If you are a member of II (timeshare exchange company Interval International), you may have seen something about getting a Bonus Week. In addition to exchanging your timeshare like normal, this lets you use a bonus certificate to book another week for little more than a service charge. An extra week of vacation nearly free? Pretty cool! 🙂
As you might guess, there are some complications and limitations you need to know about. Here's the scoop...A bonus week from II can give you an inexpensive extra vacation
What exactly is a bonus week?
Bonus Weeks are special giveaways from Interval International that give you an an extra week of vacation in addition to any timeshare exchanges you do through II.
When you qualify for the bonus, you get a Bonus Certificate (also called an Accommodation Certificate or AC for short) that you use to book the extra week.
How do you get a bonus week?
- First of all you'll need to be a timeshare owner.
- Secondly, you need to be a member of II. This means your imeshare must be affiliated with Interval International, and you need to purchase a membership in II. (Depending on what you own, this may be included with your timeshare, or you may need to sign up separately.)
- With these basic requirements covered, watch for a promotion. II typically offers bonus weeks as part of a special deal. In the past, Interval has given bonuses for the following:
- To encourage you to deposit your timeshare week early.
- To reward you for depositing an in-demand week.
- For booking a Getaway during a special promotion.
- For extending your II membership.
- For being a valued member. (I'm not sure what the criteria is on this one!) 🙂
What's the catch?
Well, the catch is that there are a lot of limitations on when and where you can use your bonus week. The specific restrictions vary on different bonus offers, but here are some that you can expect to see.
- Use by date. Each bonus certificate (aka accommodation certificate) will need to be used by a certain date. You might have up to a year to use it, or only a few months.
- Last minute planning. Many bonus certificates restrict you to booking fairly short notice vacations. For instance, some recent AC's have been limited to use within 59 days of the check-in date. This means that high-demand destinations and time slots will have already been snapped up - the bonus week is eligible for what's left over.
- Black out dates. Don't expect to use a bonus over Christmas week or at other holiday times. These will probably be listed on the terms of your accommodation certificate as unavailable black out dates.
- Resort exclusions. Certain resorts will probably be excluded from participating in the bonus week. If you want to stay at the Four Seasons, don't expect to get this with an AC.
- Grid restrictions. Many (but not all) II bonus certificates are restricted to a certain "grid". This is a table that shows which destinations you can book during which months of the year. There are many locations to choose from, but the most popular places and times are excluded.
For instance, the grid could show Orlando as available most months of the year, though not during July and August. On the other hand, you won't find Hawaii on the grid, ever. That means that even if there happened to be a last-minute Hawaii unit available in II, you couldn't get it with your AC.
You'll need to verify the fine print details for a particular bonus offer in order to know which restrictions apply to it.Some II bonus weeks are restricted with a grid similar to this
How much does a bonus week cost?
Just like the restrictions listed above, the cost of using an II bonus certificate varies with the specific deal. There are a couple of different pricing plans that you may see.
- Tiered pricing. With these accommodation certificates, you pay a different price based on the size unit you want to book. A studio costs less than a 1-bedroom, which costs less than a 2-bedroom. In some cases, you might find that it costs $299 to book the week you want.
- Exchange pricing. With these AC's, you pay the II exchange fee to make your booking, regardless of the size unit you get. At the current price, this would end up costing you $184, whether you get a studio or a 2BR.
It's hard to know...
It's hard to know exactly what you can get when you see an offer of a bonus week. What you see on the website or on a mailer from Interval promoting the deal is usually very vague, and doesn't explain the costs or restrictions.
If you want to know the details before making a decision with an attached bonus (such as depositing a week or extending your membership), you can call II and speak with a representative to find out more.
On the other hand, if you're going to make the deposit or extend your membership anyway, then this can be a nice extra, no matter which set of prices and restrictions you end up with.
Tips for maximizing your AC vacation success
- Know your options before deciding. If II offers you a bonus certificate for depositing your week, this may not always be your best deal. For instance, we got a bonus offer that was good for depositing a 2-bedroom lock-off we own. On the other hand, if we split the lock-off and deposited it as 2 separate units, we would lose the bonus but get 2 separate deposits and exchanges. The second approach worked better for us.
- Learn the rules for your offer. Since rules on accommodation certificates can vary so much, you need to find out the specifics for the one you receive. Note the expiration date on your calendar, so you make sure to use your bonus before you lose it. If there's a grid restriction, check it out and see which options might work for you.
- Plan for off-season or shoulder season. If your travel schedule is limited to summers and school vacations, you are unlikely to find much available. If your AC is grid restricted, your options are even fewer. The last grid I saw, the only US destination available during July and August was Phoenix, where it could be 115 degrees at that time.
On the other hand, for travel in November, there were a lot more options. While Cape Cod may be cold and blustery that late in the year, the weather is often very pleasant in Phoenix, Palm Springs, or Orlando (a few of the places that were available on the grid).
- Can you travel on short notice? Some accommodation certificates let you book months in the future, but others could be restricted to booking less than 59 days before check-in, or even 45 days. If you can travel on fairly short notice, your chances of making use of these are substantially higher.
- Driving distance makes long weekends worthwhile. If you get a short-notice bonus week at a place in easy driving distance from your home, then this can make for a very inexpensive vacation. If you pay under $300 for a week in a timeshare, with low-cost transportation to get there, then it may be worthwhile to book it even if you only spend a few nights there instead of the whole week.
- Flying distance may yield cool options. Short notice airfare can raise the cost of transportation, and lots of people know that. That means that you can sometimes find AC opportunities at destinations everyone would need to fly to, like St. Maarten or the Bahamas. You may be able to score a great bonus week in a fun place, which would offset the higher cost of airfare.
- Check other prices first. Let's say you find that you could book a 2BR unit in Orlando with your bonus certificate for $299. Check the prices for the same thing as an Interval Getaway. Sometimes locations with lots of timeshares (like Orlando) have Getaway prices that might be cheaper than the fee to use the AC. If you're also a member of RCI, do a comparison of RCI and II costs, too - sometimes there's a significant difference.
If you work the system and play the game, and you've got some flexibility with your travel schedule, then getting a bonus week from Interval International can be a nice little perk that yields a cheap extra vacation. It doesn't work every time for everyone, but when it does, it's pretty sweet! 🙂