The Walt Disney World Resort in Florida has long stood as one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world. The costs of taking a vacation to the most magical place on Earth keep going up so it’s natural to look to credit card rewards to help offset that cost. Chase offers two cards for Disney fans, the $49 annual feeDisney® Premier Visa® Card* and the no-annual-fee Disney® Visa® Card*, but many would be surprised to find out that these two credit cards often are not necessarily the best cards to help save you money on your Disney vacation.
There are a lot of different credit cards that can help you save money on your Disney vacation, but let’s take a look at three good alternatives to the Disney branded credit cards. But before we get to your options, let’s start with a quick reminder about what Chase’s Disney co-branded credit cards have to offer.
Benefits of the Disney® Premier Visa® and the Disney® Visa® Credit Cards
Chase offers two different Disney co-branded credit cards. The Disney® Premier Visa® Card offers a welcome bonus of a $250 Statement Credit after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. In terms of day-to-day earnings, the Disney® Premier Visa® Card nets 2% in Disney Rewards dollars at gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants and most Disney store locations. You earn 1% in Disney Rewards Dollars on all other purchases.
You have two options for redeeming your Disney Reward Dollars with the Disney® Premier Visa® Card. Most cardholders will transfer them to a Disney Rewards Redemption card for Disney purchases. You also have the option of purchasing airfare with your card and redeeming your Disney Reward Dollars for a statement credit.
The other co-branded Disney card, the Disney® Visa® Card, comes with no annual fee. You currently receive a welcome bonus of a $100 Statement Credit after first purchase with a new Disney Visa Card. You’ll earn 1% in Disney Reward Dollars on all purchases. Disney Reward Dollars earned with the no annual fee Disney® Visa® Card can only be used for Disney purchases through the Disney Rewards Redemption card.
Both the Disney® Premier Visa® Card and the Disney® Visa® Card offer a 6-month promotional APR on select Disney vacation packages—After the promotional period, the standard variable APR applies. Both cards also give you access to a special character meet and greet at Walt Disney World (although character meet and greets are currently suspended for social distancing). One other benefit is a 10% discount in select Disney stores when using your co-branded card.
Overall, both co-branded Disney cards offer some nice benefits but if you’re looking to save the maximum amount of money on your Disney vacation, there are better alternatives to consider.
Comparing the Disney Credit Cards to Other Options
The below table compares five different credit cards to see how much money you can save on your Disney vacation.
Forbes Advisor uses data from various government agencies in order to determine both baseline income and spending averages across various categories. The 70th percentile of wage-earning households brings in $100,172 annually and has $52,820 in standard expenses.
For the purposes of our comparisons, we will assume that 50% of such expenses are charged to the credit cards we are comparing, making total annual card spending $26,410. To further break this down, we estimate a family will spend $5,687 on groceries, $4,406 on restaurants, $2,687 on gas and $4,000 on a five-night Disney World vacation.
We estimate $750 of the $4,000 spent on the Disney vacation will be spent on food and souvenirs. Finally, we estimate the amount of money spent on flights for the typical household will be about $1,755 in a calendar year.
With all that in mind, let’s compare the savings you can get with various credit cards. Potential savings are summarized in Table 1 followed by a breakdown of how each card compares and how to maximize your value from each card.
Money saved via discounts
Rewards can be used for Disney Tickets
Rewards can be used for Disney hotels
Rewards can be used for flights
Estimated Total Potential Savings
$250 Statement Credit after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
$100 Statement Credit after first purchase with a new Disney Visa Card
Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
$200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
$664 (up to $1012**)
* - booked as part of a Disney vacation package or through sites like Undercover Tourist or Getaway Today
** - for Bank of America Preferred Rewards customers
*** Card information has been collected independently by Forbes Advisor
Three Alternatives to the Disney Co-branded Credit Cards
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card will save most cardholders more money than the Disney® Premier Visa® Card on their Disney vacation. Don’t let the annual fee scare you off, for a Disney vacation you can easily get more value and save more money than you would with the annual fee on the Disney® Premier Visa® Card.
The current welcome bonus for the Capital One Venture Rewards is worth a fair amount towards eligible travel. Most families will spend somewhere between $2,000 and $4,000 on a Disney vacation and should not have any difficulty hitting the spend threshold.
The Capital One Venture Rewards card also offers more valuable rewards for your everyday spending. You earn 2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases, earning you a lot more rewards on everyday spending than you do with either of the Disney co-branded credit cards.
Venture’s miles can be redeemed for statement credits that offset any eligible travel purchase you make at a rate of 1 cent per point. It’s possible to redeem miles to offset the cost of a Disney vacation package (tickets and hotel combined) or a Disney hotel-only reservation booked through Disney. But miles can also be redeemed for flights purchased or any other eligible travel expense. If you do not have enough miles to cover your entire purchase, don’t worry, you can pay for the charge with a combination of miles and cash.
