Many of us didn’t realize it, but our data is a very precious commodity. Not just credit card details or PIN code, but down to phone number..or even marital status. When you give them away to anyone, despite the whole Data Privacy Protection and stuffs, be wary of who could be contacting to reach you for something.
When I was approached by one of the Swiss Garden International Vacation Club (SGIVC) sales rep in 2012 through a cold call, it was just at the right timing. We were 2 years through employment, 1 year into marriage, I was about due to give birth for our first child, we had no big commitment or loans except car, we didn’t have our own house yet with a whole lot of shebang that goes with it..mortgage, renovation costs, maintenance and all. And we both love travelling.
We were offered a 3 days 2 nights stay in one of the home resorts, with the condition that both of us attend one of their 1-to-1 talk to explain about a product they are offering.
Note: This is a really long article. If you are not interested to know about SGIVC or have never been approached to make the purchase, then you may not be interested. Read on if you still do.
- 1 Why Am I Writing This?
- 2 TL;DR – So Is SGIVC Really Worth My Money?
- 3 What is Timeshare?
- 4 How Does SGIVC Work?
- 5 What Accommodation Are You Entitled To?
- 6 How Is Your Lifestyle or Family/Work Commitment?
- 7 How much you are actually paying for SGIVC?
- 8 Is SGIVC Worth Your Money for Malaysia travels? – Case Examples
- 9 Is SGIVC Worth Your Money for Overseas Travel?
- 10 How much more you need to pay for Interval International?
- 11 Interval International for SGIVC members – Disadvantages
- 12 Interval International for SGIVC members – Advantage
- 13 My First II Booking – Worth It?
- 14 Conclusion
Why Am I Writing This?
I’m not here to bore you with my vacation experiences. Rather I want to share to people out there my insights into this timeshare membership. I am happy having helped many people who have sought my help or any of the fellow SGIVC members in the past months through our network (when I say many, it was more like, 5-7 people, but well..hehe). All of which have already signed up with the membership, but are still within the cooling-off period of 14 days.
The fact that many have sought advice from myself and other SGIVC members, showed that their sales team are very actively recruiting new members up to the time I’m writing this in 2018, despite no apparent increase in rooms or hotels offerings.
By sharing my insights and my experiences and backed with data, I hope anyone contemplating of signing up or even contemplating of continuing in the SGIVC journey or otherwise within the cooling-off period, can make an informed decision. I do hope that this post will serve as a forum for existing members too.
TL;DR – So Is SGIVC Really Worth My Money?
Sorry, but.. there is no single ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.
It will depend on many factors throughout your cycle of life, such as your travel appetite or lifestyle, your family or work commitment, etc. You may find that I *may* tend to be a bit biased on one side of the answer, however this post is not meant to bash or misjudge the timeshare operator, but it is based on actual facts. Again, this is meant to inform.
Beware this is an absolutely long post, but if you are contemplating, got called, etc.. please read on.
This is for people out there who have no clue what timeshare is. Wikipedia defines it as:
..property with a divided form of ownership or use rights. These properties are typically resort condominium units, in which multiple parties hold rights to use the property, and each owner of the same accommodation is allotted their period of time..
How Does SGIVC Work?
Different timeshare operators have different ways of granting the members the use of the accomodation. For SGIVC, each member will be allotted a fixed number of nights to be used each year. There are two types of membership: Gold and Platinum.
Both types grant 7 nights of ‘entitlement’ to be used for every one year cycle, depending on your date of enrolment. However, the difference is that:
Gold: Applicable to redeem a studio bedroom for
Platinum: Applicable to redeem a 2-bedroom, but obviously have to pay higher membership price than Gold
Remember the 7 nights actually consist of 5 weekdays and 2 weekends. I believe the sales rep will tell you that. If by any chance you have run out of your weekends entitlement, and would like to stay in a resort on another weekend, you need to convert 2 weekday allotment for 1 weekend. You might think that’s A-OK, but if you are analytical like me, think of how much this actually cost you in money equivalent. I’ll get back on this later.
What Accommodation Are You Entitled To?
