Posted on Saturday, 7th December 2013 by

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As a Federal Employee I traveled a lot of miles and earned points at Hilton and Marriott hotels. One evening, while minding my own business, I received a call from Hilton Honors with a great deal, three free nights at a Hilton Grand Vacations Club (HGVC) Resort in Las Vegas.  All I had to do was attend a one hour presentation for their new Resort on the Strip in Las Vegas.  Well, I hadn’t been to Las Vegas in twelve years and I had been planning to go just to see Celine Dionne at Caesar’s Palace.  I took advantage of their generous offer and planned a cool January visit. In addition to Celine we saw O at the Bellagio as well. The HGVC property was beautiful, off the strip so it was quiet and it felt like home.  The kitchen was fully equipped with beautiful cabinets, granite counters and included free Wi-Fi and a Jacuzzi tub to relax in after a long day.  It had a beautiful living room complete with a balcony and large flat screen TVs in the living and bedroom. We used the tram to travel around the strip.

The presentation at the Hilton club resort on the Strip certainly took more than one hour but it did entice me to consider buying into their club.  While I wasn’t ready to commit during that visit they offered an Introduction Package which consisted of a one week stay at any of their club properties. After attending a presentation at the club property, if you decided to buy, the cost of the Introduction Program Package would be applied to your club purchase.  The Intro Program Package made sense and I was getting something for my money. I used the Intro Program deal to visit their Club at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. That sold me!

I’ve been a Hilton Grand Vacations Club member for nearly 7 years now.  If you asked me how I like it; my answer would be that I wouldn’t buy it if I could go back in time.  However, I’m also not willing to sell or give it up. It would have been more cost effective had I purchased the time share from a club member on the resale market.  I’ll explain that later.

I earn 6300 points every 12 months that equals a one week stay in my home property, Kingsland on the Big Island. I do have flexibility to carry points over to the next year and then use my points for a two week vacation or more depending on the property I chose to vacation at. I can borrow from the next year to enjoy a longer stay or I can convert my HGVC points to RCI points.  RCI, a worldwide time share organization, will then give me a two year window in which to use those converted points.  When I call HGVC to book a RCI vacation club stay they are very good about letting you know the condition of the property, such as it’s in need of updating or HGVC members weren’t satisfied with the location or had problems at that property.  They will also tell you about the best RCI properties for the area where you are planning to vacation.

But here’s the best part of that decision to buy. The purchase of the Club membership does exactly what I was hoping it would do when I made the purchase.  It pushes me to go someplace special for a couple of weeks at least once every year or two.  It also allows me to invite friends to join me.  They save the cost of a hotel and we all stay in a Resort that I would never pay to stay at if I weren’t a member.

How the Club Point System Works

The Marriott Resort Club, from talking to members, operates similar to the Hilton Grand Vacation Club.  The following information may help you in considering either HGVC or a Marriott Club membership, or at the very least provide information that will help you ask questions prior to making a purchase decision.

The clubs operate on a point system that is determined by the property you are purchasing a week of time at. My one week on the big island of Hawaii is valued at 6300 points each year. It’s not a beach property, its near golf courses, but you have shuttle service and access to the Waikoloa HGVC resort and the beach at that resort.  Kingsland is one of their premier properties so my annual point allowance is higher than other HGVC resort properties.  That means I can spend one week at Kingsland or I can stay for nearly 2 weeks at many of their other Club properties in Florida or Las Vegas, if I plan ahead.

The other benefit of the Club Point plans at Hilton and Marriott is their agreement with RCI.  You exchange your club points for RCI points for a fee, so that you can vacation at any RCI resort property.  This was an option that I liked and had a lot to do with my decision to buy.  But it’s not as easy to stay where you want, when you want with RCI.  It’s best to look in advance at availability before exchanging club points for RCI points. Make sure they have lots of vacancies where and when you want to go before completing that exchange.

About the fees:

  1. There are reservation fees except for your home property week. 
  2. It’s cheaper to book yourself online. Currently Hilton charges $49.
  3. There are also exchange fees to turn your Hilton club points to RCI points, $169.  In addition, you will be charged a fee to book a stay at an RCI property, another $169.  But, having that option is worth it for a nice property.
  4. You can change your HGVC points into Hilton Honors points but this isn’t a good deal. Use it only if you have small balance left.

Initial Cost and Annual Fees

The initial cost for club properties can be quite high, often $20,000 or more for one week ownership and there are annual fees.  You will pay club fees, real estate tax, maintenance costs, etc.  The initial annual fees may sound reasonable but they can go up annually and my experience has been that it’s rare that they don’t increase.  HGVC properties in Florida and Las Vegas have lower purchase prices and lower annual fees than their Hawaiian properties. HGVC has enough flexibility to allow you to plan ahead on how to use your points in a way that makes sense for you.

Do some cost comparisons before making a purchase.  For example, a room at one of the HGVC resorts costs between $329 and $349 per night plus tax it adds up to between $2600 and $2800.  You can save around $40 a night by paying for your entire stay in advance when booking.  The weekly rate is approximately twice the annual maintenance fee. Basically your upfront cost of $20,000 plus the annual fees would result in breaking even over approximately a 15 year period.  At this time the only club property that requires room tax and parking fees from your weekly stay is in Hawaii.  The tax is around $5 a day and parking around $25.

If You have your favorite place to vacation and go there every year, then a time share may be a good choice for you.

Here’s what I would do differently.  I would have opted out during my one week to change my mind, which is required when buying in Hawaii by state law.  Then I would have shopped for a HGVC property being sold by a current owner. While the property points for Hilton and Marriott resort club properties can be sold, like any other time share, they do hold more value better than most time shares. Your ownership period with Hilton is permanent and is transferable at a cost similar to home buying, meaning lots of paperwork and transfer fees, taxes etc. 

Buying someone else’s Club Membership will save you money on the initial cost, likely 50% of the original purchase price or less.  On the downside, you may not understand how it works unless you attended a presentation at a Club Resort in advance or find a chat room to discuss these timeshare options and the fees involved for reservations, saving points from one year to the next, or converting points you can’t use within their expiration time frame. Ask the seller if they have a recent Club Membership book that you can look at before making a purchase.  The book will explain all your options for using your annual Club points.

Before finalizing your purchase read the contract carefully to make sure you won’t be charged additional fees by the timeshare company to change property ownership. In some cases the owner is required to sell the property back to the company if selling within a specific time frame after making your initial purchase.

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The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances. Travel policies and packages are subject to change without notice. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact travel providers and hotels at the time of your bookings to confirm pricing, itinerary, and all costs. The comments and observations are limited to the author’s personal experience and your results may vary significantly. This article and replies to comments are not intended to substitute for professional travel services. Our reply is time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change.

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