Disney For Free? It’s Still Possible! Here’s What Still Works
Fans of Disney World, Disneyland, and Disney Cruises keep taking hits, and one recent blow had nothing to do with the pandemic. Citi delivered on their promise to eliminate the Premier’s extra 25% ThankYou point value for a variety of travel-related redemptions, including Disney bookings. One of my favorite free Disney plays dried up last year, as well. These changes aren’t surprising – similar loopholes have been closing for years. Getting high, or even acceptable, value for any Disney redemption is increasingly challenging. But options still exist. Here are a few great ways you can still obtain Disney for free.
Credit Card Plays
A number of credit card options exist which can contribute to a free Disney vacation or cruise.
Chase’s Disney Cards
First up are obviously the Disney credit cards offered by Chase. For a $49 annual fee, Disney Premier cardholders earn $300 after $1k spend within the first three months of membership. The card earns 2% back in Disney rewards dollars on grocery, gas, dining, and Disney locations (1% everywhere else). The no annual fee Disney card provides a $150 welcome offer on $500 spend in the same timeframe. Also, the no fee card earns 1% in Disney rewards dollars on all spend. Of course, many can do better with other Chase products, but Disney enthusiasts may also benefit from the other perks of these Disney cards.
Cards Which “Erase” Travel Expenses
Several cards available allow holders to erase travel expenses they have charged, including Disney expenses. I’ve done so with the PNC Premier Traveler Visa card. By using this card at the Grand Floridian last year, I simply applied points to effectively cover the travel charge. I’ve gotten a kick from zeroing out travel charges, especially Disney-related ones! This PNC card currently offers a cash-equivalent offer of $300 after $3k spend in the first three billing cycles. The card also effectively earns 2% in rewards on all spend. It’s remarkably similar to the Barclays Arrival+ card (currently unavailable for new applications). To those of you who hold that card, though, it remains a great pick for Disney redemptions!
Amex Offers and Credits
Several of my other Disney plays involve obtaining free Disney gift cards. I enjoy the broad flexibility of Disney gift cards – they can be used for online and in-person Disney shopping as well as for direct Disney resort, park, and cruise charges. For years, I’ve enjoyed obtaining discounted and (sometimes) free Disney gift cards via Amex Offers and credits. We can easily leverage these offers for free Disney money thanks to the wide availability of Disney gift cards at a variety of retailers – grocery, home improvement, and big box stores are just a few options.
Certain personal Amex Platinum cardholders currently have a Bestbuy.com offer for $50 back on a $50 purchase, up to two transactions. I bought a $50 physical Disney gift card twice, and I triggered the credit each time. Figuring in my wife’s credit on her Platinum card, that’s $200 in free Disney! This is just one example, but over time you can accrue significant amounts of Disney gift cards through Amex’s generous rollouts of offers and credits. And Disney has a handy site for merging gift card balances.
Cash Back Credit Cards, Especially via Chase’s Pay Yourself Back
This one may seem obvious, but it goes a step deeper. Yes, you can save and set aside your rewards from cash back credit cards (Citi Double Cash, Discover it Miles, etc) for a future Disney trip. But I want to highlight Chase’s Pay Yourself Back feature from a different angle. Basically, via Pay Yourself Back, Chase has improved the use of their Ultimate Rewards currency for Disney travel compared to before. Here’s how.
A few years ago when the Chase Sapphire Reserve was unveiled, the ability to use Ultimate Rewards with 50% more value via Chase travel bookings was huge. Indeed, I used this method to book a ten day trip including all Disney tickets and a stay at the Contemporary Resort. It felt great redeeming that way, and we had a blast. But about a year later, that option disappeared for Chase travel bookings.
Fast forward to almost a year ago when Chase introduced Pay Yourself Back. Reserve cardholders can get 50% more value from their points while erasing a variety of everyday expenses, including grocery, home improvement, and dining charges. (Sapphire Preferred cardholders could do the same, but for 25% extra value.) For most, if not all, consumers, these categories are much wider than how Reserve cardholders previously obtained the similar value via Chase travel bookings. By simply using Pay Yourself Back, cardholders can indirectly save for a “free” Disney vacation at an equally high redemption rate. Even better, cardholders can make their own direct, unrestricted Disney plans using the cash rewards from Pay Yourself Back.
The Shopkick app (Mark’s review) is an easy way to pick up free Disney cash. I earn points, or “kicks”, with store walk-ins, scans, and purchases (with a linked card or by submitting a receipt photo). Payouts are provided in the form of gift cards, including Disney and other useful retailers such as Walmart, Target, and Amazon. Payouts start as low as a $2 gift card. Points are easy to earn, and I obtain a simple $10 or so in Disney gift cards on a monthly basis. Those who actively submit receipts can earn much more than I do. Over time, this Shopkick haul adds up.
Transferring Loyalty Currencies
Enthusiasts in a variety of airline, hotel, and rail loyalty programs can redeem those currencies for free Disney gift cards. In most cases, these redemptions aren’t at the most favorable rates. Nonetheless, even at a low valuation, if someone needs more Disney and less Radisson currency (for example), it may be worth considering.
Disney Movie Insiders
Previously known as Disney Movie Rewards, Insiders is seemingly on life support but still hanging on. Members earn points to redeem for Disney gift cards. How? By seeing Disney movies in theaters (not happening lately, obviously) or by submitting codes from Disney movie disc packages. This is a relatively low volume play, but I would call it equally low hanging fruit for Disney movie fans out there. If you own Disney movies, have never joined, or are falling behind on entering codes, do this now! A bit of spring cleaning and code entering can result in a solid amount of free Disney money.
(Almost) Disney Properties for Free
We love staying at Disney-operated resorts. But if you’re looking for free Disney and don’t have the above options, consider using hotel points for properties that are “almost” Disney. For instance, in normal times, certain points-compatible hotels in the Disney Springs area provide substantial Disney World perks like earlier access to Fast Pass+ reservations. Some have character dining similar to Disney World. Other locations are just as, or maybe more, convenient to certain Disney parks. While I’ll probably never stay at the Swan or Dolphin (I have abstained from Marriott for years), I know many love the location for EPCOT. Most importantly, non-Disney hotel brands provide many a more user-friendly option for free lodging.
Not Free, But Substantial Discounts
While not free, I’d like to underscore the wide opportunities to obtain discounted Disney gift cards. We’ve written about it plenty here at Miles to Memories – I did here, and Shawn did there. To maximize your Disney gift card discounts, focus on easy stacking opportunities. For instance, when the Chase Freedom quarterly bonus category is grocery, buy Disney gift cards there while maxing out the store’s fuel rewards program. Or buy Disney gift cards at Sam’s discounted prices during the Freedom’s wholesale bonus timeframe. Similar to the free Amex credits I mentioned earlier, many banks, including Chase, Citi, and Amex, include offers you can load to your respective cards and use for Disney gift cards, as well. Options here are seemingly endless.
Disney For Free – Conclusion
This list of Disney for free strategies is certainly not all-inclusive. That’s a good thing. So many other options exist for free or discounted Disney vacations. It just takes a bit of creativity to figure out the plays. For weirdos like me, that’s just as fun as actually taking the trip! So I’ll keep hunting, as I’m sure many of you are already doing. I’m a huge Disney World fan, and the journey to free is a worthy one. What other strategies do you use for free or discounted Disney trips?