My husband and I went on our first DVC tour in 2009. It was great to see and very informative, but we had so many questions. Learning all of those details after having zero knowledge of how the whole process works can be overwhelming, cause confusion and make you second guess becoming a member. Hopefully, I mention some points that you did not know, you had misunderstood or addressed a concern so you can make a final decision.
Use-Year: This is the twelve-month period where points for any given year are valid for travel. DVC use-years are not necessarily the same as the calendar year. My contract, for example, is a December use-year, which means my 2015 points can be used from 12/1/15 to 11/30/16.
It's important to remember that if you cancel a reservation close to the end of your use-year, you'll have very little time to re-use the points before they expire, because the allowed time to bank the points has gone by. The ideal use year is one that starts shortly before your typical travel dates. For example, if you typically travel in September or October, an August use-year would be great, because it gives you nearly a year to rebook if you cancel a Fall reservation.
Banking Points: Banking can only be done in the first 8 months of your use-year. You need to bank your points so you do not lose them if you are not going to use them during that use-year. You also need to bank points so they are grabbed first when booking a reservation into your next use-year. By banking your points, you are saving them for future use and you are telling Disney you will not be using those points during that use-year. Example: If you have 200 points in 2016 use-year and your use-year is October 1st, but plan on booking a vacation for November, 2017 with your 2016 points in April, 2017 (7 months out from check-in date), you need to bank the 2016 points so the reservation does not grab your 2017 points, because you are booking in November, which is 1 month after your 2017 (additional 200 points to use totaling 400 points) use-year began. We bought into DVC in January, 2014, but they were 2013 points. We planned on banking and borrowing points so we had 3 years of points to use for one big family vacation. We banked our 2013 points before July 2014. In December, 2014 (my use-year is December 1), I called to schedule a November, 2015 stay at our home resort by using our 2013, 2014 and borrowing our 2015 points, which were available December 1, 2014 to borrow. TIP: It's important to point out that you need to ask your DVC consultant about "use-year". This was an example based on my "use-year". Your needs for a use-year may be different and it will help you plan accordingly when you need more than one year of points for a trip.
Booking Tip: You can book a stay before your use-year points are released as long as the trip you are booking is in the use year you are booking. For example, my use-year is December 1st. If I want to book a trip for October 2016 with my 2016 points, I can book before 12/1/15 (as long as it is within 7 or 11 month windows), because the trip is in 2016, but I cannot borrow from my 2017 points, because the trip is before 12/1/2016 so the 2017 points are not available to borrow against, yet.
DVC Loans: It is a very big chunk of change to become a DVC member. There are closing costs, down payment requirement, annual dues in addition to the price you are paying per point. The interest rate is not great, but it is an affordable option. The alternative is not becoming a member or pay one-lump sum. The bonus is that because this is considered to be a second home, it's a tax deduction (check with your tax consultant for qualifications). In addition to the interest on the loan being a tax deduction, part of the annual dues is a tax deduction, as well. You do have to qualify for this loan through a credit check, but Disney does not report the loan to credit bureaus monthly. Tip: Use your Disney Chase credit card for full purchase or down payment and closing costs. You will get the extra Disney Dollars (2%) if you are a premium card holder or 1% if you have the regular Disney card. Those Disney Dollars will come in handy for theme park tickets or flights (if Premium card holder)!
Points calendar: Disney does not add or subtract points from a resort, but they can add and subtract points from certain days or weeks. They merely shift them. So, the point cost may go up for your favorite days or week, but some other days or week went down in points.
Home Resort: You choose a "home" to buy into, pay annual dues and receive preferential treatment to book your stay 11 months in advance. That is it. You can stay anywhere you want as long as you have the points available and there is availability. Example: You buy points at Aulani. You pay annual dues for Aulani and you can book a stay 11 months in advance. But, if you wanted to go to the Grand Floridian at Disney World, you can call to book your stay 7 months in advance of the time you want to book (providing you have the available points for the time period you wish to be there). There is a waiting list if you find there is no availability. Many people are able to book a portion of their stay at the place they want and then a different location for the other half of their stay hoping something will come up for their first choice for the second 1/2 of their stay at the first location. Some people change resorts intentionally. They want the experience of staying at as many resorts as possible so they can see the differences, find their favorites, try other restaurants they would not have normally taken the time to take transportation to the resort to try.
Points: There is a minimum amount of 75-100 points to purchase for first timer purchasers (It depends on the resort). Trying to determine how many points you should buy can be a chore all by itself. The best thing to do is look at how you will be using your points for the first few years. Will you be using them at only Walt Disney World? Are you world travelers and plan on using your points with Adventures By Disney or through RCI for one of the many places in the world? Are you empty-nesters and plan on traveling with a friend or significant other to Hawaii, California, South Carolina? Depending on how much traveling you plan to do, location and length of stay, your need for points can change exponentially.
