Can Interval International punish me for hurricane switch?

Talk about a bad trade.

Terri Williams swapped her Interval International timeshare credits for a resort in St. Thomas during hurricane season without purchasing trip insurance. Unfortunately, Hurricane Irma inflicted substantial damage to St. Thomas and the resort she traded for will be closed a while, forcing her to cancel her vacation.

Now what?

Her case raises several important questions about timeshares, the value of timeshare credits and the importance of insurance. And, unfortunately, it reveals the limits of our ability to advocate for a reader.

After the storm, Williams called Interval to trade for another vacation location. A representative told that she would have to pay a substantial penalty for switching back. She has not been a customer of Interval for long, wasn’t aware of the terms of her contract, and didn’t know all of the circumstances that travel insurance covers.

To be fair, Interval hasn’t been consistent in its answers, either. Williams contacted Interval customer service and initially was told that she would not be charged a fee to rebook. When she called a second time, a representative told her that she could only schedule within a 30-day window and would incur more fees, which was not acceptable to her. Williams wrote a letter to the president of the company to plead her case. When she didn’t receive a response, she reached out to our advocates for help.

“Customer service sent me their response which confirms my greatest fears — late deposit, 30-day booking window, and more fees,” she says. “You are my last hope for getting this rectified. Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.”

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Our advocates reviewed Williams’ contract with the timeshare company, specifically the terms regarding weather-related cancellations. We also confirmed that she did not have travel insurance. She mistakenly thought that travel insurance was for “individuals to purchase if they could not go due to illness, death, etc.” and wasn’t aware that it also covered weather disruptions such as hurricanes.

Cancellation insurance is suggested when traveling to areas prone to damage and destruction due to weather. In this case, the insurance terms state:

The providers shall not be liable for any injury, loss, damage, accident, delay, irregularity, or expenses arising from strikes, war, weather, quarantines, sickness, government restrictions or regulations, or from any act or omission of any other services in connection therewith, nor for any additional cost or expense due to disruption or change of advertised schedules, rates, or services, acts of God, or for any other cause beyond their reasonable control.

Based on the terms of this contract, we couldn’t advocate this case. Our advocacy team hopes that this serves as a reminder that travel insurance doesn’t just cover accidents or illnesses—it also covers weather or any other unforeseen reasons for trip cancellation.

Travel insurance is also imperative to fully understand the terms of any contract, particularly those clauses regarding cancellations. Although many travel providers offer some flexibility during unforeseen circumstances, it’s best to have insurance to cover your investment.

And so Williams’ complaint, sadly, goes into the case-dismissed file.

Laurie Mankin

Laurie is a government contractor by day and frequent traveler. She can also be found rooting for the Nats and playing with neighborhood dogs.

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