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Save over $2000 on your Disney World vacation: Step by Step Guide

Toy Story Mania

Here at Miles to the Magic, we aim to help you save money on your Disney World vacation. One way to do this is via the power of credit card sign up bonuses. With the loss of Chase as a Disney travel partner, knowing how to leverage sign up bonuses for savings on your Disney vacation becomes even more important. We like to keep things simple for beginners, so I thought I’d put together a simple guide for how you can save over $2000 on your next Disney vacation.

The goal of this guide is to keep things simple for beginners, but expect more advanced content on Miles to the Magic as time goes on!

Disney World Cinderella Castle
Disney magic is closer than you think! (Photo Credit | Disney Parks)

Some things you need to know before you start the guide:

  1. You shouldn’t be signing up for credit cards to earn sign up bonuses if you can’t afford to pay off your balances in full each month OR if you can’t commit to doing so. The overall damage to your family’s financial picture outweighs any savings you might have on your vacation.
  2. This guide assumes a typical two partner family, though you can of course only do “half”.
  3. The guide also assumes that your family can spend (and pay off!) around $1500-$2000/month on your credit card. The average American family spends about $3000/month (after you subtract out housing costs which usually cannot be paid with a credit card). Source: I did some math using the numbers in this article.
  4. I’ve made the timeline over the course of a year, but if you can spend more and want to go to Disney sooner, you can always compress the timeline.

How to save money on your Disney World vacation (over $2000) with four credit card sign ups

The basic concept of this plan is simple. If you have a year to plan your Disney World vacation (fairly typical), you can use the power of four credit card sign up bonuses to save you and your family over $2000. We’ve chosen the simplest cards with the simplest redemptions, so this should be attainable by most.

As I said above, we’re assuming you can spend $1500/month on your credit card and pay it off. If you can spend more, you can pull off this plan in less than a year. If you spend less (which is great!), we have some ideas for how you can get to that level of spending for the purposes of the plan. Let’s take a look at how to save over $2000 on your Disney World vacation.

1. Partner 1 applies for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus (Month 1)

The first thing your family should do is apply for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus. Currently, the card comes with a 60,000 mile (point) bonus after you spend $5000 in the first 90 days. The card comes with an $89 annual fee that is waived for the first year of card membership. You earn 2 arrival miles (points) per dollar spent on all purchases.

Assuming you’re spending $1500-$2000 per month (and paying it off!), you should be able to complete the minimum spending on time.

After you’ve spent the $5000, you will have 70,000 Arrival miles to use (including the 10,000 miles you get from the $5000 in purchases). You can use Arrival miles for statement credits for travel purchases at a rate of one cent per miles. That means the sign up bonus is worth $700 towards your Disney vacation.

Note that buying tickets from Disney directly does not code as a travel purchase. However, one of our favorite ticket brokers, Undercover Tourist, DOES code as travel and you’ll save a couple bucks using them.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus bonus
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus is a great travel rewards credit card for beginners

2. Partner 2 applies for Citi Thank You Premier (Month 3-4)

Currently, the Citi Thank You Premier card is offering 50,000 Thank You points for $4000 in spending in the first three months of card membership. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year.

Again, assuming $1500-$2000 per month in spending, you should have no problem spending $4000 in three months. You can even overlap with Card 1 if you’d like.

When you have the Citi Thank You Premier card, 1 point is worth 1.25 cents towards travel. This goes for flights, hotels, and even Disney World tickets which you can buy through the cruises and tours department. So your 54,000 points (including the $4000 spent) are worth another $675 towards your Disney trip.

Citi Thank You Premier bonus
Currently, the Citi Thank You Premier is one of the best travel rewards cards for Disney vacations

3. Partners apply for the other card, staggered if necessary (Months 6-9)

After you’ve met the minimum spending for the first two cards, you and your partner can apply for the card you HAVEN’T applied for yet. So if I applied for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus first, I can now apply for the Citi Thank You Premier. My wife can do the opposite. In reality, you can apply for the four cards in any order you like, just make sure the same person doesn’t apply for the same card twice.

Note on authorized users, my wife and I generally don’t add each other as authorized users due to Chase’s 5/24 rule. No need to go into that here, but it’s important to note that even if I add my wife as an authorized user on my credit card, she’s still eligible to apply for the card herself. So two partners can get four cards no matter what.

After all is said and done, at the end of the day you’ll have 140,000 Arrival miles (worth $1400) and 108,000 Thank You points (worth $1350). Time to redeem them for our Disney World vacation!

4. Redeem your miles for your Disney World vacation

Now for the fun stuff. Like I said above, you can use your Barclaycard Arrival miles to pay for your tickets. An average family of four likely pays around $1600 for a five day ticket. You can buy those through Undercover Tourist and pay with your Barclaycard Arrival Plus then redeem your 140,000 miles as a $1400 statement credit. This effectively reduces the cost of your tickets to $200. (You even get 5% of your Arrival miles back as a rebate).

