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My family loves taking Disney vacations, but the cost of visiting the Mouse can really add up. One major way we save – and also afford to visit destinations like Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Disney’s Aulani more often – is through credit card rewards. Frequent flyer miles, hotel loyalty points, cash back, and other flexible currencies all can add up to a lot of super discounted and almost free Disney travel!
I know anything involving credit may be intimidating for some. Indeed, credit card misuse and overuse gets a lot of Americans in real trouble. But for anyone who can use credit responsibly – paying bills in full each month – there is no reason not to rack up some of these rewards for the spending you are already doing.
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How to Keep Track of Credit Card Rewards for Disney?
If you are brand new to travel rewards credit cards, be sure to start off on the right foot by tracking important dates and data. Back in the day, those of us who loved points and miles had to track it all ourselves with old fashioned spreadsheets. But there are now two services that do it all for you with ease. Those include:
- Travel Freely: This totally free tool helps you track all the important dates that are necessary to earn travel rewards with one or more credit cards. Simply input the date you signed up for a card. Travel Freely will then calculate dates like when you need to complete your minimum spending requirements to earn a card’s welcome bonus and when your card annual fee is coming due. It even sends reminder emails and also alerts you to new credit card offers that come onto the market that can help you earn even more travel rewards.
- Award Wallet: Award Wallet is a tool that lets you tally and track your frequent flyer miles and points balances – including points you earn on rewards credit cards. Use it as a central place to store passwords for everyone in the family for airline frequent flyer programs, hotel points, and credit card flexible points. (A basic account at Award Wallet is free, but 10 first time users can upgrade to Award Wallet Plus free for 6 months with my code free-ztqfuc so use it while it lasts!)
So now that you have your organization in place, let’s get on with the credit cards options to get you to Disney!
5 Best Credit Cards for Disneyland and Disney World Travel
- Annual Fee: $95 (not waived first year)
- Current Welcome Bonus: 60,000 bonus points after spending $4000 in the first 3 months after account opening
- Currency/Points Earned: Chase Ultimate Rewards points
- Earning for Spending: 2 points per dollar spent on travel and dining; 1 point per dollar spent for all other spending
- Other Perks: No foreign transaction fees, 25% bonus when redeeming for flights, hotels, car rentals, and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is a smart choice for all kinds of travelers because it earns double points on all travel and dining. That’s something you probably do already and will definitely be doing on a Disney vacation!
The best feature though in my opinion is that the card earns very flexible Ultimate Rewards points that essentially work like cash toward future trips. These points can be redeemed for hotel rooms, flights, and more – simply book your travel directly in the Chase portal. Booking through the Chase portal gives you an extra 25% bonus too.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points are often even more valuable when transferred to partner programs. Connect your Ultimate Rewards account with many major airline frequent flyer or hotel loyalty accounts and move points over when you need them. Partners that Disney travelers might often use include Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, Marriott, Hyatt, IHG, and United Airlines. I often transfer my Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest when I need a few more Rapid Rewards points for a flight down to Southern California or Orlando.
The bottom line is that this card really gives you a lot of flexibility to respond to deals and sales as they pop up. It doesn’t lock you in to any one airline or hotel or even a particular date or season of travel.
Another thing I love about this card from a Disney traveler perspective – all purchases from Get Away Today code as travel. Haven’t heard of Get Away Today? It’s a third party travel agency that is authorized by Disney to sell discounted park tickets. So you can use this card to purchase Get Away Today’s already discounted theme park tickets and then also earn 2% back on that purchase! Who doesn’t love a savings and earning double dip? (Book your discounted Disney Tickets from Get Away Today here.)
Key Features at a Glance:
- Annual Fee: $149 (not waived first year)
- Current Welcome Bonus: 40,000 bonus points after spending $1000 in the first 3 months after account opening
- Currency/Points Earned: Southwest Rapid Rewards points
- Earning for Spending: 2 points per dollar spent on Southwest and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases; 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Other Perks: $75 annual Southwest travel credit, No foreign transaction fees, 4 upgraded boardings (subject to availability), 20% back on select in-flight purchases.
If you are headed to a Disney destination by air, chances are pretty good Southwest Airlines can get you there these days. Southwest is one of the largest carriers at Orlando International Airport (MCO). And it also has a huge presence at the three closest airports to Disneyland – Orange County’s John Wayne (SNA), Long Beach International (LGB), and Los Angeles International (LAX). The airline can even now fly you to Disney’s Aulani, thanks to Southwest’s Hawaii flight options into HNL.
Related: Tips for Flying to Walt Disney World
For anyone living in or near a city served by Southwest, a Southwest credit card is a pretty safe bet to help you rack up points for flights to Disney destinations.
There are a couple of different Southwest credit card options, as detailed in my guide to which Southwest credit card is right for you. But I prefer the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card for most would-be Disney travelers.
Yes, it has a higher annual fee than some of the other options, but it comes with a $75 Southwest travel credit that immediately brings the true cost of the card way down. If you are already planning to put some of your family’s Disney flights on the card, you’ll use the credit right away. It also has more perks, including 4 upgraded boardings – great for those times you forget to check in early and end up in the C boarding group!
Key Features at a Glance:
- Annual Fee: $95 (not waived first year)
- Current Welcome Bonus: 75,000 bonus points after spending $3000 in the first 3 months after account opening
- Currency/Points Earned: Marriott Bonvoy points
- Earning for Spending: 6 points per dollar spent on Marriott purchases; 2 points per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Other Perks: Free hotel night award after every card anniversary (up to 35,000 points), No foreign transaction fees.