There are different classification of accommodation within SGIVC. They are termed:
Home Resorts – all 3 resorts are in Malaysia: Swiss Garden KL, Kuantan & Damai Laut (Lumut, Perak) – they are all 4-star hotels
Optional Destinations – as of Jan 2018, the accommodations are in 8 countries, including Malaysia (Genting Highlands & Langkawi)
Rental Destinations – as of Jan 2018, the accommodations are in 3 countries, including Malaysia
Destinations within Interval International (II) network – II is an affiliate with SGIVC and it has wider network accommodations throughout the world, including Malaysia
There are different terms & conditions and ways to book for each of the classifications. To cut story short, let me just briefly describe:
Home Resorts – easiest to book through real time calendar system online, use up entitlement nights
Optional – use up entitlement nights, hotel choices can change i.e. they can delist any hotel without any notification (Note: There used to have >5 Malaysian hotels to choose within this category – however as of writing, there is only 2), many places have different T&Cs eg: not eligible to book during Malaysian school holidays, much harder to book because we are at the mercy of SGIVC travel agent to let you know if the dates you are interested is full or otherwise (one member told me that ‘they will always tell it is full’ – I couldn’t confirm that as I dont have first-hand experience)
Rental – does not use up entitlement nights but have to pay. NOT WORTH YOUR MONEY. It is cheaper to book through other means eg: booking.com or Agoda than through here. I wonder why they even bother to offer this
II – use up entitlement nights, you have to pay extra on top of what you are already paying
I have only ever been going to home resorts due to the easy booking system, besides due for Perth in the next few months through II usage. That’s probably because I felt quite pathetic to have gone to Kuantan over and over again since 2012… time to switch to fish & chips in Fremantle port than the usual Ana Ikan Bakar Petai in Tanjung Lumpur..
How Is Your Lifestyle or Family/Work Commitment?
Remember, if you are signing up for this membership, you are in for a long commitment. From what I hear now, SGIVC membership is still for 30 years period. So what you are paying is for a 30-year commitment!
Ask yourself these questions:
How far in advance can you plan and book your holidays?
How easy is for you to use the entitlements during off peak i.e. weekdays or non-school holidays / non-public holidays?
Do you have many kids? Do you have schooling kids?
What is your hotel lifestyle i.e. do you put emphasis on the star rating of a hotel/resort (the higher the better), or would you consider a cheaper but still a decent alternative such as Airbnb within your travel area
Note: I am making a bit of an assumption here: that if you are the cheapskate / backpacker-style person who wouldn’t even mind staying even in a capsule hotel or cramped 1-star hotel, I doubt you would even consider putting your signature on the SGIVC dotted line. So I am not putting that type of hotel(s) as an example comparison
So..how far in advance can you plan your holidays and how flexible you are in your travel dates?
Look at the real time availability calendar I derived from their online booking form for one of the resorts. This is as of July 2018. They are practically booked up for weekends up to Dec 2018.
There is practically only 3 locations ‘home resorts’ for SGIVC. The advantage of booking a home resort is one can view the availability of the resorts online through real time, thereby enabling people to easily adjust their timing based on availability.
General Rule of Thumb:
For weekdays and non-school holiday weekends, you need to book at least 3 months in advance
For school holiday period, you need to book at least 6 months in advance
Not too bad, right?
I would say that this is acceptable for normal arrangements. I reckon most of us would plan well in advance for any holidays anyway. So if you are anyone who has unpredictable work arrangements therefore not able to plan holidays much earlier, as well as those impromptu travel booker, SGIVC is definitely not for you.
If you have schooling kids, then it is even crucial to plan waaayy in advance. However, I am actually quite pleasantly surprised to know that the December 2018 room availability is not yet booked up as of Jan 2018.
So what if you have many kids or family members?
Whichever plan you consider or have already signed up, I believe you are well-informed of the limitations especially as far as the number of pax or rooms is allowable.
All of those I know of are signing up with the cheaper Gold plan, so I’ll take that as an example throughout the post.
How much you are actually paying for SGIVC?
