“Vacation Clubs”. When people hear those words they don’t really know what it means, what they are getting, and whether it’s a scam.
Luckily, we got your back! We sent in the Credit Carrots review team to sit through a four hour presentation in Mexico on one of the most popular vacation clubs around. We also sat down for another two hours with the sales managers in the presentation center to really dig deep.
Check out the AMResorts Unlimited Vacation Club review below!
AMResorts owns some of the best all-inclusive properties in tropical destinations. Our team recently headed out to Secrets Capri Riviera near Playa Del Carmen in Mexico to learn more.
We believe their most popular membership level is the “Gold Tier” so we will focus our review on that level.
What do you get with Unlimited Vacation Club?
This vacation club is sold as “an exclusive travel club whose members get VIP privileges at AMResorts properties in Mexico, the Caribbean, Panama and Costa Rica, including guaranteed preferred rates and special offers”.
Depending on which tier you buy, you essentially get a certain number of weeks at their resorts. Also included are special discounts for other travel partners.
For example, their Gold Tier members would get two weeks (for two people) every year at their resorts on top of special deals with RCI (timeshare trading platform).
The resorts under AMResorts are some of the best properties around so we were very intrigued. The list we were given for the Gold Tier included:
- Secrets Resorts & Spas
- Breathless Resorts & Spas
- Dreams Resorts & Spas
- Now Resorts & Spas
- Reflect Resorts & Spas
- Sunscape Resorts & Spas
With the RCI offer, we were told that we can stay at any of their locations for $499 a week. This seemed like an unreal deal as some of the locations such as Hawaii would charge you that much for two nights.
However, further research into RCI revealed some massive red flags. First, they have a 1/5 rating on consumer affairs. There are lots of complaints regarding the lack of dates available which results in you not being able to use this service. Check out this review from one of their customers below:
“YES, I refer to this company (there are more out there) as a SCAM. The representatives LIE and are highly unethical. Any American citizen should have the right to get their money back from wrongful sellers who lie to make a profit.”
This doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, and really got us to start grilling the vacation club sales representatives on the details.
How much does Unlimited Vacation Club cost?
After we were given the details of what membership included we were very intrigued even though some of the fluff such as RCI raised some red flags. The Gold Tier mentioned above was listed at $70,000 USD for a 30 year contract (yes 30 years).
You know what? $70,000 for 30 years isn’t that bad considering that’s $2,333 a year. Even a single week at one of their resorts would cost around that for two people.
However, the devil is in the details. Our friends at Unlimited Vacation Club wanted us to either pay $70,000 all at once, or put 20% down and pay for the rest over 48 months.
Let’s just think about that for a second. They are essentially asking you to pay for 30 years worth of vacations up front. We understand they need cash flow to build new resorts, but they should go get that from a bank rather than squeezing it out of their members. It would be much more fair if the payments are divided out over 30 years.
Most people wouldn’t pay $70,000 all at once so their 48 month financing option (with 20% down) is what people who buy this usually go with – but guess what their interest rate is. Sixteen percent (16%). After some haggling, they dropped the interest rate down to 9%. Our unsecured line of credit from the bank has a much lower interest rate than 9%.
If you actually went ahead with this, you’re paying over $20,000 in just interest over a period of 48 months. We were told the interest rate was so high because Mexico has very high lending rates which is probably true, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is a bad deal financially.
After we told them that there’s no chance this package makes financial sense, they reduced their price and offered a term as short as 15 years. However, all of the same problems mentioned above remained.
Should you join Unlimited Vacation Club?
We strongly recommend you stay away from this for a few reasons.
Financial. You don’t have to be a math whiz to figure out that paying for 30 years worth of vacations up front is not a good deal. Since vacations are not physical products like a car, or house you are really getting nothing for the money you throw down. Combine that with the crazy high interest rate, and you can see that this vacation club does not make financial sense.
