The Best Disney Credit Card Isn’t a Disney Credit Card at All

Several other credit cards will get you better value on a Disney trip than co-branded Disney cards.
Jan 13, 2022

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A trip to Disney World or Disneyland can easily be as expensive as it is magical. Happily, credit card perks can make it significantly cheaper. But here’s something that might seem counterintuitive: The smartest way to pay for your next Disney trip is typically not with a Disney-branded credit card.

Whether you’re seeking to earn travel rewards points now that can help pay for your Disney trip, or you want VIP benefits that will get you closer to royal status while traveling, credit cards can help you get there. Alas, the Disney's Premier Visa® Card by Chase is probably not one of those.

Here are the top credit cards to help fund a Disney vacation — and why none of the available Disney credit cards is a very savvy choice.

Problems with the Disney credit cards

Disney's Premier Visa® Card

For starters, the Disney's Premier Visa® Card by Chase has a $49 annual fee. It offers a welcome bonus remitted as a $300 statement credit for cardholders who make purchases totaling $1000 or more during the first 3 months from account opening.

While paying an annual fee for a credit card can certainly make sense if the benefits outweigh the fee, that’s hardly the case here. Even if you break even on the annual fee, there’s a missed opportunity cost in not using another, better card.

Here are some reasons why this card is not very good:

  • Rewards are middling. The Disney's Premier Visa® Card earns 2% in Disney Rewards Dollars on purchases at grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and most Disney locations. Everything else earns 1% back. That could be a fine rewards rate for a no-annual-fee card, but that’s pretty low considering the card has an annual fee, plus few other rewards to boot.

  • Redeeming Disney credit card points is a hassle. Rather than earning cash back on the card, you get Disney Rewards Dollars, which can only be used on Disney-related items. Eligible redemptions include shopping at the Disney Store, buying theme park tickets directly from Disney, purchasing Disney movie tickets at AMC theaters, paying for most merchandise or food in the parks, or booking Disney hotel rooms. You can also redeem them for a statement credit toward airline travel, though it’s not automatic; you have to log in to your Chase account within 60 days of purchasing your tickets and manually opt to pay yourself back (and you need to redeem a minimum of at least 50 Rewards Dollars).

  • Rewards expire. If you’re trying to use your rewards to save for a Disney trip, here’s another wrench: Disney Rewards Dollars in your account expire five years from the date they’re posted, so don’t plan on saving them for too long.

  • The card’s other perks are ho-hum. Other perks include things like exclusive in-park photo ops. There is a 0% promotional APR for 6 months on select Disney vacation packages, but if you need to finance your trip, you’re probably still better off with a different 0% APR credit card with a longer promotional APR period. Expect a 15.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers after.

The only real reason to hold the Disney's Premier Visa® Card is the perks it offers once on the property at Disney parks. You’ll get 10% off at some restaurants in U.S. Disney parks and on the Disney Cruise Line ships, as well as on certain merchandise purchases of $50 or more.

But the discounts don’t necessarily apply to all the shops and restaurants you want to spend money at as many of the most popular places — such as the outdoor vendors (like balloon vendors) and niche shops (like Walt Disney World’s Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique) — are excluded.

Benefits of card ownership include 10% off purchases of $50 or more at certain stores, including the WEB Suppliers shop in Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, California. Photo courtesy of Christian Thompson/Disneyland Resort

The Disney Rewards® Visa® Card

There’s also the Disney Rewards® Visa® Card, which is significantly easier to justify given its $0 annual fee. The card's welcome bonus does immediately put you in the green: Get a $150 statement credit after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

However, the card has even fewer perks. You’ll earn just 1% in Disney Rewards Dollars on all purchases.

This rate is better than nothing, but plenty of other no-annual-fee credit cards offer higher earnings rates — and are often doled out as actual cash back.

This card also offers the 10% off select merchandise purchases of $50 or more at some stores within U.S. Disney theme parks and through Disney’s online site. Annoyingly, the discount doesn’t apply to theme park admission or some of the brand's most popular (and expensive) stores, like Savi's Workshop in the Star Wars-themed section of the park. Expect to pay the full, $219.99 price tag for a lightsaber.

