Shelling out the big bucks: using gift cards to your advantage

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty of paying for your vacation. I never want to pay full price for anything. It goes against my core belief, or at least that is what I tell myself.

There are a few great ways to make payments on your WDW vacation. First off, you can use gifts cards. Until I started doing Disney vacations, I never thought of paying anything off with a gift card. It does make sense as long as you are smart about it.

Disney gift cards can be used for almost everything Disney. You can pay off your hotel/tickets with them, buy food, shop. When at Disney, their gift cards are pretty much the only money you need. I always figure out how much money we will need for restaurants, the gratuity, and souvenirs for each of us. I then make sure I have enough money on a gift card to cover everything completely. At the end of my trip, there is little more satisfying that getting that final bill, paying it off with a gift card, having a few dollars left over for my next trip, and not having a massive credit card bill!

A few wholesale stores will sell gift cards at a reduced price. Sams Club and BJs are two that I have used over the years. You have to pay close attention to how much they are charging for the card and if there are any shipping fees. Deals come and go, so your calculator will be very helpful in figuring out how much of a discount you are receiving. In the past, I have bought 3 packs of $50 gift cards for $143. The $7 saving works out to approximately 5% savings. Imagine buying $3000 in gift cards (which is not difficult to do!). While you are “only” saving 5%, that is still $140. I have seen $500 gift cards with only 3% savings and I have seen them for 6% off. Never trust that your math from your last purchase will hold over for the next purchase.

If you are making a payment on the Disney website, they will only accept payment from one gift card. There are a few ways to get around this. First of all, on the back of every gift card is the website where you can combine smaller cards into $500 maximum cards. You can also maintain a wallet of 5 cards with the ability to watch their balances.

Secondly, calling Disney circumvents the 1 card limit. I have sat on the phone with an unlucky Cast Member, reading number after number, making small chitchat along the way. I believe the most cards I have ever called has been in the 30 range, prior to Thankfully, Disney customer service is second to none and they never showed how annoyed they were with another of those crazy discount ladies.

We live in Michigan and have Meijer stores. They have MPerks (their version of a discount/coupon club) that allows you to maintain a wallet of your rewards for future purchases. Several times a year, they have a deal where gift card purchases of $50 to $500 will earn you 5% back for future purchases. I jump at those deals! I typically will purchase $500 worth of gift cards under my MPERKS and $500 in my husband’s account. The rewards can’t be used to buy other gift cards (which would be awesome and they really should rethink that). Instead, I either use the rewards to buy groceries, and mentally credit that money back to myself, or, I go Disney shopping. $100 worth of rewards can get so many Disney t-shirts, toys, snacks, etc… especially when they are on clearance (the best time to buy anything!) Once, they had 10% off the purchase of gift cards, no strings attached, but I would not plan my budget around this.
I have heard there are other ways to get discounted gift cards. People talk about buying them online on gift card resale shops. There is also the Target Red Card hacks. I have no experience ever doing either, so I can’t speak them. If you do, either comment or email us

In another direction, let’s talk about the Disney Visa card. There are two types of Disney Visa. The first is the Disney Premier Visa card with an annual fee of $49/ year, but it earns rewards at a higher rate of 2% on gas, groceries, restaurants, and most Disney purchases. It earns 1% on everything else. The second, the Disney Visa, has no annual fee, but earns rewards relatively slowly at a rate of 1% on all transactions.

If you have read my post on credit cards, you know that I already have a few cards I love. The Disney Visa does not top that list as a daily use card, so I chose the card with no annual fee for it’s amazing benefits. On a rare occasion, Disney Visa members are allowed early access to special room or package deals, which we have never used. There are two benefits we have started to really use it for, though. The first is for 10% off select restaurants throughout the property. These include, but are in no way limited to, Boma, Whispering Canyon Cafe, and the Wave, of which we have reviews on and really enjoy. Secondly, you can receive 10% off purchases over $50 at many of the stores throughout the WDW property. While this goes against my typical plan of “precalculate all costs and have that on a gift card in advance” philosophy, saving 10% is pretty amazing. I still do precalculate everying, I just have it mentally set aside in a bank account to pay off my balance.

It is important to note that if you are planning on booking your vacation through unconventional means, for example Priceline, you will not be able to pay your vacation off with gift cards. This is where the Visa benefits really come in to play. But that is a topic for another post.


If you would like more help planning your Disney vacation, contact our friend Audra, a travel agent with Travelmation LLC, which is an Authorized Disney Travel Planner. She can help you plan the vacation of your dreams at no cost to you!

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