“Ma’am — as a new Hilton Honors member, would you like to experience one of our Grand Vacations properties at a deeply discounted rate in exchange for your attendance to a 2-hour timeshare presentation?”
…Is this a trick question?
Some might be quick to say yes, but since the idea of a timeshare has always been intriguing to me — and I was planning a trip to Vegas anyway — 3 nights in a 1BR mid-strip Condo for $200 sounded right up my alley. I’m in!
There’s a lot of chatter about whether or not these types of presentations are a scam, so based on my firsthand experience at the Hilton Elara mid-strip last month, here’s the deal:
First: The Hilton Grand Vacations Experience
You’re booked for a 3 night (no less, no more) stay in one of the vacation home properties with a special gift unique to that city. In Vegas, the perk was free show tickets and dinner for two.
A personal concierge works to find your perfect room, property and dates, and confirms your booking reservation.
On-site at the Elara property, a push-button projector screen over your floor-to-ceiling windows is personalized by name and a white glove concierge brings your presentation time details to the door.
You’re left to your enjoyment aside from the sales presentation time, when you’re then whisked away in a limo to another property nearby. A bus brings you back on return.
Second: The Hilton Grand Vacations Sales Presentation
Here’s where people get intimidated.
After grabbing a quick “breakfast” of granola bars and office coffee, a one-on-one sales rep brings you to their cubicle for a few questions about your travel habits (looking to establish a need), shows you a brief film in a screening area of happy families galavanting around the world and tours you around some model rooms at the other end of the hotel to build your personal dreams of vacation possibilities.
Then, you’re taken back to the cubicle to run some numbers and find the perfect timeshare fit for you.
Are the sales people pushy? Sure.
Are they any different from the retail people at the mall trying to sell you a credit card since you’re spending so much at their beloved store anyway? Not really — only the discounted room stay is a significantly more valuable perk than 10% off your mall transaction, with no purchase necessary.
If the setting makes you nervous, just be sure to make it clear from the beginning that you don’t have the buying power to support a rolling vacation package (whether you do or not) and a sales person with any kind of training whatsoever will let you on your way.
The Short Answer
In short — is the Hilton Grand Vacations Timeshare Presentation a scam?
Not in the least.
Is it a good investment? That depends on you.
If you’re curious to dive into the details of timeshare ownership (like I was), read on…
What is a Timeshare?
A timeshare is a property deed to a “floating vacation home.” You purchase a percentage of a building and pay annual maintenance fees to offset the cost to the owner (in this case, Hilton). In return, you “own” a certain amount of time at the property each year.
What’s the Deal with Hilton Grand Vacations Club?
Hilton’s program seems pretty flexible. You “deed” at one property and receive “Club Points” for redemption at any of the 65 Hilton Grand Vacations resorts. 3-night minimum; $52 booking fee.
Points can also be converted to “Club Points” or “Hilton HHonors,” Hilton’s normal rewards program, at a conversion of 1 Club Point = 20 HiltonHHonors points. One-night minimum; $76 conversion fee.
How Much Does It Cost?
This much depends on your negotiating skills, the time of month of your presentation (quota life) and current specials. Also, the number of ClubPoints you purchase.
Your projected ClubPoints all personally calculated around estimates of: 1) Your current days per year on vacation, 2) Average hotel cost and 3) Number of future years projected to travel.
The special during my presentation was 7,000 ClubPoints given every other year (so 3,500 annually) for roughly $24,000. Plus closing costs and annual maintenance fees.
It’s described as a 5-year break-even “investment,” and once it’s paid off you continue to receive your points deposits at no additional cost. Except the annual maintenance fees.
What Does That Get Me?
Bookings are made on a tiered point system (similar to Delta Sky Miles rewards), based on size of the room booked and a sliding scale of demand on the dates booking (high season/low season).
As an example, 15,000 ClubPoints would book 89 nights in a studio during low season. Also consider the booking fees, conversion fees and duration of stay minimums.
But Wait… There’s More!
To woo you, “by signing today, we’ll give you a signing bonus of X ClubPoints.” If the idea sounding like a good move at this point, this is where you have the most negotiating power — I got up to 14,000 ClubPoints, or 4 free years of points based on the special.
Of course, there are also bonuses by signing up (today) for the HiltonHonors Amex credit card — which has 0% interest for a year and you can conveniently put the down payment and closing costs on it today to spend nothing and walk out with a brand new deed!
Nothing is ever mentioned about availability.
So Is It a Good Investment?
In my opinion, despite all the obvious hidden fees and caveats, it definitely can be.
If you are a consistent traveler who likes extra space and amenities on your path, prefers keeping loyalty to one brand and doesn’t travel during high season, this version of prepaid travel can mean a significant savings in your out-of-pocket hotel costs over time.
BUT HERE’S WHAT THEY DON’T TELL YOU
Buying a timeshare is buying a property deed. Once it’s yours, it’s yours forever. You’re on the hook for maintenance fees for life until you either sell it or donate it.
And, since most people don’t think about forever when they’re buying, the resale market is flooded with options.
If you fit all the qualifiers above and this is sounding like the best idea ever, the resale market — with listings as low as $1 — is the place to go.
In this case, beware of resale scammers.
Did You Do It?
Attend the sales presentation — absolutely! And I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Buy a timeshare? No.
While I definitely have a travel commitment, my accommodations regularly vary from friends’ couches to couchsurfing to luxury splurge hotel to AirBNB to HotelTonight and everything in between. Prepaid mid-level accommodations just wouldn’t make sense for me personally.
But, the upgraded room, learning experience, free show and three nights spent by this pool en route to the desert lands in Death Valley?
Totally worth it.