Planning Value and Flexibility for a Dying Disney World Points Redemption
One of my favorite redemption types in recent years has been for free Disney World vacations. I booked through Chase using Ultimate Rewards until that option ended a few years ago. Since then, my points bookings for Disney World have heavily focused on Citi ThankYou points. However, that high value deal is dying soon. I’m now currently hoarding ThankYou points with plans to burn them all in the new year. I’ll briefly explain how we got here before jumping into my strategy for this high value Disney World points redemption ending soon.
How We Got Here
Earlier in the year, Citi announced their enhancements to the Premier card. Citi bumped up some earning rates (3x at grocery being my favorite), but they also made some unwelcome changes. The worst news Citi announced was the removal of the 25% extra point value for the Premier when booking via the Citi travel portal. By extension, this also affects the Cruise and Tours Department, which is how I easily booked Disney trips with ThankYou points at 25% extra value. This negative change goes into effect on April 10, 2021.
Once Citi announced this change, I planned to hoard as many ThankYou points as I could before redeeming for Disney World redemptions next year. However, I was pleasantly surprised when another door opened for a more flexible Disney redemption at a comparable rate. Thanks to Shop Your Way, I effectively redeemed ThankYou points for unrestricted Disney travel like this:
ThankYou Points –> Shop Your Way Points –> Walmart Gift Cards –> Discounted Disney Gift Cards at Sam’s Club
As quickly and heavily that I took advantage of this capability, it seemingly died from several different angles. First Walmart gift cards quit working to purchase third party gift cards, then Walmart gift cards went missing from Shop Your Way, and finally, ThankYou to Shop Your Way redemptions devalued.
Back to Reality
I’m now back to planning direct redemptions with Citi for Disney World travel. But considering the current pandemic and the upcoming end to the Premier benefit, what’s the best way to do so?
Two priorities come first with my redemption plan. First, I want to earn and use as many ThankYou points with the extra 25% Premier value as possible by April 10, 2021 . Second, I want to make redemptions that have the most flexibility possible moving forward.
Here are the simple spend steps I’m taking:
- Consistently maximizing spend on Citi Premier in the 3x grocery stores category.
- Strategically spending on Citi Double Cash for an effective 2x ThankYou points per dollar.
- Continuing with my 2020 Citi Rewards+ spend strategy on small purchases.
This is where things get more complicated. If I wanted a simple redemption and didn’t care about flexibility, I would book our entire late August 2021 trip (resort and tickets) with ThankYou points. But I’m not. Why not? Two reasons:
- The pandemic. We need to plan well in advance for this trip, but we simply don’t know if we will go, depending on the status of the pandemic.
- Tricky weather. We’ve taken a trip to Disney World in hurricane season before, and changes (or needing to cancel) may inevitably occur.
Since flexibility is key, by early April, I’m planning to redeem all of our ThankYou points on Disney World tickets for multiple trips. I will book our resort with Disney gift cards I primarily obtained via the Shop Your Way method I described above. I’m basically choosing the flexibility of park tickets over resort bookings with ThankYou points.
Why I’m Choosing Tickets Over Resorts with Points
First off, since we can’t say we are 100% positive we will be taking the late August 2021 trip, there would be a chance we would need to cancel a resort reservation just before the planned vacation. If I make the reservation with ThankYou points, the points go back to my ThankYou account if I cancel. But at that point, the Premier devaluation would have already occurred! I would miss out on using those refunded points with the 25% extra value. No, thanks!
Okay, how about tickets? I’ve discovered Disney World tickets are much more flexible than I had previously given them credit for. Thanks to Disney expert Joe Cheung for confirming some of this info. Here are the major points:
- Disney World tickets do not expire. While a traveler can obtain tickets priced for specific dates, the dates can be changed indefinitely.
- If one needs to change dates, the cash value of that ticket can be applied to the future date’s ticket. If the ticket for the new dates is more expensive, the individual is required to pay the difference. But if the new dates are cheaper, the individual isn’t entitled to a refund of the difference.
- Unused tickets are transferrable. If no one has entered the park on a given ticket, the ticket can be changed to another individual in advance.
Therefore, we plan to redeem ThankYou points tickets for not only our upcoming August trip, but also tickets for future trips which we don’t even have firm dates for yet. Technically, we will have to book specific dates for these tickets, but with the knowledge I can later call Disney to change to other dates. In doing so, I can book all of these tickets with Citi’s Cruise and Tours Department by early April with the 25% extra ThankYou point value while maintaining flexibility to change dates and individuals using them.
I’d also like to remind everyone that a travel agent can be a great help for those of you who don’t like to plan as much as me! Joe Cheung describes that here, and you can also check out his Disney Deciphered podcast.
Dying Disney World Points Redemption – Conclusion
That’s how I’m planning to maintain value and flexibility when booking Disney World with ThankYou points, and you can, too! Of course, my strategy may not apply for those not interested in committing to multiple Disney World trips in the future. Regardless, it’s worth considering if you foresee a need for several Disney tickets in the future and have no bigger ThankYou point redemptions planned. Have you redeemed ThankYou points for Disney travel? How was your redemption experience?