There have been some interesting Disney Vacation Club developments, so we thought we’d cover the latest news from Walt Disney World and beyond in this DVC update. We’ll focus on the most recent restriction, its ramifications, future availability, and whether we think now is a good time to buy–or if you should wait.
The main news is that Disney Vacation Club has increased the number of direct-purchase points an owner must buy to be eligible for Membership Magic perks. To obtain a Disney Vacation Club Membership Card, Members must accumulate a total of at least 125 Vacation Points purchased directly from Disney Vacation Development, Inc.
The eligibility for Membership Magic perks was first introduced four years ago, albeit without a point threshold. That led to many members purchasing via resale and adding on small contracts of 25 or 50 minutes to sidestep the rule. Two years later, a minimum of 75 points was added. Then last year, that was bumped up to 100 points.
DVC Members who purchase the minimum number of points directly from Disney are issued a blue member ID card. This card gives members access to dining, shopping, and Annual Pass discounts. It also allows members to attend the Moonlight Magic after-hours events and visit the Imagination Lounge at EPCOT.
The 125-point minimum applies only to new buyers. None of this is retroactive, meaning that anyone already in possession of a blue membership card is grandfathered in. That’s true regardless of how they purchased their DVC membership or how many points they own.
As for why this is happening, it depends upon who you ask. Disney Vacation Club will tell you that it’s to offer those who purchase directly a “premium advantage.” It also somehow supposedly benefits existing members, as Disney claims that it helps address booking challenges with popular room categories. It theoretically results in fewer small contracts being sold, meaning fewer members competing for the same rooms.
I don’t follow their logic. Even assuming what DVC is contending is true, it doesn’t change the total number of points–just how they’re allocated. You could use tortured logic to advance the argument that those with more points are more likely to book the Polynesian Bungalows (rather than those sitting empty on some nights), but that simply shifts capacity allocations around, and does not change the total supply of points.
Let’s call it what it actually is: a protectionist attempt to reverse the trend of declining direct sales. While numbers have rebounded since bottoming out during Walt Disney World’s closure, fall monthly point sales are still nowhere near their peaks earlier this year and late last.
This change is motivated by Disney’s desire to offer a “premium advantage” to direct buyers or alleviate inventory woes for existing members to the same extent that my love for Country Bear Jamboree is motivated by the color trends or Spirit Jerseys. Which is to say, in no way whatsoever.
Regardless of what Disney might claim, the sole motivation for this–and every other restriction DVC has implemented in the last ~5 years–is to nudge people away from the resale market and towards buying directly from Disney. If a contract bought on the resale market is perceived as inferior or makes potential buyers think they’ll be “second class members,” some of those people will buy direct instead. It’s no longer a purely economic decision or an apples to apples comparison. Disney’s rationale for doing this is that simple.
It’s also worth noting that, contrary to Disney’s claims, this restriction actually hurts current owners. While no one buys with the intent of later having to sell, the reality is that it does happen quite frequently. If this move is successful in pushing people away from the resale market, that means fewer buyers there, and thus, reduced prices if/when you go to sell.
We’re grandfathered in and almost certainly will never sell our membership given that we write a blog covering the Disney parks. To the contrary, we’re likely to purchase more points when the market is right. (Unlike the Dow, the DVC resale market is absolutely one you can time.) Given all of that, we’re the rare, unintended beneficiary of the change: those interested in purchasing via resale who don’t care at all about the lack of perks attached to those contracts.
However, if we were contemplating joining Disney Vacation Club today for the first time, this change would not have the desired effect on us. We enjoy the Membership Magic perks, but no amount of mental gymnastics or fuzzy math would get us to the point that those are worth more than the thousands of dollars we’d save by purchasing via resale. Like anyone else, we are swayed by benefits and status, but the main point of DVC is to save money. That goal is better served buying resale.
With that said, we would absolutely not buy Disney Vacation Club at the moment, whether directly or via resale. As we’ve noted a few times over the last several months, there’s ample reason for the rational buyer to hit the pause button on a new Disney Vacation Club purchase.