RM 20,000 for total 30 years — it was 20k when I signed up in 2012, and surprisingly with all the inflation, it still is 20k in 2018! (Was it overpriced last time? *yikes*)
Some sign-ups may need to pay GST those days. I had to pay some, but glad that I finished servicing the installment soon after (~2016).
Add an average of RM 420 x 30 years for annual maintenance fee — this was one where the company will manipulate the price the most. It was about RM 360 in 2012; it was RM 408 in 2017. Imagine in the next 25 years! RM 420 is perhaps an approximate on quite a low side..
Let’s do the math:
RM 20k + RM 12.6 k = RM 32.6 k
RM 33.8 k / 30 years = RM 1087 / year for 7 nights entitlement
Therefore, RM 1087 / 7 nights = RM 155 / night
RM 155 is a conservative estimate of the price per night that you are paying, for a studio room. This seems like a good pricing point, and this in fact, is the way their sales rep will pitch their product. You can’t really get a decent 4-star hotel with RM 155 nowadays!
However, if you are bringing more pax than a studio room can fit, a 2-bedroom unit will cost you 2 nights deduction entitlement for every 1 night spent. Geddit?
It’s the same concept as I mentioned above – if you have used up your weekend nights and still want to stay on a weekend, you need to convert 2 weekday nights to get 1 weekend night, thereby you are actually paying double the unit price.
For Malaysia, at the moment only Lumut, Genting and Langkawi have 2-bedroom offering. Using the same unit price above, a 2-bedroom per night will cost RM 310 (you have to use 2 nights entitlement) and since most of their T&C only accept minimum 2 nights booking, that is a RM 620 spent for 2 nights for a 2-bedroom. Worth it? Read on as I have the verdict below.
Well, maybe it’s not worth it if you don’t mind losing out on the frills of a certain resort appeal. Our Ipoh/Lost World Tambun modest 3-bedroom homestay / Airbnb cost us RM 400 for 2 nights with swimming pool.. (not SGIVC). This is when your travel lifestyle comes in.
General Rule of Thumb:
If your travel pax is more than a studio room can accommodate, you will pay double to get a 2-bedroom unit, but you can’t get 2 x studio units. Your membership may not allow you to do that
Anything more than a 2-bedroom will require for you to pay like a normal hotel would
There will be certain accommodations which don’t allow booking through SGIVC during school holidays, so this will be disadvantageous for schooling kids
Is SGIVC Worth Your Money for Malaysia travels? – Case Examples
Staying at SGIVC Home Resort vs Buy Cheapest Outside for Same Resort
Of course this is pretty obvious. For RM 155/night, you usually won’t able to find anything cheaper outside for the same Home Resort, which are said to be 4-star.
In fact whenever I have difficulty finishing off my entitlement nights on certain years before they expire, I will sell them off, typically for RM 150/night on Facebook and they will quickly be snapped off. (with RM 150, I didn’t make a profit, neither I made a loss – remember I didnt have to pay GST those days and my maint fee assumption was a very low side so well..).
Note: They however don’t have free breakfast to the SGIVC members, so you probably have to take that into consideration. I am usually just fine with Gardenia and chocolate spread
VERDICT: WORTH IT
Staying at Optional Destinations vs Buy Cheapest Outside for Same Hotel
One of the two apartments they are currently offering under Optional Destination is: Awana Genting. Having not been there, I personally am not too sure which part of Awana Genting accommodation they are offering (there are tons of hotels up there), but my best assumption looking at the photos in SGIVC website is the one in photo below. Besides, it is usually very common to find the apartments that they are offering are usually one of those tired-looking, badly-need-sprucing-up type of apartments 🙁
For 2 nights 2-bedroom unit, your actual cost is RM 620. Compare that to what is quoted by booking.com for the same apartment at the time of writing, it is RM 1200 for same date and number of nights. 2 bedrooms with the living room and all could mean 2 families staying, so RM 644 through SGIVC is actually a good deal.
On the other hand, personally I wouldn’t pay RM 1200 for a tired-looking apartment if I need to book thru booking.com
VERDICT: QUITE WORTH IT
…it also depends on individual’s travel apetite. Some don’t like the idea of staying in a shabby apartment…..hehe.
