How to use points to buy Disney tickets

Sep 26, 2019

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A Disney vacation is an American pastime, one that can give as much joy and anticipation as it can sticker shock. The quest for a discounted Disney experience sounds quixotic, but with a little points savvy, maybe we can bring the Disney magic into the realm of the possible. Here’s how to use points to cover park tickets to Disney and make your next family vacation more affordable.

Disney ticket costs

Feel dizzy after looking over all the different kinds of tickets you can buy for Disney? You’re not alone: It’s definitely intimidating, at least at first. More confusing is the fact that the price of a ticket isn’t flat. How much one costs, and therefore the number of points you’ll need to use, depends on several factors, including guest age (those under 3 are free — hurray!), what date you’re going, how many days you’ll visit, how many parks you want to go to and what additional attractions you want to see (waterparks, miniature golf, real golf, etc.).

One constant with Disney tickets is that the more days you visit a Disney park, the less your per-day cost will be.

Looking at value per day, it’s in your best interest to fit as much Disney in as possible on a single trip in order to get significantly more bang for your buck than buying a single-day, single-park ticket. Single-day one-park tickets to Disney World range from $109 – $159 per day.

Tickets for Disneyland in Anaheim, California, are a tiny bit cheaper than Disney World, with a single-day adult ticket costing from $104–$149 per day, depending on the date you visit. A three-day Park Hopper ticket for both parks in California will set an adult back $355.

Park Hopper Pass. Photo by vivacevy/Flickr
Park Hopper Pass. (Photo by vivacevy/Flickr)

How to redeem points for Disney tickets

If you’re looking for a magical way to get outsized value when using your points for free Disney tickets, don’t get your hopes up. Outside of limited-time promotions that may appear, it’s not possible.

As you’ll see below, the only ways I know to use points to cover a Disney ticket are by redeeming them as cash back or at a fixed cash rate. Some programs make it easier to earn points or cash back at an accelerated rate, making free tickets easier to come by.

Alliant Credit Union Visa Signature

This credit card offers unlimited 3% cash back on all purchases for the first year, then drops to 2.5% for the second year. It’s tied with another card later on this list for offering the most cash back of any credit card on all purchases. Putting $3,634 of spending on the card in the first year would earn you $109 cash back, or enough for a single-day adult ticket to the Magic Kingdom in Disney World. The card has a $99 annual fee, which is waived for the first year.

American Express Membership Rewards

While it’s technically possible to redeem Membership Rewards for Disney packages that include tickets, you’re going to get poor value for your points. You can redeem points at 0.7 cents each toward travel packages and hotels booked via American Express Travel or Expedia, but there are far better ways to spend your Membership Rewards points. Skip this option.

Bank of America Premium Rewards

If you hold $100,000 in assets with Bank of America and/or Merrill accounts, you qualify for Platinum Honors, the highest tier of the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program. At that level, the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card will earn a minimum of 2.625x points on all transactions and 3.5x points on travel and dining purchases. All points are equal to 1 cent cash back no matter how you use them, meaning the high rate of cash back on all purchases can be used to cover your Disney tickets.

Beginning with the second year of card membership, the Premium Rewards card earns the highest cash back on all purchases of any credit card currently available — as long as you’re a Platinum Honors Preferred Rewards member.

Barclays Arrival Plus Miles

Covered extensively by TPG over the years, Arrival Plus miles will “erase” any travel charge over $100 made with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard. Unfortunately, Barclays closed the card to new applicants this summer, so you need to already hold it to take advantage of these miles.

This card earns 2x miles on all purchases. In order to get Disney tickets to code as travel, you cannot buy the tickets directly from Disney unless you are buying them as part of a larger package that also includes a resort stay or similar. A better bet is to use one of many brokers who sell Disney tickets which will code as travel. Undercover Tourist has been confirmed to code as travel on the Arrival Plus. The Arrival Plus also offers a 5% rebate of all redeemed miles, effectively giving you a 2.1% cash-back card on all spend toward travel purchases.

The Arrival Premier has a rewards setup that doesn’t give you a sign-up bonus but basically earns you 3x miles on all purchases on the first $25,000 in expenses each year, assuming you spend $25,000 at a minimum. This will earn you 75,000 miles, good for $750 toward Disney tickets, and the card has a $150 annual fee that’s waived for the first year. This card was also closed to new applicants last year.