We first broached this topic back in the spring–before any resorts had even reopened–in our Disney Vacation Club’s Point Pool Problem commentary. That delved into how one ripple effect of the closure will be reduced room availability once the parks reopened. In short, there’s a surplus of outstanding points flooding the market. At some point once demand picks back up, this will result in a shortage of rooms.
This very much remains an ongoing issue, albeit one we did not foresee the full extent of at the time. For one, we didn’t anticipate Aulani (the single biggest point problem prior to this) staying closed for so long. Even when it does reopen next month, the practical reality is that travel to Oahu is still prohibitive for most members, and that’s even before the possibility that Hawaii’s restrictions tighten back up.
Second, even now with the Disney Vacation Club resorts having reopened at Walt Disney World, fewer members are attempting to use points through early 2021. There are a number of reason this is happening, and it’s a safe bet that owners will continue postponing trips even beyond Spring 2021.
This is borne out by random availability searches we did this morning, with several resorts having a ton of availability for the next three months. Not every resort is as bad as Animal Kingdom Lodge, Old Key West, Polynesian, or Saratoga Springs, but most have availability for roughly half of the holiday season. That’s something that would never happen for Christmas-time this close to travel dates during normal times.
This compounds the problem of points not being used during the closure, and means a disproportionate number of members will be trying to use their points later in 2021 or bank points and try again in 2022. So many members are putting off trips right now, but will be forced to use or lose those points down the road. The room options simply are not going to exist for many of these people, leading to tons of lost points.
Fearing this exact scenario, we’ve already made more bookings than normal for this year (and into early 2021) in an attempt to exhaust next year’s allotment of points before the demand surge. We’ve also repeatedly recommended those reading do the same. It may not seem like much of an issue right now given the ample availability, but the ample availability right now is exactly what’s going to make it such a big issue down the road.
New buyers are going to be faced with these exact same challenges, which is precisely why we don’t recommend buying right now. Stay on the sidelines, watch this all play out from afar, and see what happens next.
It’s probably a stretch to predict that the coming availability woes in 2021 and 2022 will lead to many current Disney Vacation Club members getting fed up and dumping their contracts on the resale market, but that’s certainly a possibility.
Between that and lagging recessionary effects on the economy as a whole, our view is that a wait and see approach is far more pragmatic than jumping at Disney’s current incentive or even taking the plunge via resale.
In the meantime, there’s also the reality that there has never been a better time to rent Disney Vacation Club points from a money-saving perspective. The major rental companies have tons (literally thousands) of confirmed reservations at deep discounts, which further tips the scales in favor of renting v. buying right now.
We aren’t in the market for that either, but if we were, we’d wait until the absolute last minute when discounts are best and cancellation risks are lowest–then book a confirmed reservation. (Given ongoing uncertainty, we’d caution against renting points far in advance right now. A lot of people got burned by the closure; there’s minimal upside and considerable downside to booking far out so long as availability and confirmed reservations are high.)
Ultimately, that’s what you need to know, along with where we stand on all of this. There’s obviously appeal in buying directly from Disney to be a “full” DVC member. There’s also something to be said for instant gratification over waiting to see how things shake out. Part of joining Disney Vacation Club is undeniably the emotional pull.
However, we’d caution against allowing emotions and sentimentality to totally override logic, patience, economics, and a grounded risk assessment. If you join Disney Vacation Club right now, you might end up buying your way into problems and frustration that could be avoided by simply waiting a year or so, and “trying” via the overstocked rental market in the meantime.
Thinking about joining DVC? First be sure to read our Ultimate Guide to Disney Vacation Club. This covers the pros & cons, resale v. direct, how much money you’ll save, and other important things to know before taking the plunge. If you still can’t decide whether membership is right for you, “try before you buy” and rent points from DVC Rental Store. If you are convinced a membership is for you, check out the discounted options at DVC Resale Market. Planning a Walt Disney World trip? For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know.
Do you plan on purchasing Disney Vacation Club points in the near future, or are you waiting to see how things shake out? Does the latest perks requirement push you towards direct or resale? If you’re already a DVC member, are you concerned about inventory shortfalls in 2021 and 2022, or do you think our concerns are overblown? Think DVC will try to fix the point pool problem? Any other reasons you would or would not purchase right now? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!