Are you a timeshare owner at a resort that qualifies for an Interval International Membership, but you haven’t joined to trade your timeshare for other vacations? Well, this introductory article is for you!
While we have been happy timeshare owners for 15 years and regularly trade our Catskills timeshare for vacations in other fabulous resorts, like Bougainvillea Barbados, it has been exclusively with RCI, the largest timeshare exchange company in the world. RCI does have the largest number of affiliated resorts for exchanges but some of the higher-end timeshare chains are not affiliated with RCI and are only available for exchanges through Interval International.
We recently stayed at a Marriott timeshare for the first time, were so impressed, and had such a wonderful family vacation experience that it got us thinking. Even though we already own 12 timeshare weeks a year, we have been talking about buying another one. I know, we sound totally crazy!
See, we rent a lot of our timeshare weeks out as a way to cover the cost of ownership. Over the course of 15 years, we’ve broken even. We like to think of it as vacationing for free! So as we look to travel, even more, we’ve thought about buying another timeshare solely for the purpose of exchanging. I’ve been looking for the unicorn: an inexpensive resale listing, low maintenance fees, high-trading power, and eligible for both RCI and Interval International Membership.
As part of this research process, I’ve been digging into the world of Interval International Membership by reading TUG’s information and boards and joining some Interval International Facebook groups. Here’s what I’ve learned about Interval International Membership so far. Thanks for joining me on my ride!
Interval International & The Timeshare World
Without getting into the whole history of the timeshare industry, I think it is important to know about the biggest timeshare corporations and how these conglomerates create a separation of church and state for owners and users of timeshares and an exchange network.
Personally, I think it is crucial to know all you can about this world before buying a timeshare or spending money on an Interval International Membership. But, unfortunately, I find that many disappointed owners are learning key pieces of information after the fact, and I’m on a mission to help people learn more before opening their wallets. For example, Did you know that timeshare resort chains actually own the two largest timeshare exchange companies?
RCI is owned by Wyndham Destinations, now named Travel + Leisure
Travel +Leisure (yes, the magazine brand!) also owns
- Club Wyndham
- Worldmark by Wyndham
- Margaritaville Vacation Club
- Shell Vacation Club
- 7 Across (the exchange company formerly known as DAE)
- Timeshare rentals sites Tripbeat by Wyndham and ExtraHolidays
Marriott Vacations Worldwide Corporation owns Interval International
So, in addition to their 60 upscale Marriott Vacation Club resorts worldwide, this company also owns
- Sheraton Vacation Club
- Westin Vacation Club
- The Ritz Carlton Vacation Club
- St. Regis Residence Club
- Hyatt Residence Club
- Trading Places International (another timeshare exchange company)
How is this Related to an Interval International Membership?
As a timeshare owner who wants to trade her timeshare for vacations in other destinations knowing that Wyndham Vacation Resorts will never be available in Interval International and Marriott Vacation Club resorts will never be available in RCI is a really critical piece of information. See, those large corporations will never deposit weeks from their owned brands into the other’s exchange network.
So as a timeshare owner who currently owns a resort that is only affiliated with RCI and no other timeshare exchange company, if I want to stay at a Marriott Timeshare resort, I will have to rent it. When we recently traveled to Fort Lauderdale for a family event and stayed at Marriott Beachplace Towers, I didn’t have access to the exchange network that Marriott Vacation Club uses. And since the resort was sold out, the only way for me to secure a room for our specific dates was by renting from another owner on Redweek.com.
But if I had specifically bought a vacation ownership to trade it into Marriott ones but later discovered that the resort only plays with RCI and never Interval International, boy would I be disappointed. That’s just another reason to take your time buying a timeshare. Think about your travel bucket list, travel preference, and lifestyle before you buy! It’s a buyer’s world in timeshares, so those timeshare deals will still be there when you are ready! Don’t let any timeshare salesperson rush you so they can make their sales quota.
Now that my mini-rant is over let’s get to learning about Interval International!
Who is Interval International?
Interval International is the second-largest timeshare exchange company, with RCI being the largest. Created in 1976, they now have 2 million members with 3,200 affiliated resorts in 80+ countries. To celebrate their 45th Anniversary, they created a list of the Top 45 Exchange Destinations to inspire member travel. Want to see where an Interval International Membership can take you? Check it out!
How Much Does an Interval International Membership Cost?
If you own a timeshare that is affiliated with Interval International, you are eligible for membership. While some timeshare exchange companies out there let anyone join and rent their leftover rooms at the last minute, Interval International is not one of them. So if you hear otherwise from someone, that’s a major red flag that they don’t know what they are talking about.
Fees for a Basic Interval International Membership
- 1yr: $89
- 2yr: $178
- 3yr: $227
- 5yr: $356
Fee for Each Exchange Completed
- Via Phone: $189
- Online: $174
- Guest Certificates to Gift Reservations for Friends and Family: $59
Fees to Extend Your Week For An Exchange
- 3 months: $59
- 6 months: $89
- 12 months: $169
Interval International Membership deals happen, so add their email to your address book, so their emails on promotions don’t get sent to your spam folder.
