Ray Gritton, 59, knows all about bonuses. The automobile salesman worked day and night to win his dealership's sales contest and the bonus package that came with it - the use of the boss's Orlando, Florida, timeshare for one week.
"I thought timeshares were only about using and trading,'' said Gritton, who hopes to retire in the next 18 months and then sell his handmade birdhouses at weekend craft shows. "But while I was at the unit, I learned about bonus time and day use. I must say, it helps the idea of timeshares make a lot more sense.''
Many timeshare resorts do not charge owners who want to use some or all of the facilities just for the day. This "day use" of a pool, tennis court, party area, spa or ski lift can be especially practical for owners who live near the resort. Perhaps they have traded their week at the resort for another elsewhere, yet they can still use facilities as often as they wish.
"I met a group of couples - all over 55 - who play tennis on Mondays and Thursdays,'' Gritton said. "All of them are timeshare owners but they are not actually staying any nights at the resort. The resort was very open to letting them use the courts on those days because they usually are slow days for tennis.''
In addition to day use, many resorts offer "bonus time" to owners - often as an incentive to make the original purchase. Bonus time enables owners to book additional nights (usually at a discount) when another owner does not use his or her week. Instead of leaving the unit vacant, a fellow owner can request "bonus time" (typically on short notice) during a specific season.
For example, a family that loves to water ski uses its timeshare week on a gorgeous mountain lake in July. The family asks about the possibility for bonus time and is told two nights would be available in three weeks. The time became available when fellow owner called to say he must leave his week prematurely, allowing another owner the chance of securing the remainder of his week.
Bonus time has become more common with resorts using a points system. Timeshares come in a variety of packages, including a points program where owners exchange a specific number of accumulated points for a week, weekend or individual nights at resorts that participate in the points arrangement. Some of the larger timeshare companies now offer a point system, permitting owners to split the traditional week into smaller segments. The concept has worked very well for out-of-town family reunions, weddings or simply a needed weekend getaway.
Mike Manoske, a Seattle University graduate who founded Timesharevalues.com before selling it to a Florida-based group, said the point system has added some versatility into the timeshare concept.
"The points programs also let owners use points for air fare and even cruises,'' Manoske said. "For example, you can get a plane ticket instead of losing use of your timeshare because you had a conflict during your specific week.''
The idea of breaking up the timeshare week into a few one-or-two night stays can also make sense for owners traveling a country by car. The average worker typically receives two or three vacation weeks each year and often prefers not to spend a large percentage of that time in one setting.
"We know a timeshare owner who saved up his Marriott timeshare points from two different resorts for one year,'' Manoske said. "He decided to take a trip around the world and stayed at a number of Marriott resorts along the way.''
The value of the points can vary greatly. For example, weekend nights will require more points than weeknight stays and popular resorts will demand more points than a run-of-the-mill getaway.
In addition, the future value of points also can be a consideration - not unlike trying to predict the future value of money. Similar to dollars, timeshare points can be worth a lot more today than they will be down the road. If a resort continues to increase the number of points necessary to rent the unit you covet, the value of your allotted points will decrease. You will need more annual points than the number you are receiving now to reserve the same unit. Seniors and other consumers on fixed incomes may not be getting the perpetual week they initially purchased, which could seriously curtail their dream vacations down the road.
When buying a timeshare, ask about the specifics of point systems - and the benefits of bonus time and day use.
Tom Kelly's new novel "Cold Crossover" is now available in print at bookstores everywhere and in both print and Ebook form from a variety of digital outlets. Follow real estate agent and former basketball coach Ernie Creekmore as investigates the disappearance of his star player on a late-night boat. Check out the national reviews and put "Cold Crossover" on your list.