A big part of the cost of a Disney vacation is a hotel, so a credit card that can help you save on lodging is a smart option. Whether you are headed to Walt Disney World or Disneyland, you are going to find the widest variety of nearby off-property hotels under the Marriott umbrella. The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card has a lucrative welcome bonus that you can use towards several free nights at a Disney destination (depending, of course, on the hotel’s points prices!). And if you have the card for a full year, you’ll have an extra hotel night certificate (up to 35,000 points) to consider too.
Where might you want to stay at a Marriott near Disney? Disneyland has the most hotel choices – 12 current or coming soon within the immediate Anaheim resort area. Within easy walking distance of Disneyland alone, there are the following Marriott properties:
- Fairfield Inn Anaheim Resort
- Courtyard Anaheim Theme Park Entrance
- SpringHill Suites at Anaheim Resort/Convention Center
- Residence Inn at Anaheim Resort/Convention Center
- Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort
- JW Marriott, Anaheim (opening April 2020)
- Element Anaheim Resort Convention Center (opening May 2020)
- Westin Anaheim Resort (opening August 2020)
At Walt Disney World, there are not quite as many super-close Marriott properties, but there are dozens within easy driving distance of the parks. And two hotels under the Marriott brand loom large in Orlando – the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin.
These hotels have a hybrid status that make them both on and off property. They are located near Disney’s Beach & Yacht Club and have a walking distance location to Hollywood Studios and Epcot, as well as bus, boat, and Skyliner access. And while they don’t offer Magical Express airport transportation, they do offer guests 60 day Fastpass+ booking privileges and Extra Magic Hours.
Key Features at a Glance:
- Annual Fee: $95 (waived first year)
- Current Welcome Bonus: 50,000 bonus points after spending $3000 in the first 3 months after account opening
- Currency/Points Earned: Capital One miles
- Earning for Spending: 2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases; 5 miles per dollar spent on hotel or rental car purchases booked through Capital One Travel.
- Other Perks: $100 fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every 4 years, No foreign transaction fees
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is another excellent card that earns a flexible currency that works well for Disney travelers. While there are cards out there that could theoretically earn more, this card is a smart fit for beginners or just anyone who doesn’t want the hassle of figuring out multiple loyalty programs to save money on their Disney vacation. This card just keeps things simple while saving you money!
You’ve probably seen the commercials for the card, but the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card works by earning you 2x miles per dollar spent on all purchases. You can then redeem those miles through Capital One’s Purchase Eraser that gives you a statement credit for travel purchases within the last 90 days at a value of 1 cent per mile. So if you earn 50,000 miles on the card, you can use those miles to erase $500 in travel purchases.
Remember – since Get Away Today purchases code as travel, you can use this card to erase some or all of the charges for any discounted Disney park tickets you purchase! You’d earn 2x miles on the purchase of the tickets in the first place too.
The card is also great for beginners because it is one of an ever decreasing number of rewards cards that still waives the annual fee for the first year. This gives you a chance to give the card a test run for free for the first year to make sure it is a fit for your family’s spending and travel needs. The card also gives a $100 statement credit for purchasing either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck to shortcut airline lines if you are flying for your Disney vacation.
(Note: For more advanced users, the miles can be transferred to a variety of partner airlines and hotels. I think the transfer partner list isn’t super-useful for most Disney travelers. But even if you don’t use this feature, the card still has so many other benefits that make it a great fit.)
5. Disney Premier Visa Card
Key Features at a Glance:
- Annual Fee: $49
- Current Welcome Bonus: $200 statement credit after spending $500 in the first 3 months after account opening
- Currency/Points Earned: Disney Rewards Dollars
- Earning for Spending: 2 Disney Rewards Dollars per dollar spent on gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and many Disney locations; 1 Disney Rewards Dollar per dollar spent on all other purchases
- Other Perks: Discounts at Disney parks (10% off some dining locations, 10% off merchandise) and at the Disney Store (10% off shopping), 0% promo APR for 6 months when booking select Disney vacation packages, exclusive character meet and greet location at Walt Disney World and Disneyland
Last and actually maybe least is the Disney Visa card. Why didn’t I lead with this card? Although the name and co-branding may make it seem like an obvious choice, it’s not a great card for travel rewards, even for Disney travel.
The Disney Premier Visa Card earns Disney dollars that can be redeemed like cash towards Disney hotels, park tickets, and some other Disney purchases. The Disney Premier Visa Card is also the only Disney co-branded card where cardmembers can also use their Rewards Dollars for airfare. Just purchase airline tickets on the the card and pay yourself back as a statement credit.
So what’s not to like? There are much better cards out there that earn more than 2x on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. And there are many cards that offer equivalent or better airfare redemptions. The welcome bonus is also pretty weak when compared to all the other more lucrative offers on this list, all of which are good for $500-1000 or more. And most importantly, this card actually won’t get you the best deal on Disney tickets – you’ll be using your Rewards Dollars to pay full price direct from Disney, missing out on the double dip discounts from Get Away Today other cards help facilitate.
Don’t get me wrong – the Disney Premier Visa Card is a card that I do think makes sense for many Disney travelers to get. But you should get it for the perks, discounts, and extras — not as a card to put regular spending of any significance on. Get it, but only in combination with another more lucrative earning card on this list that you will use for most of your spending and redeeming. Use your Disney Premier Visa Card only for accessing benefits like the exclusive character meet-and-greets or obtaining dining and merchandise discounts
There are two different versions of the Disney credit card, as well as a debit card version available. I’ll have a complete comparison guide coming very soon among all of these.
The Final Word
It’s so easy to save big on a Disney vacation with just a single credit card or two. But choose carefully based on your families spending patterns and travel needs! And most definitely maximize the rewards available to you by making sure you have the most lucrative card.
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