Here is the points hunter's strategy to save money for a trip to one of the Disney parks by using the right loyalty programs!
The points hunter's strategy for Disney
Disney’s theme parks in Florida and California attract many families. In order to have a “magical journey”, it is not uncommon to plan it more than two years in advance.
Audrey and I have 2 young children. After a first one-day experience at Disneyland Paris in 2018, we spent 3 days at Disneyland California visiting friends in the area at Halloween time.
We loved the experience in California, but we didn’t really prepare for it: we bought the tickets by taking advantage of the promotion reserved for Canadians – through the HSBC World Elite® Mastercard® (to save 2.5% on conversion fees), and we stayed in a Marriott Bonvoy hotel nearby with our points.
But we did not benefit from the famous Disney gift card trick, accessible with AIR MILES Reward Miles.
As of now, we are targeting a stay at Walt Disney World in Orlando in the next 2 years. And this time, we want to be ready, especially since our children will be older and will be able to enjoy more attractions.
Points programs for Disney
For Disney, I see 3 types of loyalty programs:
- The AIR MILES program: for entrance tickets and expenses in the park
- The Marriott Bonvoy program (and to a lesser extent Best Western Rewards): for hotels
- Travel point programs such as BMO Rewards, HSBC Rewards, Scotia Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards: for other expenses such as airline tickets, car rental or Airbnb.
I have already discussed in other articles the different strategies related to these programs. You can therefore refer to it:
Earn AIR MILES Reward Miles
First of all, AIR MILES. There are two ways to use your AIR MILES miles:
- DREAM: useful for airline tickets, the purchase of entrance tickets for parks, possibly hotels or car rentals.
- CASH: useful for the Disney gift cards purchased at Jean Coutu
Until the end of 2019, Audrey and I have been earning AIR MILES miles in our DREAM account (we share the same AIR MILES account) in order to save on airline tickets and buy our Disney tickets.
And we earned a lot: 24,564 miles to be exact, as AIR MILES reminded us at the end of the year!
In early 2019, I shared my earning strategy and why I was doing this. However, like any strategy, it has to be changed in mid-2019.
We decided to travel 5 months around the world, so we postponed our Disney plans. We have used many DREAM miles for other purposes, including flights within North America. Thus, we are protected in case of devaluation (the famous “Earn and Use” or “Earn & Burn” rule).
For 2020 and 2021, we have decided to earn CASH rewards.
Here is a strategy and related costs to get lots of AIR MILES miles. You can apply this strategy individually or as a couple. Just remember the following:
- to control your budget (and in particular to know your expenses in the coming months)
- do not buy unnecessarily
- to pay your credit cards on time
The best AIR MILES credit cards
The AIR MILES card strategy
Applying for AIR MILES credit cards will depend, among other things, on how much you can spend on these cards over the next 3 to 6 months.
For a family, it is usually possible to spend more than $1,500 per month on a credit card with groceries and recurring payments.
So I would recommend to apply first to:
- BMO® AIR MILES® World Elite®* Mastercard®*: $3,000 in purchases in 3 months (to earn 3,000 Welcome Bonus Miles)
- American Express® AIR MILES®* Platinum Credit Card: $1,500 in purchases in 3 months (to earn 2,000 Welcome Bonus Miles).
Here are the current offers:
Afterwards, you can progressively apply for other AIR MILES credit cards offered by BMO, such as:
- BMO® AIR MILES® MasterCard®
- BMO® AIR MILES® MasterCard® for Students
- BMO® IGA AIR MILES®† Mastercard®*
- Shell AIR MILES® Mastercard
- BMO® Sobeys AIR MILES® Mastercard®*
All these cards have no annual fee and require only $1,000 in purchases in 3 months. They are therefore ideal for completing a round of applications when you subscribe to other cards in this strategy.
Over the course of a year, a single person is therefore able to collect more than 10,000 AIR MILES miles quite easily through credit card applications and various AIR MILES events. Just have a look at all the experiences lived by milesopedia members in 2019!
