Exchanging 101

by Vincent Lehr, TimeSharing Today

Trading is one of the most misunderstood benefits of timeshare ownership. It can potentially be one of the biggest benefits of what you own and allow you to do the most amazing vacations. The problem most people have, however, is they have no idea of how to trade properly and they are not willing to do the research for the best techniques. Many of the developers are also not great about providing education on how to properly exchange and actually get what you want.

Most people just try and call RCI or II and tell them exactly what they want and the dates they want. In nearly every case you are not going to get exactly what you want on your first phone call. The exchange companies also don't make money until they get you a week, so they will try to get you to book something else in order to make a transaction fee. Many representatives don't even tell members about the ongoing search feature which is the best way to get a reservation. I think many owners would trade their timeshares more as well as take more vacations if they knew some of the tricks to make it easier.

Dealing with thousands of owners allows me to say with confidence that the simpler it is, the better it is. Here is the process I would teach my grandmother and anybody else to make it as easy as possible. We also have a few advance tricks that can supercharge your results and get you many reservations you never thought possible.

How exchange companies make money

The better the weeks they have, the more trades they get and the more money they make. As with regular real estate, location and quality have a lot to do with your power. There was also a lawsuit recently which required RCI to show you the value of your week's trading power (TPU) so you know what you qualify for. This is not new; it's just they never publicized it before.

People thought they could trade their Red week in Arkansas for a Red Week in Hawaii and that is not the case at all. The two biggest keys to trading are what week you are giving up and how far in advance you call with as large parameters as possible. There is also a difference if you own in a points system as opposed to a fixed week system as well as which exchange company you are using. With all of these options and all this confusion, here are the basics to follow to actually get what you want.

Depositing your week

All exchange companies have an internal scoring system that determines your trading power. When you deposit your week has a large effect on your trading power.

  • Step 1

    Determine the best resort you have access to in your developer's system. This could just be your home resort. If you have the ability to book any week (floating), find the best week you have access to farther out then nine months. Hint: Know the booking rules for your developers and know the earliest in advance you can book a full week (13 months, 12 months, 10 months, etc) and what time the reservations department opens.

    Even if you are not sure when you want to go on your vacation book a prime time week to deposit. Once you figure out what week you are going to book, mark in your calendar the exact time to call. Call exactly the first day possible at the exact time the reservations department opens up. This will give you an extremely high probability of getting the exact date you want at the best time. Your best option is to book a two-bedroom unit during a major holiday as far out as possible.

    Now once you have your prime time week booked, get the confirmation number and get ready to deposit the week.

  • Step 2

    Once you have the week, decide which exchange company you are going to deal with. There are more exchange companies that you can use besides RCI and II. Call the exchange company or go online and deposit your week 9-24 months in advance of the check in date. This will give you maximum trading power.

    Depositing first will typically yield you higher trading power with most of the exchange companies as opposed to requesting first. Even if you do not know where you would like to go, it is a good idea to have the week deposited as it will keep your value for when you are ready. Now if you own a points system with major developers such as Wyndham or Hilton, you do not need to deposit a week with II or RCI; just go to the next step.

  • Step 3

    The next most important criteria for maximum exchange power are when you request your vacation. You are put on the waiting list according to when it is you start your search. Ideally, you want to start your search nine months or farther in advance. The problem with most people is that they call once and ask for what they want; when it is not available, they give up and never try again. Or they are on the waiting list for a long time and never hear anything. This leads to much frustration on the part of owners because they don't know how the process works.

    Nearly every time you call an exchange company, exactly what you want will not be available. Do not panic; this is to be expected. The likelihood of the exact week you want being available at the exact time you call is highly unlikely. Don't get discouraged. However, you can most likely get what you want if you have a little patience.

    When they tell you nothing is available, what you want to do is start an ongoing search. Different exchange companies call it different names, but basically it is a waiting list that searches all day every day to find what you want. Since exchange companies make money from fees, many times they will try to get you to book something different from what you are asking in order to get a booking. Tell them no and keep yourself on the search list. To increase your chances of getting what you want do not just give them one resort and one date whenever possible. Your best chances are to request farther out than nine months, choose multiple resorts (up to 48 resorts), and up to a 10 week time frame. Whenever possible, pick a range of dates instead of just a single week. The key is to be as broad with your options as possible to ensure you get a trade within a decent time frame. There are obvious critiera that can make getting trades easier, such as flexibility on room size, location of the resort, and traveling off season. Any of these parameters will increase your chances as well.

Trading may seem complicated at first and ultimately you could just call the exchange company and ask for a week, but most likely you will be waiting awhile for a response. If, however, you know what exchange companies' criteria and plan a little bit ahead, you will be more successful a lot more often and stay at the world's best resorts. You will be extremely satisfied with your timeshare if you are able to trade to the Atlantis, Disney Resorts, Marriott, Four Seasons and others for a nominal exchange fee.

There are additional tricks you can also use to exchange on short notice, get multiple weeks for one week, and trade for other things besides condos as well.