Disney Vacation Club (DVC) 101: What is DVC?

by 49 Comments

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print
DVC sign

Welcome Home!

This is the first of a series of articles on Disney Vacation Club (DVC). It’s a first draft for new content on the site. Starting off on the blog lets us get your feedback right away so we can fine-tune our articles.

While it’s hyperbole to call DVC “Disney’s Best Kept Secret,” the program may be difficult to understand if you try to wade your way through Disney’s marketing-speak and get to what it really is.

Strictly speaking, DVC is a timeshare program operated by Disney that allows members to book accommodations at the Deluxe Villa resorts at Walt Disney World, as well as The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Resort & Spa, and three non-theme park locations. The DVC Resorts are:

Treehouses come with full kitchens, a spectacular master bath, and a free teenager!

Treehouses come with full kitchens, a spectacular master bath, and a free teenager!

 

DVC resorts are typically villa-style. Accommodations range from studios, which are most like a typical hotel room with a single room and kitchenette (sink, microwave, and coffee maker), to one-, two-, and three bedroom units with full kitchens and living rooms.

DVC also allows members the option to trade out into other programs such as using membership to book Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney, other non-DVC Disney resorts, or into other timeshare programs like Club Cordial and RCI (Resort Condominiums International, a division of Wyndham). This merits its own article and won’t be covered here.

 

What Are DVC Members Purchasing?

Traditional timeshares were sold as weeks at a specific resort. When Disney got into the timeshare business, it used a different model. Members purchase points at a home resort, which are used to make reservations at that resort. For instance, if I wanted to book a one bedroom at my home resort of Saratoga Springs tomorrow night, it would “cost” me 31 points. If I wanted a three-bedroom Grand Villa at Bay Lake Tower with a Lake View, it would run 101 points. The point cost is determined by the resort booked (a one bedroom at Old Key West is fewer points than a one bedroom at the Grand Floridian Villas), the size of the room, whether you’ve booked a weekday or a weekend, and the time of year booked, called the season (Christmas to New Years and Easter are the most expensive, the months of January, September, and the first half of December are the least). The cost of each point depends on:

  1. The home resort you purchase
  2. Whether you buy directly from Disney or resale
  3. When you purchase the points

Points are sold as a contract. This is kind of tricky to wrap your head ahead so hopefully I can explain it well. Each resort has a contract end date, and your points are valid through the end of the contract. For instance, Beach Club Villas, which were first sold in 2002, have an end date of 2042. If I bought in 2000 or just yesterday, my contract still ends in 2042. The number of points I purchase is the amount of points I’m allotted per year.

So if I bought yesterday, I’m not getting as much use out of the contract…the price must be lower, right?

Nope. Disney raises the prices of everything else each year, did you really think DVC points would be different? Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas is currently offered by Disney at $155/point. When it first came on the market in 2006, I paid around $95/point.

Do I have to use all my points in one year? What if I need more points?

Disney Vacation Club allows for “banking” and “borrowing.” If I won’t need all my points this year (fat chance in my case), I can bank them to next year. If I need more points this year, I can borrow from next year. This is pretty flexible and you can combine banking and borrowing to maximize the number of points you can use at one time. If my yearly number of point available is 150 and I planned ahead, I could have banked my 2013 points and borrowed my 2015 points to give me 450 points available to use in 2014.

What is a Home Resort?

Your home resort is the resort at which you own your points. You can use your points at any of the DVC resorts, but there are different rules for booking.  I have contracts at Saratoga Springs and Animal Kingdom Lodge. Those are my home resorts. This means that I can book at those resorts up to 11 months out. Last month, when I booked at the Grand Floridian Villas to attend a wedding, I was only able to book 7 months from my check in. When booking 11 months out, you can only use home resort points. I could not combine my Saratoga Springs points with my Animal Kingdom points to book a week in a Grand Villa at 11 months out. I’d have to book what I could with the Animal Kingdom points at 11 months out and then use the Saratoga Springs points for the rest of the reservation at the 7 month mark. Or I could borrow Animal Kingdom points from next year to fill in the difference.

What is “Use Year?”

