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Owners Travel

Timeshare Points – Everything You Need to Know

Looking to level up your ownership experience? Upgrading your ownership arrangement to a timeshare points system offers increased booking flexibility and experiential travel (with some catches).

Sam Clegg - Jun 12, 2020

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If you’re currently a timeshare owner, chances are you either own points with your brand or have heard that your brand has started offering them. So when you are invited to a presentation focused on timeshare points, you may feel that you’re already in the know.

However, timeshare is constantly evolving. Major brands are becoming ever more dynamic in their offerings, there may be recent changes or new features to your brand’s points system. A timeshare presentation tailored around points can provide insight – as long as you keep your eye on the fine print.

The History of Timeshare Points

Timeshare points date back to the 70s in the US. In 1974, Vacation International established the first US points program. In that same period, exchange companies RCI and Interval International opened for business, and in 1981, the concept of floating weeks was introduced to the industry. All of these new routes of timeshare travel offered increased flexibility to owners. 

Points-based programs began to greatly accelerate in the 90s, and now many major resort brands – like Disney, Hilton, and Marriott – offer their own versions of timeshare ownership via points. Some vacation clubs solely sell points now.

Timeshare Points 101

Timeshare points work like currency. Though the details differ amongst vacation clubs, in general, timeshare points allow owners flexibility in the duration of their stays. Points give you the opportunity to explore destinations across the globe, and can be applied for bookings beyond villas, such as culinary tours, cruises, and nature excursions.

The flexibility of points has strong appeal to travelers seeking increased flexibility, and timeshare companies are taking notice. Brands that originally offered points are increasing the diversity of their offerings, while brands that were originally weeks-based (such as Marriott Vacation Club) are transitioning to points-based systems. 

This is a major shift, and it isn’t without its share of controversy. Some weeks-based owners have expressed concern that the transition to points gave them less value than their original ownership. Some examples:

  • Weeks owners aren’t always guaranteed a full week on points. 
  • In upgrading to points, owners at some brands access flexibility, but give up their deeds. This may not seem like something to worry about but there are often significant benefits to deeds, such as the ability to sell, rent, or pass on your ownership. 
  • Certain brands may be able to increase the points value necessary to check in at a given resort/unit/season. If switching to points, make sure to do your homework and confirm that your vacation sweet spot will be in reach (given the amount of points you own) 5 years from now.

Points give you the opportunity to explore destinations across the globe, and can be applied for bookings beyond villas, such as culinary tours, cruises, and nature excursions.

However, even with these (significant) caveats, points are undeniably gaining traction. According to a 2018 survey, 41% of timeshare owners also own vacation points. The flexibility of points is an added plus: a 2016 study found that of owners who utilize points, nearly 40% are using them to break up their vacations into 2-4 night stays, rather than a full week.

Points Meet Exchange

Timeshare points can also work in tandem with timeshare exchange. Though there are numerous exchange companies in the industry, RCI and Interval International are the two most prominent ones. You deposit your points to your exchange network, and can then trade them for other bookings.

Essentially, exchange companies offer similar benefits as vacation clubs, but expand your access to destinations beyond your vacation club’s collection. You can bank and borrow points, plus use them for add-ons and excursions, like flights or tours. And you can upgrade to VIP memberships, which unlock additional discounts and travel perks.

There are extra fees to consider when working with exchange companies, such as memberships or even the exchanges themselves. And your bookings may require extensive planning. But exchanging your timeshare points can open up a world of new booking opportunities. For more info, check out our full guide to timeshare exchange here. 

Points can Unlock Amazing Trips – If You Know the Ins and Outs

Hospitality brands are becoming more and more aware of what inspires travelers: authentic experiences and meaningful connections. And in turn, timeshares are evolving, from their interior design to on-site amenities and excursions (think wellness spas, dining experiences, or rustic retreats instead of condo-style suites). 

Major brands have honed in to this momentum with their points-based arrangements. At Marriott, for example, owners can utilize their points towards the Explorer Collection and adventures like snorkeling in Thailand or journeying down the Amazon. And the Wyndham Rewards Program includes access to thousands of resorts and immersive experiences, from food tours in London to helicopter flights in Hawaii. 

Essentially, it’s a matter of balancing the flexibility of points with the uncertainty (or built-in catches) of your points system. When talking to your brand representative, make sure you get a picture not only of the advantages to points but the downsides.

Timeshare Points: the Pros, the Cons (and Everything Between)

We’ve already gone into detail on a few issues that owners have mentioned with their points systems. However, there are hurdles to be aware of if you want to hack the system to get the most out of your points.

First, there’s availability. Dynamic destinations with fascinating excursions are certainly very appealing, but if you’re interested in such deals (we’re guessing that’s why you’re here!) you’ll need to book them far in advance – as in a year or even more. High-demand seasons or locales will naturally require more points and will get booked up lightning-fast.

Timeshares are evolving, from their interior design to on-site amenities and excursions (think wellness spas, dining experiences, or rustic retreats instead of condo-style suites)

Then there are the fees. Points, like weeks, can be banked towards the following year, borrowed from the following year, or even rented out. Just like a weeks-based ownership, points also include maintenance fees. Unused points can also expire (the details of expiration will vary among vacation clubs), and there may be additional fees to move your points to the next year or extend their expiration date. 

In essence, points open a world of travel gains but can be a lot to manage. With this in mind, you’ll need to weigh the stability of a secured week at your home resort each year versus the organization and planning required to navigate a points-based system.

A Productive Presentation

As for the presentation itself, expect a similar format to others you’ve attended. (If you’ve never attended an official timeshare presentation before, here’s a helpful overview.) Your agent can guide you through the process of converting your current ownership to points. Just remember: you’ll always be your own best advocate! Think of potential ways you can see yourself using your points and discuss specifically how this would work (or not work) with your sales agent.

As with any timeshare presentation, remember that you are in no way obligated to sign any paperwork by the end of your session. Explore your resort’s points-based offerings and see if upgrading to points is a travel decision that can elevate your timeshare experience!

How Do Timeshare Points Work for Rentals?

If you travel with points, you can create a rental listing on KOALA just like a fixed or floating week owner can – as long as it’s locked into what we call reserved time. That means that before you list with KOALA, you have to confirm a reservation at a specific resort for a specific date range.  

We seek to provide a seamless booking experience for our travel community. Through reserved time, travelers have confidence in knowing exactly what it is that they’re booking, as opposed to juggling reservations and correspondence with the resort themselves. Find out more about our reserved time policy here.

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