RCI points have become the bread and butter of Resort Condominiums International, one of the biggest timeshare vacation exchange groups in the world. Though they don’t directly manage timeshare properties, RCI operates an exchange system for owners of affiliated resorts to trade their weeks for stays at other vacation destinations.
RCI doesn’t own or sell timeshares themselves. Instead they provide a service to timeshare companies affiliated with RCI like Hilton Grand Vacations Club, Wyndham, Disney Vacation Club, and Holiday Inn Club Vacations. If you’ve purchased a timeshare from one of these RCI points partners, your member benefits may allow you to join the RCI trading system. In theory, this gives you access to discovering new vacation opportunities and destinations each year without having to own multiple timeshare weeks.
Does a membership with RCI help you explore exotic new locations and experiences? Or do you need to avoid this timeshare scam because it’s designed to exploit owners into expensive memberships? Let’s dive deeper into the RCI points system and determine the true intentions of Resort Condominiums International.
Having an RCI membership allows you to exchange vacation stays at RCI affiliated resorts. According to RCI.com, this membership gives you access to timeshare resorts in over 100 countries including Canada, Mexico, and Costa Rica. You can also use your points on perks like airfare, car rentals, and cruises.
While this all sounds like such an incredible deal, this membership doesn’t come for free. Just like vacation ownership, the RCI points system doesn’t come without its fees. For many timeshare owners of a partnering company with RCI, an RCI membership fee is added to your annual maintenance fees. Otherwise, a membership with RCI starts at $89 a year, and this fee is due whether you use their service or not.
With an RCI membership, points and weeks are used to exchange vacation destinations. If the timeshare you own is based on a weeks system, you’ll be using the RCI weeks system to exchange stays at their affiliated resorts. If your timeshare company works on a points system, you’ll be using the RCI points system. The two systems have different annual fees and slightly different policies and perks.
Not all RCI weeks are created equal. For example, a week at a destination in Hawaii may be worth two weeks at a resort in Orlando. This is because ownership weeks are given points value based on:
So the allocation of points for a spacious unit on the Pacific coast in the height of summer will be a lot higher than the points for a week at a desert timeshare in July.
So what do you do when your points balance isn’t high enough to stay at your desired location? In this case, RCI allows their members to purchase more points to stay at a higher rated resort. Members can also borrow points from the next use year or rent points to stay at a higher rated destination.
With all these perks, can there really be a downside to having an RCI membership? Doesn’t using their points system make owning a timeshare more worth it? Let’s further examine RCI as a company and whether their presence within the timeshare industry has improved or harmed the experiences of their members.
What makes RCI such a successful company is the illusion of limitless possibilities for vacation destinations. Because unlike a timeshare company that can only sell a limited amount of units, RCI can sell an unlimited number of points. This is because they are not tying their customers down to a physical location.
RCI is selling their members on the idea that they can exchange points at their home resort for a stay at any RCI-affiliated resort. The problem with this is that the possibility of limitless travel destinations versus the reality can be quite stark. Unfortunately customers don’t know that until they’re already enrolled into an RCI membership.
Timeshare developers who utilize the RCI points system are able to sell their timeshares as points rather than fixed or floating weeks. So instead of giving their customers a specific week in a specific unit, developers can simply sell their customers points to redeem at their home resort or elsewhere.
Even though owners can technically call the resort they purchased their timeshare from their “home resort,” the points system doesn’t guarantee an annual stay. RCI only made this matter worse when they started renting out their most valuable units to non-timeshare owners, making it extremely difficult for timeshare owners to book stays at their home resort.
Why would RCI, a company boasting convenience, luxury, and limitless vacation possibilities, do this? Because it’s profitable for them. They can offer rentals of their nicest units to non-owners at a much higher price than what the actual timeshare-owning members would pay. And once these non-owners realize how luxurious RCI resorts are, they might be convinced to join the RCI membership program.
Unfortunately for RCI, their members grew weary of being unable to book stays at their home resorts and filed a class action lawsuit against them in 2012. Glenz v. RCI alleged that RCI rented timeshare inventory deposited by members of the RCI Exchange Program to non-members rather than making inventory available solely for member exchange. The resulting settlement cost RCI approximately $19 million.
Though this may have been a victory for RCI point members at the time, the same system of exchange exists today and continues to cause problems. And if you take a look at RCI’s Better Business Bureau profile, which has a customer rating of 1.5 out of 5 stars, you’ll see that lack of availability has not been resolved in the years since their lawsuit.
On top of that, RCI’s expensive exchange fees, bad customer service, unexplained hidden fees, and inflexible cancellation policies should tell you that RCI only cares about making money, not about improving your vacation experience.
RCI and other timeshare exchange programs have developed a system that allows an unlimited amount of points to be sold, but at what cost?
Many people who’ve been sucked into timeshare points systems find that the promise of limitless vacation options is not as thrilling as it cracked up to be. Timeshare point holders often find their options to be quite limited as weeks seem to always be unavailable and booking a stay at their home resort becomes almost impossible due to overbooking.
If you’re trapped in a timeshare exchange program that drains your wallet and provides much more stress than convenience, Centerstone may be able to help you out.
Centerstone Group is a full-service advocacy group specializing in contract resolution. Our team of timeshare relief experts have a deep knowledge of the industry and are aware of all the high-pressure sales tactics and misrepresentation that is used to sell timeshares.
If you’ve been a victim of fraudulent timeshare sales and are having trouble escaping your contract, Centerstone may be able to help you navigate release from your contract and point system membership. With over 33 years of experience combined in the timeshare industry and one of the most comprehensive, time-tested resolution processes, Centerstone is happy to analyze your case and determine your eligibility.
Contact us today for a free consultation!