Timeshare exchange programs are extremely popular amongst the timeshare community, companies and consumers alike. For consumers, they offer the best of both worlds. Along with the stability of having a guaranteed holiday every year in your chosen resort, you have the flexibility of being able to explore different destinations should you wish to broaden your horizons. For timeshare companies, exchange programs offer an extra incentive for buyers, facilitating the sale of more timeshares.
Timeshare exchange programs allow consumers the opportunity to exchange their timeshare holiday resort for a holiday of similar standards in another resort owned by the company, implying that there are plenty of choices.
Often this process is done through a points system, where each timeshare week is given a rating based on its location, time of the year, the star rating of the resort and consumers can then exchange their timeshare for use of another resort with the same rating.
The Value Of Your Timeshare Exchange
Timeshare exchange companies operate on a ‘Trading Power’ system. This means that companies measure the quality of your accommodation against the quality of the exchange accommodation, and a value is assigned to the resort weeks to assure that they are both equal.
Various criteria have to be met to assure that both your accommodation and the exchange accommodation, have the same trading power.
Region – This is an important factor. If a holiday area has few resorts, but a lot of owners wanting to visit, then the region has a high rating. If an area has a huge number of resorts compared and a lower number people wanting to visit the region, it has a low rating.
Resort Quality – There are 3 basic grades of resort quality: Top grade ( Gold Crown/5 star), Medium Grade (Resort of International Distinction) and Low Grade (Affiliate).
Apartment size – This is usually measured by sleeping capacity, for example, 2 Bedroom (sleeping 4).
The ‘Colour’ of Your Week – The timeshare year is divided into 3 seasons depending on the level of demand. High (Red), Medium (White or Yellow) and Low (Blue or Green).
How Does It Work?
Timeshare members are able to deposit their allotted timeshare week into an exchange company ‘bank’. Through the exchange company, the member then swaps the week for a banked week in another resort in another destination or even at a different time of year. For example, you could bank a week in Tenerife in April and exchange it for a week in Malta in August. One year’s entire points could also be put towards a two week holiday in a luxury villa, or they could be spread out to be used over numerous weekends throughout the year in a 1 bedroom apartment.
There is also the option to buy more points to add to your bank, meaning you can get the use of a more luxurious resorts or destinations.
When people sign up for a timeshare, they are often sold membership to a timeshare exchange program as an add-on. Timeshare sales people welcome the chance that timeshare exchange programs offer to help them sell more units, by encouraging consumers to think they’re getting a better deal. After all, whilst the same timeshare resort every year suits some, many others are put off by the idea of limiting their holidays to one location every year. As such, it is common for timeshare companies to be affiliated with a timeshare exchange program, whilst others simply own their own resorts which appear within their exchange system.
The Problems With Timeshare Exchange Programs
This might seem like the perfect solution: you have the guaranteed holiday with your timeshare, but also get to travel elsewhere instead should you wish. But sometimes the timeshare exchange program can leave you even more out of pocket.
Whilst the ability to visit different destinations through the exchange system seems very tempting, and it may seem like a free holiday as you aren’t paying any extra, it is usually common that more points will need to be bought in order to get a decent exchange. And you mustn’t forget, you have paid your initial timeshare fee along with maintenance fees, and a fee to join the timeshare exchange program, all of which, once added up, can often cost more than it would have to book the trip on your own through another source.
As they are so popular however, the viability of securing the timeshare exchange that you are looking for can be extremely difficult. Most members find they have to log into the system over a year in advance, sometimes two, in order to try and bag the deal they’re after before anybody else.
The other issue is that those with the very best timeshares are less willing to exchange them. When you have a villa in Hawaii, for example, you’re less likely to want to swap it for a week in Tenerife. This often means that members find the same locations and resorts are the only ones available year after year, and the opportunity they were promised for varied holidays across the globe fails to materialise.
It’s all subject to availability, and whilst this is usually made perfectly clear in all the exchange company’s literature and contracts, this fact doesn’t really register with most people until it’s too late. Bamboozled by the salesperson with tales of exotic holidays of a quality they never thought they’d ever afford, they eagerly put pen to paper.
Members often soon discover that their points they have purchased are not enough for even a one week stay in another timeshare resort and in order to gather up enough points for a holiday, they either have to save them up for many years, or buy additional points. The value for money they expected with their exchange program is thus completely obliterated.
Another problem that has been reported with the timeshare exchange program, is that often resorts are also available to rent out to timeshare non-members as a holiday resort. This can lead to many resorts being unavailable to those in the exchange program, making the entire membership an expense that you aren’t able to use. Resorts are often fond of prioritising booking for non-members because they are essentially ‘fresh meat’ to whom timeshare can be sold, whilst existing members take a back seat.
Finding and getting an exchange that you want can be a difficult tiresome process, and it may be easier to even book the same or similar resort outside of the scheme.
How RCI Timeshare Exchanges Work
RCI (Resort Condominiums International) is perhaps the most well-known of all timeshare exchange programs. RCI timeshare boasts “3.7 million members worldwide and over 4,000 affiliated resorts in countries around the world”.
By paying an additional annual membership fee alongside their timeshare fees, consumers can have access to RCI timeshare exchange service. On face value this sounds like a great option; by buying one timeshare, you are getting access to a huge variety of properties across the world and can choose to holiday wherever, offering flexibility and choice.
However, members who pay for the exchange system soon find out that the RCI timeshare exchange is not all it seems. Once customers are locked into a contract with RCI, they are often forced to pay large hidden fees. Massive deposits have to be put down before each exchange can take place and huge fees are also added on for each exchange, especially for heavily popular weeks and locations
All of this aside, it is worth mentioning that despite the downsides and expense, many people are very happy with their timeshare exchange program and find they are able to successfully exchange and explore many countries whilst also having the backup of their timeshare resort. We advise that you make sure you know the pros and cons of the program before you give away your money to join it as it can be difficult to cancel your membership once you’ve signed up.
If you are considering buying into a timeshare exchange program, ask plenty of questions, check out reviews from other members, and get expert advice before signing the dotted line.