While there are still many people who buy a timeshare to stay in the same place at the same time every year, there are also lots and lots who buy to exchange. What a great way to go on vacation to a different place every year! If only you could hear the complaints I hear every day from people who can’t get the exchanges they want. And I’ll tell you right now, there are actually reasons for that, and there IS something you can do about it.

I’ve often said, there are three cardinal rules when it comes to exchanging timeshare. I’ll tell you the three rules, then I’ll explain the how and why for each.

 Bank early
The point of banking your week with an exchange company is that you’re letting them use it for someone else, and they’re letting you use a unit/week that belongs to still another someone else. The more notice you give the exchange company that you’re going to let them use it, the more time they have to find someone to put in it, so the more they like it. Which means they give you more “priority” when it comes to finding something for you. (This is now called Trading Power with RCI.) Think about it. If you bank your week a year in advance, and the guy in the room next door to yours banks his week two weeks before it starts, which room do you think has a better chance of being filled? And if they don’t fill the room, do you think they’re going to want to let that guy have some other prime room, when they could give it to someone like you that banked early? An empty unit is a lost unit. Once the week passes with no one in the unit, the exchange company got nothing for it. Why would they want to go out of their way to give you something good in return?

You can bank your unit/week up to two years before it starts, by paying the maintenance in advance (based on the current year’s maintenance) for the years you’re banking. Then at the end of the year, you pay the difference in maintenance, plus the taxes.

For example, let’s take pretend unit 110, which is a large efficiency (hey, I made up the unit, I can call it whatever I want!) so the maintenance in 2003 was $303.26. Now in 2003, you wanted to bank your week for 2004, so you paid the current maintenance amount of $303.26, and banked your 2004 week, even though it was still 2003. Now, at the end of 2003, we found out that the maintenance for unit 110 went up to $305.74, or $2.48 more than it was last year. You now owe $2.48 for the difference between what you paid and what the actual amount turned out to be, plus the taxes, we’ll call them $70.04. So the balance of your account is now $72.52. If you want to go ahead and pay for 2005 at the same time, you can add the now-current amount of $305.74, making a total of $378.26. Now you’re paid ahead for 2005 at the beginning of 2004, and you can go ahead and bank that week.

Keep in mind that you can do this for up to two years in advance. If you don’t want to do the math at the end of the year, you can call or email us and we’ll figure it up for you and let you know how much you need to pay. Meanwhile, as soon as your payment is posted, BANK THE WEEK. The longer you wait to bank, the more Trading Power you lose for the exchange you’ll want for that week. (Seriously – I know that sounds like an obvious thing to say, but I can’t tell you how often we see people pay in advance and then wait weeks or even months to bank!)

Request early

Again, think about it logically. If you call your exchange company in November and ask if you could please go to Hawaii in February, they’d almost be justified in laughing out loud! By that time, everyone who’s going to Hawaii has already made their plans, and there aren’t very many people banking their weeks at that late date. Granted, there is the possibility that you could get something at the last minute because of a late banking or a cancellation… but do you really want to take that chance with your vacation?

Another way to put it is
this: When you’re making your exchange request, you’re basically putting yourself on a list. You know how when you go out to a crowded restaurant on a Friday night and they take down your name and tell you how long it will be until you can get a table (and then when you multiply that by two and add ten minutes you have a rough estimate of how long it will really be)? What if when you put your name on the list you were just hoping someone would finish eating and get up and leave? What if there was a chance that some people might never give up their tables, and at the end of the evening, some of the folks standing at the door just never got to go in and have dinner? It’s basically the same way with exchange requests. When you make your request, you’re hoping that someone who owns the place you want to stay is going to put it up for exchange, and that no one else is going to be in line ahead of you to get it.

Here’s a practical example: We have two two-bedroom units at Canada House. Let’s say you want to come stay here in February, and you want a two-bedroom unit. There are approximately four weeks in February, so that means that one of eight owners has to bank in order for you to stay here when and where you want to stay. Now let’s suppose there are four other people who put in their requests for a two-bedroom unit at Canada House in February. So of the eight owners that own a two-bedroom unit in February, five of them have to bank in order for everyone to get what they want. What if only three of them bank? Where do you want to be in the line? Would you rather be #1 or #5? And at what point do you need to make your request in order to be #1 in line?

What I’m trying to say is, plan in advance. I know there are some people who can’t plan vacations in advance, but if you can, take advantage of it! And remember that some (if not all) of the exchange companies now have cancellation policies, where you can cancel within a certain amount of time before your trip and get your exchange fee and your week back.

Be flexible (time/location/unit size)

Your exchange is predicated on someone else banking their week at the place you want to go, when you want to go there. If someone calls their exchange company and says, “I want to stay at Canada House in week 3” it means that one of the 92 owners of a week 3 unit here has to bank his or her week. It also means there can’t be anyone else waiting for a Canada House week 3 that got in line first.

Go back to the example in the “request early” section. What if one of the people who wanted one of those two-bedroom units was willing to stay here in January or March, instead of specifying February? By adding two more months (8 more weeks) to their request, they’ve just tripled the possibility of getting in. Or what if they were willing to take a one-bedroom unit? By being willing to accept a one-bedroom or a two-bedroom unit, they’ve now opened up the possibility of being put into any of 25 units, instead of just one of two.

So be reasonable.

If you really have your heart set on that resort that only has 50 units, try to be flexible with your time. Don’t call and ask for week 3. Ask for sometime in January. Better yet, ask for sometime in January or February. On the other hand, if you’re limited in when you can go on vacation, and you can’t be flexible with your time, try to be flexible with your location. Don’t pick one particular resort. Instead, pick a city, or an area of a city, and give the exchange company a chance to find you something during that week.

Is it possible to go to New Orleans for the Jazz Festival and stay in a timeshare? Maybe. But not if you call up three weeks beforehand and say, “I’d like to bank my week that starts next month, and oh by the way can you get me in at the so-and-so resort during the week of Jazz Festival?” No, you bank your week two years ahead of time, and when you bank your week you put in your request for the Jazz Festival two years down the road, and be sure to add, “I’ll stay anywhere in the city.” And that still doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to get what everyone else wants — but it sure improves your chances over the guy who called three weeks beforehand to bank his week and make his request!!

Another thing to keep in mind is that you won’t always get a confirmed reservation right when you request it. Frequently, especially with RCI, you will need to make your request and then wait for something to become available. Don’t worry — this is part of the planning process. Just remember, by putting in your request, you’re “getting in line”, and when a table is available for you, the hostess will call your name!

Also, just to give all our owners a lift, we have maintained our Silver Crown Designation (formerly Resort of International Distinction) every year except one since 2004. This does increase your trading power with RCI. So bank early, request early, be flexible, have faith, and call or email us if you still have questions about exchanging. :o)