What Is a Timeshare and What It Isn’t

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When the Federal Trade Commission has a section on their website answering “What is a Timeshare,” you know there is confusion out there! That’s why I like to say that a Timeshare isn’t something you purchase on a whim, three margaritas deep, while on vacation.

It’s a legal contract and long-term financial decision that you should thoroughly understand and think through before buying. No matter what a salesman tells you, timeshare purchase deals will still be available after you get home, so take your time. In fact, purchasing a timeshare outside of a resort on the resale market from an existing owner can save you 75 to 99% off the resort-direct price. That’s just another reason not to rush and fully understand what a timeshare, or vacation ownership, is before buying.

What Is a Timeshare Ownership?

Today, a timeshare isn’t just one thing! The timeshare industry offers various products to match people’s different lifestyles and vacation preferences. There are 9.9 million U.S households (and 22 million worldwide) that own one or more types of timeshares.

This type of timeshare ownership means you have the right to use a particular room type a specific week every year. That’s why you’ll see people talk about their timeshare ownership as Week 1 or Week 52. So if you want to vacation in Aruba the same holiday week every year at a specific resort, this type of timeshare purchase could be right for you.

1. A Fixed Week

A floating week timeshare means that you aren’t guaranteed the same week every year for vacation; you need to call the resort to reserve a room. Some floating ownerships are specific for high season ( AKA Red Weeks) or low season ( AKA White Weeks). There are also year-round floating week ownerships in locations where the demand and weather aren’t as seasonal (e.g., Aruba).

2. A Floating Week

Based on your purchase package, owners receive a set number of points a year that act as currency they can use to make resort reservations within their timeshare chain. The more points you have, the larger the annual maintenance fee and the purchase price is. This type of timeshare provides a lot of travel flexibility as you don’t have to stay at the same resort every year, but it does have a learning curve.

3. An Allotment of Points