Besides home resort, another term you’ll hear when purchasing a contract is “use year” (and that’s “use” like the noun, not the verb – “The use of external video lighting is prohibited”).  Use year means when your points are allotted to you. It’s actually kind of a misnomer, because it’s really “use month.” For instance, both of my contracts have a use year of October. That means my 2014 points are available for bookings with a check in of October 1, 2014, or later (unless I borrow them for earlier use). Because there are rules about when you can bank your points and what happens to your points if you have to cancel a reservation, people may want to think about what use year they pick (if purchasing from Disney).

Are there any other costs beside the purchase price?

Yes. Because this is a real estate transaction, there are closing costs. Most important to keep in mind when considering your purchase, though, is the cost of yearly dues. DVC members are charged a year fee per point (the amount depends on the home resort) in addition to what they paid up front. The fees on the 330 points I own were around $1500 this year.

That’s a lot of information

Yep, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. We will follow up with articles on the economics of DVC, direct vs. resale purchases, what it means to “rent points,” and share what our readers have to say about DVC. If there’s anything you’d like us to cover, ask in the comments.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print
Posted on May 15, 2014

49 Responses to “Disney Vacation Club (DVC) 101: What is DVC?”

  • Laurel- We have been vacation club members since year one at Old Key West and have loved every minute of it! My question is, have you seen what they are building “in” the water at Polynesian? I asked when I was there if it could possibly be the Grand Villas for the vacation club villas they are building there and the cast member could not confirm- do you have any inside scoop on that?

    • by Laurel Stewart on May 15, 2014, at 11:45 am EST

      They are over-water bungalows, and definitely DVC. We hear they’re 2-bedroom units. I’m VERY excited about these!

  • Thanks for this article. A few years back I spoke to a DVC sales person at Downtown Disney. I didn’t understand the reason for someone doing it then and reading this article I am convinced I made the right decision.
    Not trolling or being a jerk, but can someone explain to me the benefit of doing this? How many points do you need to book a week at say the Animal Kingdom Villas?

    • by Laurel Stewart on May 15, 2014, at 11:50 am EST

      There are points charts online even for non-members. I like DVCnews for general info – http://dvcnews.com/index.php/resorts/animal-kingdom-villas/points-chart-74695

      If I wanted a one-BR Savannah view at Kidani for this entire week, it would be 242 points. The benefits are a whole other article, and it’s not for everyone. Stayed tuned for the economics of buying in next week.

      • Can’t wait for the economic’s of it article. Just did the math for a basic Animal Kingdom for when we go in September and the price would be over $8000.

    • Our family has looked at DVC several time and each time decided it did not make financial sense for us. We typically book a deluxe room at one of the lower cost times of the year and any potential savings was outweighed by the worry that our kids might not want to make Disney our only vacation destination. I think others might make out better financially if they needed to book more than one room to accommodate their family or if they prefer the villa type accommodations. There are plenty of other reasons I’d like to own DVC but my practical side has prevailed so far.

    • Gus: To put it frankly, you’re getting a massive discount on Deluxe level accommodations. Or Deluxe accommodations for the price of Moderate.

      If you need an example my wife and I are staying at the Grand Floridian for seven nights this coming September. After factoring in the amortized cost of the points (how much I spent to buy my points, and the point use this year) and this year’s dues, it’s going to cost us $135 a night to stay at a resort with a rack rate of $493 a night.

      That’s largely what you’re getting. There are other fringe benefits like discounts (I bought a premium annual pass for $484 this year) and special events and whatnot, but you’re paying now for heavily discounted resort stays in the future.

      I will say that based on my own personal math, if you have to finance your points, it makes far less sense as the interest eats into the savings quick. So I recommend getting the fewest number of points you can get with cash-on-hand and add on. My wife and I have no kids, so we bought 60 points from Disney, and it’s worked well for us for three years so far. We’ve stayed at Aulani, the Grand Californian, and now the Grand Floridian, and we’ve broken even on this trip. Our contract runs until 2054 … so we are now vacationing on Disney!

