Late last night, the Doctor of Credit broke the news (citing two Reddit threads) that Chase’s cruises and tours department stopped booking Disney World packages as of Sept. 14. Considering this is one of the Miles to the Magic team’s favorite ways to buy Disney World tickets and book Disney hotels, we are a bit distraught!
Perhaps this is wishful thinking, but we still hold out hope that this is only temporary. We’ve put in an inquiry to our favorite Chase agent. While we anxiously wait for the reply, we’ve done some thinking about possible explanations for why Disney World packages currently cannot be booked through Chase’s cruises and tours department. We’ve also thought through what we know and used it to fuel our (perhaps fruitless) optimism.
This may be temporary due to the switch from Connexions to Expedia for the travel portal
On August 12, news broke that Chase was switching their travel portal provider from Connexions Loyalty to Expedia. Our very own Robert Dwyer wrote on Milenomics that he was cautiously optimistic about the change. So it’s very possible that as Chase updates the backend, the ability to book Disney packages is currently down.
We’ve read a lot of articles about the change from Connexions to Expedia. It’s obvious that Expedia will now power Chase’s online portal. What’s unclear to us is whether Expedia will take over bookings over the phone. Will those still be handled by Connexions? If that’s the case, does that mean Connexions agents will no longer handle Chase bookings at all?
Our favorite agent works for Connexions, which we know because her e-mail domain is cxloyalty.com. Can she no longer handle the cruise I booked with her? That doesn’t seem to make sense to me, Chase still needs front facing agents to handle phone bookings. I have a hunch Connexions still runs those phone bookings, otherwise someone should have contacted me to say my reservation was being transferred.
Chase is also doing maintenance on their website, maybe that’s affecting agents’ ability to book as well. Like I said, maybe this is wishful thinking, but losing the 1.5x uplift on Chase Ultimate Rewards for Disney would be such a big blow that I’m willing to indulge in some hopeful thinking. (Related reading: What is uplift?)
Expedia can book Disney discounts, Chase Freedom’s portal can book Disney discounts, why wouldn’t Chase Sapphire’s portal?
It sort of makes no sense (though lots of stuff that is true doesn’t make sense) for Expedia to be able to book a Disney hotel and ticket but not allow Chase to do so. We checked online last night, Expedia is offering the same price for a room at Coronado Springs next week ($160) as Disney is with its “Enchanted Room” offer. You can also book Magic Your Way tickets on Expedia for the same prices Disney is offering.
While we did run into some standard 3rd party inventory issues, we mostly found that the Chase Freedom portal, run by Expedia, offers the lowest price you can find on the Disney website. We have no reason to think the same won’t be true with the Chase Sapphire travel portal run by Expedia once it’s up and running.
I guess it’s possible that Chase has decided to specifically block Disney in its portal. But why would it? Shouldn’t everything we are able to book online at expedia.com match up with what we can book in Chase’s portal, since Expedia is running the back end? Again, I know that sometimes things don’t make common sense, but it would just be weird to me.
Currently, the Chase Freedom travel portal is definitely backed by Expedia. I could find Disney hotels on the portals, but only at rack rates. So I don’t think Chase has blocked Disney and I think hotels will show up once the backend is cleaned up. I called the Sapphire travel agents and confirmed that currently they are still using a different booking portal than the Freedom agents. I’m not too worried that we won’t be able to get the discounts that Disney offers on its own website, which the cruises and tours department used to handle. Since the Freedom travel portal does that online, we should be okay. If for some reason the Sapphire portal doesn’t offer Disney discounts, that would be a big loss.
We don’t think Chase loses more money with redemptions to Disney than elsewhere, so what’s the benefit in killing them off?
Chase obviously has been cutting down on people trying to game their rewards systems. They introduced the 5/24 rule so that nobody who has opened 5 or more new credit card accounts can get a new Chase card. They introduced a 48 month “cooling off” period for Chase sign up bonuses from the same card. They definitely don’t want people just gaming their system.
But forgive me if I’m not understanding how things work – how exactly would my redemption for a Disney World hotel or ticket at 1.5 cents per point (due to my Chase Sapphire Reserve) cost Chase more money than any other hotel at 1.5 cents per point? Or a plane ticket?
My guess for how things work – when you make a booking through Chase’s portals, they drain your points and then pay Disney, Marriott, United, or whoever your travel is with. My paying 10,000 points for a $150 flight on United (which they have to pay for) costs Chase as much as my paying 10,000 for a $150 hotel room at Disney. Doesn’t it?
So I don’t see any real logic in Chase shutting out Disney only. I also don’t see logic in Chase shutting out Disney offered discounts, although that’s what the Chase Freedom portal seems to indicate. Again, banks don’t necessarily operate according to a logic I understand, but I’m going to hold out hope.
A possibility: we’ll be able to book Disney hotels & tickets through the Chase portal, but no longer with cruises and tours
This would be a blow, but not a death knell. Poking around the Expedia site, you can definitely book Disney hotels (at Disney’s standard discounts) and also park tickets. We wouldn’t be surprised if you could do that through the Chase portal as well once it’s finally up and running smoothly. Doctor of Credit says tickets were showing in the Chase Freedom (but not Sapphire) portal. We confirmed this, and also confirmed that as of right now Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Ink portals are still running the old interface. That gives us hope that the portal still needs updating and will eventually show Disney tickets and hotels. Still, as we said above, if it only shows rack rate hotel prices that would be a pretty big loss.
But if Disney hotels and tickets show up in the Sapphire portals, then we still will be able to book at 1.25 and 1.5 cents per point respectively. This still would offer good savings on tickets at least. What we lose from not being able to book through cruises and tours potentially is the ability to add discounts from Disney or that we’ve gotten in the mail (which we’ve done). We also would no longer be able to add things like the dining plan and pay for those things with points.
That’s tough to lose, although being able to potentially book online at the best rate Disney has to offer on its own website might make up for that in part. We also find it hard to believe that a $450 annual fee credit card won’t have some sort of travel concierge, even if not at the cruises and tours department, to handle more complicated discounts, but that’s just speculation.
If we can no longer book Disney hotels and packages at all through Chase using a 1.25 or 1.5 cents per point uplift at all, that would be a huge blow to our Disney savings plans. If we can still book them with the uplift, but only at rack rates, that would be a big blow to the hotel redemption side. Still, through nothing but the power of blind hope, we choose to optimistically believe that this outage is only temporary and at a bare minimum we will be able to buy Disney tickets with our Preferred and Reserve Ultimate Rewards uplift. Time will tell – if you have any added information or datapoints, please let us know in the comments!