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Using Hilton Grand Vacations Timeshare Plus Hilton Honors Points as a Retirement Travel Plan

How one Hilton Grand Vacations Owner turned 300,000 Hilton Honors points into 4 million Hilton Honors points

Laurie L
Aerial nighttime view of Hilton Grand Vacations at The Crane in Barbados.

For the last 30 years, I've traveled for work. In travel terms, that equates to visiting 48 states. However, I'm ready for my travels to be all play and no work, and it's my goal to take as many great vacations each year as possible. (No, I'm not retired. But can't we all dream and sometimes act like we are?) 

When I purchased our first Hilton Grand Vacations timeshare, our Sales Executive explained that we could open a Hilton credit card and put the down payment on the card — interest-free for a year.

I went for it. No interest and no annual fee sounded good to me, as long as I paid the card off within the first year. 

 Rainbow  and waterfall in Waimea Canyon State Park in Hawaii.    

Like many Hilton Grand Vacations Owners, I needed to finance the rest of the cost, a non-issue for me. I could happily make my monthly payments if it meant I could go to Hawaii every other year. The only thing I didn't put much thought into at the time was the Hilton Honors™ program

I remember my reaction when the Sales Executive explained that I could get other Hilton credit cards, giving me more Hilton Honors points for my spending, but they all had annual fees. 

"Fees? No. Way. I'm not going to spend money to have a credit card."

So, I didn't even investigate it. At the time, I just viewed my timeshare as a vehicle to Hawaii every other year. I had no idea how much more vacation ownership would come to mean to me. 

It's been over eight years since that first purchase, and I wish I knew then what I know now. Most importantly, I want to travel, and when I retire, I want to travel even more. 

However, when I finally retire, I'll have less income. 

I started to really think about what I wanted out of travel in the next chapter of my life. My bucket list includes good old-fashioned American road trips — namely to see those two last states that I've never visited: Alaska and Maine. 

Picturesque shot of RV crossing bridge in the American west.    

After a bit of digging, I realized that Hilton Grand Vacations doesn't have properties in these destinations (yet). 

But there are other Hilton brands in Alaska and Maine, along with more than 6,300 properties countrywide. I then realized the importance of my Hilton Honors points, and my new strategy became to accumulate Hilton Honors points and save them for retirement. 

I had 300,000 Hilton Honors points when I embarked on my journey to build up as many points as possible. However, I'd been through enough sales presentations by then to know that 300,000 points wouldn’t cover the life of travel I envisioned. 

Seals on a small iceberg in Alaska.   

So, I got to work and went from 300,000 to 4,000,000 Hilton Honors points without converting any of my ClubPoints. (There are so many better uses for your ClubPoints.) Curious how I did it?

It's the Hilton credit cards. The same ones that I said I'd never get. Disclaimer: It's important to use credit responsibly, and I never pay interest on these cards — ever

I paid the annual fee, which I swore I'd never do, but after looking into the Hilton Honors benefits, I was pretty sure I could get the cost back. (I might be a little competitive.)  

For many Hilton credit cards, there are sign-on bonuses which makes the first year completely worth it. For example, I got the Surpass card with a $95 annual fee and a signing bonus. Now I get a $10 a month restaurant reimbursement return, plus a free night on a stay and lots of other great benefits. 

To fully maximize the Hilton Honors benefits, I changed all my bills over to this card and accrued tons of points; but not 4 million. 

Ocean front dining on Hilton property in Hawaii.    

By this time, I had two timeshare loans. In a plan that seemed nuts to my mortgage lender, I refinanced my home to pay off my timeshares at a much lower interest rate. 

My lender asked me in disbelief, "you want us to pay off your timeshares?"

I said, "no, I want to have the cash so that I can pay them off myself with my credit cards while also accruing Hilton Honors points." 

By this time, I needed the highest-yielding Hilton Honors points card. The Aspire card, which has a $450 annual fee. Never in my life did I think I would ever pay such a hefty credit card fee, but it had a good sign-up bonus so long as I spent a certain amount in the first three to four months. 

One of the Aspire card's most significant Hilton Honors benefits is the $250 resort credit, which you can use on your maintenance fees. Other benefits include a free night off the bat and a second free night if you spent $60,000. 

Private suite pool at Hilton Grand Vacations at The Crane in Barbados.   

It sounds like a lot, but I owed more than that between my two loans. I could go on and on about how I should've gotten the Hilton cards sooner, but all is not lost. I still have a heck of a lot of Hilton Honors points for retirement.

I rarely use my points, but I have lots of free night certificates, which I use now instead of the points. If you're wondering how many weeks it took me to pay off the loans using a credit card, the answer is seven weeks split between two cards — full transparency, my partner got a card, too. 

After all was said and done, my lender asked me if it was worth it. I showed him my Hilton Honors account page and said, "yes, and now I have a strategy for retirement that allows me to travel wherever and whenever I want." 

As for that $450 annual fee? With a bit of strategy, I get the fee back — on both of our cards. 

If you walk away from this story with anything, let it be this: vacation ownership is a strategy for a lifetime of vacations. You'll remember that we first purchased so we could go to Hawaii once every other year.   

Now, thanks to my timeshares, I go to Hawaii twice every year and decided to throw in a trip to Barbados in the same year. Don't forget about those free night certificates through the Hilton Honors benefits. I'll be going to Key West using those this year. Just remember, if I am willing to pay a fee and talk about it, it is worth it.

Read How to Plan a Budget-Friendly Girls Trip at Hilton Grand Vacations in Orlando for more travel tips. 

Hilton Grand Vacations Explorer, Laurie L.

Laurie L

As an Elite Owner, Laurie has a home-away-from-home at Elara, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club, Hilton Grand Vacations on the Boulevard and Kings' Land by Hilton Grand Vacation. She joined in 2013 and says vacations are among the most important things in her life and a big part of her retirement plans. She enjoys traveling with her significant other and friends and is happiest with a bit of adventure (think: helicopter tours and biking trips). 

 

However, her favorite travel memory is touring an olive oil farm and winery while staying at Hilton Grand Vacations at Borgo alle Vigne in Italy. As a traveler who loves a good deal even more than travel itself, she's your go-to for tips on planning unforgettable trips that won't break the bank. 

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