Capital One Venture Rewards

Venture Rewards can be used as a fixed-value currency, with each point worth one cent when used to erase travel charges (they’re also now transferable, but that won’t help you with Disney tickets). You can redeem points to cover any travel purchase made on your card. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card earns 2x miles on all purchases and offers 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three months of opening the account. The annual fee is $95, making it an attractive way to pick up $500 to use toward Disney tickets.

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Until 2018, you could consistently redeem Ultimate Rewards toward Disney tickets, cruises and vacation packages at 1.25 cents, or 1.5 cents each if you held a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve®. But this perk ended and, until very recently, had not returned. TPG noticed tickets briefly returning as an option in September 2019 on the Chase portal, but the tickets are astronomically priced and appear to have already disappeared again:

With a one-day Park Hopper ticket priced at $383.90, there’s no way you should redeem your points for this even if you can get it to display. A single-day, single-park ticket is priced at $278 here when it should be $109 – $159. I called the Chase travel center and an agent told me Disney tickets weren’t an option and there were no plans to bring them back. We aren’t really sure what to make of this right now, but certainly don’t pay these prices for Disney tickets even if you see it as an option.

Citi ThankYou Rewards

If you hold a Citi Premier® Card or Citi Prestige® Card, ThankYou points can give you good value from your transferable points toward Disney tickets. ThankYou points earned with the Premier card are worth 1.25 cents toward all travel, including Disney tickets bookable over the phone with Citi’s third-party travel agency, Connexions Travel. Call 1-800-842-6596, say you’re redeeming ThankYou points at the first prompt, then select the travel rewards option, followed by the fourth presented option — cruises and tours. That’ll put you in touch with an agent who can book Disney tickets with your ThankYou points.

If you don’t hold a Premier or Prestige card, all ThankYou points are worth 1 cent each toward Disney tickets. The Connexions Travel phone agent quoted me the same prices for tickets that I found on the Disney website.

The Citi Premier® Card currently has a welcome bonus of 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months.

Discover it Miles

The Discover it Miles card carries no annual fee, earns 1.5x miles on all spend, and all miles earned in the first year are matched by Discover, giving you an effective 3x miles on all spend for the first year. No matter which way you redeem these miles, they’re worth 1 cent each, giving you a 3% cash-back card toward Disney in your first year of card membership. This matches the above Alliant Visa Signature card for the highest cash-back earn rate on a credit card, but only for the first year of membership.

Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards

You can redeem Go Far Rewards for Disney tickets directly on the Wells Fargo program’s website, but not for the most value. Redeeming directly for tickets will give you a redemption value of between 0.94 and 0.97 cents per point. For instance, a seven-day adult Park Hopper ticket for Walt Disney World will cost you 60,169 Go Far Rewards. This ticket is selling for $557.09 after taxes, resulting in a 0.93 cent-per-point redemption. You’re better off redeeming your points at 1 cent per point in cash back into your Wells Fargo deposit account and buying tickets from Disney.

The Wells Fargo Visa Signature® Card has no annual fee and is offering a sign-up bonus of 5x points on up to $12,500 in spend at gas stations, grocery stores and drugstores. This will give you 62,500 points if you max out the spend. The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card offers 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card has no annual fee and earns 3x points in extremely inclusive travel and entertainment categories. (Note that the information related to the Wells Fargo Visa Signature Card has been collected by The Points Guy and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.)

If your household gets both cards and combines the bonuses, you’ll have $925 to spend toward Disney tickets, with no annual fee. You can only get one Wells Fargo welcome bonus every 15 months, so you can get one card and your spouse or family member can get the other card.

The information for the Wells Fargo Visa Signature card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

What about the Disney Visa?

You can earn Rewards Dollars to use toward expenses at the Disney Parks with this lineup of cards, so it isn’t a bad option. However, it also isn’t the best option out there for maximizing your spending to earn a Disney vacation.

Here’s an entire story on whether the Disney Visa is worth it and how you can get some of the perks from those credit cards with no annual fee.

Bottom line

It takes concerted effort to build up enough points for a family’s worth of free Disney tickets. Along the way, you may have to forgo the much higher potential value that you’d get if you transferred points to a travel partner for hotel or flight redemptions.

That said, if a discounted trip to Disney is what you want for your next award, you can reach it with cash-back rewards or points. Even if free Disney tickets don’t mathematically yield the best redemption, making family memories with free or discounted Disney tickets can make it your best redemption.

Featured photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy

Want to read more about Disney parks around the world? Check out our other Disney guides…

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