      • I would absolutely love a post which did this same calculation but factored in the “time value of money” when pricing out total per night cost with DVC ownership vs point rental vs rack rate. My financial analyst husband keeps citing the “time value of money” as his main objection to buying DVC. His claim is that the “true cost” per night with DVC ownership will be higher than rack rate once you factor in the opportunity cost of putting your money into DVC vs whatever else you could have done with that money over the 40 years of the contract (for example invest it or pay off some other debt or whatever). I don’t know how to do this calculation and my husband just says “trust me on this”. I would be so grateful to see the numbers for an “average” type DVC purchase based on today’s point costs.

        • by Roger Sauer on May 16, 2014, at 4:38 am EST

          Your husband is right. We purchased DVC in 1993 when there was one DVC and point costs were $57 per point. The investment was worthwhile only because we visit DVC regularly. Considering the points now run $100-140 per point, I am not sure the value is there. But there are still DVC ownerships available on the resale market for about $50 per point at Vero Beach that can still be used at other resorts. Your dates might be limited due to the 7 month window for reservations as opposed to an 11 month window for owners at the resort you want. But you would be an owner. We do not own at Aulani but have been there four times at slower seasons.

          • I have a fairly complicated spreadsheet that does two difference computations on value. The first is a very basic ” how much we paid in + how much our dues are each year vs. what the room would have cost out of pocket (non-discounted). My wife and I only purchased 60 points, at $99 a point. Our dues are going up less than 4% a year, but for this year, they were $292. As of this year, we’ve paid in $7019.75. We also paid $45 for three one-time use points.

            In our three years of ownership, we have had five nights at Aulani (island view studio for 110 points), four nights at the Grand Californian (studio for 68 points), and seven nights at the Grand Floridian (standard view studio for 125 points). Based on rack rates for the cheapest room we could have bought at the same resort, we’d have paid $7604.12 out of pocket, for a savings of $539.37 … and we’re only in our third year of ownership. (That’ll get eaten into next year since we’re out of points.)

            Our more complicated computation is what each point costs as a factor of the money we paid and it’s dues that year. I won’t go into the math, but I use that to calculate what it’s costing us per night of our stay versus the rack rate per night. For example, this Grand Floridian trip will cost us $135 a night vs. the $493 a night Disney charges for the cheapest room at the GF. That formula is more conservative, but still has us breaking even in 2016, so four trips instead of three.

            There’s always good reasons to not spend the money. And if you have to finance, the numbers get much worse, which is why I only advocate paying cash. But the fact is that DVC can be an OUTSTANDING value for some people, and clearly it is for my wife and I. But I will say this … considering time value of money is all well and good, but that’s also 40 years of NOT going on vacations to Disney (or paying way more if you do). I’d rather enjoy some of it now while I’m young, rather than not seeing all of these places until I’m too old to enjoy it.

          • Rob, just to clarify about the “time value of money” point. I think it refers to the prepayment part of buying DVC. I’m rather fuzzy on the concept so please forgive me if I’m not accurate in my explanation. When you purchase DVC you are giving Disney money ahead of time for future vacations. Money that you could keep sitting in your own investment account growing in value until you are going to use it for your actual vacation. The comparison is not between saving your money and taking no vacation for 40 years vs taking a vacation but just what could you do with that initial investment money yourself instead of handing it over to Disney in year one.

  • Thanks, this is a great topic. I look forward to your future articles. I would be interested in strategies for staying at a DVC without becoming an “owner”. I would love to stay at Bay Lake Towers in a 1 or 2 bedroom, but, I never seem to be able to get a discounted rate (and won’t pay full rack rate).

    • There is another way to stay in DVC properties without buying, if you own a timeshare at any other resort in the country that is a member of Resort Condominiums International (RCI). We own two timeshares in our state. Each was very inexpensive to purchase, and we have used them occasionally for our own vacations. But if we don’t use them, we can take the point value of our timeshares and trade in those points for a DVC property, since the DVC properties are also part of RCI. We have stayed at the Boardwalk Villas, Beach Club Villas, and Old Key West Villas using points through RCI. I’m not saying everyone should run out and buy a timeshare just for this purpose. But it has worked out for us, and it is a way to stay in DVC properties very inexpensively.

