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Disney World rolls out all-new MagicBand+: Here’s what this wristband can do for your trip

July 29, 2022
13 min read
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Disney World changed the way people paid and moved about its parks in 2013 when it first introduced MagicBands.

These colorful wristbands (unless you forgot to select your color and got assigned the default drab gray option) allowed you to not have to carry paper tickets or FastPasses, avoid worrying about keeping track of a room key, skip having cash and credit cards at the ready and much more. (And yes, they did allow Disney to keep an eye on where you made purchases, where crowds were forming, etc.)

Back then, MagicBands were offered for free to Disney resort guests, and it's fair to say they ushered in a new, ubiquitous layer to Disney vacations.

(Melissa Ann Photography / The Points Guy)

This week, almost a decade after MagicBands first came on the scene, Disney has upgraded the experience again with the introduction of MagicBand+. These bands are now far from complimentary, with prices starting at $35 each ($25 if you purchase ahead of time as part of your Disney vacation package), but they now give visitors ways to interact with the parks that weren't possible with the old bands.

So, what can these bands do exactly — and is the new Disney MagicBand+ worth the added cost? There's only one way to find out, so my family plunked down $150 (with the annual pass discount) for our four MagicBands the day they debuted and set out to put them to the test.

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What is a Disney MagicBand+?

Long gone are the days of paper tickets at Disney World. Most folks don't even carry plastic cards to access their tickets anymore. Some folks use Disney's Magic Mobile service, while others still prefer the original MagicBands, even though they are no longer free.

MagicBand+ is now here, costing considerably more than the original MagicBands.

This latest iteration of the MagicBand can do all the things the first version could do, such as open your Disney resort hotel room, get you into a park or charge a Mickey bar to your hotel room folio when you're a hotel guest (which means it should code as travel, so be sure to attach the right travel credit card to your account).

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MagicBand+ also unlocks the ability to play interactive games in all four Disney World theme parks. Along with these games, MagicBand+ comes with the promise of other interactions during experiences like Disney World's nighttime shows.

Related: Magic at every budget: These are the best hotels at Walt Disney World in 2022

How much is a MagicBand+?

The most affordable MagicBand+ bands feature a solid color and start at $34.99 before any potential discounts.

(Screenshot courtesy of ShopDisney)

If you (or your kids) want a themed band, like the ones we purchased, expect to spend more. We saw bands priced as high as $44.99.

Disney is offering a 20% discount on MagicBand+ purchases if you have an annual pass or are a Disney Vacation Club member and if you purchase a Disney vacation package you'll receive a $10 "pre-arrival" discount. You'll also get to enjoy the magic moment when your MagicBand+ shows up at your door, signaling the imminent arrival of your Disney vacation.

Each MagicBand+ comes with a charging cable with a USB-A connection — and this is an important change with the latest version, as you'll get just hours with these new bands instead of years like the old MagicBands provided with their original batteries. Disney also sells the chargers separately if yours gets lost or broken.

Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy

You can buy MagicBand+ online at ShopDisney ahead of your visit so you can get it set up and charged. Or, you can pick one up while you are in the parks. We saw a huge selection at Pin Traders at Disney Springs.

Related: What it's really like doing Disney World 3 different ways: Budget, moderate and blow-out luxury

Setting up a MagicBand+

Since we were already at Disney when they were released, we completed our purchase on-site and proceeded to update and configure a MagicBand+ for each member of our party.

We linked our MagicBand+ just like a regular MagicBand in the My Disney Experience app. The software update took less than 10 minutes using Disney's Wi-Fi. Our band showed two of three bars on the charging meter, which turned out to be enough for a half day of gaming in the parks. Once back at our hotel, the app showed only one bar and listed the battery level as "low." It's unclear if you can still tap in at the parks with a dead battery in your MagicBand+.

(Screenshot courtesy of Disney)

On top of syncing your MagicBand+ to your account, you'll need to manage a couple of other details. First, you'll need to periodically update the software on your MagicBand+. Then, you'll need to make sure the battery is charged enough to use it for the new interactive game (more on that in a bit).

(Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

You can also configure some other settings, including the color of the light-up theme, brightness and level of vibration, in the My Disney Experience app. Other than the price, the only drawback we see to MagicBand+ is needing to remember to charge it when you get back to your hotel at night.

Disney World has a reputation for creating some of the most stunning attractions. Deep themes abound, including immersive experiences like the Star Wars Halcyon Starcruiser. That creativity isn't without more than its fair share of software bugs.

Fortunately, based on first impressions, it seems MagicBand+ exceeded expectations here. We didn't run into anyone struggling to configure their new purchase. Disney proactively had extra employees around all the guest services kiosks helping people get set up, too, though we only saw smiling faces and other happy folks waving their arms in the air testing out the new device during our visit.

(Photos by Edward Pizzarello/The Points Guy)

Related: Is Disney’s new paid FastPass, Genie+, worth it? Here’s how it saved me nearly 3 hours in line

Using MagicBand+ for Fab 50 character interactions

While some folks may pay extra for a MagicBand+ just to enjoy the pretty colors when they tap in at a kiosk to enter a park, the crowds of people lined up to buy MagicBand+ on day one seemed to be there to play games — or game, as it were, since the only game we were able to access on day one was the Disney Fab 50 Quest. The game dovetails in with the celebration currently taking place for the 50th anniversary of the opening of Disney World.

