Travel Destination: Disney World

Disney World is a magical place for children and adults. If you’re fortunate enough, you can take your children and experience the magic, while making lasting memories. It’s no secret though, that Disney World is expensive, but using points and miles can help your reduce cost.

I have a friend who was going to Disney with his family and I had been trying to tell him for a while about points and miles. He was less than interested at the time and he had already shelled out a lot of money to go to Disney. When he returned from Disney, he said his family had a blast and would love to go back, but it was so expensive.

Who wouldn't want to go back and see these guys?
Who wouldn’t want to go back and see these guys?

I began explaining, how it was possible to go and save money with the right credit cards. His goal was to go back to Disney in 2015 for around $1,000 or less. This gave us about 8-10 months to plan his trip. I was confident that we could make that happen.

There are many credit cards that could help you achieve this goal, but I’ll give a breakdown of what he used to get his trip for a fraction of that cost.

He didn’t want to open too many credit cards, so we had to pick carefully. He already had a Chase Freedom, so he had some points in his accounts, so we stuck with Chase (one of my favorites!).  I recommended the Chase Sapphire Preferred be the first card to apply for, so he had his wife apply for this card. She received 40,000 Ultimate Reward points after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days and received an additional 5,000 Ultimate Reward points for adding her husband.

The next card was the Chase Ink Plus, because he received 60,000 Ultimate Reward points after spending $5,000 in 90 days. A few weeks after he got his, Chase increased the offer to 70,000 Ultimate Reward points plus pay annual fee of $95, after spending $5,000 in 90 days, so his wife applied for that. He was also able to refer the Chase Ink Plus to 2 friends for an additional 10,000 points for each approved account.

The breakdown of their cards with bonuses and spending requirements looks like this:

Credit Card Bonus Spending Requirement
Chase Sapphire Preferred 40k +5k for adding authorized user $3,000 in 90 days
Chase Ink Plus 60k $5,000 in 90 days
Chase Ink Plus 70k + $95 Annual Fee $5,000 in 90 days
 Referred 2 friends for 10k points each 20k for Ink Plus Referrals
3 Credit Cards 195,000 Points $13,000

He was able to meet his spending minimums fairly quickly with normal spending. Also, with the help of Amazon Payments (no longer around) and his American Express Serve to pay bills.

I mentioned the Barclay Arrival as another option, because they both would have received roughly $500 for sign up bonus, taking another $1,000 off their trip. They didn’t want to open another credit card, so we worked with what they had.

Now that they had almost 200,000 Ultimate Reward points (and used these cards for everything to increase their balances), we began looking at flights. He initially needed 3 round trip tickets, (a late addition to the trip after everything was booked moved this to 4) so we started and finished with Southwest :-). He was able to transfer his Ultimate Reward points directly to Southwest and redeem 4 direct round trip tickets for 52,088 points (13,022 each) and $44.80 total for taxes and fees. Those tickets would have cost close to $850 without points!

We looked at many hotels that we could book directly through the Ultimate Reward travel portal because he would have received 1.25 cents per point. This is almost double the value (on average) compared to transferring directly to Marriott, or IHG. After looking, they decided they wanted to stay on a Disney Resort Property. If they stayed on Disney, they could have their package include food, which at Disney it can cost an arm and a leg for! Less time shuttling to and from the resort and more time enjoying their trip. Plus that’s where they decided they wanted to stay. It’s their trip right?

Only problem was, there were no properties on Disney that could be booked through Ultimate Reward Travel. He could have opened a SPG credit card (which he did eventually, but using for a different trip) and booked at Disney World Swan or Disney World Dolphin, but the those resorts do not offer a meal plan.

Another option with Ultimate Reward points, is cashing out for 1 cent per point. I couldn’t see myself doing this, because in my opinion they are more valuable than 1 cent. I had a hard enough time hearing the thought of cashing in over 200,000 Chase points for 1 cent each. I had to remember his goal was Disney, they were his points and he wanted to do it.

We all have our opinions on how to use our points/ miles, but there’s no wrong way to use them. They are there to help reduce your cost and help you reach your goal, so use them however you want. Even though I’m still say cashing in Ultimate Reward points at 1 cent per point is just plain wrong ;-).

A pool at Disney Caribbean Resort
A pool at Disney Caribbean Resort

He decided to book a 7 day/ 6 night stay at the Disney Caribbean Beach Resort for 4 people with the “Magic Your Way” package plus dining, Memory maker, and 5 day park tickets. The total cost came to $3206.72.

He redeemed his Ultimate Reward points for the cash back option to take $2018.64 off his trip cost( just plain wrong 🙂 ).Making his final Disney Resort cost $1188.08. Which he was very happy about. (Before the addition of the 4th person, this trip was under $1,000, so his initial goal was reached)

While his trip isn’t free, using his points allows him to take a trip he would not have been able to take otherwise. His total cost and his savings break down like this:

Cost with Points Cost without Points
4 Southwest Airline Tickets 52,088 + $44.80 ~$850.00
Disney Resort $3206.72
Chase Point Redemption $3206.72- 201,864 ($2018.64) points redeemed = $1188.08
Total 253,952 points + $1232.88 $4056.72

His total out of pocket cost is $1232.88, which is roughly 30% ($1232.28/$4056.72) of the actual cost. I’m sure many people would LOVE to stay a week in Disney for only 30% of the actual cost.

Are there ways he could have made his trip even cheaper? Sure, but he didn’t want to open more credit cards and didn’t want to heavily manufacture spend. His family is excited to be going back to Disney for a week for less $175 per day for 4 people. So this was a great redemption for them because their goal was met.

Have you tried planning a Disney World Trip using your points? Were you successful?

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