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).

Things to Mention Up Front When Renting DVC Points (and Sample Rental Agreements)

I have been renting out DVC points for a couple years now and thus far have not bought into the need for having a formal rental agreement/contract between myself and the people renting the points. To me, these transactions have an inherent level of risk (particularly for the renter) and require a certain level of trust. Part of the appeal of working directly with a DVC member (as opposed to a rental site) is the personal attention/interaction that you get. Typically I speak to the people on the phone, become Facebook friends, etc. to make them feel comfortable and that they can trust me during our transaction. I don’t want to turn it into a cold, formal process full of distrust, which is the vibe a rental agreement gives me. The main protection offered to the person renting the points, is the ability to seek references across social media and potentially post a “bad review” of a person with whom they have a bad experience. The public shame of a bad review in a DVC rental group would basically make it next to impossible to continue renting points going forward, so that hopefully weeds out any potential fraudsters (there’s my CPA lingo coming back to show off my coolness).

That being said, I am starting to get a bit frustrated with some people this year unfortunately. This year has been full of the most extenuating circumstances that any year could ever throw at the travel industry, so I absolutely support the concept of being flexible and working with people to reschedule trips. I am appalled at the idea of DVC members screwing over people who rented points for trips and need/want to cancel due to health/safety concerns or because of quarantine requirements, or whatever their reasons may be not to travel this year. As long as your points aren’t imminently expiring, which should hopefully be the case for anyone dealing with a COVID related cancellation (ie if someone cancelled a trip in July, the earliest those points could realistically be expiring is 11/30, based on DVC’s extension of point expirations this year), you should be able to rerent the points to the best of your ability and recoup as much of the money as possible. In that situation, maybe the renter would be stuck paying the difference in the price they were paying you, vs what you were able to get in the new lower price market currently out there for those 11/30 expiring points, but you should still be able to offer a significant refund. One renter I was working with had to reschedule her quick getaway 4 times and ultimately cancelled because her entire family contracted Covid this summer. That really sucks. I have no interest in making their lives any more unpleasant than they already are. She was a lovely person to work with and helped me find a person to rerent the reservation to. Easy peasy, no problem, glad to work with a person like that! However, what is absolute BS to me, is renters trying to cancel reservations BECAUSE there are cheaper points out there currently, thinking they can cancel the rooms they’ve already booked at the previously normal price per point, and rebook with someone else at the new cheaper price per point. This is not how life typically works. Prices fluctuate all the time on travel related expenses, and you often feel like you just missed a deal, or just bought your plane tickets too early, etc. I’ve had two people cancel trips with little notice at this point, not because they are uncomfortable traveling due to COVID, but because they think they can find better prices out there now. First of all, good luck finding a DVC member as accommodating as I am with changing dates and resorts all the time, utilizing wait lists, etc. Second of all, good luck getting these rooms booked again this close to your travel dates after I cancel your reservation… and third of all…. cmon, why did you wait until so late in the game to screw me over like this? Now I’m stuck trying to rent points in a crazy panicked rental market where no one knows whether they want to travel in the upcoming year and members are panicking and unloading points at foolishly low prices (if you are renting – you should totally jump on those prices before a lot of points expire on 11/30). So now my awesome points that I could previously easily rent within a day for $19 per point are sitting around idle with no one interested because there are lots of points available right now for $10-$14 per point, which I’m not willing to rent mine for, since they are not “distressed.” You don’t want to be stuck in a situation where these people are expecting an immediate refund of the money they’ve previously paid, when you don’t have the ability to get that money back from another renter any time soon.

So anyway, I don’t mind cancelling these reservations and rerenting the points, since I have the patience to wait for another good rental situation to come along at the right price, but these cancellations got me thinking about what things should always be communicated to renters up front, even without a formal written contract.

These are the things that I always make sure I say to people renting my DVC points (in writing – even if just in a text message/email/Facebook message) at the beginning of the transaction.