By redeeming 75 miles for $10 at Jean Coutu – during the promotional period – 10,000 AIR MILES Bonus Miles are worth $1,333.
A couple can reach 20,000 miles by being strategic, which is an estimated $2,500 value.
Earn points for hotels
In order to stay for free in Marriott Bonvoy or Best Western hotels – nearby or in the parks – it takes points!
Marriott Bonvoy will be the points currency of choice, but Best Western Rewards points can be useful for stopover hotels (for example if you have to catch your flight in Plattsburgh)!
The best hotel credit cards
After that, you can apply for the Marriott Bonvoy™ Business American Express® Card and also earn 60,000 points after $5,000 in Card purchases.
Here are the current offers:
Over the course of a year, a single person is, therefore, able to earn more than 120,000 Marriott Bonvoy points and 20,000 Best Western Rewards points quite easily through credit cards application.
Enough to stay more than 5 nights near the parks.
A couple can reach 240,000 Marriott Bonvoy points and 40,000 Best Western Rewards points. The credit card points will entirely cover the accommodation at Disney World for less than $600!
Earn travel points
The best credit cards with travel points
Click on the card images for more information or to apply.
|70,000 points (+ $100 travel credit per year)||–||$149||Infos|
|Up to 45,000 points||$500 per month
for 12 months
|Up to 30,000 points||$3,000 in 3 months||$0
|Up to 40,000 points||$1,000 in 3 months||$139||Infos|
|20,000 points + buddy pass||–||$0
I would recommend that you first apply for:
- HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®: no purchase required and 70,000 points (or $350) after 6 months. And $100 travel credit each year (can be applied to Disney expenses). In addition, you won’t pay any currency conversion fees: handy for your purchases in U.S. parks!
- American Express Cobalt™ Card: $500 in purchases per month. This is the best card for earning points fast!
Here are the current offers:
Over the course of a year, a single person is therefore able to earn more than $1,000 in travel points.
This will substantially lower the cost of a trip to Disney!
A couple can reach $2,000! Take your different needs into consideration when choosing cards such as:
Earn points with Disney Gift Cards
Here’s a new technique made possible by the introduction in Canada of Disney gift cards worth up to $500. These cards have started to be seen at Metro and Super C in particular.
Therefore, it is recommended that you apply for the American Express Cobalt™ Card and purchase these new Disney gift cards at Metro or Super C to earn 5 points per dollar.
Consider a family of 4 whose Disney expenses (hotels, park tickets, food, etc.) would cost $6,000.
For one year, by purchasing a $500 Disney gift card every month, here’s what you could get:
|Month||$500 purchase||Monthly bonus||Cumulative total|
|1||2,500 points||2,500 points||5,000 points|
|2||2,500 points||2,500 points||10,000 points|
|3||2,500 points||2,500 points||15,000 points|
|4||2,500 points||2,500 points||20,000 points|
|5||2,500 points||2,500 points||25,000 points|
|6||2,500 points||2,500 points||30,000 points|
|7||2,500 points||2,500 points||35,000 points|
|8||2,500 points||2,500 points||40,000 points|
|9||2,500 points||2,500 points||45,000 points|
|10||2,500 points||2,500 points||50,000 points|
|11||2,500 points||2,500 points||55,000 points|
|12||2,500 points||2,500 points||60,000 points|
Over one year, this represents a value of $600! You get a 10% return on the $6,000 worth of Disney gift cards you buy!
And if you need more Disney gift cards, keep buying them at Metro and Super C with the American Express Cobalt™ Card for 5 Membership Rewards Points per dollar.
No matter what happens, a stay at Disney will be expensive. But with the right strategy, it is possible to substantially lower the cost of travel. The main thing is to go at your own pace and with your means!
Don’t hesitate to come and share YOUR accumulation strategy in the Facebook group!