SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Carmen Gonzalez, Liz McMillan, Kevin Jackson

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Vacation Club Membership: A Wise Choice for Timeshare Owners and Travelers

LOS ANGELES, CA -- (Marketwired) -- 04/30/14 -- Vacation club memberships are rapidly gaining popularity for American travelers and those who own timeshares. As the summer travel season approaches, cost-conscious travelers can make the best choice for their travel needs based on facts regarding timeshares and vacation clubs.

Timeshares are very expensive. The average sales price for a one-week timeshare is approximately $19,000, with an average annual maintenance fee of $660, according to Howard Nusbaum, president and CEO of the American Resort Development Association (ARDA), a trade association that represents the timeshare industry. In most cases, annual maintenance fees must be paid whether or not the timeshare is used and they increase an average of 12% per year, according to ARDA.

Most timeshares come with contracts that are perpetual, meaning they don't have an expiration date. That means you're obligated to pay the annual maintenance fee indefinitely. "That's a pretty big financial obligation," says Ric Edelman, a financial adviser, author, and radio host based in Fairfax, VA, who cautions his clients against investing in timeshares in an article on duboispv.com. Special assessment fees can also be charged to owners so that the resorts can fund anything from Internet upgrades to repairs due to water damage from natural disasters.

Vacation club memberships typically require a one-time, lifetime fee up front to join -- which is about the retail cost of an average one-week vacation for the most cost-effective clubs. Unlike timeshares, once the one-time cost is paid, the member is only obligated to pay for the actual weeks chosen. The upfront investment should pay for itself within the first several vacations and memberships are renewable at an annual low cost. The best club memberships have no maintenance or special assessment fees and no tax burden. Low-cost car rentals, cruises, excursions and shopping discounts are also available.

A vacation club is the clear choice for smart travelers. We spoke with a front-runner in the vacation club industry, American Vacations International (AVI), whose members receive wholesale travel discounts through a powerful Internet portal and personal concierge service. "Resort accommodations are deeply discounted and range in price from $99 to $698 avg. per week," said Ryan Wright, AVI's client services director. "AVI members have the option to choose from an inventory of more than 6,000 resorts worldwide that includes numerous four and five-star rated hotels and all members receive a Best Price Guarantee."

Timeshare owners with AVI vacation club memberships have a distinct advantage in the industry. They have the option to rent, exchange, list, or terminate ownership of their property through their memberships. Many timeshare owners have eagerly substituted and/or enhanced their ownership for vacation club memberships. They are now able to vacation at the same top-quality resorts for a fraction of the price, with greater flexibility and choice.

Vacation clubs offer a variety of member benefits and pricing. It is important to investigate the differences in club programs and their contracts to get the best value. Information about AVI can be found at AmericanVacationsInternational.com.

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