Alright, you made it through my other Timeshare Vacations articles and are ready to put yourself in the official priority line for a RCI exchange vacation. This process is called ‘An Ongoing Search.’ You may have seen this on the RCI website when you searched for a certain RCI properties or a town in the RCI Resort Directory, but came up empty.
If you searched for a resort in the current inventory (via the homepage search) the ongoing search button is all the way at the end of the page. Many people don’t scroll down, so they don’t even know it is there.
If you happened to find this article and are just joining me, this one the third in a series of posts designed by an owner for owners to get the most for their timeshare vacations! If you want to browse the other articles on how to exchange with RCI feel free:
- Timeshare Vacations 101: Introduction to RCI Exchanges
- Timeshare Vacations 201: Using the RCI Resort Directory and Historical Tools to Find and Plan Vacations You Want!
- Timeshare Vacations Master Class: See 70% of U.S. National Parks with RCI Exchanges
- Timeshare Vacations Master Class: Timeshare Deals with RCI Last Call
What Is A RCI Exchange Ongoing Search?
RCI explains it on their Ongoing Search FAQ page as: “When you start an Ongoing Search, you get prioritized access to member deposited inventory, giving you a better chance of finding the vacation you want.” So imagine only 10 Hawaii July Weeks are deposited in the RCI Exchange system a year. But there are 50 people looking for weeks at these RCI Resorts. The people who get these timeshare vacations are ALWAYS the first 10 people in the line. If you are in the back of the line, or haven’t put yourself in the line at all, you’re not going to get this RCI exchange.
You may start to get a sense why when you search for certain RCI resorts in the inventory it’s not there. Some of the most in-demand RCI properties are taken by member’s ongoing searches and therefore aren’t ever put in search inventory for others to see and reserve that way. Let me repeat that again – – – – The resort or week you may be looking for may NEVER get put into the search inventory as they are all being taken by savvy members who put in an Ongoing Search.
Think of it as going to a night club….. There are always two lines. One for people who wait forever, may or may not get in and get stuck with whatever they tell you once you reach the front of the line. THEN there is the VIP line which is, of course, where you want to be. The Ongoing Search is the “VIP” Line. (Just to be clear – You don’t need to be a RCI Platinum Member to make an ongoing search request) This is a key piece to learning how to exchange with RCI!
How Do I Set Up an RCI Exchange Ongoing Search?
RCI has a video that outlines this process. Take a look and then I’ll explain the process more and highlight some very important elements that they breeze through.
RCI Exchange Ongoing Search: Two Requirements
#1: In order to get the search going, you have to pay your exchange fee upfront. Some RCI members really grumble about this, but if you don’t ever get a match or reject the results the money is refunded.
Here’s my personal two cents on the pre-payment.
- I realize that it is another fee on top of what feels like endless payments for a RCI Exchange vacation, but this is how you get the nicer RCI resorts, the summer vacation weeks, or what you’ve been really hoping for. It’s how to make the most of your timeshare and RCI membership.
- Getting a nicer resort or more expensive holiday week will be “worth” more value in the end for the same amount of money (cause you would have paid the exchange fee anyway). For example, RCI has a group of Signature Selection properties that will always be in high demand. You can imagine the experience at these properties! It will be a bucket list trip for many!
- If you read my 201 post you might remember me saying “Treat your RCI currency like real money” cause in reality those points are representative of a lot of check writing!
- So pre-paying the exchange fee to do an ongoing search is one way to increase the ROI (Return on Investment) of all the money you’ve already spent.
- There are some frustrated members who never find what they are looking for, have to pay to extend their points for another year or even worse let their points expire all together and get nothing for all the money they’ve spent both with RCI and at their home resort.
- So really, I think pre-paying to exchange with RCI via an ongoing search is smart! #justmytwocents
#2 Your RCI Membership is valid through the date you are looking to make a search for. So if your membership expires at the end of this calendar year, your searches can only go that far. The system WILL alert you if you attempt to create an ongoing search request for a date beyond your current membership.
