Earn the Most Miles & Points and Save Money on Your Disney Vacation

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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.

Save Money At Disney

Do You Know the Best Way to Earn Points When You Pay for Lunch at the Parks?

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!

Save Money At Disney

Use Your MagicBands to Charge Things to Your Room and Your Whole Trip Will Earn Bonus Points!

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.

Save Money At Disney

Check Your Local Supermarket to See If They Carry Disney Gift Cards!

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.

Save Money At Disney

Office Max Can Be a Great Place to Pick up Disney Gift Cards and Earn Cash or Points Back

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

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!

Save Money At Disney

Earn 10% Back at Biergarten, One of Our Favorite restaurants at Walt Disney World!

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.

Save Money At Disney

A Disney Vacation Account Can Help Motivate You to Save for Your Disney Vacation

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.

Save Money At Disney

Disney Vacation Account Deposits Code as Travel on the Chase Sapphire Reserve!

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!

Save Money At Disney

Save Big When You Use Disney Gift Cards to Fund Your Disney Vacation Account

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.

Bottom Line

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!

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276 responses to “Earn the Most Miles & Points and Save Money on Your Disney Vacation

  1. when you get to Main Street in the park, ask for ‘First Visit’ badges for your kids. they’ll get picked for everything!

  2. Best tip ever: stay at a Disney property and get after hours access to the park. Very cool, no lines.

  3. Doug Rosenthal

    The food at The Skipper Canteen in the MK is a really nice change of pace from the usual burgers and chicken nuggets.

  4. Portions are large so split a meal or if at a quick service restaurant, order a kids meal. There are some really nice kids meal options in Epcot World showcase restaurants.

  5. I use three different approaches to save on Disney World resort hotel stays. I rent DVC points for cheap stays at Deluxe resorts, stack Orbitz promo codes with Disney discounts, or take advantage of the Free Dining offer. Disney is our favorite place to vacation!

  6. I’m sure these have been mentioned but here’s mine:
    – Rent DVC points direct from an owner if possible. Renting points is already a great way to stay Deluxe on a Moderate budget, but going through an owner instead of a broker can save potentially $100-$200 or more.
    – Want to surprise your kids? Ask for help from the front desk of your hotel. A few years ago we had made invitations at home to The Pirates League and Cinderella’s Royal Table and I asked the front desk if they could have them “delivered.” Not only were they delivered to our room about an hour later they came with signed photos of the characters.

  7. Go during late spring or mid fall.

  8. If you have a little princess age 3-12, be sure and take her princess dress and let her experience the promenade with Cinderella down the grand staircase at the Grand Floridian. This takes place at 3:30 pm daily — gather at the M. Mouse Mercantile at the Grand Floridian to participate.

  9. Arrive earlier than others! Morning time is much less crowded.

  10. The only resort it’s REALLY worth paying for the upgrade view is the Animal Kingdom Lodge. If you’re not staying there just pay for the standard view and ask to be close to the lobby or elevators so you don’t get stuck out in the boonies. If time is more important than mone stay at a resort that is on the monorail or at one of the Epcot area resorts. It is so nice not to have to wait for a bus at the end of the night.

  11. Our favorite disney related hotel to stay at is the Hilton Bonnet Creek! It has a great pool with lazy river and slide for down time, and free and regular transportation to and from the parks.

  12. Denise Elmore

    I have a red card at Target and use it to buy advertised things that give you a Target gift card with purchase. I save the gift cards and buy $100 Disney gift cards with them. I also use the Red card to buy Disney gift cards at 5% discount. We buy a Tables in Wonderland card to get a 20% discount on many restaurants. Whenever we dine or shop at Disney, we ask if there is an Annual Pass, DVC, or Disney Visa discount. Sometimes discover will offer a 5% rebate on purchases made in club warehouses-this is a great time to buy lots of Disney gift cards at Sam’s Club or wherever. If you go to Disney every year, or more often, buy an annual pass and take your 2 trips within a 12 month period. For example- go in December 2017 for the Xmas stuff, then go again in October 2018 for the Halloween stuff. You have paid off your passes for the first trip and the next trip, the passes are paid for. Sign up for Allears.net and Mousesavers to get detailed trip planning info and great discounts on tickets and hotels. Also take advantage of pharmacies that will give you a gift card for transferring a prescription. You then can use the gift card to buy a Disney gift card .

  13. Stay off site at a resort close by (use points or cash). Go grocery shopping and eat breakfast at your condo/hotel and pack in a dinner (lunches are typically cheaper). Buy gift cards at Target, Wholesale, or Grocery to get points plus money back. You can use gift cards for tickets, parking, and restaurants. Also, utilize Disney Visa for a $200 sign up bonus gift card.

  14. Bring in a small, soft cooler with frozen gogurts, string cheese, etc.

  15. Bea Alexandra

    Kind of out of the area of Orlando in Tampa is Ybor City. It’s a fun place to go with the family too.

  16. don’t forget to take advantage of the fast passes from both parks. the two parks don’t communicate with each other!