Using the Play Disney app, MagicBand+ wearers aim to locate 36 gold statues that represent the Fab 50 characters located throughout all four theme parks. When we got close to a statue, our MagicBand+ would buzz letting us know we were on the right track.

Once we found the statue, we waved our arms in front of it a few times per the instructions and were rewarded with different audio at each statue (themed to the statue, of course). After that, we were able to download the character in the Play Disney app and use the augmented reality functions to play with the new character in our collection. For those of you with Pokémon Go experience, it was very similar.

Using MagicBand+ For Star Wars: Batuu Bounty Hunters

While the Fab 50 character interactions are cute (especially for kids), the shining star of MagicBand+ is the Star Wars: Batuu Bounty Hunters game in Hollywood Studios' Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. Like the Disney Fab 50 Quest, you'll need the Play Disney Parks app to play Batuu Bounty Hunters.

(Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

You'll start by visiting the "bounty board" pictured above located between the Droid Depot and the marketplace stalls. When you tap your band to the touchpoint with the Batuu Bounty Hunters symbol you'll be assigned a bounty to locate (on your first round, you will also receive an introduction to the game).

(Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

All bounties are hidden behind doors in Galaxy's Edge (the doors also have the Batuu Bounty Hunters symbol painted on them). Start by choosing a direction and walking. If you are getting closer to the correct door, your MagicBand+ will vibrate and light up green. If you are getting further away, it'll turn red. The closer you get to your bounty, the quicker your band will vibrate.

(Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

If you walk up to a door and your band turns purple, you've found your bounty. Open the Play Disney Parks app and use the thermal scanner feature to scan the door and reveal the bounty hiding behind the door.

(Screenshot courtesy of Disney)

After you've located your bounty, head to the doorway to the right of the bounty board to collect your credits.

Related: How to plan an epic Disney ‘Star Wars’ trip — that doesn’t cost $6,000

From there, you can walk right back over to the bounty board to collect your next bounty. You can play as little or as long as you like and the app will save your progress so you can pick the game back up on future trips.

Disney World MagicBand+

My only wish after playing the game was that they would add something like this to the other three Disney parks. Star Wars: Batuu Bounty Hunters is a ton of fun and a great way to pass the time between rides or if you've visited Galaxy's Edge multiple times and want to do something different that adds another layer of adventure to the land.

Using MagicBand+ during the nighttime shows

MagicBand+ also lights up and vibrates in conjunction with Disney's nighttime shows, such as Harmonious at Epcot and Disney Enchantment at the Magic Kingdom. The colors, patterns and vibrations changed in sync with the lights and music during the show, but it felt odd to be staring at my wrist instead of the show.

(Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

What I really enjoyed was walking around during the show and seeing other people's bands lighting up in the crowd. Once MagicBand+ has been out a bit longer and more guests are using them, I can see it feeling a bit like a concert where everyone pulls out their lighters (or cell phone flashlights) and sways along to the music.

Related: It's a changed world after all: 9 things you must know if you're heading to Disney World

This feature worked well, but I was more interested in looking at the lights in the sky rather than the one on my wrist. I think this would be best used for antsy kids who aren't interested in sitting through the fireworks.

How long did the charge last?

One big bummer about the new MagicBand+ is it is yet another thing you need to keep charged while at Disney World. While the old ones would last years, with the new MagicBands, you'll probably need to charge them daily in order to regularly use them.

(Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

It took about 90 minutes to go from one bar left to full charge, so you'll probably want to let it juice up overnight.

If it does lose its charge while you are still in the parks, the standard MagicBand functions like tapping into the park and entering your hotel room will still work, but the interactive games will not. If you pack along an external battery and the charging cord that comes with your MagicBand+, you can recharge it fairly quickly while you are still in the parks.

Related: 19 mistakes to avoid at Walt Disney World

Is MagicBand+ worth buying?

Overall, we enjoyed using MagicBand+. The setup for our four MagicBand+ additions to our Disney toolkit worked seamlessly, and there was virtually no learning curve to using them, so we were able to begin collecting characters in the Fab 50 game almost instantaneously.

The lights and sounds made our first interactions whimsical and fun, betraying any sheepishness we felt standing in front of an inanimate object waving our arms around in the air. It probably didn't hurt that hundreds of other people were also doing the very same thing.

But ... Disney World vacations are already expensive, and MagicBand+ will put an even bigger dent in your wallet — especially if you are buying several for the whole family. The designs are really cool, so the chances your kids will want an upgrade from a solid color band are pretty high.

(Photos by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

A family of four with no discounts available to them is looking at spending up to $200 to play MagicBand+ games and enjoy the other functionalities. That's a lot of dough for a "free" game. Add to that the loss of the free Magical Express option to/from the airport and free FastPasses of yesteryear and that's a lot of 'extra' you now may end up paying.

We are at Disney World a fair amount and made the decision to invest in MagicBand+ as another way for our kids to have fun in the parks. However, if we asked our kids whether they wanted the new band or would prefer we hand them $50 to buy more toys, I suspect those bands would have remained on the shelf.

Our family has a healthy collection of the original MagicBands, as it was easy to invest in the fun, new creations back when they were previously priced at $15 each. But with MagicBand+, I suspect we'll think a lot harder before choosing a new design to add to our stash thanks to the substantially higher cost.

Now that we're 24 hours in, it's safe to say we're satisfied with our purchase. However, I highly doubt MagicBand+ will be a good value for every family, no matter how fun they are to play with.

Additional reporting by Tarah Chieffi.

Featured image by (Photos by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Why We Chose It

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

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  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees