Those who know me well already know I’m obsessed with earning points and miles. My wife and I have traveled far and wide — and gotten some pretty sweet rewards from the best travel rewards credit cards.
In addition to making the most of our credit card points and miles, my wife and I like to seek out and attend timeshare presentations as a way to maximize our travel experiences (and get free stuff). The presentations are not as bad as they may seem to sit through — we’ve come away with some pretty sweet things.
In fact, a lot of major hotel chains have timeshare properties, and it’s pretty normal for these chains to offer incentives to people like you and me to attend presentations and listen to sales pitches.
Intrigued? Let’s take a look at what timeshares are and how they work, what you can earn by attending a timeshare presentation, how to get invited to a timeshare presentation, and how to make the experience worth it.
- What is a timeshare, and how do they work?
- What happens at a timeshare presentation?
- Gifts you can earn from attending a timeshare presentation
- How to get invited to a timeshare presentation
- Hotels that offer timeshares
- How to decide if a timeshare is right for you
- Why a timeshare may not be right for you
- Bottom line
What is a timeshare, and how do they work?
A timeshare is shared ownership of vacation real estate. For example, multiple people might own 1-week increments of a vacation condo near Disney World in Orlando. Some timeshare programs allow you to lease the property for a period (usually several years) without actually owning it.
A timeshare can be located in a resort, condo, apartment building, or campground, just to name a few. Owning a timeshare guarantees you that amount of time each year in the property you own.
Many timeshare programs work on a point system, which allows you more flexibility to choose when and where you go, rather than being locked into one property for a specific week of the year. For example, instead of going to that condo in Orlando for a week, you could use the points for a week in an apartment in Las Vegas.
What happens at a timeshare presentation?
At a timeshare presentation, it will typically start with a check-in to confirm you attended. There will likely be refreshments, and the sales pitch will start with a video.
After that, you'll sit down with a sales rep who will do a timeshare sales pitch that includes information about the property, location, and amenities. If you’re buying into a company that allows you to use your allotment for multiple properties, you’ll learn more about the types of properties the company owns.
And, of course, they'll sell you on the idea that timeshare ownership will save you money over booking hotels. Keep in mind that these are timeshare sales professionals who know sales tactics in and out. You might find the sales presentation more compelling than you expected. If you walked in not wanting to buy, it's likely best to walk away.
The company will likely offer an incentive or discount if you sign up for the timeshare on the spot. That doesn’t mean you should. You could negotiate for a better offer or simply walk away, especially if they're doing a high-pressure sales pitch. If the main reason you’re attending is to get the incentive for attending, then you’ve fulfilled your obligations by attending.
If you find yourself interested, keep in mind that you don’t need to decide right then and there. If you don’t already have a spending plan in mind, walk away and take more time to crunch the numbers and make sure the timeshare fits into your budget and your vacation plans for years to come.
Gifts you can earn from attending a timeshare presentation
Even if you don’t sign up for a timeshare (I never have), the incentives offered can totally be worth your while. These can include cash, points for hotel loyalty programs, free passes (like Disney), and free or heavily discounted rates on hotel stays, which can essentially amount to a free vacation. What’s more, you may be able to combine incentives — think points plus a discount for a hotel stay to attend one presentation.
Here are a few examples of the perks you get:
- Stay in a villa studio in Hawaii, receive points for the hotel’s rewards program, and even get to do free activities on site. This could include dining credits, sightseeing tours (yes, it could be on a sailboat), a car rental voucher, and luau tickets.
- Head to Orlando and not only will you get discounts on resorts or special accommodation packages, you could get Disney FastPass+ and even free tickets to Disney World itself.
- Some timeshare presentations in Las Vegas offer discounted hotel stays, vacation certificates, resort credits, and even free concert or show tickets.
I don’t know about you, but all of these incentives sound pretty good to me — that is, if you’re willing to sit through a hard sales pitch. If you are, let’s move onto how you can get invited to one.
How to get invited to a timeshare presentation
You may have already been invited to a timeshare presentation — maybe you received a phone call or a promotional offer in the mail. In some cases, you’ll get an offer in your email inbox just because you’re a member of a hotel’s loyalty program.
But if you’re impatient like me and hate waiting, here are a few ways to get yourself invited to a timeshare presentation.
Approach timeshare reps when you reach your destination
Also known as taking advantage of an on-site offer, approaching timeshare reps is a great way to get an invite. What salesperson wouldn’t want a potential customer walking up to them without any effort on their part?
Don’t worry. Once you arrive at your timeshare destination, there should be no shortage of reps, especially if it’s a touristy destination. All you need to do is approach a rep and express an interest in attending a timeshare offer.
This is important, though: Confirm what the incentive to attend will be before you agree to go to the presentation — some of the best points offers or other desirable perks are earned by going this route.
Reach out to the timeshare department ahead of time
If you want to make sure you’re guaranteed a timeshare presentation with incentives, you can call ahead — ask to be put through to the timeshare department. Again, this just makes getting you in as a potential customer easier for reps, so they’re going to take you up on it.
