A lot of people wonder if RCI Platinum is worth the extra cost. I've written about this before, but it's a moving target. The program has evolved over the years, and will continue to do so.
What's the current state? And what does a crystal ball show for the future of this program?RCI Platinum - Is it worth the extra cost?
RCI Platinum benefits as of 2016
At this point in 2016, here's what RCI offers as benefits of its Platinum program.
- 10% off on Last Call and Extra Vacations. For many people this will be the biggest benefit of the Platinum program. If you purchase Extra Vacations and Last Calls, then this could save you a considerable amount of money. If you don't buy these vacations, then it doesn't help.
- $25 off cruise exchanges. You can save $25 per cabin on your cruise exchanges. You'll need to shop around to find out if this is really your best deal. One good thing is that you can apply that to multiple cabins, so if you're planning a family cruise, you could get some extra benefit.
- $25 off selected tours. If you're booking an African safari, a golf vacation, or various other tour packages, you may be able to save some money.
- Free points transfers. RCI Points members can now avoid the normal fee if they transfer points to another member.
- Complimentary unit upgrades. This has been a platinum benefit since I first wrote about it. The idea is that you can get a free upgrade if one is available near your check-in date. In practice, though, it seems that these upgrades are rare. Have you gotten one? I'd love to know! Tell us about it in the Reply section below. 🙂
- RCI deposit restore. This is a new addition to the Platinum program, for RCI Weeks members. Normally if you deposit your week less than 9 months in advance, you start losing trading power. Regular RCI members can pay a fee to restore full trading power on deposits up to 6 months ahead. Platinum members get this for free. Essentially it's giving you more flexibility - you can wait until 6 months ahead to deposit your week, without losing any trading power.
- Longer points extension. Normally, RCI points members can extend their points to last up to 3 years, and after that they're gone. Platinum members get a 4th year free when they pay to extend to the 3rd year.
- More Points Partners flexibility. Normal RCI points members can use up to 33% of their annual points for other purposes, via the Points Partners program. Platinum members can use up to 50% of their points.
- Platinum previews. When there is a sale on Extra Vacations, platinum members get one day of advance access before it's opened up to everyone. Perhaps this will get you a deal that you'd miss out on otherwise? No way to tell.
- Priority access. Get access to selected resort and hotel exchange vacations before they are opened up for other members. This is a pretty limited selection, but it might have something you want.
- Go City Card. This is a pass that gets you a discounted admission to various tours, museums and attractions. You pay up front, and save compared to paying the full price of all the entry fees separately.
- Free on-going searches. They call this "free", but really it's just a deferred payment. Normally you have to pay the exchange fee up front when you start an on-going search. With this platinum benefit, you don't pay the fee until they find you a match.
- Free on hold vacations. If you see a vacation you want, you can hold it for 24 hours, to give you time to check on flights, etc. without a fee.
- Priority answer. You get faster service when you call in to speak with an RCI person on the phone.
- Savings dollars. This needs a whole section to itself -- see below...
Former benefits that are gone
- Rebates. You used to get a rebate on combining deposits or purchasing a guest certificate. Now, instead of the straight $ rebate, you get Savings dollars instead.
- Restaurant.com coupons. You used to get a monthly certificate worth up to $25. Now, you have the option of purchasing one with your Savings dollars.
- Lifestyle benefits. No more Golf tee times or Box Office lifestyle benefits.
What's inside the mystery package?
Savings dollars - The "mystery benefit"
I call Savings dollars a "mystery benefit", because RCI doesn't make the details available until you actually purchase the Platinum upgrade. You know that there's this special discount shopping program, but what can you get? How much can you save? Is this a useful benefit at all?
Here's how it works:
- You get 300 Savings dollars when you sign up for Platinum. You collect more when you renew your RCI membership, pay an exchange fee, buy a guest certificate, or do other transactions, at a rate of $1 Savings dollar per $1 US dollar that you spend. You can then spend these in their online marketplace, to get you discounted consumer goods, hotel stays, restaurant certificates, or more.
That part is all public knowledge. But what are the deals you can get? Will they really save you money?
Here's what you get:
The online store has a large selection, covering everything from furniture, to jewelry, to consumer electronics. I spot checked a couple of the products they offer, and here's what I found...
- Circulon Genesis 12-piece aluminum cookware set. The RCI store shows
Market price = $450
Savings $337 (you use $337 savings dollars, save $337)
You pay = $113 (save 74%)
Amazon has the same set available, and they show
You pay = $170.69, with free shipping.
I'm not sure whether you get free shipping with your RCI savings dollars, but at most you are saving $58, not $337.