The simplest way to use your Citi Thank You points for your Disney vacation is to use Citi’s online booking portal. Log in to your Citi account, go to Thank You rewards, and click on Travel=>hotels. You can pay for your on site Disney hotel with points at a rate of 1.25 cents per point. Type in “Disney” in filters after the results show up and you should be able to find Disney’s on site offerings.

Toy Story Mania
Enjoy the magic while saving money using miles (Photo Credit | Matt Stroshane, wdwnews.com)

If you can’t find Disney hotels on Citi’s online portal, you can also call the number on the back of your card, ask to redeem your points for travel, and ask for the cruises and tours desk. They should be able to book any hotel you can see available on Disney’s website with your points at the rate of 1.25 cents per point.

We’ll delve into more creative options to using Thank You points in future posts, but for now let’s keep it simple. Everyone needs to buy tickets and everyone needs a hotel (Disney or otherwise), so this is a simple way to cash out your hard earned points.

5. Don’t forget you can spend towards your vacation and sign up bonus at the same time

One thing to remember, especially if your vacation is coming up soon, is that you can spend towards your vacation to help earn your sign up bonus!

Let’s take the Barclaycard Arrival Plus as an example. When you are completing your second card bonus, you can use the Arrival Plus to buy tickets from Undercover Tourist before you finish your minimum spending. After you receive your 60,000 bonus points, you can redeem those points as a statement credit for the tickets you bought.

So if you don’t want to go beyond your budget to meet the minimum spending (and we don’t recommend that you do), you can pay for your vacation purchases in advance and then redeem your miles against them later. Note, this only works for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus. For the Citi Thank You card, you need to earn the points first before you redeem them.

Summary

This simple guide should be able to help even beginners in the miles and points game start saving money towards their Disney vacation. The key is to make sure you pay off your balance in full every month. After that you can use the rewards to offset the cost of your vacation!

Look for more advanced techniques as Miles to the Magic continues to grow. If you don’t want to miss any of the magic, please subscribe below. Any questions or comments? Great ideas for how to save on Disney using miles and points? Comment below or e-mail us at milestothemagic@gmail.com!

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8 Comments

  1. Pingback: Using credit card sign up bonuses for Disney vacations - Miles to the Magic

  2. Kim Kimbrell

    What is your opinion of using credit card rewards to use the cash redemption and buy a package during the free dining periods? Do you think that the savings of using reward miles to buy discounted tickets/hotel reservation when bought through Undercover Tourist and a credit card portal outweighs buying a package at rack rate during free dining promotion dates? I know that using the miles for travel goes farther than a cash redemption, but when I crunch the numbers for food costs (We are a family of 5 with older children so the food costs for us would be around $1500 out of pocket) I think free dining would save us the greatest amount. Am I missing something ? thanks!

    • admin

      I think if you can’t get any sort of uplift (like 1.25 cents per point or something), this definitely could be something that saves money. It sounds like you’ve done the math for your family and we generally believe take the trips and make the redemptions that make sense for your vacation. If your kids eat a ton, I think free dining definitely could make sense. It basically never makes sense for my family of five because the oldest is 5 and they eat nothing!

      If you want to get very complicated, you can always do a mix of both. Cash out points as cash on one card to pay for the majority of your free dining, use points on another card to save with the tickets at Undercover Tourist. Personally, once I’ve saved in like 2 or 3 areas, I generally stop because I’d go crazy thinking about it. That’s why the goal of this post was to make things as simple as possible, but there are definitely a lot of options. But it sounds like you’ve thought things through.

      Thanks for reading and let us know if you have any other questions or scenarios for us to digest.

      P.S. – I heard a rumor that free dining might go away for good after Star Wars Land opens 🙁

  3. Kim Kimbrell

    Thanks for the quick reply! and the tip about free dining. That is sad, but good to know with planning. Any idea if fall 2019 season would potentially still include free dining, or are you saying that this year would be the last? I know they say it’s never a “guarantee.” Thank you for the great site–lots of awesome info on here 🙂

  4. admin

    Thanks for the kind words. Since Star Wars probably won’t until be AFTER Fall 2019, most people think it will still be around for one last year. Cross those fingers!

  5. Kim

    So the points/miles on one partner’s card can be transferred to the other partner’s card for these 2 cards? I thought at least the Barclays did not allow transfers? thanks!

    • Joe Cheung

      For Citi Thank You points, you can transfer up to 100,000 points per year between people. For Barclays, you’re correct, you can’t transfer, but you can pay for your spouse’s tickets/vice versa. You just need to do a little bit of planning to make it work. Feel free to e-mail me asthejoeflies@gmail.com if you want to get into brass tacks! (We don’t check the site e-mail regularly yet :P)

  6. Pingback: How to use Happy cards for Disney gift card discounts - Guide - Miles to the Magic

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