Better travel cards for a Disney vacation

The Disney-branded credit cards aren’t as magical as they could be. Here are better credit cards for a Disney vacation.

Chase Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card
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Annual fee: $550

Intro offer: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Rewards rate on Disney-relevant bonus categories:

  • 5x points on flights purchased through Chase.

  • 10x points on hotels and car rentals purchased through Chase.

  • 3x points on travel and dining.

  • When it’s time to redeem, your points are worth 50% more when redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, making 50,000 points worth $750 toward travel.

  • Priority Pass Select membership.

  • $300 annual travel credit.

  • Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption Insurance.

  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit.

What makes this card great for a Disney trip? For starters, that $300 travel credit should go a long way to help justify the Chase Sapphire Reserve® annual fee. You’ll want to use this card to pay for most of your travel expenses for two reasons.

It has among the highest earning rates you’ll find in categories where you’re most likely to spend money while traveling, such as restaurants, hotels, cruises, airlines and taxis. Sure, a Dole Whip is expensive, but you can use the points you earn from your vacation snack budget to help fund a future trip to Disney or elsewhere.

Then, Chase offers some of the best travel insurance coverage of any credit card. As long as you pay for your trip with the card, your eligible expenses may be reimbursed if your trip is canceled or interrupted due to a covered reason.

Other benefits include Priority Pass Select membership, which gets you into more than 1,300 airport lounges worldwide. Orlando International Airport has two Priority Pass lounges. A TSA PreCheck fee credit can help you breeze through security faster than everyone else.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
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Annual fee: $95

Intro offer:  Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Rewards rate on Disney-relevant bonus categories:

  • 5x points on travel purchased through Chase.

  • 3x points on dining.

  • 2x points on all other travel purchases.

  • When it’s time to redeem, your points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, making 60,000 points worth $750 toward travel.

  • Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption Insurance.

This is the little sibling of the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, and it offers similar, albeit slightly fewer, perks. The rewards on categories where you’re likely to have especially high spending while at Disney — dining and travel — are high, though slightly less than what you’ll get on the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

This card also has excellent travel insurance coverage, making it likely that you can get eligible expenses paid for with this card covered should your trip be canceled or interrupted due to a covered reason.

American Express Platinum Credit Card
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Annual fee: $695. Terms apply.

Intro offer: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.

Rewards rate on Disney-relevant bonus categories:

  • 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel, on up to $500,000 per calendar year.

  • 5x points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.

Terms apply.

  • Up to $200 in Uber Cash annually, doled out up to $15 per month (up to a total of $35 in December).

  • Up to $200 Airline Fee Credit annually when incidental travel fees on one selected airline are charged to your card. Enrollment required.

  • Up to $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your card.

  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit.

  • Up to $179 back per year on Clear membership when you use your card.

  • Access to more than 1,300 airport lounges through The American Express Global Lounge Collection.

  • Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status and Hilton Honors Gold Status. Enrollment required.

  • Trip delay and cancellation insurance.

Terms apply.

Sure, the giant annual fee can be more overwhelming than a jumbo turkey leg, but the statement credits can more than make up for it.

You’ll accrue big points for hotel and airfare spending. You’ll not only get automatic elite status in the Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors programs (both of which have plenty of hotel options near both Disney World and Disneyland), but by booking through AmEx Travel you’ll unlock additional perks such as complimentary breakfast and daily credits at some properties. Enrollment is required for the elite status with Marriott and Hilton. Plus, you can knock $200 off your room bill thanks to annual statement credits when you book either Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection properties through AmEx Travel. Terms apply.

In the airport, not only will you speed through security should you get approved for TSA PreCheck, but you can breeze through even faster through Clear, which is available at both Orlando International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport. Both application fees are covered through a statement credit when paid for with your card. Terms apply.