This is one reason that a lot of members purchase the multi-year RCI memberships—so that they can do ongoing searches far in advance. I’ve heard via member Facebook groups that people have had success calling up and negotiating with a RCI representative for multi-year memberships at even cheaper rates than listed on the website. Give it a try!
Timeshare Vacation Tip: Where You Are In the Line Matters
An ongoing search puts you in the line, but if you want to get to the front of the line to score one of those 10 RCI Hawaii properties, you have to plan far in advance. (I see your eyes rolling over there. Did Planner at Heart just say plan ahead?) You can put an ongoing search request in two years in advance, if your membership extends out that far. I know, I know but if you want to compete with those saavy members who are scooping up weeks at amazing RCI properties during prime time, you gotta do what they are doing. Timeshare exchanging is kinda a competition for the same pot of vacations, so you gotta go hard if you know you want to go to Hawaii during school summer vacation. Because as I heard from another member: “Where you are IN the line matters!”
Actually Get Ongoing Search Matches for Your RCI Exchange
At 0:39 mark in the video, they very quickly instruct you to click on the week you want to do the ongoing search AGAINST. What they DON’T mention is that you will only get results back that are equal or lesser to the amount of points of your selected deposit. This might be one reason why some of you are doing on-going searches and NEVER getting any results back! So looking at my account below, if I selected the week with 9 points, I would only get results back that were 9 or less points. So if I put in an ongoing search request for Orlando over Christmas break, I won’t get any Ongoing Search matches because that week exchanges for more than 9 points (which is more than my selected week’s value).
In my 201 post I talk a lot about the importance of knowing the historical point value for your dream trip – – THIS is why. If you don’t know that you need 25 points for this hypothetical trip and you select a week worth only 20 points to do the ongoing search against, you’ll never match for what you are looking for. And unfortunately, the system WON’T tell you that. So make sure to look up the point values for RCI Resorts before you set-up your search. If you need to combine two weeks together to get to amount of points historically required you can do that with the ongoing search set-up screen as well.
MY EXPERIENCE DOING AN ONGOING SEARCH
I did an ongoing search for our RCI Exchange trip to Orlando 18 months in advance because I wanted a specific section of one resort, needed to have a 2 bedroom and needed to check in on a Friday only because Saturday was Halloween at Disney. I attempted to set-up an Ongoing Search on the website and after getting error messages multiple times, I reached out to a RCI representative via the online chat to set it up.
Here’s the thing…… he never asked for a credit card and I wasn’t pre-charged the exchange fee. Maybe the representative forgot, maybe I was super polite, or who knows! Yes, I did pay the exchange fee when the exact unit, section and check-in date came through and I accepted it. By doing the search FAR in advance with a 2 year membership and enough points in my selected week and I was able to secure the exact RCI Exchange I wanted in about one month! I wasn’t able to be flexible this trip, so I knew I needed to get on the Waitlist line early.
ONE LAST TIP
Before you move forward with putting an Ongoing Search Request in, I wanted to make a PSA about something RCI very briefly said in the video at the 0:50 mark because they sure did say something important very fast! They have an auto-confirm button that will automatically finalize a reservation if it meets your search criteria.
If the search criteria that you set up is very small ( only a couple of specific resorts) or a town with a small number of RCI Properties that all would be fine by you) then go ahead and check this button if you feel comfortable. Personally, I would rather them email me the match and I’ll take on the responsibility of accepting/rejecting this option in 24 hours. But it is totally up to you! I wanted to make sure to highlight this as some people aren’t comfortable having the RCI system automatically set and confirm their exchange vacation.
If you don’t choose the auto-confirm option, they will email you every time a match is made that meets your criteria. You have 24 hours to confirm or release or it moves along to the next person in the list.
Perhaps you are looking to put an Ongoing Search request in to visit U.S. National Parks. Check out my post “Timeshare to National Parks” where I talk about how you can see 70% of America’s National Parks with RCI Exchanges
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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.