Why timeshare exchanges always fail to deliver

European Consumer Claims
7 min readApr 22, 2024

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Timeshare exchange systems. Deeply flawed

In its formative years timeshare was sold as ‘fixed weeks’. You went to the same resort and stayed in the same room in the same week every year. Exchange systems were created to allow more choice and flexibility. Yet almost universally timeshare owners, even those happy with other aspects of membership, report dissatisfaction with the exchange systems in conversations with TAC helpline operatives.

So where did these systems go wrong?

Over promised

There are three main, active timeshare exchange companies: Interval International (II), Resort Condominiums International (RCI) and 7 Across (formerly Dial an Exchange). II has been bought by Marriott Vacation Club (MVC). RCI and 7 Across are both owned by hotel and timeshare giant Wyndham.

RCI: World’s largest exchange company

One major reason for disappointment in the performance of exchange systems, is that generally they are initially explained by a timeshare salesperson intent on closing a deal. The salesperson will never have to deliver on his promises, and the prospect will not discover any exaggerations for at least a year. Long after the salesperson has spent their commission cheque.

This suits everyone involved… except the customer. The resort signs up the new member, the salesperson earns her money, and RCI gets talked up to the point where no new member is ever likely to refuse to join. RCI have plausible deniability. They told no lies because they didn’t speak to the client.

Expensive

Something that is rarely stressed by the commission hungry timeshare rep, is the sheer expense of using exchange systems.

It costs money to join, and there are annual membership fees whether you exchange or not. You have to pay extra to exchange to a different country or different time of year. There are fees to bank (save for another year) your week, or borrow a week from the future.

Regular booking sites. Easier, more flexible and better value

These are all fees which simply don’t apply to regular holidaymakers. If a vacationer went to Spain last year and paid £1000 for a week’s holiday, then decided to take a £1000 holiday in Portugal the following year there would be no cost to changing the holiday pattern. In this sense, a timeshare exchange user is paying extra money to have restrictions applied to their vacations.

Most popular resorts: limited availability

Popular destinations and resorts get booked first. Ski resorts in winter, Disney and luxury Spanish resorts like ANFI in summer. In fact, anywhere that you want to go, the statistical likelihood is that other people do too.

Many of the people who bought into the lower standard resorts did so after being told they could exchange into the best ones. However, the people in the best resorts are less keen to give up their accommodation for anything other than equal standard rooms.

The result is that people’s first exchange (exchange clients have to give first, second and third choices) resort is unlikely to be granted.

Long booking windows

Following on from the above, people are asked to book up to two years ahead for popular resorts and destinations. But this is certainly no guarantee of reserving your first choice.

Second biggest exchange company. Owned by Marriott Vacation Club

Timeshare customers complain that often they do not know what they will be doing two years in advance, nor what kind of vacation they will want.

Points owners unable to book

People ‘upgraded’ to points for the promised increase in flexibility. However, unlike owning a week that suits their needs (perhaps due to school holidays or annual work shutdowns) they now have to take a chance on booking the weeks they want via exchange systems.

Points exchange systems: Flawed

The switch to points allowed resorts to sell many more memberships to people who needed a certain time of year than they were able to accommodate. Points owners regularly report calling at 9:00am on the morning their year long booking window opens to request the week they need, to be met with news that they are already too late and the resort is full.

Weeks rented to non owners

RCI being owned by Wyndham, and Marriott owning Interval International is seen by many experts as a conflict of interest. These exchange companies are believed to allow users from their other client bases to access timeshare units, making availability even more scarce for actual owners.

Wyndham: World’s largest hotel group and timeshare provider

Because most timeshare resorts now advertise units on regular booking sites to increase their revenue, the customer who paid for membership is now sometimes only able to access their own resort via those booking sites.

Complicated and inflexible

A regular holidaymaker has the world at his fingertips. If he wants to take a weekend break in two weeks time, 10 days at the beach in June, a week skiing in December or rent an RV and drive through some epic countryside, he opens Google, clicks and books. Easy as that.

Maybe she doesn’t want to go on holiday at all this year. Then she books nothing and pays for nothing.

Compare this with the plight of the timeshare owner. They must choose their holiday a long time in advance, and fulfil all the rules associated with that choice. Rules like depositing your own week in time, making first, second and third choices, registering these choices within the required timeframe and paying all associated extra fees in time.

Changes are so difficult to make that timeshare owners will often not even try. And they pay every year, whether they holiday or not.

Shocking customer reputation

Online reviews of RCI and II are best summed up as abysmal. Out of a possible five stars on TrustPilot, Better Business Bureau and Consumer Affairs, they consistently receive the lowest possible rating of one star. Many of the comments openly state that the one star rating is only because it is not possible to give zero stars.

Common themes are: lack of help to get a trade (this customer had been waiting for over 2 years); Rudeness and dishonesty (this customer cites ‘fraud and consumer abuse and stealing from hard working taxpayers’); and always trying to get more money out of their client base (or as this poster writes is, seeking ‘constant new ways to screw customers’.)

Take your chances

Finally, an aspect of exchanging that shocks most customers the first time they try and use the system to stay elsewhere: You have to deposit your week first before requesting (let alone being able to confirm) the new destination.

That’s right: Your week has to be given up first, before you have confirmation of one of your exchange choices. If you don’t get your preferred destination, you no longer have access to your own week as it was deposited into the system.

Points exchange: Gambling with your holidays

This leaves the unlucky owner in the position of being forced to accept whatever is available, rather than their ideal destination.

At this point the only possibility of getting back into their own resort would be through an external exchange, meaning they have to pay a hefty extra fee for the privilege.

Fed up with failed timeshare vacations?

If you are a timeshare owner who feels trapped by an expensive vacation system, get in touch with our team at the Timeshare Advice Centre (the marketing arm of European Consumer Claims). In most cases we can help you escape your timeshare contract, and depending on the circumstances may be able to claim compensation if you were mis-sold.

TAC provides timeshare claims services, relinquishments expert advice and help

E: (for media enquiries): mark.jobling@ecc-eu.com

T: (for media enquiries): +44 2039962044

E: (for client enquiries) EUROPE: info@timeshareadvicecentre.co.uk USA: info@timeshareadvicecentre.us

T: EUROPE: +44 800 102 6070/+44 203 807 3388. USA: 1–888 203 5448/ 1–332 867 1213

Monday to Friday: UK timings: 9am-8pm. Saturday/Sunday closed. USA 9am -8pm EST. Sunday closed

Follow Timeshare Advice Centre UK on Facebook here. Timeshare Advice Centre US here

Follow Timeshare Advice Centre UK on Twitter here. Timeshare Advice Centre US here

Relevant websites for this article

www.timeshareadvicecentre.co.uk

www.timeshareadvicecentre.us

www.timeshare.lawyer

www.ecc-eu.com

www.americanconsumerclaims.com

First published on MyNewsDesk April 2024

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European Consumer Claims

The team at European Consumer Claims have a wealth of experience in all types of timeshare, points and "fractional" schemes