If you check bags or purchase in-flight refreshments, you’ll receive up to $200 annually in Airline Fee Credit for eligible incidental charges on one eligible airline of your choice (enrollment required). And if you don’t want to wait for Disney buses or your hotel shuttle, you can offset the cost of an Uber with the up to $15 in monthly Uber credits most months (or up to $35 in total in December). Terms apply.

Better airline credit cards for a Disney vacation

If you want to use your Disney trip as an opportunity to dip your toes into the world of airline credit cards, consider these smart options.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
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Annual fee: $149

Intro offer:  Earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Rewards rate on Disney-relevant bonus categories:

  • 3x points on Southwest Airlines purchases.

  • 2x points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare.

  • 2x points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners.

  • 7,500 anniversary points each year.

  • $75 Southwest annual travel credit each year.

  • Four Upgraded Boardings every year when available.

  • 25% back on in-flight purchases.

If you’re flying to a U.S. Disney park on either coast, there’s a good chance you’ll fly Southwest. The budget carrier has a huge presence at Orlando International Airport in Florida, as well as the two airports nearest to Disneyland in Anaheim: John Wayne Airport in Orange County and Long Beach Airport.

Those four upgraded boardings could become useful to ensure you get a spot in the A boarding group — and that you snag the ideal seat before Family Boarding.

You’ll also earn travel credits and points to cover the cost of flights. Not to mention, you might be lucky enough to fly in the decked out, iridescent Southwest Airlines aircraft designed to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of Walt Disney World Resort.

Better hotel credit cards for a Disney vacation

Hotels can be one of the biggest expenses of any vacation. Here are the cards to consider if you want to book your Disney hotels like a points-savvy pro.

Citibank ThankYou Premier Credit Card
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Annual fee: $95

Intro offer:  Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

Rewards rate on Disney-relevant bonus categories:

  • 3 ThankYou Points per $1 spent at restaurants, gas stations, hotels and air travel.

  • Receive $100 off a single hotel stay booked through thankyou.com of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees), once per calendar year.

  • No foreign transaction fees.

  • Points don’t expire.

Few travel credit cards allow you to use points to book Disney’s own properties, which is why Citi is a gem. The Citi ThankYou rewards program typically has Disney resorts available for booking, which is a big win for vacationers who specifically want to stay at a Disney hotel on points.

When you book your travel through Citi funded by ThankYou points, your points are worth 1 cent apiece. Though Disney hotels are expensive, the card’s sign-up bonus generally amounts to cover a night or two.

If you’re paying cash, there’s another reason to use your Citi Premier® Card as you’ll get $100 off one stay a year as long as the total is $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees.

The cost to book on points is usually tied to cash rates, so this is typically a good option if you’re traveling to Disney during the off-season.

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card
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Annual fee: $95

Intro offer:  Earn 3 Free Nights (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after qualifying purchases + 10X total points on eligible purchases in select categories.

Rewards rate on Disney-relevant bonus categories:

  • Up to 17 total points per $1 spent at Marriott (6 points for every $1 spent at over 7,000 hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy with your card, up to 10 points for being a Marriott Bonvoy member and up to 1 point with Silver Elite Status — a benefit of being a Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card member).

  • Earn a Free Night Award every year after your account anniversary, valid for a one-night hotel stay worth up to 35,000 points (though you’ll owe resort fees at certain hotels).

  • Automatic Silver Elite status.

  • No foreign transaction fees.

For every five consecutive nights you stay at a Marriott property that’s paid for with Marriott Bonvoy points, you’ll receive the lowest point-value night free. Especially if you’re staying at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, it’s perfectly reasonable to count on staying five nights. That free night can take a decent chunk out of your hotel budget.

At Walt Disney World: There are three hotels on Walt Disney World property that are not owned or operated by Disney: the Walt Disney World Dolphin, the Walt Disney World Swan and the Walt Disney World Swan Reserve. Good news for Bonvoy members: All three are run by Marriott.

These three hotels are all located within walking distance of both Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios. If you want to save your energy for walking around the theme parks — or perhaps you just want to get to the other theme parks — there’s also complimentary bus transportation. For a different journey, hop aboard a Friendship Boat for water transport. If you want to be as close to the theme parks as possible, but you also want to be able to stay at a points-earning hotel, there’s no better pick than one of those three.

