Over the years, I’ve tinkered with various ways to save on my Disney vacations. I started with the classic coin jars and garage sales to build up a little cash. Then I began saving hotel quotes on the Walt Disney World website to trigger discount pin codes that would be mailed to me. Once Disney moved away from that promotional model, I shifted my focus to discounted gift cards and credit card rewards, finding along the way that both were even more lucrative when used at a warehouse club.
While I’ve dabbled in survey and shopping reward programs such as Ebates and Swagbucks, I don’t have much experience with them. The site, Couponing To Disney, is a great resource if you wish to learn about those strategies. Therefore, gift cards and credit cards remain my primary means of saving money on Disney vacations.
How Much Is A Warehouse Club Membership?
Typically, the annual fee runs anywhere from $45 – $100, with the option for various upgrades. Some of these memberships offer cash back rewards once you reach a certain spending minimum. Before joining, it’s important to assess how much you think you can save at the store and compare it to the membership fee and any cash back rewards.
You can occasionally find discounted memberships on Groupon. These offers are usually combined with a cash back promotion and/or free items.
What Does A Warehouse Club Offer?
Sam’s Club and BJ’s Warehouse clubs sell discounted Disney gift cards in varying denominations. It’s important to pay close attention to all of the options because the discount is different on each one. For example, at Sam’s Club, the 3-pack of $50 gift cards ($150 total), costs $142.98, which is roughly 4.6% savings. Compare that to the $500 gift card costing $484.98, which is only a 3% savings.
Why would you buy the $500 gift card for less of a discount? To decrease the number of physical cards you must manage.
Let’s assume you have a $3,000 balance to pay off on your Disney vacation. If you purchase the 3-packs of $50 gift cards, you’ll end up with 60 cards. However, if you buy the $500 gift cards, you’ll only end up with six cards to pay off the balance.
This matters because each card has a 16 digit code that must be manually entered online or relayed over the phone to a travel agent or cast member when redeeming. And this is in addition to the eight digit security code that is under the silver “scratch-off” material. So now you have a mess and 24 digits per card. Not everyone is going to consider a savings of 1.6% ($50.28) to be worth that time commitment.
Sam’s also restricts the number of gift card packs you may purchase in a single transaction to only five packs. Therefore, you would need to make four different transactions with the 3-packs in order to get all $3,000 versus two transactions with the $500 cards. Again, a factor to consider when putting a price on your time.
If you opt for the route that leaves you with oodles of gift cards, then I suggest you register on Disney’s official site, www.disneygiftcard.com. This site allows you to consolidate cards up to $1,000 per card. Even though you must still manually enter all 24 digits per card, it is more efficient than wasting a travel agent’s time on the phone dictating the numbers.
Do Warehouse Clubs Provide Benefits Other Than Gift Cards?
Warehouse clubs, such as Costco and BJ’s, also provide valuable travel services. Costco Travel frequently promotes theme park ticket and hotel vacation packages to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and Universal Studios. Not all packages are discounted beyond what you would pay if you pieced it together yourself, but some have proven to be fantastic deals. Doing a little research will let you know if it’s a deal you should jump on.
The one area that I no longer research beyond Costco’s website is car rentals. Not only do they waive the additional driver fee, but their rates are consistently more competitive than non-corporate coupon codes available elsewhere.
Another Disney vacation you’ll find with Costco and BJ’s travel services is Disney Cruise Line. The price of the cruise is the same as you would pay directly with Disney, or any travel agent, however Costco offers a Cash Card as an incentive to book with them. While most travel agents offer an on-board credit of 5%, Costco’s Cash Card is closer to 8%, making it a great deal.
Why Do Credit Cards Matter?
There are so many different credit card incentives available, it can be confusing to keep track of them all. Some offer multiple points per dollar for specific purchase categories, such as groceries, gas, travel, dining, or warehouse clubs. Others offer limited-time bonus rewards in addition to the points earned for specific category purchases. Before purchasing discounted gift cards or booking travel through a warehouse club, check out the incentives available to you.
Calculate the benefits of your credit card offerings for the various purchasing strategies:
- What percentage do you get back on travel bookings with your credit card?
- What percentage would you save with discounted gift cards from the warehouse club?
- What percentage would you save if you purchased the discounted gift cards with a credit card that receives bonus points for warehouse club purchases?
- Is there a cap on the amount of bonus rewards you can earn from your credit card?
A final factor to consider is any travel protection that your credit card may offer. Read the fine print of your card member agreement. In some cases, there is a minimum amount that must be paid to a travel provider, using the card, in order to gain the travel protection benefits. If you pay the entire balance of your vacation with gift cards, are you forfeiting beneficial, free trip insurance?
Few people think of Disney vacations as a great value when they focus solely on the initial quote. While that quote can instill a hefty dose of sticker shock, there are discounts to be found in small percentages if you know where to look. Those few percentage points here and there, when you are talking about a vacation that costs $3,000, can add up to hundreds of dollars in savings.
If you are interested in learning more unique ways to save money on your next vacation, I recommend you check out Miles To The Magic. The author of that site offers a wide array of plans designed to stretch your budget farther using credit card rewards.
And be sure to share with us how much you saved with these tips!