      • The ability to trade into DVC is based on many factors. If the economy is doing well, Disney does not put many units into the RCI pool. Specific dates may not be available especially school breaks. Better views and room types mat be unavailable. The best way to get the resort, room type, and dates you want is to own DVC .

    • Rent points! My parents are DVC owners and I usually stay on their points. Recently, they had already used up their yearly points and borrowed everything from next year, so I rented points from someone else using one of the many reputable websites. I saved quite a bit of money for a great studio at Bay Lake Towers! I have also rented points when I knew my parent’s wouldn’t be able to get a certain view if we waited for their non-home resort to open up (standard view studio at boardwalk). I have never had any problems renting points.

      • What if you need to make a change in dates for some reason? You need to make the reservations way in advance. I thought I read someplace that those transactions are non-changeable?

        • It depends on when you cancel or request a change. If you are renting points from an owner, the owner has to make the change. It may happen that new dates are not available. If the change or cancellation is within 60 days, the owner may face restrictions on the use of the points.
          When you are renting points, owners generally have a no refunds policy because they are taking on risk of someone else’s plans. Get travel insurance if you are renting points.

        • The DVC member can change the dates up to 30 days in advance without facing any penalties. Seeing as most people book Disney vacations WAY more than 30 days in advance, I never saw this as a concern.

          • Cancellation of a reservation less than 60 days ahead of checking in causes those points used to go into a holding account where the points can only be used for reservations made 60 days or less ahead. That’s a penalty. The other penalty is trying to change the reservation 30 days out and there not being any availability on the new dates requested.

    • In May/June of 2012 we were able to get 20% off as a AAA member for a 1BR at Bay Lake. Loved it so much, we started thinking about buying in and finally bought a resale contract a few months back.

  • I know rental gets covered a lot, but I would love to see a comprehesive discussion of the do’s and don’ts of points rental. I’ve heard rental is the best way to dip your toes in the DVC waters, but it also seems daunting and easy to mess up. What are the most important things to consider when renting points? What expectations should we have about availability of certain resorts and dates? What is included and not included when using rented points?

    • by Laurel Stewart on May 15, 2014, at 11:55 am EST

      I agree. Renting points is great. I do it sometimes when I don’t have enough points in my own account to do what I want or when we need to book a lot of rooms for the whole company. We’ll definitely cover how to do this.

    • by Roger Sauer on May 15, 2014, at 12:40 pm EST

      We have never rented points to use as we are owners. But we have rented our points to others through Dave’s DVC rental online. Purchasers pay through Dave about $14 per point and the seller gets $11. All payment goes through Paypal. The owner has to make the reservation for you but lists you as a guest . You have all the perks of using a Disney resort: Magical Express and Extra Magic hours as well as Dining Plan (but not Free Dining Plan).

      • I would love to read more about point rental. Is there an optimal room type or resort for rental? Most of the “good deals” I read about seem to be renting points for studios. I ask because I recently tried to rent points for a stay in a 2 bdrm at BLT and didn’t find the savings to be as much as I had expected over direct from Disney rates. Roughly $800/night from Disney and $650/night with point rental at $14/point through a 3rd party rental site. Saving $150/night is great but I guess I had expected the difference to be greater based on all the positive comments about point rental I’ve read in various blog posts where people cite 40% savings. Are my expectations just not realistic?

        Also, what kind of experience have others had with availability through the 3rd party sites? The site I contacted said they didn’t have any BLT owners wanting to rent out points and as it was more than 7 months out from my travel date a reservation couldn’t be made by the owners currently trying to rent points. My fear is at 7 months there might be points available to rent but not the specific room type I’d like.

        • Your rate, even using a third party site, will be based on seasonality. If you want a peak season at a DVC resort, you will pay more because the point value is more. As members for over 20 years we try to reserve times that are not peak seasons. In this way we have visited WDW and even Aulani many times at reasonable point values. And those renting units through a third party still have to rely on members who may or may not have the points at the right resort.

