If you're a member of Interval International, then you've probably seen sections on their site like "Featured Flexchange Destinations." So what is Flexchange?
The simple answer is that this is a timeshare exchange that you make within 59 days of your travel date. While accurate, that simple answer doesn't tell the whole story. There's a lot more to know about Flexchange, so read on to discover the ins and outs, and how it can benefit you...
1. Flexchange = Short notice exchanges
It's not at all obvious, but any exchange that you do on Interval International 59 days or less before your check-in date is Flexchange.
Newbies to II may hear about Flexchange, and look for it on the system. Aside from the promotional boxes like "Featured Flexchange Destinations", you could look and look without finding this term on the site.
There's no check box to search for Flexchange exchanges, and you won't see something on your search results that says Flexchange. But if you do an exchange less than 60 days before the check-in date, then it's Flexchange, whether it says it or not.
If you do a search for the time period from next month to 6 months from now, you'll get Flexchange results (less than 60 days away) mixed in with your other results (60+ days in the future).
2. Flexchange = Dregs and gems
So what do you find in Flexchange? There are two types of properties that you'll tend to run across here.
- Dregs. These are the vacations that are still available for exchange, after they've run the gauntlet, passed everybody's pending search requests, and sat on the site for weeks or months, waiting for a taker. The dates for these timeshare weeks are drawing near, but still nobody has picked them up.
You may find something that you want among these, particularly if you're OK with off-season travel. But there's little rush to move on these, since they've been available for awhile without being scooped up.
- Gems. These are weeks that become available on short notice. For instance, somebody has to change their travel plans and cancel their exchange a month before their check-in date. The timeshare they cancelled will go back into the system, where it can appear on Flexchange searches.
Of course, attractive weeks can be deposited into II at any time, so what makes these short-notice Flexchange stays special? The fact that you're more likely to be able to get them, even with a relatively low-powered deposit.
3. Flexchange = Good way to score upgrades
The "flexibility" in Flexchange is due to easier exchange requirements as the check-in date gets closer.
In general, II wants to exchange your timeshare for something of comparable value. You can't expect to exchange your 1-bedroom mud week in Colorado for a 2-bedroom ocean view in Maui. The normal rules will deliver that 2-bedroom Maui unit to somebody with an equally valuable deposit.
However, as the check-in date gets closer, the value of a timeshare week drops, making it easier to get on exchange. Within the Flexchange period, you can see things available for exchange that would be above your normal trading power.
This isn't a fixed on/off cutover. It's not like all the normal rules are there 60 days in advance, and then everything becomes wide open at 59 days. Interval doesn't publish their criteria, but it appears that the trading power changes gradually as the travel date approaches.
In general, the closer you get to the check-in date, the more you can pull with your deposit, sometimes scoring an exchange that's a considerable upgrade from what you started with.
4. Flexchange = Speedy decisions required
Let's say that somebody has to cancel on that 2-bedroom ocean view timeshare in Maui, just a couple of weeks before their trip. It's a shame, but sometimes life interferes with travel plans, and their loss could be your gain.
If you happen to be searching when this week appears in the online listings, you need to move fast if you want to grab it. You're not the only person who will be thinking "Wow! Look at that!" Nope. Other people will be seeing it and thinking that, too.
If you want to score a bargain trade like this, you need to move fast. If you need to call your spouse at the office to talk it over first, then you're apt to discover this gem is gone when you get back online.
Of course, be sure to figure in the travel costs when making a decision. You may see a cool deal for the coast of Spain, but how much will the short notice airfare run you?
The best Flexchange opportunities come and go very quickly. The other side of this is that the Flexchange inventory can change very quickly. (At least the gems - the dregs will stay there awhile.)
If you want to get into Flexchange bargain hunting, it pays to search often and see what's out there.
In addition to searching often, widen your search criteria and see what you find. You may not be thinking about St. Maarten originally, but when you spot that gem... 🙂
5. Flex deposits = Less flexibility
Flexchange exchanges are those you make less than 60 days before your trip. Deposits that you make less than 60 days before the check-in date are categorized as flex deposits.
Though "Flex deposits" sounds like you should have some extra flexibility, in fact, the opposite is true. Flex deposits are less flexible than normal deposits (those made 60+ days before check-in).
The fact is that short notice deposits aren't worth as much to II, because they have a limited time to make use of them, and a smaller audience of people who are interested in them. Since they're not worth as much to Interval, you get stuck with these rules that limit their value to you.
- Flex deposits only get Flex exchanges. When you make a short notice Flex deposit, you can't use that to get any exchange outside of the Flexchange period. You're limited to just short notice exchanges.
- Flex deposits can't do pending requests. With a normal deposit, you have the option of setting up a pending exchange request. Flex deposits can't do this - you're limited to just instant online searches and exchanges.
Flexchange can be a source for great bargain exchanges, but you have to put in some work to find them. The more frequently you look, the more likely you are to find something delightful.
This approach works best for people who can travel on pretty short notice. If your job or family requirements mean that you can't just pick up and take off for a trip when you find something, then you won't be able to get as much benefit from using Flexchange.
On the other hand, if you're willing to put in the time and effort, and able to take off with a few weeks notice, then who knows what cool vacation you could find? 🙂
Have you ever gotten a sweet deal on Flexchange? Have you found it to be useful, or do you just find the dregs, and miss out on the gems? If you've had any experiences, positive or negative, I'd love to hear about them in the Reply section below. Thanks!