Interval International: A Key Part of the Timeshare Scheme

Interval International: frustrated man looking at his laptop

As a rule, timeshares are about picking a vacation spot you really love and committing to it. Even the term “vacation ownership” indicates a certain level of permanence, even though fractional ownership isn’t really anything like owning other types of real property. Even if you love Hawaii, do you really want to take all your vacations there?

Understanding this serious drawback to their products, timeshare companies looked for ways to get around this problem. They came up with the idea of vacation exchange network companies. The idea was that owners would plunk down even more money for an exchange company membership so they could “trade” their timeshare unit for time at another resort.

One of the biggest exchange companies in the world is Interval International. This company, which is owned by Marriott, is one of the largest timeshare exchange companies and boasts a worldwide resort directory. It says you can reserve these units using your existing timeshare interest. Of course, Marriott has its own vacation club and feeds clients to Interval International.

(It may not surprise you to learn that the other biggest exchange company is RCI, which is owned by another timeshare developer, Wyndham.)

The reality of Interval International is that it is just another way for Marriott to extract more money from timeshare owners trying to make the best of a bad situation. Interval comes with its own fees, of course, and making reservations with its exchange system is not as easy as you may have been led to believe.

This article will take a look at the services that Interval International offers, as well as how those services actually work in comparison to how they are advertised. In particular, we will look at, one, what an Interval International membership costs, two, other fees you can expect to pay with Interval, and three, how easy it really is to book a vacation in another place you really want to go.

Membership: You Have to Pay for the Option of Using Interval International’s Exchange Program

Person handing cash to another person

When you are thinking about timeshare exchange companies, it makes sense that you would only call them and use their services when you would like to make an exchange. That’s not how Interval International works though. You have to be an Interval International member in order to make an exchange, and being a member requires an annual fee.

The amount of your annual fee will vary depending on how many years of fees you would like to pay in advance. If you want “only” one year of membership in the least expensive “Interval Gold” tier, you’ll pay $64 for that privilege. If you buy five years of gold membership at a time, you’ll pay $256, or $51.20 per year.

Of course, if you want the more expensive Interval Platinum or International options, you’ll pay more for those. A year of those costs $139 and $99, respectively, with similar discounts for multi-year purchases.

You may be thinking that one or more of these various membership programs don’t seem outrageously expensive. Keep in mind, though, that those costs are on top of what you are already paying. 

According to the American Resort Development Association (ARDA), the average timeshare maintenance fees are $1,000 per year. Add to that any mortgage payments or special assessments you have to pay, and you are paying thousands of dollars in fees for your “vacation ownership” before you make it to check-in.

Other Fees: The Nickels and Dimes Add Up

Piggy bank and coins by the window

The annual fees are a steep cost you didn’t need. But they are hardly the last bit of money that Interval International will extract. Before you actually take a vacation in an exchanged timeshare unit, you will have to pay Interval even more fees.

Let’s start with the basics. First, if you exchange and stay an entire week in a new property, you’ll have to pay $209 just for making the reservation. If you want a shorter getaway, Interval does have a program for that with its own fees, from $149 for a single night to $179 for six nights.

When you try to make a reservation for an exchange unit, you will have to deposit your timeshare interest (e.g., a certain timeshare week at one resort), and you’ll get a certificate. If you can’t book an exchange unit in the time you are given, though, you’ll have to choose between paying more money to Interval or losing the certificate. 

A six-month extension on one of these certificates costs $99, and a year costs $199. Maybe you have just booked your exchange unit, and you saw a better deal online. Can you change your reservation? Maybe, with Interval’s E-Plus program, but it’s going to cost you another $59.

Or what if you want to book a larger unit than the one you own at your home resort? Again, there’s a fee: between $59 and $99, depending on your level of Interval membership.

Maybe these fees are too steep for you, or your schedule won’t allow your vacation. In that case, you might want to give your timeshare to someone else to use with Interval Interantional’s exchange program. Not so fast, though. Unless you are a super-elite Platinum member, you’ll have to purchase a guest certificate for $69.

The fees add up quickly. If you are trying to let your children exchange your Orlando timeshare for a beach resort vacation, you could be paying $400 on top of your annual membership fee, plus your mortgage and timeshare maintenance fees. All those amounts alone probably could have paid for a very nice hotel room. Instead, you’re paying Marriott for its “services.”

Can You Even Make the Exchange You Want?

Interval International: person booking a hotel online

The over-the-top fees outlined above are bad enough on their own. But that scenario assumes that you can even get an exchange reservation for a timeshare that you actually want. That’s not necessarily going to be the case. 

Travel website reviews like these often show long-term customers frustrated that Interval International just doesn’t have enough inventory. Planning a vacation a year in advance is tricky for anyone to accomplish. But if you are able to do it and make your timeshare deposit at that time, you should be able to get good options for an exchange.

According to timeshare owners, it just doesn’t happen. Imagine spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on membership for a club that, after you jump through all the hoops and plan everything perfectly, still can’t give you what you bargained for. That is the experience a lot of timeshare owners have with Interval International.

Also, keep in mind that the fairness of any given exchange is determined solely by Interval. So you might not actually be exchanging for a resort that is equal in quality. While you might think that the resort you exchanged for is a bad deal, you can’t appeal to the company or anyone else.

Stop the Timeshare Bleeding

If you’re reading this, you probably understand that timeshares are not a good deal. Hopefully you now also understand that membership with an exchange company like Interval International won’t solve the problem. It’ll just make a bad situation worse.

But you don’t have to be held hostage with an ever-increasing amount of fees. Centerstone Group is a group of dedicated professionals with decades of experience in the timeshare industry. We use proprietary strategies to get you a legal, ethical exit from your timeshare.

Whether we are exploring the possibility of timeshare resales, working with attorneys to find a way out of your contract, or engaging in a pressure campaign on a timeshare developer, we can help you. If you have a timeshare you don’t want, stay away from exchange companies. Contact us today for a free consultation and case evaluation.

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