The more you enjoy your vacations, the more you consider buying more points. It is important to think before you buy more points, because of the annual fees. They do go up every year. While it would be great to have more points to use toward Adventures By Disney, we opted to consider renting our points out and using the cash towards the trip. Some trips require so many points that it may be beneficial to rent the points and use the cash. I have heard this is true for the Disney Cruise Line. Example: I looked at booking a tour to Ireland for my husband and I. This tour includes the bus (not flights), tour destinations, all overnight stays, some meals, etc. Three years of 160 points per year does not cover the points we need just for one person.....never mind two people. In order to use points, you must purchase an entire tour vacation for at least one person and you can pay cash for the other people in your party. I have plenty of points for a week's stay in Ireland (160 points--one year of points), but not for the tour and all of the amenities of the tour.
By the way, if you own 160 points at Animal Kingdom and buy an additional 50 points at Grand Floridian, this does not allow you to book at Grand Floridian with 210 points 11 months out. You can book at Grand Floridian with the 50 points 11 months out and then add to your reservation with the Animal Kingdom's160 points at the 7-month mark. And, the same vice versa. You can use 160 points at Animal Kingdom 11 months out and then add Grand Floridian's 50 points for the Animal Kingdom stay 7 months out. Unfortunately, upgrading or extending the days in the same room may not be an option by that time.
Short Points: DVC allows you to purchase up to 24 points per use year if you are short points for a stay, but not until you are 7 months from your checkin date. If you have 160 points and need 162, you can borrow 2 points for $19/point. Need more than the 24 allowed points from Disney? Contact a DVC rental agency to help you get the points you need or click here to consider renting points from a DVC company.
Contract years: Depending on when you buy into your "Home" resort, will decide how many years you have left on the contract. Example: If the Polynesian opened in 2015 and you buy in 2015, you have ownership for 50 years. If you were to buy in 2020, you have ownership for 45 years at the Polynesian.
Additional Fees: An additional fee applies to schedule a trip with Adventures By Disney, RCI and a Disney cruise. There is no fee to schedule a stay at Aulani, Grand Californian, Bay Lake Tower, Boardwalk, Beach Club, Hilton Head, Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, Animal Kingdom Jambo and Kidani, Vero Beach, Grand Floridian and Wilderness Lodge (Copper Creek/Boulder Ridge).
Resale: So many people question whether or not to buy resale. So many people swear by it, because you can save a lot of money, but there are restrictions. Disney does not issue member cards to resale purchasers. Without the card, you do not get merchandise or food discounts, special DVC events, DVC cruises, special DVC merchandise, discounted theme park tickets, discounted tours, discounted parties or special access to any DVC lounges. Those benefits are no longer an option for people who purchase resale after April, 2016. Resale points cannot be used for the Disney Cruise Line, the Concierge Collection, the Disney Collection or the Adventurer Collection, either. Resale members are allowed to use them only at Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Aulani, Hilton Head, Vero Beach and through RCI. If you want to use points anywhere without restrictions, don't go with resale. You may be fine with staying in those areas now, but what about 20 years from now? Would you want to travel to one of the other destinations with the points, because using points for other destinations saves lots of money, too? There are also a few other important points with buying resale. Disney gets the Right of First Refusal (ROFR) to the purchase. That can take quite a bit of time sometimes and they have been known to not pass on the points, because they have people who will buy direct for those older resorts through them. Then your process starts all over, again. Another concern would be how many points are available to you right away after closing. If you want to buy points in 2018, but the seller already used 2018 and 2019 points, you don't get to use the points or even book a stay until the 2020 points are available. If you purchase direct, the points are available right away. Purchasing direct is the no-hassle way of being a DVC member. You never have to wonder what you can and cannot use your points on. You never have to wonder what benefits are available to you. Your best bet is to contact Disney first and get your options. Then, make an informative decision. Resale is all about saving money per point. Period. Buying direct through Disney is more than that. There are other perks for direct purchasers. Special events, merchandise/dining discounts, etc. Just be sure to cross all your t's and dot all of your i's before you make your final decision.
Perks: There are perks for being a DVC member, too, in addition to saving money on your resort stays. You qualify to purchase the Tables In Wonderland card, dining discounts at certain restaurants without needing the TIW card, shopping discounts, event discounts, theme park tickets discount, yada, yada, yada. Perk details can change. See the perks list on your membership page for the current list when you plan on visiting. Tons of perks once you become a DVC member! For more information on the TIW card, Click Here: Tables In Wonderland.
Call DVC for EVERYTHING: Just like you, I was accustomed to calling Disney guest relations to discuss fastpasses, dining, resort, etc. Once you are a DVC member, you call DVC for everything. They do not just take care of your resort stay. They can purchase your tickets to anything (there may be discounts for DVC members), choose fastpasses, book your dining reservations, etc. Of course, you can go online to make dinner reservations, fastpasses and all that jazz, but when you need to call, you call DVC. Disney guest relations do not have all information needed or available for DVC members. So, get all of those other Disney numbers out of your head. You only need two sets of numbers now. One is the 800 number to call DVC and the other is your DVC membership number.
Easy Process: The whole process from start to finish can be done over the phone, through the mail or in person and it is so easy. DVC sends a large package with detailed instructions of what to sign, what is yours, what to send back and the envelope with the postage-paid to send back. Then, the fun of being a DVC member begins.
Please keep in mind that some of the details may change over time. If you see something that you recently heard differently or has changed, please let me know through our contact page so I can change this page accordingly. Thank you!!