According to a recent analysis from Time Magazine, the average Disney vacation will run a family of four approximately $6,360. This includes the costs of flights, food, lodging, park tickets, souvenirs, and extras. This amount also represents more than 10 percent of the median household income in the U.S. last year, which was $59,039.
So yes, Disney vacations are expensive, and whether they’re worth it or not depends on who you ask. Unfortunately (and laughably), Disney offers a co-branded credit card that is marketed as a tool to help you save on the expense.
With the Disney Premier Visa credit card, they say, you can rack up meaningful rewards to use at Disney parks. What they don’t tell you, however, is that you’ll likely be better off with a different rewards card that does not feature playful Disney characters on the front.
How the Disney Premier Visa Works
We totally get that signing up for the Disney Premier Visa credit card probably seems like a good idea. Mickey Mouse is plastered on the front, after all. What could go wrong?
Honestly, nothing will go “wrong” as long as you pay your bill in full every month, avoid interest, and focus on racking up rewards. You’ll just earn a lot less in rewards over time.
Here’s how the card works: Once you sign up for the Disney Premier Visa credit card, they promise a $200 statement credit after you use your card for $500 in purchases within three months of account opening. You’ll also earn 2 percent back in the form of Disney Rewards Dollars at gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and most Disney locations, along with 1 percent back in Disney Rewards Dollars on all other purchases.
That all sounds well and good, but the redemption side is extremely limited. Once you rack Disney Reward Dollars, you can only use them in a handful of scenarios:
- At Disney Parks or Resorts
- Disney Cruise Lines
- Disney Movies
- Disney Stores
- Airline Travel, but you have to use your card to pay for airfare first
Obviously, these categories aren’t that broad. You can use your points to stay at a Disney property, but not to rent an off-site condo. You can pay for Disney tickets, but not for a rental car that covers the cost of transportation to the resort.
Not only that, but what happens if you decide not to go to a Disney park after all? Basically, you’re stuck with rewards you can’t really use on a vacation – or left to spend your rewards at a local Disney store.
The worst part is, this card comes with a $49 annual fee! There is a no-fee Disney credit card, but it only offers a $50 introductory statement credit and 1 percent back on all purchases.
Which Cards Should You Get Instead?
Obviously, you can do a lot better with several different cards, and your rewards won’t be designated for just Disney parks, either. Here are some travel offers that work well for Disney and all your other travel plans:
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card comes out far ahead of either Disney card, and it’s not just due to the generous signup bonus it offers. For starters, you can earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. You’ll earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
The big benefit here is on the redemption side, however. This card lets you book travel in more than one way, and provides the flexibility to book any type of Disney vacation you want. With Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can transfer your points to leading frequent travel programs at 1 to 1 value. You can transfer points to popular loyalty programs like British Airways Executive Club, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®, Marriott Bonvoy™, and IHG® Rewards Club.
Southwest Rapid Rewards® can be especially useful for Disney vacations because flights into Orlando from most U.S. cities tend to be bountiful and cheap. For example, you can often fly from Indianapolis to Orlando for less than 15,000 points per person plus $5.60 in taxes and fees per leg.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card comes with a $95 annual fee.
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is another travel card that offers flexible rewards good for a Disney trip. This card starts by doling out a one-time bonus of 50,000 points after you use your card for $3,000 in purchases within 3 months of account opening. You’ll also earn 2x miles for every dollar you spend with no limits to the rewards you earn.
These points are especially versatile on the redemption end. Once you rack up rewards, you can redeem them to cover any travel expense you want at a rate of one cent per point. The signup bonus alone is worth $500 in travel, and that’s money you can use for hotels, flights, rental cars, and more.
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card does come with a $95 annual fee, but it’s waived the first year.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® works similarly to the Capital One card in the fact you earn unlimited 2x miles on every purchase along with an initial signup bonus. The difference is, the signup bonus is 70,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days and paying the annual fee.
Still, these points are incredibly versatile since you can use them for hotel stays, flights, rental cars, and nearly any other type of travel you can dream up. This makes them especially helpful if you decide to stay in an off-site hotel or rental condo, for example.
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® has an $89 annual fee, which is waived the first year.
The Bottom Line
Slapping a Disney logo on the front of a credit card can give the illusion it’s the best card for a Disney trip. But, that couldn’t be any further from the truth.
The reality is, there are a slew of popular rewards cards that offer bigger signup bonuses and more potential for rewards over time.
Before you start planning a Disney vacation, make sure to come up with a travel rewards plan that is comprehensive and flexible enough to allow for the type of Disney trip you need. A Disney credit card might look cute in your wallet, but you may not save as much as you think.