How to be a DVC Member and get your annual dues paid for you…

Catchy title, eh? I originally planned to call this “My genius ploy to subsidize my DVC maintenance fees (insert evil villain laugh)” but I didn’t think people would be too amused by my nerdy accountant talk paired with Disney humor.

So my original intent with this blog was to have a place to post about my detailed knowledge of some of the more intricate ins and outs of the administrative side of owning DVC points. It has evolved into me posting lots of trip reports and Disney World travel tips and whatnot, because I just can’t help myself or get myself to shut up about Disney World most of the time (where have I heard that before ….???), but I’m going to also start posting some of my more DVC specific insights from time to time as well.

I’m by no means the most experienced DVCer (there are people out there who absolutely churn out rental reservations for a living, I’m sure of it, despite that being technically against the rules in high volumes), but in my limited experience, I’ve realized that I dare say I seem to have a unique knack for understanding all of DVC’s nuances. Just to give myself some credibility here before people wonder why they should take any serious financial tips from a crazy Disney obsessed stay at home mom (hey…. stop hating), I do have degrees in both Finance and Accounting, graduated top of my class for both degrees, have my CPA license in two states (and my CMA if anyone cares about that credential … spoiler…no one does), etc. It just so happens I am choosing to channel my nerdy finance brain towards Disney related topics at the moment while I’m cooped up in the basement playing choochoo trains with a toddler for months on end. However… let’s never speak of these mundane “credentials” again, as they shouldn’t be relevant towards my validity as a person voicing opinions/giving unsolicited advice about Disney, but I thought maybe when it comes to discussing people’s finances, they might want to know a little more about the lady left at the Orlando altar. As far as DVC credentials go…. I grew up the child of a DVC family (see the about me section) and in recent years I’ve been handling the renting of my mom’s Boardwalk points, after she spent years renting them on David’s, as well as handling the booking of our own family trips with her points. I also purchased a resale contract at Bay Lake Tower last year and have been renting those points out to people as well. So I book maybe a 5-8 stays per year when you count our own and our rentals. That is a lot of experience with the booking process, the rental process, calling Member Services, handling point transfers, getting waitlists to come through, etc, so I am very well versed in these topics at this point. For our “wedding trip” alone I had to book over a dozen DVC rooms with our own points, as well as points rented from other members (so I’ve been on both sides of rental transactions) and had to make constant changes and wait for tons of waitlists to come through (granted 90% of them ended up being cancelled in the end…. but the booking process was fun while it lasted). Regardless, take everything I say with a grain of salt. I’m pretty risk tolerant and take some leaps of faith with my DVC decision making, and it isn’t for everyone.

On to the genius plot…

All DVC members purchase X number of points with the understanding that they can either use them to book their own vacations or rent them to recoup some of their investment/pay for their annual dues each year. I personally 100% signed up for DVC with the intention of going to Disney as much as humanly possible, so the idea of renting my points to pay for my dues every other year is not remotely appealing to me.

What if you could use all of your points to travel to Disney each year, but magically acquire some additional points to rent on top of your normal points ? This is where point transfers come in. DVC is fully aware that there is potential for point transfers to be a big opening for people to work the system, so they have put in place a ton of restrictions around transferring points unfortunately. Even so, with proper planning, there’s enough room to work with.

So let’s talk in actual numbers and contracts, to keep this easier to follow. Let’s say I own 300 points at the Boardwalk. We purchased these points back in the 90s, direct from Disney, paid in full, yada yada. All good there. These are clearly our points. So we can use these 300 points to travel every year. Awesome. However, we do still have to pay annual dues for these 300 points. Right now the annual rate per point at the Boardwalk for maintenance fees puts us just over $2000 annually for the 300 points total. That’s a lot of money. That basically could pay for a vacation someplace ! I thought the point of DVC was to pay a lot of money up front and then never have to pay for a hotel room again?! Grrrr. These maintenance fees really kind of ruin that whole appeal, don’t they? So, I am determined to reduce some of that hit.

Each year, DVC members are allowed one point transfer in or out of their membership. That is one transfer per USE YEAR. It gets a bit complicated because different contracts have different use year months, but basically just always pay attention to the actual YEAR, and that is all that matters. For example, in 2019 I received a transfer of 100 Copper Creek points with a November 2019 use year. I was then able to get a transfer of points for any 2020 use year, it didn’t need to be November or later. It also didn’t matter that they were transferred into my June use year. All that matters is the YEAR, not the month. It also doesn’t matter what month you use them in (or what month the reservation booked with them falls in) or if you choose to bank them to the next use year after they are transferred. All that matters is that you can get one transfer of 2019 points, one transfer of 2020 points, one transfer of 2021 points, etc. After they are received, you are free to use them or bank them as you wish.