          • I should have specified I am looking to rent points the first week of February, not a peak time and the difference between rack rate and point rental wasn’t as large as I expected. What would be interesting to know is if there are any seasons, specific resorts, or room types that are better opportunities for point rental. Are there seasons, resorts, or room types when Disney’s rack rates rise more than the corresponding seasonal change in DVC point cost for the same room? Or is Disney fairly consistent and the rack rate and points “cost” track together. Who better to investigate than the math wizards at TP :-)

        • by Bryan Klinck on May 16, 2014, at 10:32 am EST

          The DVC “seasons” and the standard WDW rate periods are roughly in sync, but there are times when they are not. Renting DVC points at the current rates will always save you money vs rack rate, but there are times when the savings are greater than others. In general, the greatest percentage savings is with Studios (average ~47%), the least is with 1-Bedrooms (average ~23%), and 2-Bedrooms fall in between (average ~38%).

        • by Bryan Klinck on May 16, 2014, at 4:18 pm EST

          To satisfy my curiosity I did a more detailed analysis of the numbers for VWL in 2014 (I neglected to mention that was the source for my prior estimates).

          On a day-by-day basis, for a Studio the minimum savings is 32%, the maximum is 66%, and the average is 49%. For a 1-Bedroom the minimum savings is -3% (there are a couple of weird weekends during Value 2 season where rack is less than DVC), the maximum is 52%, and the average is 24%. For a 2-Bedroom the minimum savings is 11%, the maximum is 64%, and the average is 38%.

          As people tend to stay for longer than a day, I also looked at all of the possible 1-week stays in 2014. For a Studio the minimum savings is 39% and the maximum is 65%. For a 1-Bedroom the minimum savings is 8% and the maximum is 47%. For a 2-Bedroom the minimum savings is 20% and the maximum is 61%. (The averages are the same as for a 1-day stay.)

          In general I would say that the bigger savings tend to be during the higher-priced periods, and a lot of the extremes tend to occur when the price bands aren’t quite in sync. For example, there are really good savings from Dec 12 through Dec 23, where DVC is in Adventure or Choice (the two lowest bands) and Rack is in Peak or Holiday (two of the highest bands).

  • I’m assuming you are making monthly payments on these points until they are paid off correct? So after these monthly payments plus the annual dues isn’t it cheaper to just “rent” points to stay at a dvc resort? I guess I would like to see a cost breakdown of dvc vs. non-dvc.

    Example: We are staying at Bay Lake Towers in September “renting” points for a 1 bedroom lake view for 7 nights. Renting these 227 points will cost me $3178.

    How is being DVC member a better option?
    Thanks for this article! DVC has always confused me.

    • by Laurel Stewart on May 15, 2014, at 12:27 pm EST

      Yep, I’ll definitely cover the numbers in one of the following articles. It’s not terribly complicated, but it’s a lot of information.

      • A rule of thumb: if you own DVC, you will visit there more often and thus make your investment in DVC worthwhile. If you are looking at visiting elsewhere, DVC is not a good option.

    • Only if you finance your purchase, which I personally think is a bad deal. Far better to get a minimum number of points, and then add-on when your needs increase. Disney will tell you the minimum is 160 (or sometimes 100), but it’s sales. Make a case for why you’ll be fine with less, and they’ll sell you fewer if they have contracts available. Once we told them we were never having kids, had limited vacation time, wanted to come back over our anniversary (September, the value season), and only had enough cash to buy 60 points, they let us do that. Cash talks. ;)

  • by Roger Sauer on May 15, 2014, at 12:34 pm EST

    We have been in DVC since 1993. We initially bought at Old Key West when points were $57 each. A bargain by today’s standards. Since then we have bought more and been able to stay at every Disney resort/park in the world. Consider it a prepaid vacation. Bit if you need to finance it at Disney’s rate, you cannot afford it; and we currently pay $3000+ in maintenance fees yearly. However, on the resale market, DVC has done the best I have seen in maintaining its value compared to other programs. Many timeshare owners are giving their ownerships away as they get older or find themselves in tough economic situations recently. In the past month I was able to purchase two annual 2 bedroom units at Sheraton Vistana Villages; one was $1,000, the other was free. This resort accommodations are comparable to DVC though they are not in the World. You have to drive ten minutes to the parks. And the units come with the ability to exchange for other Starwood vacation ownership resorts like the one in Maui (where I am now.) Readers interested should look online at the Timeshare User Group website and check out its Marketplace pages. And the site has a great bulletin board section where prospective owners can learn from experienced owners.

