Everywhere you turn, someone is trying to sell you something. Often, the pitch is that spending some money with them now will "save" you lots more later. When even the honest suppliers are as hungry as they are in today's economy, it isn't easy to separate honest over-the-top sales pitches from the outright scams. And travel "clubs" are among the most problematic "opportunities" dangled in front of you. A reader who was considering a pitch asked:
"How can I tell if this travel club offer is legitimate?"
Clearly, if someone could hand you a reliable "scam-meter," you'd have no problem. Sadly, nobody has such a meter, and so you often find it hard to tell the difference. Although I can't provide a foolproof answer, either, you can at least ask some questions.
What Kind of Travel Club Is It?
That's not as easy to answer, you might think—travel "clubs" come in a range of sizes and styles:
The problem club operations are those that ask for big bucks in up-front "membership" fees, on the promise that "members" will get great deals in the future.
What Do I Get for the Money?
In a base timeshare proposition, what you actually buy is a one-week "interval" (or set of intervals) at a specified resort, usually with automatic membership in an exchange operation that allows you to exchange your interval with others of equivalent value or classification. Check the fine print on the exchange, especially for limitations on how you can use your exchange "points." In other promotions, all you get is a glowing promise of really great prices—which may remain nothing but glowing promises.
What Is My Ongoing Obligation?
In most timeshare-based clubs, your buy-in is only the start. You're also on the hook for various monthly/yearly "maintenance" payments and assessments. And the operator typically reserves the right to increase these payments without your approval or right of refusal.