You have probably seen Disney Gift Cards at your local grocery and drug store.
When planning a trip to Disney World, they can be an effective means to save on this magical trip.
Disney Gift Cards - How do they work?
Disney gift cards are prepaid cards that can be used in various ways:
- Any purchases at US Disney theme parks
- Purchases at North American Disney Stores
- Paying for a Disney Vacation or a Disney Cruise (and onboard purchases)
You can combine your Disney Gift Card balances onto a digital card on their website if you don’t want to manage a fat wallet or risk losing them.
The main pro of using them is to save on foreign exchange fees since you buy them with Canadian dollars and will be billed with the rate of the day, without any surcharge, for your US dollars spent.
Indeed, most Canadian credit cards add a 2.5% fee on top of the exchange rate on transactions made in foreign currency. There are a few exceptions, so if you are interested in subscribing to one of those credit cards that don’t charge it, here are the best:
Disney Gift Cards - The strategy
Travel hackers in our community used to collect them by redeeming AIR MILES Cash in the past. While that strategy is long over, there are still good reasons to obtain Disney gift cards, such as the savings you’ll get on foreign currency purchases.
But what if you already have a credit card without foreign exchange fees?
If you hold one of those credit cards, hoarding Disney gift cards might not make much sense because you are already avoiding the 2.5% conversion fees. In addition, you can also earn rewards on your purchases when you employ them to pay.
However, it all comes down to how you acquire your Disney gift cards.
Since Disney gift cards are sold at grocery stores, you can use a card with a strong return or point accelerator in that category.
Here are a few examples of credit cards that give high returns in that category.
|Credit Card||Rewards per dollar|
|American Express Cobalt® Card||5 Membership Rewards|
|BMO CashBack® World Elite®* Mastercard®*||5%|
|CIBC Dividend® Visa Infinite* Card||4%|
|Scotia Momentum® VISA Infinite* Card||4%|
The easiest way to illustrate this would be to take the BMO CashBack® World Elite®* Mastercard®* with its 5% return: you will obtain 5% in cash back on your Disney gift card purchase since it will code the same way as any food you buy at the grocery stores.
In addition, you will save 2.5% at Disney World, bringing your net savings to 7.5%.
If you use the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite* Card, you will save the same 2.5%, but you will only earn 1 or 2 Scene+ points per dollar during your time in the parks (depending on how your transaction is coded). You may get 2 Scene+ points for your restaurant purchases at Disney World, but you might not since it depends on the merchant code. Those points are worth 1 cent each, which means you are getting a 1% value in return.
|Credit Card||Rewards per dollar||FX Savings||Net Savings|
|BMO CashBack® World Elite®* Mastercard®*||5%||2.5%||7.5%|
|Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite* Card||1 Scene+ (1%)||2.5%||3.5%|
Taking the next step further with Disney gift cards: what if buying them can get you enough points for a free (or almost) flight to Orlando?
The American Express Cobalt® Card has a 5 Membership Rewards earned per dollar at grocery stores. That translates to a 5% return if you use Membership Rewards as cash back.
What we need to know is that those points are very versatile because you can redeem them as cash back where they have a fixed value (meaning, you can never go under a 5% return), but you can transfer them to many partner programs (airlines or hotel chains) where you can optimize their value.
For example, if you buy $4,000 worth of Disney gift cards with the American Express Cobalt® Card, you will earn 20,000 Membership Rewards ($4,000 x 5). That amount equals $200 in cash back or 20,000 Aeroplan points since the transfer ratio is 1:1.
20,000 Aeroplan points is a standard cost for a flight from Montreal to Orlando, and, as seen below, fares can drop lower since Air Canada’s flights are dynamically priced.
Google Flights list the same itinerary and dates for $661; if you subtract the $150 taxes you need to pay on the Aeroplan fare, your $4,000 worth of Disney gift card purchases gave you enough points to save you $511 (which translates to a 12% return). This kind of savings is significant for a family since airplane tickets are rising.
Disney Gift Cards - One step further
While we probably convinced you that buying Disney Gift Cards with the American Express Cobalt® Card is a good idea, if you never held that card, you are eligible for a generous welcome bonus!
For the first 12 months, the welcome bonus is distributed monthly. For example, for every $500 in purchases charged to your card during the month (whether in the 1X, 2X, 3X, or 5X category), you earn 2,500 Membership Rewards points.
It is best to shop in the 5X categories (groceries, restaurants) for the monthly welcome bonus:
- 2,500 points as a monthly welcome bonus
- 2,500 points for 5x category purchases
That is a 10% minimum return on your first $500 in Card purchases in 5x categories like groceries during the first year.
Here’s how to maximize your purchases in the 5x the points spending categories earning 60,000 points in your first year:
|1||$500||2,500 points||2,500 points||5,000 points|
|2||$500||2,500 points||2,500 points||5,000 points|
|3||$500||2 500 points||2 500 points||5 000 points|
|4||$500||2,500 points||2,500 points||5,000 points|
|5||$500||2,500 points||2,500 points||5,000 points|
|6||$500||2,500 points||2,500 points||5,000 points|
|7||$500||2,500 points||2,500 points||5,000 points|
|8||$500||2,500 points||2,500 points||5,000 points|
|9||$500||2,500 points||2,500 points||5,000 points|
|10||$500||2,500 points||2,500 points||5,000 points|
|11||$500||2,500 points||2,500 points||5,000 points|
|12||$500||2,500 points||2,500 points||5,000 points|
|Total||$6,000||30,000 points||30,000 points||60,000 points|
Earning 60,000 points against $6,000 in purchases in 12 months is a 10% minimum return if you use yours as cashback (a $600 value) or 60,000 Aeroplan points.
With airfares to Orlando averaging around 20,000 Aeroplan points, as I explained earlier, you could get up to 3 tickets for your family trip to Orlando with the signup bonus from the American Express Cobalt® Card!
You don’t even have to buy 6,000$ worth of Disney gift cards to unlock the points if you only need a third of that for your holiday; your standard groceries can do the trick, especially if you have a large household.
After speaking of buying Disney gift cards at 5X the points, think about all the other gift cards you can find at your groceries to earn 5X on many usual expenses such as fuel, Amazon or Netflix!
Disney gift cards are a great way to save on foreign exchange fees when your credit card charges for them, and even then, your net savings could be even better if you acquire them with the right credit card at the right place.
In addition, opting for flexible transferable rewards instead of cash back opens the door to even more savings, as you can get free flights or accommodation with this strategy.
Ready to plan your trip to Disney? Make sure to read our guides to get the most out of this experience :