So, each year, let’s say I book our annual family trip for November or December, using maybe 250 Boardwalk points at the 11 month window. Easy peasy, no issues there. Then, as time passes, and November approaches, I keep an eye out for people looking to get rid of “distressed” points expiring some time around November or January (or later…. just as long as they consider them distressed so they are renting them for relatively cheap). When people consider points to be distressed, they rent them for well below the normal market rate. Typically people are willing to do large point transfers for a little cheaper than the market rate to begin with, so even if you don’t find distressed points, you can typically find someone willing to transfer 300 points for $15 per point when the current market rate is $19-$20 per point, because a point transfer is so easy for everyone involved. If the points are in fact distressed, you want to get a transfer of just enough points to cover your upcoming stay (ie the 250 points for our previously booked November trip). If they aren’t distressed, or expiring soon, you want to get a transfer of as many points as you can afford, if you find a decent deal.

Once you have received the transfer of points, and paid the other DVC member directly, those points are now on your membership. They are still a separate contract and retain their original use year and home resort, but they are all yours to use as you please. DVC has even recently upgraded their systems so that these transferred in points can easily be used to book stays online, whereas you previously needed to call Member Services whenever booking a stay using transferred in points. So now that you have these cheaper, less desirable for whatever reason, points on your membership, you can begin the process of reallocating them to an existing reservation. The first time I did this, I simply called member services and they happily reallocated the transferred in points to an upcoming stay. This means they swapped out our Boardwalk points that were used to book the reservation, and used the transferred in points instead, freeing up all of our Boardwalk points to use for future stays or to rent to others at a premium price significantly higher than the $12 per point I had paid for the transferred in points.

Subsequently I have learned that Member Services will not reallocate points to a stay with a different home resort if you originally booked the stay during your home resort booking window. So basically, if I were to book a stay at the Boardwalk using Boardwalk points 7-11 months prior to travel, and then I got a transfer of cheap Saratoga Springs points (people tend to rent SS points for cheaper!), Member Services will not simply swap out the Boardwalk points for the SS points. Instead, you have to actually cancel and rebook the room using the SS points. This has a huge amount of risk involved since these rooms typically aren’t available at the 7 month window and there are often waitlists already outstanding for them. However, I have had no problems when cancelling and rebooking one night at a time super quickly, or actually creating a waitlist for the one night before I cancel the room I have booked already, then calling and seeing if my waitlist matched right after I cancel. Either way, I typically do this process on the phone with Member Services just in case I deal with any website slowness or anything, I want to have a back up person checking availability quickly at the same time as I’m cancelling my nights one at a time. If you got a transfer of non-distressed points and you are over 7 months out from your travel, you would do this as soon as the 7 month booking window opens, assuming the transferred in points have a different home resort. If you got distressed points, you would do this ASAP. If your travel is within a month, then there probably aren’t many waitlists for your nights since most waitlists expire 30 days prior to travel, so at least you have that going for you.

Once you have rebooked each night using the transferred in points, Member Services will merge the reservations into one reservation for you, which takes about ten minutes on the phone usually, then bada bing, bada boom, you are set with your prior trip just like it was before, but now it is booked using the transferred in points (which makes absolutely no difference on your reservation), and all of your original points are freed up to rent to people at a higher rate.

In this scenario, let’s say I received a transfer of 250 distressed Saratoga Springs points for $12 per point and applied all of them to my existing Boardwalk reservation. This would allow me to turn around and rent my popular Boardwalk points for $19-$20 per point (which pre-Covid times, typically took me about half a day to rent Boardwalk points at $19 per point…. now it requires a little bit more effort…but things will get back to normal eventually). These Boardwalk points wouldn’t be near expiring, because as I mentioned, my trip was in November and I have a June use year, so we are looking at at least 6 months of booking plus another year if banked. So with this 250 point transaction I would make conservatively $1750 (250 points x $7), which gets me pretty close to paying those $2000 in dues for our total 300 Boardwalk points. This is why I say to get as big of a transfer as possible. The more points that you get and allocate to existing reservations, the more points you free up to rent to people at a premium.

As I’m writing this, I’m thinking people will say this sounds like a scam or screwing over the person you receive the transferred points from, but I beg to differ. The person who transferred the “cheap” Saratoga Springs points in this hypothetical scenario got rid of points at the rate that the market set for them. They set and/or agreed to that price based on their need to get rid of those points quickly or potentially questionable planning by allowing the points to get distressed. It’s a win for them because if they can’t get rid of distressed points, they will simply expire unused. Instead they got $3000 for those 250 points in this scenario. Then I’m being compensated for assuming the risk and making the effort to reallocate those points to my existing reservations. I’ve spent endless mornings on the phone with Member Services promptly are 9am cancelling and rebooking rooms, or waiting anxiously for waitlists to come through after a cancelled room doesn’t pop back up as available. This “genius ploy” of mine actually requires a huge amount of strategizing and effort in situations when the original reservation was booked during the home resort booking window (reminder: if the original reservation was booked within 7 months of travel, no cancelling is required, member services will literally hit a button and reallocate the transferred in points to the reservation).

So there it is, my best attempt at explaining how to have your cake and eat it too, or in this case: stay in Disney on your points and rent them to pay your dues too. This is obviously a super quick and dirty rundown of how to do this, and my hope is that I can expand upon this in much more detailed future blog posts and/or maybe an eBook if I start getting real crazy (whoa boy).

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