Staying at Rental Destinations vs Buy Cheapest Outside for Same Hotel
I have said and I would say it outright that
VERDICT: NOT WORTH IT
Case in point: Early January 2018, I booked for tickets for a concert in February for my sister and I on a weekend night, which is going to be held in middle of KL. I figured staying in a hotel post-concert may be better so we don’t have to drive back at late night some 30-40 kms away (and we both drive completely separate ways – I live in North KL, and she in the South). No surprise that Swiss Garden in KL (Home Resort) are not available for booking in so late, so I tried looking at Swiss-Inn KL, which is one of the Rental Destinations offered.
Remember that in both (a) and (b) cases above, you dont actually have to pay extra cash; it is just the amount of membership fee that you have to pay, right?
But for Optional hotels, it is just as same as you would booking outside. No deduction of entitlements, but pay cash for stay.
For Swiss Inn KL, according to the T&C, we are required to pay RM 150 per night if buy through SGIVC. It is actually no longer a surprise within the SGIVC members that it is cheaper to buy these outside of SGIVC. Booking.com only charges RM 92 per night on the night of our concert! Wtf.
Comparison of a homestay/Airbnb within same location vs SGIVC
In KL, with the new ‘era’ of Airbnb, you can get a beautiful 3-bedroom condo with swimming pool with just about RM 200-250
In Kuantan for example, one can get a decent landed 3-bedroom homestay for RM 200.
Compare that with a studio room you can get for RM 160 with SGIVC.
Unfortunately, it will not be cost-effective for bringing in bigger families if you were to stay in SGIVC. You risk having to fork out more cash to buy more rooms.
VERDICT: NOT WORTH IT
Is SGIVC Worth Your Money for Overseas Travel?
Interval International Concept Explained
This is one of the questions I get asked many times and probably the single biggest reasons why people get lured to purchasing the membership. Below was an excerpt from the actual presentation sheet that our sales rep used in 2012 to pitch the membership to husband and I to compare the cost saving between booking with travel agent and with SGIVC for an example overseas travel.
First, will try to explain how does Interval International work. I started to enrol into II in 2016-2017, about 4-5 years after joining SGIVC. I had no idea how the concept worked then. None of the call agents seem to be able to help me to explain it until I understand, so I mostly figured it out on my own. Therefore, while it could be possible that some of the explanations might not be accurate, but suffice to say it should help ok…
II is perhaps a big agent of smaller timeshare companies therefore it is able to collate all timeshare companies around the world under one network. Therefore, all smaller timeshare companies can collaborate so their members can stay across different accommodations and not limited just to the small timeshare company that they originally enrolled in.
A clearer example:
John is enrolled in timeshare company A based in Europe. Company A has 5 accommodations in its portfolio, all in Europe.
Susie is enrolled in timeshare company B based in Asia. Company B has 10 accommodations in its portfolio, in Asia and Europe.
By Company A and Company B enrolling in II, now either John and Susie can travel to a total of 15 accommodations.
II has about 2000+ accommodations in 100+ countries.
I know you travel junkies out there would be delighted over the many choices of accommodations to stay. But with everything else cheap or free, there’s always a catch. My examples below are not all-inclusive. I believe there may be many SGIVC / II members who have been booking hotels with absolutely no problem so I welcome your comments!
Imagine II is like a bank or a cloud. One day John decides that he gets tired to stay in his 5 accommodations from Company A.So he puts up his 7 nights entitlement in the II bank for ‘sale’ to others: Susie, Tom etc. When putting up the nights for sale, he has to attach the nights to a specific hotel and specific date range. So, instead of saying, ‘I have 7 nights for sale to anyone’ , John will say ‘I have 7 nights stay at Hotel Valdemort in Spain for sale to anyone between 15th June to 22nd June 2018’ (for the record, Hotel Valdemort does not exist 😛 ).
Since he has given up his 7 nights, he is now free to choose / exchange with other accommodations in the bank. Let’s say he is interested to go to Hokkaido in Japan.
So he has to search the bank hoping that any other members like Susie or Tom put up his/her Hokkaido hotels for stay in the date range he is targeting for.