  1. Price per point – this is a no brainer, and everyone’s first discussion point, besides dates/resort
  2. Payment terms – the norm seems to be to pay in full, up front these days, but people do occasionally ask for other payment arrangements, such as 50% up front, and 50% a couple months prior to travel, which I find understandable. It is important to get it documented somewhere in writing so you can go back to it and reference it in case you or they forget later on. Just for reference, in situations where payment is required in full “up front”…. I book the reservation in the renter’s name, send them a screenshot with all of the information including the reservation number, allowing them to link it to, and then they send me the full payment. That way they see that it is a real reservation and there is minimal risk of me screwing them over at that point, so they are comfortable sending payment.
  3. Payment method – I personally am comfortable with Venmo, Paypal, Zelle, etc, but you should spell out your preferred method and timing (ie do you expect payment before or after you send a screenshot of the reservation information), as well as any necessary contact information. If using Paypal, remember to specify whether you prefer to use Friends and Family or Goods and Services (fee).
  4. Refund terms – This is where I historically have said something along the lines of “If you need to cancel for any reason, as long as you let me know more than 30 days prior to your trip (that’s when things get messy with DVC putting my points into a holding account), I should be able to refund you fully, just as soon as I rerent the points to someone else, which usually only takes a day or two, and I’ve never had a problem.” I’ve never been more glad to have included this little disclaimer than this year, since I could have never expected Coronavirus to make re-renting actually slightly challenging. You could even go so far as to clarify that you need to be able to re-rent the points at the same rate, or if you re-rent them at a lower rate, the original renter will be responsible for the difference. There are all sorts of things to consider here. It is a matter of judgment, but should definitely be spelled out up front and in writing. I’ve never gotten too technical with it because I’ve had such an easy time rerenting points if someone cancels, so I’ve never been concerned about the canceller needing to pay the difference in price. Now that I’ve seen how the market can swing, it is definitely something to consider.
    • This is where my one renter had an issue on one of my cancellations recently. When she asked to cancel (without reaching out, by the way…she only cancelled when I reached out to confirm everything was still on track and check in about why she hadn’t sent in one of her payments), I said ok I’ll refund you your initial deposit, but I just have to rerent the points first. She responded saying she was surprised I needed to rerent the points before refunding her. So I sent her a screenshot of where I had said that originally, and that cleared that up. So even just mentioning things like this informally in a message at the outset of the transaction helps later on down the road if complications arise.
  5. Extent to which you are willing to change dates/resorts – This has come up a lot recently too. People are asking me to move dates around and switch resorts at the last minute, and seem completely unfamiliar with how limited DVC availability is. I am happy to check availability for people, but I just want to make sure people have realistic expectations up front. Also, people need to understand that I try to rent or use every available point each use year, so if you wait until a month prior to your travel date to ask me to change dates, and your new dates require additional points, I probably won’t have the additional points to cover the difference. If that results in you needing to cancel and book with someone else, that is kind of unfair/crappy to me. So it is important to lay out those expectations up front. (Although don’t panic – worst case scenario – you could pay for one time use points through DVC and charge the renter for them)
  6. Any other DVC nuances – You should probably always make sure that renters know little DVC nuances like that housekeeping isn’t daily for DVC rooms, how to set up the Magical Express, how to book Dining plans (through the DVC member), etc, just so a disgruntled renter doesn’t come back unhappy saying they were duped and expected something besides what they ended up experiencing (although I haven’t encountered anyone unhappy with the DVC experience, but there is a first time for everything). This would be where you should also mention who is responsible should the person staying in the room cause any damage or anything like that as well.

Based on all of these things that should always be communicated upfront, I am starting to understand the appeal of formal written rental agreements for these transactions. You can just pop the specifics of your transaction into a template and bada bing, bada boom, everything has been communicated, and you’ve covered your butt. I’ve included some sample templates I’ve found on social media over the past year and tweaked a bit to make the most sense to me (please note I’m not taking credit for these). That’s the beauty of this DVC rental community, everyone wants to help each other. I’m no lawyer, so I don’t know how legally binding these documents are, but they certainly make you feel a lot safer on both sides of the agreement. As the Member renting points, having a contract removes any sense of guilt if someone comes requesting things that the contract explicitly outlined wouldn’t be able to be accommodated (I am a person who feels obligated to help people out in any way that they ask, even if it really goes beyond what should reasonably be expected in these transactions). I also have a tendency to assume that everyone in this community understands the nuances of DVC points and will realize when certain requests are outrageous (like asking to switch to a different resort a few weeks prior to travel), when in reality, first time renters might have no idea how challenging the availability is at these resorts, so spelling out what is feasible up front creates a fairer (more fair?) arrangement for all parties, where expectations can be managed. As the person renting points, it is a way to read through all of the information and feel a sense of security that you know exactly what you are getting yourself into, and you are working with someone legitimate. While it might feel like overkill, it really does seem like a win-win at this point.

Sample Rental Agreement Templates (Tweaked from templates I found on Social Media – not originally written by me, nor do I know how legally binding they are). Some awesome people posted these publicly on the rental groups on Facebook. I tried to give credit within the documents, but if I missed anyone, please don’t hesitate to reach out. If anyone else has an awesome template, please feel free to send it my way!

In particular, I lean towards the first two. The first one is a little more condensed than the second, and still touches on everything I consider essential, but the second one is truly comprehensive, as the name says. They are all worth perusing.