Timeshare is one of the most popular forms of vacation accommodation in the country, with over 9 million owners in the U.S. and millions more who rent the product globally for their annual vacations. One of the leading brands in vacation ownership is RCI, the world’s largest timeshare exchange company with nearly 4 million members worldwide. So it would stand to reason that consumers would seek out RCI timeshare accommodations for their annual getaways. Well, yes and no.
A Global Accommodation Provider
You see, RCI doesn’t actually own timeshare resorts. Since 1974, they have built their core business around exchange, which allows timeshare owners to swap the use of their unit in order to stay in a different resort in another part of the country, or the world. Owners looking for RCI timeshare exchange services can choose from over 4,300 resorts in the company’s network of affiliated resorts which are located across 110 countries. So owners can use the services of RCI to expand the benefits of their existing timeshare ownership, but they cannot actually buy a timeshare from RCI.
RCI has played an important role in the overall growth of the timeshare industry, providing a vital service in the early days of the industry when ownership consisted primarily of fixed week ownership at one resort every year. With limited options, using the RCI timeshare exchange platform allowed owners to travel the world by using their existing ownership. They still do, but with many more travel options now available as the industry overall has evolved to create more consumer-friendly travel programs.
More Than Just Exchange
Nowadays, RCI offers more than just timeshare exchange across a layered offering of membership levels that gives members a broader scope of travel options. Timeshare ownership is the key to entry, and owners typically receive a free year’s membership if they buy a timeshare directly from the resort. Timeshare buyers on the resale market would have to enroll directly with RCI to become a member. In either case, the resort would have to be an affiliate of RCI in order for an owner to quality for membership.
Membership can be renewed on an annual basis and is available either for fixed week or points-based ownership. Levels of membership include:
- RCI Weeks – the standard plan where owners of a week of timeshare can deposit the use of their week into the program and exchange the use of their week to stay at another resort within the network.
- RCI Points – a flexible travel program where owners can either deposit existing points into the program or weeks owners can purchase points through their resorts and redeem them through RCI. This program allows for perks such as shorter stay vacations, borrowing points from future years to upgrade existing accommodations, and applying points toward the purchase of a cruise or other travel product.
- RCI Gold – an upgraded level of membership which allows for ongoing search and on-hold vacation services to find the right vacation for members at their convenience, Saving Dollars loyalty perks, and discounts on tours and cruises.
- RCI Platinum – the top membership level which includes added benefits such as deeper discounts on travel products, unit upgrades, priority access and travel concierge services.
Because not all timeshares carry equal value (for example, a three-bedroom suite would have a higher value than a studio unit), RCI has a method of assigning value to each timeshare. This not only allows for a fairer exchange system but also gives owners the opportunity to expand their vacation plans even further. Owners who have a higher timeshare value can, for instance, book a unit that has a lower value but translate that “left over” value into an extra week of vacation.
However owners plan to use their timeshare, there is no question that exchange companies provide excellent value-added benefits to vacation ownership - and the world’s largest is RCI.