If nobody in the world within II puts that hotel and date criteria up for sale, John has to search other open dates for Hokkaido accommodation. Else, if John is flexible, he could consider going to Sydney instead, or USA etc
Asia or Aus/NZ Interval accommodations
This will be very daunting for those who have limited choices of countries to go, for example due to the cost of flights and personal country preference.
That means those in Asia (except Middle East) or Australia/NZ.
Which takes out a huge chunk of II offerings, as their hotels are mostly in the western world side but nevertheless, the choices for Asia or Aus/NZ are still quite broad, if you are not picky on the countries
When I chose to go to Western Australia, there were about 8 accommodation offerings. Only 1 is quite near to the airport, about 30-40 km. The rest were as far as 500-1000 km!
How much more you need to pay for Interval International?
Recall the the actual sales presentation I showed you above that showed cost for II is NIL? Technically, it is not totally free. Consider below:
1. Of course, you have to pay the whole SGIVC membership fee + maint fee yada yada.. – but once you have finished servicing the loan, you could take a breather with only the annual maint fee
2. There is an II annual membership fee to pay (approx USD 150+ / year) -however, for SGIVC members, note that II membership fee is free for the first 2 years at the point of enrolling into II. So when I enrolled into II in 2017, I get 2 years II membership free until 2019
3. This is not free – Exchange Fee . One need to pay this for every accommodation you choose to stay (7 nights). II only sells 7-nights packages. You can’t choose to stay only 2 or 3 nights, unless you don’t mind checking out earlier.
4. For those considering to get a bigger room than a studio, there is a Room Upgrade Fee, which is USD 99 to upgrade to a 1-bedroom, and USD 189 to get a 2-bedroom, as of writing.
So yeah, whatever the salesperson says is free is BS!
Interval International for SGIVC members – Disadvantages
(a) You can’t freely choose your date(s) or may be quite hard to even choose your location as it depends on whenever there is opening in the accommodation(s) of your choice
Say you want to go for a vacation in Australia, with either Perth Airport as landing airport or Melbourne Airport, and your dates are anytime between 7th Feb 2018 to 7th Sep 2018.
You made the search and found that the nearest accommodation to Perth Airport is called Sebel Swan Valley The Vines (30 km from airport) and it has at least 30 date ranges available, which are superb as it is near to airport and have a lot of date choices.
On the other hand, nearest accommodation to Melbourne Airport right smack in the city does not have availability on the stated date. The nearest apartment available is Ramada Resort in Ballarat, which is about 120 km from airport, and only has 2 date availabilities.
So you see, it all depends on what other members choose to deposit into the ‘bank’, in terms of the dates and hotel choice.
2. Almost all accommodations I’ve seen will only allow check-in day on Friday or Saturday only
Could be a disadvantage as many airlines put higher price for end-of-week travel
Also since it is hard for you to choose accommodation dates, there is a possibility that the dates fall where the flight tickets are not as cheap as one would want them to be
3. Some places are not worth to book through II
Remember from the SGIVC membership, one is already entitled to Optional Destinations. There are not a lot of hotels in there (33 in total at the time of writing), but it spans these countries: Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia (Bali), China, Philippines, India and Australia.
With countries/places like Malaysia, Thailand, China, Philippines and Bali, dont even bother to use II. It’s not worth it, especially when you have ‘free’ Optional Destinations to choose from or perhaps Airbnb.
4. Certain places advertised are almost impossible to book
The one reason why I decided to activate my 2-year free II membership was because another visit to Japan is due. Seeing that II only has Hokkaido in its Japan offerings and there’s no way to actually check the accommodation availability without being enrolled, so I activated my II membership in March 2017 through SGIVC.
Checked availability. No opening. Paid for an exchange fee and went into a waitlist.
Waited until May. Still no opening.
Months passed. It was August. No opening for any of the Hokkaido apartments.
Cancelled my waitlist and exchange fee refunded. Finally booked through booking.com at such a late stage.. barely 3 weeks before our travel. Sigh.
Periodically I went through the system to check for Hokkaido opening since then. None.
Because I had already activated my 2-year free membership, it actually seemed to be a waste hence we booked for Perth. II will only allow one to check calendar availability if we sign up with them, I guess that’s how they make money. Then, you feel obliged to travel that year.
