Today’s post is written by Robert Dwyer, who is a contributing editor at Deal Mommy fave Milenomics. Robert, Sam, and I had a fun conversation a few weeks ago about Disneyland vs. Disney World which led me to ask Robert to share his thoughts on how to use points for Disney trips.
Most strategies for saving on Disney vacations I’ve read center around things like:
- Staying at the SPG Swan & Dolphin hotels since they are on Disney World property and can be booked with Starpoints
- Getting the Southwest Companion Pass to save on flights
- Buying Disney Gift Cards at a discount
Those strategies are okay but they require too many compromises (did you really want to stay at the Dolphin and fly Southwest?) and the discounts aren’t as deep as they could be. (Ed. note: especially now that redemption rates are going up 30%.)
I like to decide what I want to do first then work backwards to figure out the best way to pay for it. Life is short and I don’t want to look back thinking “We did what loyalty programs allowed us to”. I’d rather use points & miles as tools for getting deep discounts. (Ed. note: stealing this!)
With that in mind, here are 5 ways to use points for Disney vacations.
1. Use Chase Ultimate Rewards for a Disney Vacation Package
There are no great credit cards, only great credit card programs. Chase Ultimate Rewards are great because of their generous signup bonuses, there are many cards in the program that reward spend with 3x or 5x points in certain categories, they can be transferred between spouses and small business cards, and they can all be redeemed with 1.5 cents per point of uplift if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.
The reason I mention a Disney Vacation Package is two-fold: First, I like to use Ultimate Rewards to pay for a more complete Disney vacation. Second, because when booked as a package you can work with a Chase travel agent that can get you the best available pricing while paying with Ultimate Rewards.
To book, call the number on the back of your card, say you’d like to redeem Ultimate Rewards and choose the Cruises & Tours option. This will put you through to a travel agent that can book a Disney vacation package.
A package can be a Disney Hotel & Park tickets. Or a Disney Hotel & rental car. Or a Disney World Hotel with Dining Plan.
The thing I like about working with a Chase travel agent this way is that, just like when you’re working with any Disney travel agent, you can use Disney promotions to reduce the price of the package while still paying with points.
For example, I booked 3 nights at the Disneyland Hotel with 4-day Parkhopper tickets through Chase. Later, Disney came out with a 20% off room offer. I emailed my Chase travel agent and Chase cut me a check for the difference in price. Then later I got a targeted promo in the mail from Disney. Chase cut me another check for the difference.
Being able to get the best available price and pay with bank points is tremendous. And so was the trip.
2. Use Citi Prestige 4th Night free at a Disney Hotel
If you have the Citi Premier card ($95 annual fee, waived the first year) and the Citi Prestige card ($450 annual fee, not waived the first year but with $250 calendar year air travel credits) you can book Disney Hotels through the Citi ThankYou portal and with ThankYou Points. You’ll get 1.25 cents of value with the Premier card and the 4th night free (not including taxes) with the Prestige card. (Ed. Note: if you’re not staying four nights, consider Renting DVC Points.)
You’re stuck with the pricing and room availability shown in the Citi portal which isn’t always the greatest. But still – it can be a sound redemption for a 4 night stay.
Four Seasons Hotels tend to do a good job of making their best pricing avilable through portals. Their Orlando property is located within Disney World, absolutely amazing, and often priced in-line with Disney Deluxe resorts.
If you’re short on points but looking to get a 4th night free at Disney Hotels the Citi Prestige card can help. If you’re paying cash you can call the Citi Concierge who should be able to get you the best available pricing and the 4th night free.
3. Book a Disney Cruise with Bank Points
Someone once asked “What’s the best credit card to sign up for to pay for a Disney Cruise?”. If there were a single credit card that paid for a vacation that costs many thousands of dollars I’d be all over it. Alas, that is not the case.
That said you can earn a lot of Chase Ultimate Rewards or Citi ThankYou Points over time. And you can use those points to pay for a Disney Cruise (or any cruise). And you can pay for the remaining balance with Disney Gift Cards or cash.
To book, call the Chase or Citi Cruises & Tours department. A travel agent will walk you through your options. The pricing should be exactly in-line with what you see on Disney’s site.
Here’s a review of a Concierge level Disney Cruise we booked with Citi ThankYou Points.
4. Use Chase Ultimate Rewards for Disney Park Tickets
If you’re just looking for Park tickets you can buy those with Chase Ultimate Rewards. Here’s how. (Ed. note: You can also use Barclay’s arrival points for Disney tickets, but not if you buy them through Disney. Instead, use Undercover Tourist which codes as travel.)
5. Use Bank Points for Flights
If you live in a Southwest hub, enjoy flying with them, and fly enough to make it worth it the Companion Pass can make sense. But for the rest of us, flights are best booked with bank points because you don’t have to contend with award availability and can book exactly the flights you want.
Sometimes you can get better pricing with bank points than by booking directly with the airline. Plus you’ll earn miles for the flights.
Summing it up
Disney doesn’t have a loyalty program because they don’t need one. But you can still use points & miles to pay for Disney vacations. The best deals are rarely the most obvious ones. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it!
Hopefully these examples give you some ideas of ways to save on your next Disney vacation.
Thanks so much Robert! I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you use points for Disney. Please share in the comments.
Looking for more Disney World tips and tricks? Check out my Disney World Hacks book on Amazon!