I talked about Disney a bit recently and wanted to talk about my experience with the Disney credit card so I could warn you away from it, but the topic really deserves a column of its own. Disney has a lot of brand loyalists, and I’m sure a decent number of them get this card thinking they’re getting a good deal, but in most cases they’re not.
There are technically two Disney credit cards. There is the regular version, which has no fee, and the Premier version, which has a $49 annual fee. Unless you’re a hard core Disney fan who’s going to drop a few grand on Disney merchandise, neither one is worth getting for three reasons:
- The rewards earning rate on both is weak compared to the many alternatives out there and does not stand out in any way.
- The rewards points are limited in their usefulness.
- The “all sorts of amazing Disney perks” are weak.
Let’s dig deeper into those three items, starting with the rewards structure. With the no-frills, no annual fee version, you get 1% back in the form of “Disney Dollars”… and that’s it. There are about a hundred no-annual-fee credit cards I could list off the top of my head with better rewards than that.
With the Premier version, you get 2% back at gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and Disney properties, and 1% everywhere else. Again, you have to pay $49 for this privilege, whereas if you have the Fidelity Amex or the Priceline Visa you can get 2% back everywhere with no annual fee.
And of course, you’re limited with what you can do with the 1-2% that you earn, which is our second point. The “Disney Dream Reward Dollars” are nightmarish from a consumer perspective in that once you’ve earned them, you’re pretty much obligated to spend them on Disney products–theme park tickets, theme park meals, merchandise, etc. The one slightly redeeming feature is that you can redeem the dollars toward airfare as well (fortunately, Disney doesn’t check to make sure the ticket has “ORLANDO” marked on it).
I can’t help but be reminded of “The Simpsons” here, specifically of the Itchy & Scratchy Land episode:
Homer: One adult and four children.
Woman: Would you like to buy some Itchy and Scratchy Money?
Homer: What’s that?
Woman: Well it’s money that’s made just for the park. It works just like regular money, but it’s, er…”fun”.
Bart: Do it, Dad.
Homer: Well, OK, if it’s fun…let’s see, uh…I’ll take $1,100 worth. [he walks in, sees all the signs: “No I&S Money”, “We Don’t Take Itchy and Scratchy Money”, etc.] Aw!
But at least you get some great perks with the cards, right?
No. I’ll list all the perks given on the card website and go through them one by one.
- 10% off at Disney Store and DisneyStore.com. Not bad–but then, unless you’re going to drop a few grand on Disney merchandise, it doesn’t make up for the card’s many weaknesses.
- 0% APR Vacation Financing. If you have to finance a vacation, you shouldn’t be taking it. And if you just want 0% funds, there are many cards out there that offer an introductory 0% APR on all purchases, not just vacations.
- Theme Park Perks. There’s a character meet-and-greet for cardholders at Epcot. We tried to get in during a late September visit last fall and the line was ridiculously long, so we passed. And mind you, this is during one of the less crowded times of the year. You can also get 10% off meals at some of the Disney lodges and 20% off some of the guided tours.
- $50 Onboard Credit on a Disney Cruise. Not bad, if you’re going on a Disney cruise. Though note that you have to book the cruise with the Disney card to get this benefit and forsake potentially lucrative earnings from other credit cards with better rewards.
- Disney Vacation Club® Financing. “Disney Vacation Club” is another way of saying “timeshares”, which, as you know, are a terrible investment.
- Unique Card Designs. That’s not even a perk, it’s a feature.
In conclusion: Poor rewards, poor redemption options, lame perks.
If you want to use credit cards to offset a trip to Disney, you could do a lot worse than to use the Fidelity Amex or Priceline Visa to get 2% back on everything and fund your theme park ticket purchase. If you don’t live within driving distance of Orlando or L.A., you could rack up some frequent flyer miles using any one (or more than one) of a number of generous credit card sign-up bonuses. You could use the Starwood Amex sign-up bonus if you want to stay in a Disney property, or maybe the Club Carlson card if you want to save money and stay offsite. We stayed at the conveniently located Radisson resort for only 9,000 points per night on our family trip.
But whatever you do, don’t get this card. Disney has some great products, but they are also known for separating people from their money, and that’s really what this card is all about.