5. Certain places could be located very far from airports
II do have thousands of network accommodations, but common sense that for some countries especially huge ones, the choice of accommodations available could be very very far from the nearest international airport.
For example, there are 5 apartments in Western Australia. Only one is near to the Perth Airport, two is within 250 km from the airport, and another two is 2300 km away! Understandably Western Australia is a very huge region, with limited II choices nonetheless..
6. There are accommodations that only allow ‘Getaway’ option (but not Exchange)
Getaway option in II is almost similar to Rental Destination concept in SGIVC. Instead of only having to pay the associated II costs You have to pay for a rental fee, on top of all the associated II costs that I described above! You need to work the economics; arguably the total sum could be cheaper than outside (I have not validated that in further detail).
So whenever the total number of II accommodations are advertised, be wary that many are not allowed an Exchange option, which is the more cost-effective option.
I personally wouldn’t choose Getaway option unless really really need to.
7. There may be cheaper alternatives outside II if you don’t mind the frills
Read example on my Perth booking below.
Interval International for SGIVC members – Advantage
1. If you choose your accommodation wisely and be open to the date opening, II is a big cost-saving of the accommodation portion of your trip
Especially if you only need one studio unit.
My First II Booking – Worth It?
I intended to bring our extended family along – about 6 adults + 3 child in total – so obviously requires more units than one studio.
Had to make the accommodation booking as soon as possible, since we were using Enrich miles to pay for the air tickets and the miles were about to expire – so we were limited in the date selection.
Booked an apartment called Sebel Swan Valley The Vines, which is about 20 km from Perth Airport – not too near to city, but nevertheless better than other offerings.
Typically, many II apartments will have a selection of either studio unit, 1-bedroom (add USD 99) or 2-bedroom apartment (add USD 198). Unfortunately since we were on a time limit, we had to grab the best available, which are 1 x studio unit and 1 x 1-bedroom apartment where both opening coincidentally fall on the same date (this is really important if you have multiple people coming – the stars and the moon have to line up really nicely for you to get multiple units available at the same date range! Since only some accommodations have tons of availability and some have very few, this limits your chances for multiple unit booking).
This was the total cost I spent to get those units:
II Membership Fee : FREE (for first 2 years with SGIVC)II Exchange Fee: 2 exchanges x USD 188 = USD 376
Unit Upgrade from studio to 1-bedroom: USD 99
Total paid to II : USD 475 x 4.1 conversion rate = RM 1947.50
And because I am calculative, I add total cost of SGIVC paid for 7 nights : RM 155 x 7 = RM 1085. I had to close one eye on this as I have been servicing this loan for quite some time ago.
Grand total is RM 3032.50 for 7 nights, 6 adults stay (some will have to sleep on a couch..)
I made a comparison on any available Airbnb within Perth. I could find a handful that could offer either landed or apartment accommodation, with about RM 2300+ total cost for 7 nights. 3 bedrooms, more spacious house and kitchen, none need to sleep on a couch! Cheaper and even nearer to Perth central than the The Vines apartment I am currently booked for. But I had no choice; my hands were somewhat tied.
But if you are the real value-for-money dealperson, you would be pleasantly surprised to know that the same apartment is way more expensive in booking sites such as booking.com. My checks was that its 1 x studio unit and 1 x 1-bedroom apartment could cost anything between a whopping RM 7k and RM10k!
And indeed the apartment is one of the best accommodation we have been. 5-star facilities, on golf-course area with kangaroos, ducks and birds perching every single morning in front of our apartment door. So what’s there to complain? It was an RM 3k very wisely spent (and cheap too).
If you are a member like me, try to make it a point to utilize or sell off the entitlement nights. We oversee this as an excuse for us to take some short vacations every year.
If you considering to join, please evaluate the pros and cons carefully. In this fast-paced lifestyle, you may end up not utilizing the privilege, which is a waste. After 6 years of joining SGIVC, I have seen improvements and downsides. In the future, the privileges and offering may be better than what it is now, so I’m crossing my fingers.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to comment below!