Is a Disney credit card worth getting before theme park visit?
Unless your family is a huge fan of Mickey and his pals, there are better cards
Tony Mecia is a business journalist who writes for a number of trade and general-interest publications. Every week, he answers readers’ questions about credit card rewards programs in his “Cashing In” column.
Should I get a Disney credit card before heading to Disney World?If your family is made up of hardcore Disney fans, maybe. If not, there are more rewarding credit cards to pack on your trip.
Dear Cashing In,
I’m planning our first trip to Disney World in October. I saw that there is a Disney credit card. Would that be good to get, or are there others that would be better? – Stacy
Disney can be a great vacation. There is a lot to enjoy for people of all ages, but the trip can be especially memorable for those with kids of a certain age. From Disney princesses to creative rides to fireworks and parades, it can be a family-friendly vacation.
Costs add up quickly at Disney
Disney is adept at making the experience in its theme parks magical, but it is also very skilled at taking your money to create that magic. It is understandable to look for an edge on saving money on this kind of a vacation, given that admission to the Magic Kingdom starts at a little over $100 per day – more if you go during peak season, but less per day if you go multiple days. Orlando, Florida, can be an expensive trip. Disney knows loving parents will pay for the magic.
There are entire books and blogs devoted to saving money at Disney, recommending everything from staying at off-property hotels or condos to packing lunches. But let’s concern ourselves with examining the credit card reward possibilities and how they might save you money – and whether you can do better than the Disney reward cards.
Two Chase Disney credit cards
Chase offers two different Disney-branded credit cards. The more basic of the two is the Disney Rewards Visa (no annual fee). It gives you a $50 statement credit after your first purchase, 10 percent savings on certain purchases at Disney stores and theme park merchandise stores, and 1 percent back on all purchases in Disney reward dollars – which can be redeemed at most Disney locations.
The more advanced Disney-branded card is Chase’s Disney Premier Visa (annual fee: $49). It gives you a $200 statement credit after spending $500 in three months and gives you 2 percent back at restaurants, gas stations, supermarkets and Disney purchases and 1 percent on everything else. It has the same merchandise discounts as the regular Disney Visa.
Both cards also allow you access to special character experiences – your chance to meet Prince Charming or Elsa from “Frozen.”
Those might sound mildly appealing if you are planning a Disney trip – particularly the Disney Premier. Although the Disney Premier card carries an annual fee, it also gives you more reward dollars and a more robust statement credit.
Tip: If you go to Disney a lot, your daughter dresses as Tinkerbell for Halloween, you’re obsessed with Star Wars memorabilia (the franchise is owned by Disney), and you’re planning a trip on the Disney Cruise Line, then one of the Disney credit cards could be perfect for you. Just don't expect it to turn you from a pauper to a prince. There are more rewarding credit cards.
Better credit cards to take on your Disney trip
You can’t look at those cards in a vacuum – you have to judge them against other rewards cards available to you – and you can do better with other, non-Disney cards.
For instance, the Citi Double Cash Card (no annual fee) gives you 2 percent back (1 percent at purchase and 1 percent at payoff) in cash back on all purchases. You would likely come out ahead by using the Citi Double Cash for purchases instead of one of the Disney cards.
If you spend, for example, $5,000 a year on groceries and gas and $5,000 a year on other items, at the end of the year on the Disney Premier card you would have $150 in Disney dollars. Spend the same on Citi Double Cash, and you would have $200 in statement credits.
There are other cards, too, that can outperform the Disney cards – including hotel credit cards that give you free hotel nights and airline cards that earn frequent flyer miles that you might use to fly to Orlando. Those cards likely are worth more than the relatively meager rewards on the Disney cards.
Of course, other cards won’t get you access to those character experiences or the 10 percent merchandise discounts. Think hard about how much those perks are worth to you, survey the landscape of reward cards, and make a choice.
See related: Video: Ways to save on a Disney vacation
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