Now that we have discussed the many positives of becoming a member of the Disney Vacation Club, it is time to consider the negatives.
This is a “pink elephant in the living room” situation, as the primary negative is unmistakable. That financial boogeyman is only one of several viable reasons to pass on membership, though. Let’s evaluate each one.
1. Joining Disney Vacation Club costs thousands of dollars
The exact amount for membership is determined by how many points you want as well as your choice of resort homes. People who purchase directly through Disney are required to spend a minimum of $11,500 right now. I realize that some of you are about to stop reading. To this I say, please continue to read these columns if you possess a lingering interest in becoming a member. The reality is that you can join for a lot less if you choose resale rather than direct purchase. In fact, I joined for less than half of that amount. That is a discussion for a different day, though. Today is all about the negatives, and spending that much money is a negative for 99% of the population.
For now, the statement is accurate. Disney requires new owners to buy at least 100 points to join DVC. The absolute cheapest resorts are currently priced at $115, and those two properties are Vero Beach, Florida, and Hilton Head, South Carolina. While you can use the points from those facilities to stay at Walt Disney World and Disneyland properties, they are not DVC timeshare purchases I would recommend. Due to tropical weather causing damage and increasing insurance costs, those two locations have the highest maintenance fees among DVC resorts. So, you will spend less immediately, saving $1,500, but you will pay more in the long term.
If you prefer to stay at a Walt Disney World property, the cheapest timeshare you can buy right now would cost $13,000, the aforementioned $1,500 increase. And if you are a fan of Disneyland, the entrance fee for DVC ownership at Villas at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel is $16,500 for 100 points. That is the price of a decent car, which means a lot of people simply will not pay that much for a vacation timeshare. DVC ownership purchased directly through Disney is not cheap. As such, the investment should be considered carefully.
2. Annual maintenance fees are not cheap and constantly increasing
Rates increase based upon maintenance expenses at a given resort for the prior year. Using 100 points as the baseline, a DVC owner for a Walt Disney World property should expect to pay somewhere between $478 and $601 annually. Effectively, an owner pays between $4.78 and $6.01 per point in maintenance expenses. This fee is paid whether you intend to visit Disney during the year or not. Effectively, DVC membership costs between $40 and $50 per month for every 100 points owned.
The other aspect of maintenance fees that can be problematic is that fees increase each year. Generally, they are raised between 3% and 6%, depending upon exactly the makeovers needed at the various facilities during the calendar year. I would note that this maintenance fee is also a hidden positive. Members pay this money and Disney rewards their clientele by performing consistent refurbishing to guarantee that their resorts never lose their impeccable quality. So, members are charged maintenance fees, but they get what they pay for in that their money goes directly toward the upkeep of the properties in question.
3. Infrequent guests should pass
The underlying premise behind the Disney Vacation Club is a marketing ploy. The idea is to entice potential loyal customers into visiting Walt Disney theme parks as often as possible. The points that translate to “free” visits to the company’s best hotel resorts onsite are the loss leader. The company recognizes that the profit margin on the rest of the theme park visit is so high that they do not need the revenue stream from the hotel room.
For you as the customer, the “free” visit is integral to your maximizing your investment. If you do not visit a participating DVC property during the year, you have paid membership dues and maintenance fees for no reason. Yes, you can bank your points if you anticipate staying the following year, but they cannot be pushed back indefinitely. Each set of points may only be banked once, which means that you must go Disney at least every other year for this purchase to be viable. Otherwise, you are quite literally paying something for nothing.