  17. Go with someone in a wheelchair to cut the lines.

  18. Hire a travel agent that knows Disney Vacations if you are travelling as a large group. It’s free and much easier!

  19. While visiting the French pavilon at Epcot, don’t forget to order pain au chocolat. So yummy!

  20. use chase freedom grocery store 5% bonus now to get disney gift cards to use at parks

  21. If you want to go to Not-So-Scary Halloween party (highly recommended) it is a separate charge which varies by how early you book it. But you can get in to Magic Kingdom as early as 4pm and the park stays open till midnight. So go early in the year starts late August this year 74 dollars vs 115 dollars on Halloween night. Additional discounts are available if you have season pass and children’s tickets are a little cheaper and buy tickets with gift cards for more savings. If you get to the park at 4pm you can have a unique Disney experience for 8 hours that you and your kids will love.

  22. Visit during off peak times to avoid crazy lines!

  23. Get discount tickets for Disney World from the Underground Tourist!

  24. Go to Costco ahead of time, but drinks and food and snacks. Proceed to bring said items into Disney! Never pay for high-price food/drinks on resort!

  25. Right now, the best tip on saving money is either using your Target Red Card to get 5% off on Disney Gift Cards or using your Chase Freedom card at Safeway to earn 5x the bonus points in supermarkets. I currently use the Freedom card at Safeway which allows me to earn a lot more points during this quarter. Any other time I’d be going to Target and saving that 5%.

    And if you have a Annual Pass or go with someone with an annual pass, you can save a lot more money on discounts on food and certain merchandise.

  26. We packed in our own snacks and sandwiches so we only had to buy 1 meal per day. Saved time and money!

  27. Take a break from Disney and see the “real” Florida. Airboat ride at http://www.airboatridesatmidway.com/ is awesome! We have taken 2 tours and were happy with both. See lots of alligators. Opportunity to hold a baby alligator at end of tour. Very educational. The swamp hammock was beautiful. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see it the second trip due to the drought, but our guests still thought the tour was great! If your tour is around lunchtime, take your lunch and eat it in their shop. Couple tables available. Also have a pet pig that roams the place. Worth the trip and the price tag! If you have a mermaid-wannabe in your party, one of the original pre-Disney attractions is worth a thought. Bit of a drive, but our girls loved it! http://weekiwachee.com/ There’s also a nice swimming area available and a boat tour included.

  28. If you’re going with kids, a way to save is to purchase and bring your own snacks, as well as Disney-related merchandise. Stores like Target & Old Navy (and even the Dollar Tree) sell Disney clothes and toys. Purchase items for your kids ahead of time and then give out these items throughout the trip. This will save you from having to purchase overpriced merch at the parks.

  29. Visit during off peak times to avoid crowd.

  30. book a pre park opening breakfast to enjoy the park with very low crowds

  31. use barclay arrival card and book through hotels.com/expedia/etc and use the travel reimbursement for a free or cheap on site hotel stay

  32. Undercover tourist has the lowest prices on park tickets. Per day chat really drops at four (or more) days

  33. Buy gift cards at office supply stores with your ink card to get 5x points, definitely go during off season to avoid crowds.

  34. Park a team Disney Springs and then catch the shuttle over to the park to save on parking.

  35. Park at Disney Springs and the catch the shuttle over to save on parking.

  36. Disney vacation account is great! Not only did it allow me to save money periodically through the year to take my girlfriend to Disney World for her birthday, it also helped me meet my minimum spend on my chase sapphire reserve and received 3x for travel! Also, I highly recommended getting the Citi a prestige. It gave me a 4th night free Disneys Polynesian. For tickets, some may have an Amex card that has a coupon for money off undercover tourist which already get discounted Disney tickets.

    Lastly, If you have time, check out fantasia golf at Disney World near the swan and dolphin. Super fun activity outside the parks. But Hope everyone has fun planning their Disney trip!

  37. The coral reef restaurant has a cold water cooler with fruits in it inside. Bring a refillable container so you can fill it up there and not have to drink from hot water fountains.
    Also the jack Sparrow hat is very hot and touched your ears so don’t wear it unless you want to have sore ears and a smelly sweaty head at the end of the day

  38. I am just learning all the tips I can as we are taking our twins in September.

  39. Space Mountain!

  40. Buy tix at AAA

  41. Be sure to explore the area — there are many things to see and do surrounding the Disney parks. For example, the The “World’s Largest Entertainment McDonald’s” is on Sand Lake Road near International Drive. There are also several family-friendly dinner theater shows in the area.

  42. Try to plan the highlights of the trip in advance, such as restaurant reservations in the parks that require them, but leave plenty of unscheduled free time just to explore and have fun

  43. Turkey leg for lunch, big and filling.

  44. Park at Disney Springs for parking and take the shuttle. Also, pack your lunch and save on food.

  45. If you love eating at Disney, look into the Disney Dining Plan, which is a prepaid point system offered to hotel guests which allocates meals to each person every day and can be used at every dining location at Walt Disney World — and even some non- Disney restaurants at Disney Springs. Many times a year (usually sept/oct and feb/mar) Disney offers free dining packages to international guests if they book hotel stays for longer than a week. This can save each person up to $75/day. You can book your stay with any credit card, earn points, and save literally thousands of dollars, which is why i’m a proud annual passholder!