High Pressure Sales Tactics. If a product or service is truly good, the company selling it rarely has to resort to high pressure sales tactics. After we said we were not interested in getting a membership and would like to leave, we were stuck there for another two hours as they rotated through another four people with rising seniority to try and get us to sign. We couldn’t just walk out the door as we needed them to get us a taxi to get from the sales center back to our resort.
Risk. $70,000 is a lot of money. We urge you to think about what you would do if something goes wrong. If these vacation clubs were based out of the US, then you have lots of legal options you can take to get your money back. However, if you sign their contract in Mexico then there is not an easy way for you to take action to cancel your membership should you want to opt out.
We found that a large number of unhappy customers have been posting online about their difficulties with cancelling the membership. When we asked the sales center manager about this, they said we can simply stop paying anytime – which in our opinion is a complete lie. You’re signing a binding contract, and there can be repercussions if you break that contract – even if it’s in another country.
How to Cancel Unlimited Vacation Club
If you were pressured into signing a contract, and are within a five (5) day window then you can likely get it cancelled. However, it will require some work and you will have to read the fine print of the contract to make sure that this cancellation clause was included.
The best resource we have found for helping people cancel their UVC (and other types of timeshare memberships) is: https://mescam.com/Refunds.htm. While the site is geared towards Mexican law, the information and techniques are largely applicable to these programs.
One of our readers was able to get their UVC membership cancelled within the five day window, but there were some headaches. Their account of events is shown below.
We put $3,800 on our credit card as our initial payment and left feeling excited about how we were going to use the benefits. The whole sales process took almost 4 hours so we were glad to finally get to our vacation.
The following evening, my wife had expressed some concerns that we had made such a large purchase without more research and, to put her mind at ease, I Googled “Unlimited Vacation Club reviews”. It didn’t take long to see that feedback on UVC was almost universally negative. We started to feel sick. I immediately pulled up the contract and read it front to back. It’s a terrible contract that gives UVC the ability to take away benefits with little or no notice and leaves the purchaser with almost no recourse except for a very short cancellation period of 5 days. I’m certain that short windows is why they try and get you in the sales office at the beginning of your vacation so that your cancellation period expires before you take the time to look closely at the membership. I sent a cancellation email that night.
We got a confirmation the next day that the email was received and had been forwarded “to the appropriate department” and someone would be in touch in “48-72 hours”.
Of course, three days later, I’d heard absolutely nothing. In the meantime, I contacted a lawyer back in the States and continued to research how to bring the nightmare to an end.
Ultimately, one of the most helpful resources I found was https://mescam.com/Refunds.htm. While the site is specifically geared towards Mexican law, the information I found there helped steer me in the right direction. After the 72 hours had elapsed with no further contact, I followed up my initial cancellation request with a modified version of the mescam.com cancellation letter via email.
The gist of the email was that I expected a full refund minus the $400 we had received and used as luxury dollars. If the refund had not been received within the 15 days specified in the contract, I would contest the charge with my credit card company as fraudulent. I said I would show them the cancellation email chain as well as the contract and, should the credit card company process the charge anyway, I would sue the card company in an American court.
This seems to be the crux of getting your refund. These companies work very hard to leverage the laws of other countries to make it difficult to get your money back. We signed in Costa Rica and the contract itself specified that it would be arbitrated under the laws of Panama, both of which have very limited (or no) consumer protection laws. The threat of taking the conflict to an American court and causing problems with the credit card company seems to be the way to get them to honor their refund terms. I had also specified in my second email that my lawyer had instructed me to only communicate with them in writing so they should contact me by email and not phone. Of course, I got three calls over the next few days from the salesperson from Dreams but I let them go to voicemail. I got no further communication from UVC or Dreams, but on Sept 23rd (11 days after the cancellation request) I had a refund for the exact amount I’d requested show up on my card.– Kyle
We hope this review has been helpful, and urge you to do your research before spending big bucks on a vacation club membership!