Contact Kim: Travel club savings aren't in the cards

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - "Congratulations! You've been selected to receive two round-trip airfares anywhere in the contiguous United States!"

If you received a postcard in the mail making that offer, it might catch your attention. But remember the old adage: if it seems too good to be true, it usually is.

In the case of this promotion, the devil is in the details.

Generally, people understand that they will be required to sit through some sort of sales presentation in order to claim those tickets. Michele Mason with the Better Business Bureau said what these companies are really trying to sell is a travel club membership.

If you buy in, Mason said, "You will be paying for something that has no value for you. Most people find that once they book travel, if they join, they could have booked the same travel at the same cost by themselves."

Federal law requires the companies to provide a three-day cancellation period once the packages are purchased, but there is a catch.

"The problem is, you don't get your membership card right away," said Mason. "You get it after the three day period expires, so you can't comparison shop until the period expires."

We're not talking about chump change: these travel packages range in price from $6,000 to $9,000.

Another problem, Mason said, is all the restrictions when it comes time to actually book your flight. You are generally offered two options. In this particular promotion, with Option One, "You have to book 90 days in advance, you have to provide three different dates to be considered, and they have to be three days apart. You can't travel back on a Saturday or Sunday, and you have to fly out on a Tuesday," said Mason.

What the company is actually hoping for is that you will choose Option Two, and you guessed it, there is another catch.

"A buy-one-receive-one," said Mason, "so now you are not just receiving tickets, you are now investing money to get those tickets."

So what should you do?

Mason said you should always try to check out the company providing the promotion. The problem is sometimes there are whole webs of companies involved. One company puts out the postcards, one provides the voucher for the airline tickets, and another oversees the club memberships.

Make sure you check out the company with the BBB, either online or call your local office so someone can help you do the homework.

When it comes to the bottom line, Mason said, the BBB has found these type of promotions add no value for the consumer, so it's better to pass on them.

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