Of course, just because you commit to attending a presentation doesn’t mean you have to buy anything. It’s OK to earn your incentive and walk away.
Get referred by a timeshare owner
Do you happen to know anyone who owns a timeshare? If so, ask that person to refer you. It doesn’t have to be the timeshare they bought into — it could be somewhere else within the company’s timeshare portfolio. For example, if your friend is a timeshare owner at Club Wyndham’s Shawnee Village, they could refer you to a presentation at any Wyndham timeshare property.
Making timeshare presentations worth it
We polled members of the FBZ Elite Travel and Points Facebook group on whether they would sit through a four-hour presentation to get 45,000 Wyndham points. Most people said no, that their time was more valuable.
One commenter, Elana S., said it best:
I need to work for 1.7 weeks in order to earn my PTO (paid time off) for 4 hrs that turn into 5-6. On the other hand, I need to work 0.2-0.4 week to cover the cost of the future nights this presentation gives me. Mathematically, it doesn't make much sense. My PTOs are hard earned and I have to jump through hoops to secure my vacation due to the nature of my job. My time is more valuable than money.
That’s totally fair. And, yes, time is more valuable than money. However, there are ways to make these presentations worth it — or else I wouldn’t have attended a few of these in the first place.
If you do attend one, do your research. Typically the big players — most major hotel chains — offer the best incentives and are the least likely to be scams. When getting an offer, don’t be afraid to negotiate your incentive or gift. Seriously.
Think about it: As Elana said, you’re trading your precious time to attend a sales pitch (that you may want to nap through). So don’t feel nervous about asking for a bigger incentive that will make it work for you, like asking for a Visa gift card instead of rewards points.
Whatever you’re negotiating for, make sure you’re getting the most value out of your commitment.
Hotels that offer timeshares
- Choice Hotels
- Choice’s timeshare partner is Bluegreen Vacations, and it has 71 resorts in many destinations, including Orlando, Florida; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
- Hilton Grand Vacations is Hilton’s timeshare brand, and there are resorts in a variety destinations, including Hawaii, the Smoky Mountains, and on the Las Vegas Strip.
- Hyatt’s timeshare brand is called Hyatt Residence Club, and it has resorts in many different destinations, including Puerto Rico, Lake Tahoe, and Key West, Florida.
- IHG’s timeshare brand is Holiday Inn Club Vacations, with resorts at domestic and international destinations, including Orlando; Cancun, Mexico; and Sheridan, Illinois.
- Marriott Vacation Club is Marriott’s timeshare brand, and it offers more than 1,000 resort locations, including Maui, Hawaii; Bali, Indonesia; and Aruba.
- Club Wyndham is Wyndham’s timeshare partner and has over 45 destinations in myriad resort locations, including Taos, New Mexico; Branson, Missouri; and San Antonio, Texas.
- Disney Vacation Club
- Disney Vacation Club offers stays at Disney-branded resorts around the world, including those near Disney theme parks.
How to decide if a timeshare is right for you
If you’re tempted by a timeshare company's presentation, here’s how to decide if it’s right for you:
- Consider your travel habits. If you tend to visit the same place every year, or if the timeshare offers flexibility that makes sense for you, a timeshare purchase might be a good investment.
- Look at the costs. Make sure you understand all of the fees associated with owning a timeshare, including annual maintenance fees and property taxes.
- Think about your long-term plans. If you’re not sure where you’ll be in 5 or 10 years, it might not make sense to invest in a timeshare.
- Research the company and the property. Make sure you’re comfortable with the company’s reputation and the location of the property.
- Talk to other owners. Ask other timeshare owners about their experiences to get an idea of what owning a timeshare is really like.
- Consider the resale market. If you're really interested, you might find a better price on the resale market rather than buying directly from the timeshare salesperson.
Why a timeshare may not be right for you
A timeshare definitely isn’t a good fit for everyone, so it may be best to walk away from the presentation. Here are a few reasons why.
- High upfront costs. Timeshares can be expensive to purchase, and many require a large down payment.
- Ongoing fees. In addition to the initial purchase price, timeshare owners are typically responsible for ongoing maintenance fees and property taxes.
- Limited flexibility. Timeshares are often located in specific destinations and may only be available during certain weeks of the year.
- Difficulty reselling. It can be difficult to sell a timeshare if you decide you no longer want it.
Attending timeshare presentations isn’t for everyone. But if you’re interested in discounted (or even free) trips and incentives like free points and cash, showing up could be worth it.
Make sure you have a game plan before you attend — will you be open-minded to the sales pitch, or are you dead set on saying no? Whatever you do, don’t feel pressured to make a purchase you’re not ready for — it’s OK to take their incentives and walk away. If you decide the timeshare approach isn't for you, you can still get free perks and rewards by using one of the best travel credit cards to book your trips.
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