In December 2016, RCI raised their exchange fees again. If you're an RCI member, you know this is not uncommon. In fact, it comes less than a year after the last increase.
Anyway, this got me thinking... When it comes to exchange fees, how much is too much?
It's not that long ago that I thought $200 would be a natural ceiling, and companies would try to stay below that. Well, that's come and gone, and RCI is well beyond that level now, with the basic fee to exchange a week at $230.
So IS there a ceiling? Or is the sky the limit?How high can they go?
The latest RCI fee increase
Here's what just changed...
RCI weeks fees
As of Jan 1, 2016
- Exchange fee (online) = $219
- Exchange fee (phone) = $229
As of Dec 4, 2016
- Exchange fee (any) = $230 *No more savings for online
RCI points fees
As of Jan 1, 2016
- Home resort reservation (7 nights) = $40 (online) / $50 (phone)
- RCI points reservation (7 nights) = $169 (online) / $179 (phone)
- RCI points reservation (3 nights) = $ 79 (online) / $89 (phone)
- Points rental = $0.02 per point
As of Dec 4, 2016
- Home resort reservation (7 nights) = $50 (any) *No more savings for online
- RCI points reservation (7 nights) = $189 (any) *Increase for everybody
- RCI points reservation (3 nights) = $ 99 (any)
- Points rental = $0.03 per point *50% increase
- The fee increases are biggest for the people who are used to booking online (like me)! There used to be a price break if you did the work yourself online vs. going through their call center. That is no longer the case.
- If you're used to exchanging by phone, your fee increase is negligible for RCI weeks. For RCI points reservations, it went up $0 to $10, depending on the length of stay you are booking.
- One notable increase is the points rental cost, which went from $0.02 per point to $0.03. If you like to rent points, this will cost you considerably more in the future. That could make it worthwhile for only small amounts of points.
Impact on your vacation's affordability
Let's say you pay $750 per year in timeshare maintenance fees. We'll ignore the purchase price (which was hopefully low, if you've read my Consumer Awareness Guide to Timeshares), and just look at the annual fees.
Staying at your own timeshare?
- Cost per week = $750
- Cost per night = $107
Exchanging through RCI?
If your timeshare is in RCI and you want an exchange vacation through them, then you have an additional fee of $99 for the membership + $230 for the exchange fee. (That's the fee you'd pay for a Weeks exchange, whether you own a week or RCI points.)
- Cost per week = $750 + $99 + $230 = $1,079
- Cost per night = $154
- Increase = $329 for the week, 44% more than using your own timeshare
Impact on your timeshare's value
Something that struck me as odd was that shortly after increasing their exchange fees, RCI had a sale where Extra Vacation weeks were on sale for as little as $199.
- Exchange vacation = Cost of your timeshare + $230
- Extra vacation = $199, with NO cost of your timeshare involved
How does this make sense?
If they want you to deposit your timeshare with them, then the exchange vacation you get out of the deal needs to be economically viable for you.
If exchange vacations rise in cost to the point that they're no longer a worthwhile deal, then that is no longer a useful benefit to your ownership.
How much is too much?
- Timeshare owners are all well aware of the issue of rising maintenance fees. Sometimes these fee increases are reasonable, while other times they seem excessive.
Some companies and resorts have more of a problem with this than others, but the fact is that maintenance fees do keep going up and up for all of us.
Unfortunately, maintenance fees are generally outside your control, and the only way you can get away from them is to sell your timeshare.
- Exchange fees, on the other hand, are different. For most owners, membership in an exchange company is optional, as is using that company and paying an exchange fee.
So, do you want to pay that fee? Is the value provided worth the cost?
Personally, my answer is "it depends". What vacation do I want to get, and how much would it wind up costing me this way vs. going through another channel?
Everybody's situation is different, depending on the timeshare you own, how much your fees are, and what exchanges you're looking for.
You may or may not be able to switch to Interval International, but you DO have some other choices. That's a topic for another day, and I'll write about it soon. In the meantime, I'd love to know your thoughts!
So what's YOUR limit? How much are you willing to pay to exchange your timeshare for a different vacation? Is there a line at which you'd drop your RCI membership entirely? Please let us all know in the Reply section below!