The ability to exchange the use of a timeshare to vacation at a different destination has been part of the fabric of timeshare ownership for nearly 50 years. Timeshares began in the form of fixed week ownership where an owner bought the use of a specific week in a unit at a specific resort. The emergence of exchange companies came about as owners sought more options for their vacations beyond using their week at the same resort every year.
Exchange companies created networks of resorts within their systems through affiliating resorts and encouraging owners to become members of their networks. Owners often pay an annual membership fee and submit, or “bank”, the use of their week into the system in order to choose a different available week within that system. Members then pay an exchange fee in order to secure the booking.
Exchange Companies Evolved Along with Timeshare
Through the years, exchange companies developed various levels of membership, with added benefits as members moved to a higher level. Even with the introduction of the points-based vacation club model by developers such as Disney Vacation Club and WorldMark, timeshare exchange gave these owners vacation options beyond their Club program.
There are a number of exchange companies trying to gain the business of the estimated 20 million timeshare owners across the globe. The majority of timeshare resorts in the U.S. are affiliated either with RCI or Interval International, so owners need to check with their resorts to confirm which company to use. Other companies are independent and allow exchanges regardless of affiliation.
Below are the largest and most well-known companies:
RCI is the largest exchange provider in the world, with nearly four million members and approximately 4,200 affiliated resorts across 110 countries as part of their network. RCI charges an annual membership fee in addition to exchange fees. Depending on the level of membership, members can also receive benefits on travel products such as discounted hotel stays, airline travel, rental cars, cruises and group tour products.
With two million members and 3,200 resorts in 80 countries as part of its global affiliate network, II also provides a substantial scope of vacation offerings. II has an annual membership fee, although it is lower than its primary competitor, and also charges exchange fees to book a week within its system.
Interval International’s three primary levels of membership are its basic Interval Membership, Interval Gold and Interval Platinum. These graduated levels of membership offer increase benefits such as discounted hotels, last minute getaway deals and travel products such as cruises, tours, air fares and car rentals.
7Across (formerly DAE or Dial an Exchange)
DAE began in Australia in 1997 and grew to become the leading independent exchange provider in the world, with offices in the U.S., U.K., Europe, South Africa, and New Zealand as well as Australia. Growing as large as 500,000 members and servicing as many as one million timeshare owners, DAE was so successful that rival RCI bought it in 2017 and has rebranded the company as 7Across.
The company continues to operate with no membership fees required to use their platform. Any timeshare owner can sign up and use their services, only paying an exchange fee once the exchange booking is confirmed. Weeks can be banked up to three years, and members can also retain their memberships with other exchange companies if they choose to do so.
The oldest of the independent exchange companies, Platinum Interchange started in 1979 and have confirmed exchanges into 1,300 resorts around the world for its members. The company does not have affiliate resorts, does not charge annual membership fees but does charge exchange fees.
Members first request the week they want for a vacation, only depositing their ownership week and paying an exchange fee after the request has been fulfilled.
RTX was originally birthed out of Festiva Resorts and has about 80,000 members. While the company began with predominantly Festiva resorts in its lineup, the company has broadened to include other independent resorts. The company offers an active shelf life of up to four years for weeks deposited into its system.
Membership levels include Basic, Premium and Premium Plus. The company does not advertise an annual membership fee but does charge exchange fees.
SFX Preferred Resorts (formerly San Francisco Exchange)
With a membership base of 350,000 registered members, SFX is one of the largest independent exchange companies in the world. SFX also offers an entry-level membership at no cost, with the option to upgrade to a Diamond-level membership. Weeks can be deposited for up to three years and exchange fees are paid only after an exchange is confirmed.
Regions highlighted as potential vacation destinations are the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe, Thailand and Australia.
TPI started out in the 1970s as a travel agency in southern California before getting involved in timeshare exchange. They claim to rank number three in the world for independent vacation exchanges and also offer the ability for timeshare owners, through their Classic membership level, to exchange without the need for an annual membership fee. Exchange fees are paid when the exchange is confirmed.
TPI does offer an upgraded membership level called Trading Places Prime which is a paid club membership offering additional travel benefits and discounts. Another category, called Resorts to Ports, allows timeshare owners to exchange toward a cruise.