Additional Exchange Options
Sometimes, you will want to do more than make a straight one-week-for-one-week timeshare exchange — and again, your exchange company will be at the ready, often charging you additional fees for the privilege of getting done whatever it is that you would like to do with your timeshare unit.
Banking Your Weeks or Points
Most exchange companies allow you to bank your timeshare weeks or points for future use. Say you own one week of timeshare use each year, but you want to take a special two-week vacation for your twenty-fifth wedding anniversary in a few years. In most cases, you will be allowed to bank your timeshare week for the next two years — taking no timeshare vacation at all during those years — and then use both weeks back-to-back for your longer anniversary trip.
The same is usually true for points-based programs, which may allow you to bank points so that you can save up for bigger purchases including extended timeshare stays or more-expensive cruise-ship vacations.
Splitting Your Lock-Off Unit's Value
If you own a lock-off timeshare unit, your exchange company can work with you to split its value. Sometimes, this can give you even more vacation options than the single week you own, without costing you much extra in exchange company fees. For instance, let's say you own a two-bedroom lock-off unit. You can split this unit in half by locking off half of it, and then using your resulting pair of single, locked-off units to trade for two separate, smaller timeshare unit vacations at other resorts. You may get two studio units during two different weeks, for instance, in exchange for the value of the single week you own of two-bedroom unit use.
You will, in many cases, have to pay two separate exchange fees if you want to take two different vacations after locking off your unit and splitting its value — but this is still likely to cost you far less than you would have paid for two separate vacations' worth of hotel accommodations.
If you intend to use your timeshare unit's lock-off capacity when making an exchange, be sure to confirm the move with your exchange company in writing. You must specify that this is something that you want to do, and you can lose your unit's lock-off value if you fail to make your intentions clear when making your exchange.
Whether you own a points-based or weeks-based timeshare unit, you almost always can pay an additional fee to upgrade your home resort unit. In points-based systems, you can often purchase such upgrades with any extra points you have accumulated, while in weeks-based systems, you usually need to pay an additional fee in order to accomplish the upgraded exchange.
Upgraded units can mean anything from larger timeshares to timeshares with better locations in your home resort. For instance, your two-bedroom timeshare overlooking a resort's gardens may be identical in layout to one with an oceanfront balcony, but in some cases, using the latter unit would be considered an upgrade. The fees for upgrades tend to be lower than the fees for exchanges to other weeks or other resorts, so if you are looking for a change of scenery — but not necessarily a change of resort — an upgrade might be an economical solution for you.
Bonus time is any additional timeshare usage period that is beyond what you own in terms of weeks or points. Bonus time can be added to an existing week of timeshare vacation, or it can be purchased separately for things like weekend getaways or one-night stays in city resorts. You usually buy bonus time directly through your resort, but in some cases, your exchange company will be able to help you facilitate the purchase.
In many cases, bonus time comes at a fraction of the cost of regular timeshare uses — or even nightly hotel stays. Some timeshare owners have been able to get bonus nights at first-class resorts for less than $50 per night, and at the last minute, to boot. Walk-ins are even accepted for bonus time at some timeshare resorts, so be sure to keep your timeshare identification cards in your wallet if you are traveling on the spur of the moment.
Not all resorts offer bonus time. If you think this additional service might be important to you, be sure to ask about it — and get its terms in writing — before purchasing a timeshare unit at any given resort.
If you want to let someone else — a relative, a colleague, a friend — use your timeshare unit, you will need to purchase a guest certificate from your exchange company. Typically, these cost somewhere in the $25 to $50 range, and they will be required for presentation upon check-in for anyone other than you during your reserved week of timeshare use. In some cases, the person using the guest certificate must be at least twenty-one years old.
Do not think that you can forgo the guest certificate purchase and simply hope that the resort won't notice the person in your unit is someone other than you. Your name is on file, and anyone checking in will be required to show identification — which will prove that they are not you. A guest certificate purchase is mandatory before check-in time, and if you skip the process, you may be responsible for paying additional fines to your resort in the future.
Guest certificates are not necessary for guests staying with you in your timeshare unit. They are required only if you want to give your timeshare usage to another person, be it for a few days, a week, or whatever amount of time you have reserved at a timeshare resort — and they can make great gifts.
Some exchange companies, including Resort Condominiums International, will let you transfer your timeshare points or weeks to another member of your exchange company. You will have to fill out a form, and the person you are giving your timeshare use to will need to have documentation when she checks in at the resort. As you may have already guessed, with some exchange companies a fee will apply to this transaction.
The ability to transfer weeks can be a handy service if, say, you and your spouse each own a separate week of timeshare use and you want to give a two-week honeymoon vacation to your children. Or, perhaps you have made good friends at your timeshare resort, and each of you wants to take a two-week vacation without purchasing an additional week of time. You could transfer your week to your friends one year, and they can transfer their week back to you another year.
At some point during your exchange or resort check-in process, you likely will be asked if you want to attend an informational breakfast or some other type of meeting that will be described to you as a way to keep informed on all the updates at your resort.
Resorts and exchange companies may consider this an additional service, but you should be aware that usually these types of meetings are actually sales presentations. The companies figure that as long as you are enjoying the resort, they may as well try to get you to purchase another week of timeshare use there.
If you might be interested, by all means attend — you may even get some bonus points or other promotional freebies out of the deal. But if you are happy with the timeshare unit you already own and do not want anything more, stay away from these update meetings.