  46. Carry an empty water bottle. It will save you a bundle a bottle of water is $3.00.

  47. Buy some Disney type tee shirts before going and surprise your child with it the day you are going to the park.

  48. if you’re in a large group, have only one person run to get all the fast passes!

  49. Sign up for email from Mousesavers.com. Lots of great info!!

  50. Free dining is the way to go

  51. Going off season has worked for me

  52. Make a reservation to eat at a Disney park restaurant in advance to avoid what could be very long lines. https://disneyland.disney.go.com/dining

  53. It’s worth it to wake up early and arrive at the park first thing in the morning; you will get a head start and can take a break in the afternoon if needed. You’ll miss some of the crowds this way. Staying late works, too. I usually love to sleep, but when I’m on a Disney trip, that goes right out the window!

  54. Stay on property or at Swan/Dolphin so you can book fast passes before everyone else!

  55. Get there right when the parks open. You will get so much more done in that time before the parks fill up and time is money!

  56. Bobby Herrera

    While visiting and if you have a rental car, don’t forget to visit the surrounding area. Once while we were down there and didn’t go to the big parks for a day, there was still tons to do. Lots of little amusement park, boardwalk type shops in the area where most likely nobody or very little body be at. So nice to beat the crowds for a while.

  57. Stay on property and use the free bus system to get around.

  58. Kelly Cookerly

    Be sure to book a savanna view room at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It is totally worth the $$ to get the view of the animals!

  59. Best tip ever: Go there with the sun

  60. The restaurants at Disney will give you free water – bring some powder lemonade or drink packets for a little extra pizazz

  61. early morning- late evening are best times

  62. Preferably, dont visit in summer. We got cooked in July at the parks in the heat, and the crowds were overwhelming. Planning for a Nov/Dec trip next time around.

  63. You can use 70,000 SPG points to redeem Nights & Flights for 5 nights at a Category 4 Starwood property, as well as 50,000 miles to an airline that’s a 1-to-1 transfer partner with SPG.

  64. A lot of people do not realize you can bring your own food and drinks into the park (years ago this was not the case). So we bring water bottles, snacks, and sometimes even Subway!

  65. Shirley Garcowski

    I have so many tips from my dozens of trips. Be sure to stay on-site. Too many perks to pass up including getting dining and FastPass selections way earlier than normal public. Transportation, theming, proximity, early/late hours in parks–the list goes on and on. Affordable rooms to deluxe. Be sure to read materials that come with your package. For instance, no fee for park parking, package delivery to hotel so you’re not carting around that 3 foot Mickey you just had to have.

  66. Shirley Garcowski

    If staying on-site and park is open late for on-site guests, check with cast member to find out if the hours have been extended. Sometimes it will feel like you have the entire park to yourself. So magical late at night with the twinkling lights.

  67. Shirley Garcowski

    Make sure you tell reservations (both hotel and dining) if you are celebrating a special occasion. You’ll get a button announcing what it is. And then wear it–all the time. I’ve gotten free drinks, desserts, bike rides, Fastpasses, etc. But be honest!

  68. Shirley Garcowski

    Some of my favorite restaurants: Flying Fish at Boardwalk, Rose & Crown at Epcot, Be Our Guest (sit in West Wing) at Magic Kingdom, Liberty Tree Tavern at Magic Kingdom, any of restaurants in Italy in Epcot, Yachtsman Steakhouse at Yacht Club, Casey’s Corner for great hot dogs at Magic Kingdom, Flame Tree Barbecue at Animal Kingdom, Raglan Road at Disney Springs. And definitely get a dole whip at either MK or the Polynesian. YUM

  69. Shirley Garcowski

    Favorite Disney hotels: Yacht and Beach Club–both are gorgeous. Wilderness Lodge–we’ve stayed there 6-7 times. Recently redone so less guest rooms available, but if you can get in, do it. It’s calmer than the others. For some reason, kids seem to behave there better. Great theming. But for walking access to Epcot and Boardwalk, you can’t beat the Yacht or Beach Club Resorts.

  70. Shirley Garcowski

    If both you and your significant other have the Chase Reserve cards, have Disney split your on-site hotel bill (and be sure to put everything on there–meals, tickets, etc.). You’ll both be able to get the $300 travel refund.

  71. Shirley Garcowski

    If you have Disney gift cards, call and provide numbers in order to use them towards your bill.
    At my workplace, you can get points for going above and beyond. One of the ways you can use those points is for Disney giftcards. I used to work in a department that was very generous with points. I was able to put $3800 towards my Aulani stay. And because of that, we were able to upgrade from a standard room to a 1 bedroom villa with tons of room. Don’t bring those cards with you though–too much of a chance of getting lost. Call and get the card numbers assigned to your reservation. And don’t throw out the cards at home until after your trip and after you’ve used them all.

  72. A small tip. If you’re buying a hot dog and you don’t want the accompanying chips or apples you can refuse them for a lower price.
    We also get Disney gift cards at target using red card for 5% discount then also use our pass for additional 15% discounts.