually use that week in some years should exchanging not work out properly. If you are on points, you should see if the internal system has any sweet spots and make sure that you have enough points to be able to use at a destination and resort that you would like to travel. Some resorts only have 2 bedroom units so if you do not have enough points, you will not be able to visit that type of resort.

Finally, you need know what exchange company that particular timeshare uses so you can make sure that there are high quality resorts in desirable locations and the amount of points needed per week and for what size unit.
What do you think of these strategies? Do you use any strategies not mentioned? Thanks again to Will and Doctor of Credit for the continued support.

Note from Will: Big thanks again to The Time Share Guru for this series of posts. If you haven’t already, check out their site.



24 Responses to Timeshare Strategies

  1. Judah Ross says:

    Another great article on timeshares. I love this series, keep the good content coming.

  2. Mimi says:

    A strategy that works for us without buying TS is to offer to buy from our friends and relatives who can’t/won’t use their vacation week(s) for whatever reasons. They gladly accept the cash, book the vacation for us and we enjoy all the amenities without thinking of maintenance fees. We’ve done it a couple of times and it’s a win-win strategy for both sides.

  3. Treesha says:

    The problem with external exchanges is 1) you pay an annual fee ~$100 to be a member of the exchange (whether or not you actually use it), 2) there is an exchange fee of ~$200 that is nonrefundable when you make a request and 3) no cancellation policy and you’re stuck if things in your life change. Life is too unpredictable for me to make that wager, so I prefer hotels with lenient cancellation policies.

  4. Blue says:

    How often do properties cycle in and out of the exchanges? I can see that being a big potential risk for a perpetual investment.

    • I do not think that this happens very frequently. This can happen with independent timeshares but I have not seen or heard many issues with resorts changing affiliations.

      Also, Interval International owns the Vistana timeshares (Starwood) and the Hyatt timeshares so there is little risk that those would change.

      Wyndham owns RCI so there is also little chance that those would change.

  5. Duderino says:

    This timeshare series is interesting. I would love to see a post or two about gaming the timeshare presentation. Things like strategy, good places to go, how to sign up, etc. Keep up the good work folks!

    • This is on the horizon and something I am pushing for :). TSG has some other posts in the works but it’s definitely coming.

    • I’ll see what I can do to accommodate!

    • Charles says:

      The SO and I have done two timeshare presentations for discounts/free nights. IMHO it isn’t worth it and is easier to get the the same/more value through bank bonuses or CC signups – which are a lot less work. Most timeshare presentations are a minimum of 2 hours plus travel time and require your SO to attend as well (if applicable). They are also likely in the middle of the day since the salespeople are working to 9 to 5.

      • John Stewart says:

        You can certainly do BOTH. I’ve got 4.5 million points, but still find uses for 4-6 TS weeks a year.

  6. Mike says:

    This timeshare crap is worthless

  7. Traveller Tom says:

    Can you do a post on how to get out of your timeshare. How to sell, reputable timeshare resellers (if there are any!!). Foreclosure and what impact that will have on your credit. Closing costs (seller is responsible), who can help close a sale. Also I heard that heirs to your estate are also stuck with the timeshare and the annual fees!

    • John Stewart says:

      I have turned back 2 and my kids have turned back, donated, or just walked away from the 4 of the TSs I gave them.

      Some of these were just flat “I’m not going to pay maintenance fees anymore, let me know if you want me to sign anything.”
      Nothing ever showed up on a credit report. YMMV!

      I had 14 weeks, at one time, which I’ve sold or given away, to get down to 2 resorts, which I space bank with RCI Points.

      We travel off season, when RCI discounts the points costs, and get great deals, but we prefer a different resort/location, if possible. My 2 weeks generate 6-7 weeks on short notice.

      We still use my hotel and air miles and never pay for a vacation. TS is just another way, but not for the uneducated or timid 😉

      • John Stewart says:

        I might note, that I traded my labor for all my timeshares and owned them free and clear.

        If you actually paid for a TS (bad idea!), and have a balance outstanding, I’ll bet that goes on your credit report.

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