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As anyone who has visited a Disney theme park recently has learned, visiting the mouse is not cheap and price increases occur frequently. Those who visit Walt Disney World more than once within a year can often save money by purchasing an annual pass instead of separate tickets for each trip. Unfortunately, though, while purchasing discounted tickets through an authorized third-party, such as Undercover Tourist, has long been a way to lessen the cost a bit on normal single or multiday tickets, the third-party sellers don’t sell annual passes.
Thankfully, there are work-arounds that will still allow you to get a discount on your annual passes.
Discounted Gift Cards
The easiest way to get a discount on your annual pass is to simply pay for it using discounted Disney gift cards. This method can be especially useful when you’re able to buy the gift cards from a merchant that falls into a bonus earning category for one of your credit cards. If you’re not sure where to find the largest discounts on them, check out TPG’s recent guide on buying discounted Disney gift cards.
Ticket “Price Bridging”
While gift cards can save you money on your annual pass, you can often get an even larger discount by making use of Walt Disney World’s “price bridging” policy for ticket upgrades.
Disney is always happy to let you spend more money while you’re in the parks. One of the ways it allows you do that is to upgrade your park ticket to one with more days or more options. Disney will count the full price of your original ticket toward the purchase price of the ticket to which you’re upgrading.
You get the most benefit when you purchase a discounted ticket from a third-party seller and then upgrade it to an annual pass. Disney will count the gate price of your current ticket toward the cost of your annual pass rather than the price you actually paid for it, allowing you to keep the discount. This is known as “bridging” the price of the ticket.
How to Save Money Using Price Bridging
In order to use price bridging to get a discount on your Walt Disney World annual pass, the first thing you’ll want to do is find a heavily discounted park ticket from one of the authorized third-party sellers. Of course, make sure that you’re using one of the authorized, reputable ones, such as Undercover Tourist, not one of the shady places attempting to sell partially used tickets or similar. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to apply an additional discount on the ticket through an Undercover Tourist Amex Offer, as TPG’s Summer Hull was able to do in 2017. Before buying the ticket, make sure that the discount percentage is more than the discount you could get from just paying for the annual pass with discounted gift cards.
If purchasing from Undercover Tourist, make sure to use a card with a bonus category for travel purchases. Undercover Tourist purchases will code as travel on Chase Sapphire cards and the Citi Premier Card.
You can also use certain credit card points to buy your Disney World tickets. TPG Family Editor Summer Hull just used Citi ThankYou points to purchase a two-day ticket for her daughter for an upcoming Disney World trip. The process went smoothly and she had the ticket emailed to her the same day she ordered it. If you’re not sure how to redeem Citi ThankYou (or other) points for Disney World tickets, we’ve got you covered.
Once you’ve purchased your ticket, go ahead and attach it to your MyDisney Experience account and book FastPasses and other plans, as usual. The best bet for upgrading your ticket will be to wait until you get into the parks. Once your trip has arrived and you’re in the park, go to Guest Services and tell them you want to upgrade your ticket to an annual pass. They should be able to determine the value of your current ticket, subtract that from the price of the annual pass you’ve selected and charge you for the difference. It also makes sense to pay the difference with discounted Disney gift cards.
Take note of what price you paid for your ticket, the current gate price of your ticket and the price of the annual pass you’re planning to purchase before going to Guest Services. That will help confirm that the numbers the cast member has are the same ones you’re expecting. Since this is a somewhat unusual task, not all cast members are as familiar with it as others. Both Guest Services cast members that have upgraded tickets for me in the last couple of years have done it without any trouble. However, if you happen to run into one that’s having any issues, either ask for a supervisor to help or just wait and visit Guest Services again later or at a different park.
If everything goes smoothly at Guest Services, you should have your new (and discounted) annual pass in a matter of a few minutes. Typically, your new annual pass will be good through one year from the first day on which you used the ticket that you upgraded. However, on my most recent upgrade, the cast member dated the new pass through one year from the day of the upgrade instead, which got me an extra day.
While I’ve only used price bridging to upgrade to the Platinum Pass, it’s also possible for Florida residents to upgrade their ticket to one of the Florida resident pass options and even use the monthly payment program. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve found several sources saying you can even use ticket bridging to save money on an annual pass renewal.
How My Discount Worked Out
I used price bridging to get a discount on my new annual pass back in December, so I’ll go through the numbers from that transaction so you can get an idea of the savings I netted.
The best discount I found on a Park Hopper pass at Undercover Tourist was $42 off the after-tax price of a six-day Park Hopper — $469 after tax for a ticket valued at $511 after tax, a discount of 8.2%. (At the time of writing, even higher discounts of more than $60 — around 12% — are available.) I charged the purchase to my Citi Premier Card, earning 1,408 ThankYou points, worth another $24 by TPG’s current valuations. Even better, this also finished off the spending requirement for my 60,000-point sign-up bonus for the card (offer no longer available; current bonus is 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months).
The Disney Platinum Pass I purchased cost $952 ($894 plus tax). After applying the $511 value of my six-day Park Hopper toward the ticket, this left $441 to be paid.
Anticipating the cost of the upgrade, I had purchased $450 worth of Disney gift cards for $429 at Sam’s Club before the trip, a 4.6% discount. These were sold as three packs of three $50 Disney gift cards each, but I used DisneyGiftCard.com to combine the whole $450 onto one physical card before the trip. I paid for the gift cards using my Chase Freedom card, which earned 2,145 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, thanks to the 5x bonus category on warehouse club purchases during that quarter. At TPG’s current valuations, 2,145 Ultimate Rewards points are worth about $43.
So, in total, I spent $469 for the ticket, plus $420 on the portion of the gift cards I used to pay for the upgrade. That means I paid $889 instead of the $952 the Disney Platinum Pass would have normally cost. A total savings of $63, plus earning $67 worth of Citi and Chase points, definitely helps take the sting out of pricy Disney World vacations.
If you’re visiting Walt Disney World more than once within a year, an annual pass may be your best option. In addition to the savings on tickets, the complimentary PhotoPass and parking at the parks can also help tilt the scales in favor of purchasing an annual pass, as can the discounts on restaurants and shops. Or, if you just really like those passholder car magnets and the passholder entrance queues at the parks.
Walt Disney World annual passes aren’t cheap, but using ticket price bridging and discounted gift cards can help ease the blow on your wallet, especially when used in combination with credit card category earning bonuses.
Want to read more about Disney parks around the world? Check out our other Disney guides…
- TPG’s Ultimate Guide to Disney World
- The Best Points Hotels Near Disney World in 2018
- How to Save Money By Renting Disney Vacation Club Points
- The 10 Best Disney Thrill Rides Around the World
- How to Use Points for Disney Tickets
- Disney World Without Kids: 10 Ways to Enjoy an Adult Trip to Disney
- How to Ride Every Disney World Ride in One Day
- 9 Things Families Should Know Before Visiting Disneyland
- Where to Stay at Disneyland: On vs. Off-Property Hotel Comparisons
- Skip the Lines at Disneyland: 10 Line-Busting Tips for Less Waiting and More Playing
- This App Could Help Shorten Lines at Disneyland
- Disneyland Is Opening a ‘Toy Story’-Inspired Pizza Restaurant
- This Disneyland Meal Costs $15,000
- How to Save Money Buying Discounted Disney Gift Cards
- The 10 Best Disney Thrill Rides Around the World
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