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Whether you’re a Disney aficionado, a Universal fan or a lover of Lego, amusement parks are a great way to spend a day — or week. But rising ticket costs can price out vacationers quickly, who may wonder if there's a way to get discounted park tickets.
The answer is yes, and it’s by using your credit card rewards. Here's how to purchase theme park tickets with points.
How to buy Universal park tickets with points
Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Universal tickets are probably the easiest tickets you’ll find using your points because Chase’s online travel portal has them readily available. If you have either the Chase Sapphire Reserve® or the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can redeem your points towards tickets at a value of 1.50 or 1.25 cents each, respectively.
This means your $122 one-day ticket to Universal Florida will drop down to just 8,146 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points if you’ve got the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Citi also has an option for Universal tickets, but only the California location — and it’s not cheap. If you’re willing to shell out for a whole package, you can redeem your Citi ThankYou points at a rate of 1 cent each toward Universal Studios Hollywood tickets, plus a whole host of other events, like a two-day Hollywood and Universal Studios family tour.
You won’t find the best redemption options for American Express Membership Rewards points when looking to buy theme park tickets, but if you’ve got points to spare and are looking to spend as little out-of-pocket as possible, there is a way to maximize your points.
American Express has partnered with PayPal to allow you to use your points anywhere PayPal is accepted. Now, it’s not the best rate — you’ll be redeeming your points at a rate of 0.7 cent each, which is well below our valuation of 2 cents per point, but it’s still better than redeeming them as a statement credit, which gives you just 0.6 cent of value.
» Learn more: How to go to Disney for cheap
Undercover Tourist is a well-known website that sells discounted theme park tickets; it also accepts PayPal. Ticket prices here can be cheaper than Universal’s actual website, which means you’ll be spending less money and fewer points overall.
Let’s say you’re buying a three day Park-to-Park ticket. Undercover Tourist is selling these for $297.11 — which is $10 less than Universal’s website. During checkout, you can choose to pay via PayPal, where a linked AmEx credit card will allow you to redeem 42,444 points to cover your ticket.
How to use points to buy Disney tickets
Unlike Universal, you can’t find Disney tickets online via a travel portal — at least not in the U.S. Fortunately, you can still use points to pay for your tickets. Undercover Tourist, as we discussed above, also sells tickets to both Disney World and Disneyland, which means you can redeem your AmEx points at a rate of 0.7 cent each for tickets.
Cash back credit cards
If you have a cash back credit card, of course, you can always redeem your cash back and apply it toward the purchase of your tickets.
» Learn more: How I did a $4,000 Disney trip for $1,600
Credit cards with a purchase eraser perk
If you’ve got a purchase eraser credit card, you can easily redeem your points at a rate of 1 cent each for tickets. These cards include the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card, which allows you to redeem your points as statement credits.
However, if you don't have a cash back card but have certain travel cards like the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card or the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, you can still score some Disney tickets by using your points.
» Learn more: What is the Capital One purchase eraser?
Normally Disney tickets don’t code in a credit card statement as a travel expense, which means you wouldn’t be able to redeem your purchase eraser points against these purchases. However, you can buy Disney tickets online in many different places, including travel agencies. Generally, online travel agency purchases are coded as travel and you’d be able to redeem your points as statement credits.
The same can be said for bundling vacation packages together; adding a hotel to your ticket purchase will allow the purchase to code as travel.
Using points to buy other theme park tickets
We’ve covered how to purchase park tickets for the biggest theme parks in the U.S., but there are still tons of other parks out there. Parks such as Legoland and Seaworld can often be found on your card issuer’s travel portal. Chase, for example, will sell you tickets to both.
If you can’t find the amusement parks you’re looking for on a travel portal, consider looking at Undercover Tourist or another online travel agency to search for tickets. This way, you can use the methods we’ve outlined above to redeem your points.
» Learn more: The best travel credit cards your wallet is missing
Is it worth it to use points to buy theme park tickets?
Whether or not it is worth it to use points to buy theme park tickets depends on your situation. How much money are you willing to pay out-of-pocket? If the answer is none, then using your points for tickets is a good option, even if you aren’t redeeming for the highest value.
It's understandable to want to save your points for better value redemptions. Instead, you may be wondering which are the best credit cards for Disney and Universal vacations and how to get the most reward points when buying theme park tickets.
While there aren’t any credit cards that offer specific bonuses for purchasing tickets, you can always opt to book your vacation via an online travel agency. Since it will be coded as travel, you can earn points from cards that offer bonus categories for travel, such as the 3 points per dollar offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
Otherwise, you can take advantage of credit cards that maximize earnings on nonbonus spending. Cards like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offer 2x points on your purchases, no matter what.
Finally, the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card will give you 5% back on the first $500 you spend each billing cycle on your top spending category. Theme park tickets usually code as entertainment, which is why it’s more difficult to earn bonuses for them on travel credit cards. But if you’re spending a significant amount on admission, parking and other purchases at the park, entertainment could qualify as your top category for 5% back with this Citi card.
» Learn more: Things to know about Disney credit cards
If you want to buy discounted park tickets
Theme park tickets can be expensive, but there are a few ways to save using your credit card reward points. Before you leap in, decide whether it’s worth it to use your points or if you’d be better off maximizing your spending to earn rewards for later.
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 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card