- Canon EOS 5D Mark III 22.3 Megapixel Digital SLR Camera Body. Moving to the top end of the scale, here's what the RCI store shows
Market price = $5,100
Savings = $2,656 (you use $2,656 Savings dollars)
You pay = $2,444 (save 52%)
Amazon shows the same camera, and here's what they show.
List price = $2,799
You pay = $2,499
In spite of using over $2K of savings dollars, you'd only save $55 compared to Amazon.
The RCI Platinum program continues to evolve
How has RCI Platinum changed over time?
It's interesting to look at how RCI has changed this program over time. This could also provide some clues about what we may see from them in the future.
Platinum in 2013
Back in 2013, RCI platinum gave you rebates for various transactions as a direct credit to your RCI account. You could then use this to offset exchange fees, membership fees, or whatever else you pay RCI.
You also got a $25/month Restaurants.com certificate. How useful this was depended on where you lived and traveled, and what type of offers they had available in those locations.
There were some non-monetary benefits too (like upgrades and priority access, which are still there today), but the monetary benefits alone made it easy to see whether Platinum was worth it. For us, it was an easy call and well worth the price.
2013 Platinum price (1 year) = $55
- Extra vacations = $25 rebate
- Combining deposits = $25 rebate
- Guest certificates = $20 rebate
- Cruise exchanges = $25 per cabin
- Restaurant.com certificates = $25/month = $300/year
See full article: RCI Platinum Membership - Is it worth it?
Platinum in 2014
In 2014, the value of Platinum dropped. RCI lowered the monetary benefits, while raising the price, which made it more difficult to justify the upgrade.
They added some new non-monetary benefits, but the value of those is highly subjective. For instance, I put very little value on priority phone calls, since I prefer to do things online, but somebody else might find that more important.
2014 Platinum price (1 year) = $59 (up 7%)
- Extra vacations = $15 rebate (down from $25)
- Combining deposits = $15 rebate (down from $25)
- Guest certificates = $15 rebate (down from $20)
See full article: RCI Platinum - Still worth it in 2014?
Platinum in 2016
As of 2016, there's one monetary benefit that is worth more than before. Instead of a $15 rebate, you now get a 10% discount on Extra Vacations. If you buy Extra Vacations, this single benefit could pay for the Platinum upgrade.
However, if you prefer exchanging to buying Extra Vacations, then you'll be sad to see the remaining monetary benefits disappear into the world of Savings dollars. They did add some additional flexibility for exchangers, but the value is hard to quantify.
2016 Platinum price (1 year) = $69 (up 17% over 2 yrs)
- Extra vacations = 10% discount (was $25/$15)
- Combining deposits = Savings dollars (was $25/$15)
- Guest certificates = Savings dollars (was $20/15)
What does the future look like for RCI Platinum?
What does the future hold?
I don't work for RCI, and I don't have an inside source who's told me their secret plans. But here's what I think we'll see...
- Rising price. Price is sure to go up, since RCI seems to keep raising their fees for everything, and Platinum is no exception. I don't know about precious metals, but when it comes to RCI Platinum, I expect it to go up.
- Not much for exchangers. If you use RCI primarily for exchanges, then I doubt you'll see a return to the kind of direct rebates that we had before. You may or may not get enough value from the non-monetary benefits to make it worth your while. But I'd be very surprised if you ever get back to the "no-brainer, totally worth it" way things were before.
- Could be useful for Extra Vacations. If you use RCI for Extra Vacations, then you're probably in luck for awhile. It seems that RCI wants to push this side of the business, since this is where their one big monetary benefit is. That must be profitable enough for them that they're willing to incent you with a 10% discount. I won't be surprised if they lower this number in the future, but you'll probably still see a benefit.
- Savings dollars? Who knows how long this will last? I wouldn't plan on saving up thousands of Savings dollars to use for some big purchase, since this will probably go away at some point. And 2K worth of Savings dollars probably won't get you that much anyway.
- Multiple year memberships? So... If the prices are going to go up every year, does it make sense to take advantage of the discounted multiple-year membership upgrades? In my mind, it's a risk.
On the one hand, you protect yourself against future price increases, as well as locking in a discount right now. But on the other hand, RCI is going to change the program again. (That's one thing I'm sure of!) If you buy a 5-year membership, the program could look a lot different 5 years from now than it does today. Will it still be worth it to you? That's the risk you take.
Have you been an RCI Platinum member over the years? If so, what do you think of how the program has evolved, and the benefits they currently offer? Are you thinking about Platinum for the first time? Which of the benefits seem most meaningful to you? Either way, I'd love to hear from you in the Reply section below! 🙂