    • by Laurel Stewart on May 15, 2014, at 12:39 pm EST

      As an owner, I agree that DVC works for me as well. But for the sake of civility, let’s avoid making judgments about what people can and can’t afford.

      Maui sounds very nice here in rainy North Carolina.

      • by Roger Sauer on May 15, 2014, at 12:48 pm EST

        Sorry. I was not making a judgment. People interested need to know the costs now and in the future. In the Maui paper here the other day, one timeshare resort here listed owners who we’re being foreclosed due to non payment of mortgages and maintenance fees. The notice took up one standard newspaper classified page and listed over five hundred individuals. For one resort. There is a dark side to the business as well. And Orlando is heavily saturated with timeshares which is why some people give theirs away.

  • What do you think is going to happen when those first contracts finally expire? How many more DVC resorts is Disney going to build before they saturate the market?

    Obviously not questions that have any firm answer, but I’m curious as to your opinion!

    • by Laurel Stewart on May 15, 2014, at 12:42 pm EST

      DVC is part of theme park revenue on Disney’s books, so I don’t think there’s a limit to how many more units can be built.

      No one knows what will happen to the contracts that expire. OKW owners were given an option to purchase an extension to their contracts several years ago, but I don’t think many jumped at it (I want to say it was $15/point?).

      • by Roger Sauer on May 15, 2014, at 12:53 pm EST

        Yes, it was $15 per point. Interestingly, ALL ownerships were automatically extended. Those like us who chose not to had to send in notarized letters opting out. The auto extension was to get around Disney’s inability to sell real estate in every state. Actually, the only one who would have benefited from extension were my grandchildren. I asked my grandson for the money. He declined.

  • I am super loving this whole new content thing. This is my new go to blog for my Disney fix, I love the variety of topics and consistent posts!! Perfect to feed my Disney addiction.
    We are DVC owners, but I still loved reading this topic, can’t wait for the rest of the series!! :)

  • I’m glad you’re covering this! I find DVC both intriguing and massively confusing, and I trust you guys to cover it fully and without bias. Right now the only person I know who understands DVC works there, so I’m not sure I trust her to be neutral. :)

  • by Dean Finder on May 15, 2014, at 9:11 pm EST

    I look forward to the details. I’m skeptical overall, since I doubt Disney would devote so much potential retail space to DVC kiosks unless they were equally profitable.

  • by Sher Tagnet on May 15, 2014, at 11:44 pm EST

    We were on a Disney Cruise and investigated the DVC. Is there an initial down payment? We came away with the impression there is an exorbitant initial investment. I really appreciate this article, and will look forward to the next installments! DVC has been a mystery!

    • by Roger Sauer on May 16, 2014, at 4:25 am EST

      Down payments are about 10% and interest rates offered by Disney are high. My personal recommendation after owning for 20 years is to not buy unless you can pay cash or finance at a low interest. In the long run you will you will save money if you use your ownership at DVC resorts and intend to visit WDW regularly. We have about 700 points annually. These are paid off. The annual maintenance fees for these are $3,000+ every year. You need to be prepared for these ongoing costs even after your mortgage is paid off.

      • I never recommend anyone finance it. The impact to break even is considerable, and if you don’t plan on keeping for the length of the contract, your savings could be negligible.

  • by Bryan Klinck on May 16, 2014, at 6:19 am EST

    In reply to the people above who want more information on DVC Point Rental, check out this TouringPlans Blog post http://blog.touringplans.com/2013/09/01/tips-renting-disney-vacation-club-points/ (sorry, for some reason I cannot reply directly to the comments themselves)

  • by Linda Gordon on May 19, 2014, at 8:58 pm EST

    Once you stay at a DVC resort there is no going back to the other resorts. Not only is there the benefit of the resort and the wonderful villas you also get discounts on shopping, dining and yes annual passes.