Marriott also operates other hotels near Disney World (though they’re all off-property, so plan on taking the bus or driving in), ranging from the lavish JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa to the more casual Fairfield Inn & Suites Orlando Lake Buena Vista.

At Disneyland: There are about a dozen Marriott properties located within walking distance of the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim. There’s a hotel for every budget, whether you prefer the frills of the JW Marriott, Anaheim Resort or the no-frills of the Four Points by Sheraton Anaheim.

Better no-annual-fee credit cards for a Disney vacation

Even annual-fee-averse travelers have better options than Disney's no-annual-fee card.

Wells Fargo Active Cash Card
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Annual fee: $0.

Intro offer: Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months..

Rewards rate on Disney-relevant bonus categories:

  • 2% cash back on all purchases.

  • No category restrictions or sign ups and cash rewards don’t expire as long as your account remains open.

  • Cell phone protection.

The $0-annual-fee Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card offers unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases, creating a straightforward way to put together a tidy vacation fund from your everyday spending. Plus, the sign-up bonus is likely more than enough to cover your family’s Disney snack budget, ensuring no one has to go without a Dole Whip or churro: Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months..

Just don’t use this card on an international trip, as you’ll get hit with up to 3% in foreign transaction fees for every purchase.

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card
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Annual fee: $0.

Intro offer: Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $750 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® Points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.

Rewards rate on Disney-relevant bonus categories:

  • 5% cash back on your top eligible spend category (which includes choices such as select travel, restaurants and live entertainment) up to $500 spent each billing cycle.

  • Add authorized users at no cost.

Unlike the Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card  that pays a flat cash-back rate on all your purchases, the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card  is better if you’re a heavy spender in one category but not necessarily in others. With it, you’ll earn 5% back automatically in your eligible top spending category per billing cycle, on up to $500 spent per cycle. All other purchases earn 1% back.

It also has a $0 annual fee and a nice sign-up bonus: Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $750 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® Points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.

You might consider the Disney debit card instead

Disney’s debit card also offers many similar perks to its credit card counterpart, including 10% off a Castaway Cay Getaway Package, which you might book as part of a Disney Cruise Line itinerary that stops at Disney’s private island in the Bahamas called Castaway Cay. Photo courtesy of David Roark/Disney Cruise Line

If you absolutely must have a piece of Disney plastic, consider the Disney Visa Debit Card by Chase. While it’s rare to find significant perks on debit cards, this Disney debit card is a diamond in the rough. Like its Disney credit card counterparts, the Disney debit card offers similar discounts, photo opportunities and that same Disney-themed card design.

The most significant downfall of the card is that you miss out on the 2% rewards rate on spending in select categories that you earn from the Disney's Premier Visa® Card.

But applying for a new Disney debit card over a credit card has its benefits. Unlike a credit card application, debit card applications won’t initiate a hard inquiry, which can have a temporary, negative impact on your credit scores. Debit cards also mean you aren’t subject to the “5/24 rule,” which is an unofficial Chase policy where you will be denied your credit card application if you’ve applied for more than five credit cards from any issuer (not just Chase) over the past 24 months.

The bottom line

Compared to what else is out there (and accounting for its $49 annual fee), the Disney's Premier Visa® Card by Chase is one of the worst credit cards for earning rewards during your trip, as well as ahead of your trip to actually pay for it.

The $0 annual fee Disney Rewards® Visa® Card is fine, but there’s still the lost opportunity cost of using another credit card that has no annual fee and higher overall rewards.

It can certainly be tempting to apply for any of these two cards. The charming Disney design on the front plus small vacation perks might lure you in. Every time you swipe, the sight of Mickey’s face might remind you that you’re a few more rewards points closer to vacation.

But there are plenty of other non-Disney credit cards that are better for a Disney trip, and many will get you even more royal treatment than what the Disney card itself can bestow you with.

To view rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, see this page.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:

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