Many timeshare owners and potential buyers are given misinformation regarding what exactly a timeshare exchange company does for its members, and the benefits of taking part in a traditional exchange program. For example, did you know that as a timeshare owner you have the right to go with any exchange company that deals with your resort? Did you know that there are many small exchange companies out there offering no enrollment dues or exchange fees? I have spoken with many timeshare owners that believed because they signed up for a Resort Condominiums International membership when they first purchased your timeshare, that they needed to conduct all of their future trades through RCI. While I am sure it is lucrative for RCI to convince its members that they need to continue to renew their membership with them, it simply is not true. It is time to separate the facts from fiction and find out the truth about timeshare exchange companies.
There are two major timeshare exchange companies – Resort Condominiums International, RCI and Interval International, II. Both RCI and II together have about 3.5 million members, RCI with over 3500 resorts and II with about 1000 resorts. There are also a large number of smaller timeshare exchange companies including:
- Trading Places Exchange and Management Company
- San Francisco Exchange Company
- Platinum Interchange
- Travel To Go
- Timex Direct Exchange
- Intervac International Home Exchange
- Internet Exchange Services Travel
- Dial An Exchange
- Free Timeshare Exchanges
Typically a timeshare exchange company will charge you an annual fee for membership in addition to a one-time enrollment fee; RCI does both. There can also be fees associated with depositing/exchanging weeks, and this will differ from company to company. To become a member of the larger exchange companies – RCI and II – you must own timeshare at one of their participating resorts. The smaller companies tend to be a lot more flexible, as they want to expand their resort pool and the number of available places for trade, and they will accept you no matter where your resort is located.
There are programs, like Timex, where the owners coordinate the timeshares amongst themselves. This is a great way to save on the fees related to timesharing through a large company, but you must be a flexible traveler to take advantage of this option as there is generally a lot less inventory available using this method. A lot of these smaller exchanges offer free memberships and no fees for exchanges, the downside to this is limited choices – most people do choose to go through a traditional exchange company because of the benefits they offer to entice customers.
What benefits am I talking about? Well, the larger companies like RCI and II do not want to lose customers, and therefore resort weeks/choices to these smaller companies, so they offer different perks to their members.
“Perks” of RCI membership:
- Bonus Weeks – Ability to rent out additional weeks at discounted rated on short notice; do not require banking of weeks or maintenance fees.
- Travel Bargains – Discounted rates on airfare, cars, and attractions.
- Guest Certificates – Family and friends are able to use the timeshare if you, the owner, are not.
- Supplements – Every other month RCI members receive a newsletter/magazine featuring resort news, new locations and feature articles.
- Cruises – RCI has partnerships with various cruise lines to make vacations available for discounted rates.
In the end it depends on where you own your resort and your personal preferences for a larger/smaller company handling the exchange vs. trying to coordinate a direct trade; each situation has its own set of positive and negative attributes. No matter what company you decide to bank you week with, you will need to be flexible with your exchange, and it is a good idea to have list of the following items ready when asking for a resort exchange.
- At least 4 different weeks that you would be able to travel during – be sure to arrange them by preference.
- At least 3 different resorts that are acceptable for you to travel to; if doing more than one city, pick 3 different resorts in each city.
- Whether or not you would be willing to downgrade to a smaller unit, i.e. as a two-bedroom owner are you willing to stay in a one-bedroom or studio resort property.
- Are you willing to purchase points in order to upgrade to a particular resort.
The exchange company will take a look at their available inventory and see what resorts match your requests. If there is nothing available at that time most will add you to a notification list and you will be made aware when/if a particular location opens up to suit your desires. To avoid wait listing try to bank and book as early as you can, and if you do end up not being able to get your choice of resort, be sure to check back regularly – either by phone or web – to see if anything has opened up.