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Ken and his wife Emily write about using points and miles (and saving money) on Disney trips at Mousehacking.com. So I’ve asked them to share their tips on earning the most miles and points on Disney vacations!
Ken and Emily: While there are several ways to get free or cheap stays at Disney destinations, you might wind up having to pay for much or all of your stay out of pocket.
Even if you book your Disney hotel with points, you’ll still have things like meals and incidentals to pay for. We have a list of 53 Ways to Save at Walt Disney World. But it’s just as important to know how to earn the most cash or points back on the money you do spend.
I’ll show you the best ways to earn points and cash back for out-of-pocket expenses on Disney trips!
Make the Most of Your Disney Spending With These Tricks!
With a bit of planning and the right credit cards, you can earn lots of extra miles, points, or cash back on your Disney vacation.
1. Charge Everything to Your Room to Earn More Points
Link: Chase Sapphire Preferred
There are plenty of good credit cards that earn bonus points for travel expenses. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on travel, including hotels.
And Disney makes it easy for you to get all your park expenses to code as travel to earn bonus points! Walt Disney World and Disneyland resorts allow you to charge almost everything on Disney property, like meals, souvenirs, and stroller rentals, to your room.
Restaurants and stores at Walt Disney World’s Disney Springs and Disneyland’s Downtown Disney are the exception to this, as many of them are not equipped to charge to rooms.
At Disneyland you’ll use your “Key to the Magic” room key like you would any card when you pay, but you should be prepared to show ID.
At Walt Disney World, you’ll touch your MagicBand to a scanner and enter your PIN. You can even include tips!
When it’s time to check-out, you’ll pay your bill with a card that earns the most flexible points on travel, and everything you put on the room shows up as a single hotel charge!
2. Pay With Disney Gift Cards for Even More Bonus Points
You can use Disney gift cards to pay for your room bill (if staying at a Disney resort). Or to pay for incidentals (including meals and souvenirs) at Disney parks and restaurants.
But to earn the most points using Disney gift cards, you’ll want to buy your gift cards with the right credit cards at the right stores to get the most cash or points back.
Grocery Stores and Drug Stores
Many grocery stores and drug stores carry Disney gift cards. And there are a number of credit cards that have grocery stores or drug stores as a year-round or rotating quarterly bonus category.
For example, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express earns 6% cash back at supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases per year (1% after that). It can be tougher to find Disney gift cards at supermarkets than drugstores.
It’s more common to find Disney gift cards at major drugstore chains, like CVS and Walgreens. You could use a card like the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card which earns 3X Hilton points per $1 at drugstores.
Office Supply Stores
Office supply stores might seem like a strange place to earn Disney savings, but Office Max has been known to carry Disney gift cards.
And certain cards, like the SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express, earn bonus miles, points, or cash back at office supply stores.
Keep in mind, most cards that earn a bonus at office supply stores are small business cards. But I know lots of folks who combine work and play on their Disney trips!
Wholesale clubs, like Sam’s Club and BJ’s, are also worth checking for Disney gift cards (Costco unfortunately rarely, if ever, has them). You’ll want to be on the lookout for member deals, like this one from Sam’s Club back in March that offered $150 in Disney gift cards for ~$143.
BJ’s is a particularly good option here because they sell discounted Disney gift cards to non-members online! You can buy a $100 gift card for ~$95.
If you combine these discounts with a card that gives bonus points back at wholesale clubs, you’ll save even more! The Discover It, for example, offers 5% cash back at wholesale clubs through the end of June 2017!
3. Use Your Disney Visa for Great Dining Discounts
Link: Chase Disney Cards
Chase’s Disney Visa and Disney Premier Visa cards have many great perks, but our favorite is the 10% off you’ll get at many restaurants at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. While not every restaurant is included, there are great options that are, like Sanaa, Narcoossee’s, and Biergarten!
To earn the discount, you’ll have to use your Disney Visa card. And you’ll also earn 1% back (or 2%, if you use the Disney Premier Visa) in the form of Disney rewards dollars, for a total of 11% or 12% back!
4. Combine Gift Cards With a Disney Vacation Account for Major Savings
Disney Vacation Account is a partnership between Disney and Chase designed to help people save for Disney vacations.
Essentially, you’re creating a mini-savings account that can only be used for a Disney vacation (the funds can always be refunded). And you can fund your Disney Vacation Account using credit cards, debit cards, or Disney gift cards.
The $10 we put into our Disney Vacation Account as a test coded as “Travel” on our Chase Sapphire Reserve, so we received 3X points for the deposit. The Chase Sapphire Reserve also comes with a $300 annual travel credit, so we were reimbursed the $10 we deposited.
The true value of Disney Vacation Account comes in one of the smaller details. For every $1,000 of your Disney Vacation Account that you use toward a Disney vacation, you’ll get a $20 Disney gift card. This allows you to get up to 2% back using the Disney Vacation Account.
Because you can fund your Disney Vacation Account using Disney gift cards, you could potentially earn 8% back on your Disney vacation if you funded it with gift cards brought from a supermarket with your AMEX Blue Cash Preferred!
We’ve written more about Disney Vacation Account over on Mouse Hacking. One caveat to using Disney Vacation Account is that your account must be open for 120 days before you’re eligible for the Disney gift card reimbursement.
Even with award flights and hotels, most folks will still pay a substantial amount out-of-pocket for a Disney vacation. But by using the right credit cards and tricks, you can earn bonus miles, points, or cash back for your Disney expenses!
By charging everything to your room at Disney resorts, you can earn bonus miles and points on expenses like meals and souvenirs, which don’t normally code as travel. Or consider buying Disney gift cards at a discount or at stores with category bonuses!
Let us know if you have other tips for saving on Disney vacations!