Almost nothing can spark more controversy in the timeshare community than the 1 in 4 Rule. If you have never heard of this rule, then you are probably relatively new to timesharing. In that case, this post will serve as an introduction for newbies, as well as a refresher for those who are familiar with it.
The 1 in 4 Rule refers to how often a non-owner can trade into a resort—in other words, once every 4 years. Not all resorts have this rule—in fact, only a fairly small percentage do. There are various reasons for having this rule, and there is also a lot of conjecture about why this rule exists. Some feel that resorts adopt the rule to motivate you to buy at their resort—as a sales tactic. Likewise, some feel that having a 1 in 4 Rule makes a resort more desirable and more difficult to trade into (perhaps this keeps the resale value higher?)
Some resorts that apply this rule include The Rushes, in Door County, Wisconsin, the Massanutten Resorts in Virginia, Rams Horn, in Estes Park, Colorado, and the Hilton Grand Vacation Club Resorts. What can be confusing here is that some systems include all of their resorts in the 1 in 4 Rule (like Hilton), but others may apply the rule to only a few of their resorts. An example would be the Wyndham Kona Hawaiian Village on the Big Island. Most of the other Wyndhams do not fall under the rule.
What can also be confusing is that, generally speaking, if you own in the system, but not at the 1 in 4 resort, you are exempt from the rule. We own several Wyndham points, but not at Kona, and we can stay there any time, even if we trade in through RCI.
Another aspect of this rule is the 1 in 4 (or 1 in 3) Area Rule. This has some different twists to it. If you own a non-Disney resort in the Orlando area, you cannot use that resort to trade into a Disney resort more than once every 3 years, if it is within a 30 mile radius. This is just an example, and we could list others, but let’s move on.
Supposedly, the RCI Points Resorts have decided not to adopt the rule. (Our research included through 2009, so should be fairly accurate?) However, if you are a points owner, and you book a weeks resort, the rule will apply. If you book a Last Call or Extra Vacations unit, it is up to the resort to enforce the rule. Can this be any more confusing???
Are 1 in 4 Rule resorts better than those not having the rule? In our experience, no. We have never been to a crummy 1 in 4 resort, and, in fact, all of them have been extremely nice. But we have also been to many excellent resorts that don’t have the rule.
Who enforces the rule? Well. . . no one really seems to be sure. In some cases it is the resort’s responsibility, in some cases it is RCI’s. There are horror stories about families traveling hundreds of miles and showing up to check in at the resort only to be told that they’re in violation of the 1 in 4 Rule, and can’t stay there. Also, there is confusion about when the rule is enforced. Hopefully, it would come to light earlier than in the above example. Would that be at the time of booking? Or 2 weeks before your trip? There don’t seem to be any sure answers.
We once booked a week’s stay at the Marcus Vacation Club in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin (now an Orange Lake property). We traded in, and had stayed there 2 years previously. We knew they had a 1 in 4 Rule, but decided to say nothing and see what happened. Our week unfolded without a hitch, and sometime in the middle of it, we decided to ask the desk people about their 1 in 4 rule. They had never heard of it, and had no idea what we were talking about!
So, how do you deal with this rule?
Obviously, this rule has a lot of problems, and we’re not even sure who can fix them! The best advice we can give is to communicate with the RCI counselor if you are booking via telephone, and read everything over carefully if you are booking online. The Rule should be in the Urgent Information section when you book. We always call the resort about a week before a trip to make sure they have our reservation and that everything is in order. This is also a good time to make requests if you want a high floor or a room by the pool, or whatever. Often things are already set in stone, but our requests have been honored about 75% of the time.
If you go to the Timeshare User Group (Tug) website, and do a Google search for the 1 in 4 Exchange Rule, many informative posts will come up. This post is meant to give basic information and a cautionary warning to be aware of the rule. The 1 in 4 Rule can be somewhat annoying, but it shouldn’t stop you from having some great timeshare vacations!