How Do I Exchange an Interval International Membership?
For those familiar with RCI, Interval International also has two programs – One for Points Members and One for Weeks Members. However, there is one MAJOR difference between RCI and Interval International, which has both its pros and cons. You see, for people in the Interval International week’s program, it’s a week for week exchange. That’s right! So if you can work the system, there are ways to take a “cheap” vacation ownership week and trade it up for a week at a premium resort, like Marriott. That’s why we personally are interested in finding that unicorn timeshare to buy so that we can do these trade-ups!
But I won’t get too ahead of myself in this introductory article. Instead, let’s take a look at the basics behind an Interval International Membership and exchanging your timeshare week.
Interval International’s Deposit First Feature
When you know you want to use your week for a vacation at another resort, go ahead and deposit your timeshare ownership into the system. Interval International gives you a very generous four-year window, allowing you to book an exchange two years before your week all the way to two years after the check-in day of that week. With this type of “instant” exchange, you’re able to exchange into larger sizer units if they are available. So when searching it is possible that your studio unit will match with a 2 bedroom unit.
So do then use that “currency” to book vacations with an Interval International Membership? Check Out their How to Videos Below
Points Based Instant Confirmation
Week Based Instant Confirmation
If you’re looking to book short stays with your Interval International Membership, they have some how-to videos with instructions on that option as well.
Short Stays for Weeks
Short Stays for Points
Interval International’s Request First Feature
Another difference between an Interval International Membership and RCI is that II allows you to request an exchange first without depositing your vacation ownership week. This way, you don’t have to “give up” your home resort week until you see what you can get on exchange. However, with this feature, you can only secure exchanges for the two years before your check-in date and only search for a unit size similar to yours (or less). A way around this is to request an exchange into a resort which only has 2 bedroom units. Here’s how to place this type of request with your Interval International Membership.
Weeks Based Request
Points Based Request
What are some other things to know about an Interval International Membership
If you’re thinking about getting an Interval International Membership, here’s a couple more things to know to help you make a decision about this part of the vacation ownership world.
For people who want to reserve a room on short notice, you can do that with Interval International’s Flexchange feature, which offers exchanges 59 days to 24 hours before the check-in date. On the flip side, you can also deposit your week with II in their Flex Deposit program. You can deposit your week as late as 14 days before check-in as a way to still get value from your week, even if plans change. However, deposits made between 59 days and 14 days from the check-in date are considered “late deposits” and can only be used for exchanges 59 days in advance.
Regional Restrictions on Timeshare Exchanges
Just like RCI, there are some regional restrictions that limit trades within certain cities. For example, if you own a timeshare in Orlando, you might be restricted from trading to another resort in Orlando. So if you’re planning on getting an Interval International membership as part of a way to travel hack, please look into regional restrictions first.
What’s an Interval International Accommodation Certificate?
If you’ve seen this phrase thrown around but don’t know exactly what it is, Interval International offers these “bonus” weeks to people who have high-value or high-demand timeshare ownership weeks. In a system where a week is straight-up exchanged for another, you can see why owners of high-value weeks might not even deposit theirs. So as a way to get those weeks into the exchange pool, Interval International offers these extra weeks as a motivation.
However, your exchange options with an Accommodation Certificate will be limited and are, in essence, the leftovers of what other people didn’t take 59 days from the check-in date. That doesn’t mean there isn’t great stuff in there, but expectations need to be managed. If you can travel at the last minute, during off-season or shoulder season, there are some scores to be had! These certificates are good for one year and aren’t free to use. The redemption costs are from $229 to $329 based on the size of the room.
Interval International’s System has Trading Filters
Another big difference between RCI and Interval International Membership is that their system has trading filters baked into their website, restricting what you see when you’re searching. I know this sounds radical, but in their world of “ a week for a week,” they put some controls in place so that people weren’t dramatically trading down in quality of resorts.
So if you have a Gold Crown or another high-quality week, the website won’t even show you lower-quality resorts. So if you are open to widening your search, you’ll need to call in and have a representative walk you through all the options for an exchange.
Interval International Getaways Cash-Only Deals
If you’ve heard people talk about Interval International Getaways, these are cash-only last-minute deals on still available resort rooms. You could purchase an Interval International Membership for this feature alone! In fact, some people get an Interval International membership and never deposit their home resort week. They either use it or rent it and only use their Interval International Membership to book these cash-only Getaway deals. That’s how good some of these are. You have to be able to travel at the last minute and be really flexible on the destination. Still, you can score really upscale resort rooms in Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe, Florida, and California by learning and using this one feature of Interval International membership.
I hope this introductory article on Interval International Membership has been helpful! As we continue to think about joining, learn more about this part of the timeshare world, I’ll share it all with you.
Happy Timeshare Traveling, ya’ll!
PS – The article can also be viewed on Google Web Stories
Monica Fish helps her fellow adventurers live a financially savvy life so they can travel and explore our beautiful world no matter their budget. She writes about smart timeshare ownership, vacation tips and tricks, NYC Metro Area trips and activities, and frugal, yet rich, living at PlannerAtHeart.com.