One important caveat, if you purchase Disney World tickets only from Disney the charge usually does not code as travel. That means it won’t be possible to redeem your Venture miles for the purchase. Thankfully, Disney World tickets purchased from trusted ticket sellers like Undercover Tourist and Get Away Today do code as travel, so if you are purchasing tickets with your Capital One Venture Rewards Card purchase through those websites instead.
As you can see in Table 1, Forbes Advisor estimates that with equal spending on both cards in the first year of card membership a family can save $1,086 with the Capital One Venture Rewards Card compared to $708 with the Disney® Premier Visa® Card. That even factors in Disney discounts that you can get with the Disney® Premier Visa® Card when visiting the parks.
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Another credit card option to consider for your Disney vacation is the Chase Freedom Unlimited. You’ll find a lot of value out of this no-annual-fee card especially with some new bonus categories from Chase.
Many cardholders will be able to take advantage of the earning potential of the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. You earn 5% cash back on flights or other travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal so if you’re flying to Disney World you will already begin saving some money when booking flights. On top of that, you earn 3% cash back at restaurants and drugstores. All other purchases earn 1.5% cash back.
While 3% back at drugstores might not seem exciting at first glance, it actually presents a good opportunity to save more on your Disney vacation than you would with either Disney co-branded credit card. The strategy here is to buy Disney gift cards at your local drugstore and use them to pay for your Disney vacation. Disney gift cards can both be used to pay for the hotel and tickets portion of your vacation and for purchases like food and souvenirs when you are at Disney World. By utilizing this strategy you will earn 1.5% more back on your Disney vacation which will add up quickly.
Comparing the amount of money you can save in the first year of card membership, Forbes Advisor calculates that you can save $781 on your Disney vacation with the Chase Freedom Unlimited® compared to $708 with the Disney® Premier Visa® Card. This calculation assumes that all of your Disney vacation expenses are paid with Disney gift cards purchased using the above strategy.
While that doesn’t seem like much, remember that the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a no annual fee card. In the second year of card membership the Chase Freedom Unlimited®’s better-earning potential and the Disney® Premier Visa® Card’s annual fee will mean that most cardholders will get more value from the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. Furthermore, cash back earned on the Chase Freedom Unlimited® can be used for all purchases, not only Disney ones, providing even more flexibility.
And those with a premium Chase Ultimate Rewards-earning credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve® can do even better. Rewards earned on the Chase Freedom Unlimited become full-fledged Chase Ultimate Rewards points when paired with one of these cards. That means they can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to Chase’s travel partners like United and Hyatt or redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards portal for 1.25 or 1.5 cents per point in value (depending on the premium card), vs. the 1 cent each they are worth without a premium Chase card.
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card*
A third card to think about if you’re looking to save money on your Disney World vacation is the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card. This no annual fee card comes with a welcome bonus: $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening. Like the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, this card shines due to its earning potential.
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit cardholders earn 3% cash back in the category of their choice: gas, online shopping, drug stores, home improvement and furnishings, dining or travel. Cardholders can change their selected category once per quarter. On top of that cardholders earn 2% cash back on dining and wholesale clubs and 1% cash back on all other purchases. The 3% and 2% cash back categories are limited to $2,500 in spending per quarter, but once you cross that threshold you still earn 1% cash back on those purchases.
To calculate the amount of money you could save on a Disney vacation with the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card we assume that most cardholders will max out their 3% categories every quarter in the first year of card membership. With proper planning, you could buy Disney gift cards using the online or drug store shopping category for two quarters, buy your flights or make other travel purchases in another quarter and focus spending in another (or one of those same) categories for the fourth quarter of the year.
With that in mind, even if you only earn 1% cash back on all of your other purchases you could save $664 in the first year of your card membership towards your Disney vacation. Although that is less than the $708 you’d save with the Disney® Premier Visa® Card in the first year, you will again start coming out ahead in year two of card membership because the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card has no annual fee.
If you are a Bank of America customer you can save even more money with the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card. To qualify for Bank of America®’s Preferred Rewards program, you need to keep an average balance of at least $20,000 in combined assets at Bank of America®. This number also includes any investments you might have in a Merrill Lynch account. There are three Bank of America® Preferred Rewards program tiers:
– Gold: $20,000 to $49,999 three-month average combined balance (25% reward bonus)
– Platinum: $50,000 to $99,999 three-month average combined balance (50% reward bonus)
– Platinum Honors: $100,000 or more three-month average combined balance (75% reward bonus)
Depending on your Bank of America Preferred Rewards tier, you can earn bonus rewards. Gold tier members receive a 25% rewards bonus, Platinum tier members receive a 50% rewards bonus and Platinum Honors tier members receive a 75% rewards bonus. With that in mind, Gold, Platinum and Platinum Honors tier members can save $780, $896 and $1,012 in their first year of Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card membership on their Disney vacations, respectively.
Although many Disney fans assume the Disney co-branded cards are the best credit card to save money on their Disney vacations, the reality often is that the cute design of the Disney credit cards masks the lower savings. With some creativity and organization, most families will be able to save more money by using one of the three credit cards above. And remember that if it makes sense for your financial situation, combining savings from multiple cards for one trip is a great way to save even more money on your magical vacation.