When working within any timeshare exchange system, you have to be cautious about falling into traps that can not only hurt your timeshare use during a particular year, but that can blacklist you for the life of your timeshare ownership.
Honest mistakes happen, of course, but watch out for the following problems that have befallen other timeshare owners in the past. They can put a real damper on your vacation time for many years to come.
You Can't Get Your Desired Exchange
This is a common complaint that is voiced by owners of all kinds of timeshares working with all kinds of resorts and exchange companies. The exchange companies make clear that when requesting a timeshare trade, you will have to consider multiple resorts and different times of the year, but still many timeshare owners say they have difficulty getting the exchanges of their choice. In some cases, with points-based resorts, timeshare owners have even had problems getting a week of their choice at their home resort.
Why are you having trouble getting the timeshare exchange you want? Some of the reasons include poor exchange power, ineffective trading on your part, or scenarios by which the resorts do business with nonowners who potentially get in your way.
Low Exchange Power
In some cases, your timeshare unit simply is not valuable enough to garner the type of trade you want. Even if the resort developer told you that you were buying a first-class unit in a high-demand resort during a peak season for exchanging, you still may not have enough trading power to get the kind of exchange you are seeking.
Your unit's exchange power is determined by several factors, including its number of bedrooms and the demand level of the season in which you own. But if you continually get turned down for the exchanges you are requesting — and that you believe to be fair trades — you would be wise to contact your exchange company and ask them exactly what about your unit is holding you back. Sometimes, you will be able to affect the problem, while at other times, you may simply be out of luck with a bad purchase.
In many cases, the key to getting the exchange you want is banking your timeshare week or points into the exchange company's space bank as early as possible. Remember, the space bank is the place where exchanged weeks and points are held until another exchange company member agrees to trade for them. You want to have your unit in the space bank and waiting when this happens, lest you miss out on your opportunity for a great trade. Depositing your week close to the time that it begins is a surefire way to fail at getting the exchange you want.
The rule in exchanges is simple: Deposit early for the best odds of getting the exchange you want.
Resort Condominiums International assigns a point value to every week of exchanged timeshare use. Some of the points are based on how early your week was put into the RCI space bank — meaning that if your unit and an identical unit are both in the space bank requesting similar trades, the person who deposited her week first will be most likely to succeed.
Bulk Space Banking
Bulk space banking occurs when a resort gathers up all the timeshare weeks that went unused during the same time of year during the previous few years — in other words, its historically lowest-demand weeks — and then gives those weeks, in bulk, to an exchange company's space bank. The resort's idea is that the more weeks it has available, the more people might exchange for them and go to the resort.
The problem this can pose for timeshare owners — particularly people who own floating weeks — is that when you call your home resort to get a week assigned for you to deposit in an exchange company's space bank, your resort may tell you that it has already bulk space banked all of the available weeks. It will then assign one of the previously banked weeks to you, so that you can facilitate an exchange.
You do get credit for having deposited your week early, which is good in terms of trading power, but on the other hand, you are being given a week of timeshare use that is not historically high in demand — thus negatively affecting your trading power. Some people who own floating weeks have complained that this practice has made it all but impossible for them to get any exchanges of decent value, since they are always being forced to deposit weeks of timeshare use that occur during off-peak seasons.
Not all resorts practice bulk space banking with exchange companies. If you are buying a floating week of timeshare use and intend to exchange it year after year, ask your home resort if it does bulk space banking. Should the answer be yes, you might consider buying through a different resort so that you can have access to the floating week of your choice — and thereby enhance your timeshare exchange value.
Another problem that floating-week timeshare owners have reported in terms of bulk space banking is that once they accept a previously banked unit as the one they are depositing for exchange, they need to take their timeshare vacation within a year or two of the date when the week was banked — not the date when they requested the exchange. In some cases, this means a mere few months' window for travel — and in some cases, it also means an additional maintenance-fee payment. If, for instance, you requested an exchange in November — but because of early bulk space banking, you have to take your vacation by February of the upcoming year — you may be forced to pay the upcoming year's maintenance payment in advance, even if you just paid your current year's maintenance payment and weren't expecting another bill for the next twelve months.
Bulk space banking has its complexities, but if you want to learn more, there is a terrific consumer-led discussion about the issue posted at the Timeshare User's Group Web site,
There have been complaints by some timeshare owners that resorts are allowing renters (or short-term vacationers) to take over so many timeshare units that there are not enough left for perfectly legitimate timeshare exchanges. In some cases, points-based timeshare owners have complained that they cannot even get a floating week of choice at their home resorts because the resorts have allowed too many units to be booked by non-timeshare owners who have simply called and asked for an available room.
It is virtually impossible to say whether this is true or not, unless of course you work in the resort's reservations department. But it is a practice to watch out for, and one that has drawn the attention of at least one class-action lawsuit (that was yet to be settled as of this printing).
Renting Out a Week You Exchanged For
Some people get the nifty idea that if they exchange their timeshare week for another one at a ritzier resort, they can then rent out that traded week to make a fast buck. This is a no-no — one that the exchange companies and resorts take so seriously, they often keep a list of perpetrators on file and refuse them further exchanges for life.
If you get caught renting out a timeshare week that you have exchanged for, you also may be subject to fines from both the resort and the exchange company. Truth be told, it's simply not worth taking the chance if you want to make the most of your timeshare ownership for many years to come.
Double- or Triple-Booking Your Unit
If you try to work with more than one exchange company at a time — by requesting exchanges in several places and seeing which ones you can confirm first — you run the risk of double- or triple-booking the timeshare unit you own.
Say you request three different resorts through three different exchange companies. By a stroke of good luck, you get one of the requests you were after — but you fail to rescind the requests you have placed with the other two companies. Eventually, they come through as well, meaning that you have now promised the one week of timeshare use you own to three different exchange companies.
You will face penalties for this kind of double- or triple-booking, and you could end up listed as a problem exchanger in the companies' computers. Again, it's simply not worth taking the chance if you want to make the most of your timeshare ownership for many years to come.
Lost Home Resort Week
There have been cases reported in which some timeshare owners deposited their week into a deposit-first exchange system, only to be told that the week had been lost in the computer when it came time to confirm a requested exchange.
A simple solution to this problem is to get — and keep — a written confirmation of your timeshare week deposit. It should clear up any questions with the exchange company immediately, or, at worst, it will serve as valuable evidence for your attorney.