Please Stop Getting the Disney Credit Cards and Do This Instead

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Every time a consumer signs up for a co-branded Disney World credit card, one of Tinkerbell’s friends loses her wings. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but bear with me. I’m trying to explain why nobody should sign up for a Disney credit card — at least not if they’re actually interested in earning rewards.

The two Disney World credit cards from Chase do offer an endearing design, so I get the allure. But, on the rewards side, their programs are so lacking they barely exist.

If you actually want to earn rewards for your Disney vacation (and you should, because Disney World is e-x-p-e-n-s-i-v-e), please do yourself a favor and don’t fall for the hype. There are better cards you can use for a Disney trip, and they will leave you with a higher rate of rewards — and more flexibility — in the end.

Disney Credit Cards: How They Work

The first step of realizing how unfruitful having a co-branded Disney credit card can be is understanding how their programs stack up to other, better rewards cards. So, let’s start there.

First off, Disney offers two rewards cards that purportedly help you earn rewards for use at their parks — the Disney Rewards® Visa® Card and a Disney Premier Visa® Card. Here are the basic details you should be aware of:


Highlights
  • Earn $200 after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 2% in Disney Rewards Dollars on card purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants and most Disney locations.
  • Earn 1% in Rewards Dollars on all your other card purchases.
  • 10% off select merchandise purchases of $50 or more at select locations and 10% off select dining locations most days at the Disneyland® and Walt Disney World® Resorts


Highlights
  • Earn a $50 Disney gift card after first purchase with the credit card. Restrictions apply.
  • Earn 1% on everyday card purchases - That's 1 reward dollar for every $100 spent on purchases. Earn unlimited reward dollars on purchases and redeem them toward most everything Disney.
  • 10% off select merchandise purchases of $50 or more at select locations and 10% off select dining locations most days at the Disneyland® and Walt Disney World® Resorts

As you can see, both cards let you rack up Disney “Rewards Dollars” good for on-park purchases. The Premier version of the card even lets you redeem points for airfare with any airline, so that’s good.

But what’s especially egregious to me is the fact that the Premier card charges a $49 annual fee! In exchange, you earn a $200 signup bonus, 2x points at gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and *most* Disney locations, and one point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Considering the fact you can earn double points or more with cards that don’t charge an annual fee, it’s easy to see why this is a bad deal.

But, what’s even more annoying is the redemption side of things. You can redeem your points for stays at Disney Parks and Resorts — in other words, park tickets and on-property Disney hotels. You can also redeem them for Disney merchandise and Disney cruises.

But, what if you want to stay in a cheaper rental outside the park to save money on your Disney trip? What if you find a better deal on park tickets with UndercoverTourist.com? How about you decide to drive to the park to avoid airfare and wish you could just redeem your points for gas? What happens if you decide Disney is just too expensive and you want to go to a local theme park instead?

In any of those cases, too bad for you, because you don’t have those options with the co-branded Disney credit cards. These cards limit your redemption options to Disney stuff only with the exception of being able to redeem for airfare with the Premier version of the card.

For that reason, Disney credit cards are really only for people who love Disney and plan to spend a boatload of money staying in a Disney property and buying all the Disney merch. And even then, the Disney credit cards are really only for people who are bad at math.

Go to Disney, but Get These Cards Instead

Imagine you could get a better rate of return with a cash-back or travel credit card, plus the ability to spend your rewards however you want. Well, guess what — you can… with basically any other travel or rewards card.

The way other travel credit cards are set up makes it possible for you to earn a higher rate of rewards in many cases while also gaining the ability to redeem points for any vacation experience. Your new card may not have the Disney logo on the front, but who cares?

Let’s say you don’t want to pay an annual fee for your credit card. In that case, a card like the Chase Freedom® or Chase Freedom Unlimited® could work splendidly. Both cards come with no annual fee and rewards you can redeem for statement credits, any hotel, and more.


Highlights
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.99-25.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee


Highlights
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.99-25.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee

Now, let’s say you’re willing to pay an annual fee for a premier travel credit card. In that case, consider the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. This card doles out a huge signup bonus plus 2x miles on everything you buy. Better yet, you can redeem the miles for any travel expense you want, whether that’s a Disney property, an off-resort rental condo, flights, or something else.


Highlights
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that

Heck, maybe you should get a combination of cards to pay for your upcoming Disney trip. For example, flying to Disney World in Orlando is easy with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card (currently unavailable). This card lets you rack up a huge signup bonus at first then additional miles for every dollar you spend. Depending on where you live, you can sometimes find Southwest flights for as little as 15,000 miles round-trip. In that case, the signup bonus on this card could be worth up to three round-trip flights to Orlando and Disney World.

You could then pick up a smart cash-back card like the Chase Freedom® to pay for incidentals and the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card to cover any hotel or rental condo you wanted. Another option: You could also get the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express to cover your hotels. This card lets you redeem rewards for stays at a ton of Orlando resorts near the parks, such as Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort.

The bottom line: There are dozens of rewards cards you can use to cobble together a free or almost-free Disney trip, but you may need to explore a little to find the ideal combination for your needs.

The Bottom Line

If you’re someone who wants a Disney card with your favorite character or the Disney logo on the front at all costs, I have the perfect solution: Sign up for a better rewards card and slap a Mickey Mouse sticker on the front. Doing so will allow you to earn a better rate of rewards while providing you with the ability to redeem your points with a lot more flexibility over all.

Similar to the Starbucks Visa Card, the Disney cards are really just a gimmick and a status symbol for Disney lovers everywhere. If you want to earn real rewards, make sure to explore all the other card options out there. The best rewards cards may not have your favorite brand plastered on the front, but they will leave you better off in the end.

Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer and the author of Zero Down Your Debt. Johnson shares her obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel at ClubThrifty.com.

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