Discount Disney Gift Cards Are Overrated But Can Still Work

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The Disney blogosphere is filled with a mix of fact and fiction about buying discount Disney gift cards and how to get the best Disney gift card deals. While some bloggers praise gift cards as offering easy access to discounted Disney experiences, the truth is actually much more complicated.

You’ll notice we're tepid on discount gift cards in our overview of discount Disney tickets, and they don't make our list of ways to save on your Disney hotels. We include using discount Disney gift cards on our list of 53 Ways to Save at Disney (because they can be quite useful) with the caveat that people keep this post in mind.

In this post, we'll explain everything you need to know about discount Disney gift cards including, most importantly: what makes a good discount, when to plan to use Disney gift cards, and when using them actually costs you money. 

The Basics of Disney Gift Cards

We'll start by getting everyone on the same page about what we're talking about and why.

What Is A Disney Gift Card?

Yes, this is actually a question that has to be answered. There are actually three different things someone could reasonably refer to as a “Disney Gift Card”:

Let's get to the truth about discount Disney gift cards.

Let's get to the truth about discount Disney gift cards.

1. An Actual Disney Gift Card

This is what people usually are talking about and what the rest of this post will be talking about. It's the standard Disney gift card you can purchase everywhere from the Disney Store to Jewel and that can be used at most Disney locations in the U.S.

2. A Disney Rewards Redemption Card

This is what points earned from using a Disney Rewards Chase Visa get put onto. That is, they are the primary form of redeeming points in the Disney Rewards program. Like a Disney gift card, it can be used at most Disney locations in the U.S. Unlike a gift card, you don't buy and sell these or give them away, they’re simply there to hold the points you’ve earned using a Disney credit card.

Disney Rewards Redemption Card

Disney Rewards Redemption Card

3. A Disney Store Merchandise Credit

Not many people would call this a “Disney gift card” but we want to alert you to the possibility of scams that are selling Disney Store merchandise credits, which come on cards, as “Disney gift cards.” These credits can only be used at the Disney Store, which makes them far less valuable to Disney travelers.

Where Can I Get A Disney Gift Card?

Pretty much anywhere that sells gift cards these days sells Disney gift cards (places like Walgreens, CVS, wherever you buy your office supplies, etc. are obvious option). We cover some of the best places to find Disney gift card deals below.

Where Can I Use A Disney Gift Card?

Disney gift cards can be used for practically all things Disney:

  • To pay for Disney vacations, including hotels and tickets. These include visits to: Walt Disney World resort, Disneyland resort, Aulani, Disney Cruise Line, Hilton Head, Island, Vero Beach, and Adventures by Disney

  • For pretty much anything else you purchase from Disney at those locations

  • At Disney Stores nationwide

  • At ShopDisney.com

Are Disney Gift Cards Better or Worse Than Cash?

Dollar for dollar Disney gift cards are (like all gift cards) worse than cash since they can only be spent at Disney locations. But if you’re already committed to spending a significant amount of money at a Disney destination, then they’ll be basically as good as cash for you.

Moreover, there are ways to get discount Disney gift cards, and that’s where the real value lies. If you’re taking a Disney vacation anyways and are able to get Disney gift cards at a discount, there are some good opportunities to save, which we go more into below.

How Can I Find Discount Disney Gift Card Deals?

When we use the phrase “discount Disney gift card,” we’re actually talking about two different things.

The first is the more common and obvious use of the term. You’re getting a Disney gift card at a discount when you purchase a gift card for less than the value of the card. A purchase of $50 in Disney gift cards for $45 cash is a purchase of discount Disney gift cards.

One thing we don’t count as a discount is just using credit card points or cash back you earned to purchase gift cards. If you have $100 of cash back sitting in a credit card account, that’s as good as any other $100. If you decide to spend it on a $100 Disney gift card, it’s no better than using any other $100 to buy a $100 gift card.

The second, and less common way to get a discounted gift card is to purchase it used a credit card that earns a significant amount of cash back or bonus points. Roughly speaking, everyone should be able to get 2% cash back, so a discount involves getting more than 2% or 2X points back.

So let’s say you have a way to get 5% back using a credit card and you purchase a $100 gift card. You’ll get $5 back, meaning the card only cost you $95. If you don’t understand the difference between this and spending your cash back for a gift card, take a second, they’re two very different things.

There are a few methods for earning discount Disney gift cards and finding Disney gift card deals. We’re going to start with what we consider the best method before moving on to some other options.

Best Method Part 1: Rotating 5% Cash Back Categories

Different credit cards offer different rotating categories in which they'll give you 5% cash back or points back for spending in those categories. Here is the Chase Freedom Calendar for 2019:

discount disney gift cards chase freedom calendar 2019.png

And the current Discover Calendar:

discount disney gift cards discover calendar 2019.png

And finally the Citi Dividend calendar:

discount disney gift cards citi dividend calendar 2019.png

If you can buy gift cards at any of these places, you’ll usually get 5% back. Companies are always trying to devise ways to exclude gift cards from promotions like this, so your mileage may vary. Remember, for Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders that is effectively 7.5% back.

If you're going to spend that $1,500 anyways, you're not really saving on Disney gift cards by buying them first (especially if it turns out gift cards are excluded from the offer). You ideally want to make your Disney gift card purchases in categories you would not otherwise get the bonus in.

For example, let’s look at January to March. In that quarter, Discover had 5% back at Grocery Stores and Citi had 5% at Home Depot and Gas Stations.

Now, let’s say my local grocery store and local Home Depot both sell Disney Gift Cards. Since I never shop at Home Depot and will definitely spend $1500 on groceries this quarter, I want to go use my Citi Dividend card to buy $1500 in Disney Gift Cards at Home Depot.

Best Method Part 2: Disney Gift Card Deals At BJ's And Other Wholesale Clubs

BJ's is a wholesale club that offers a variety of discounts on Disney gift cards of different sizes. As of September 2019, the sweet spot looks to be a $100 gift card for $95.99, or 4% off. You can see that if you catch the prices during a sale, you might get up to 6% off:

At these rates, you’ll need to spend at least $250 on Disney gift cards (outside of sale pricing) just to break even on your membership. Of course, if you shop at BJ’s anyways, the membership might be worth it anyways.

Occasionally you’ll get so lucky to see a category like “Wholesale Clubs” get 5% back on a credit card like the three discussed above. In that case, you could purchase $1000 in gift cards from BJ's for $959.90. You spent $10 on your annual membership. You’ll get $48 in cash back on the card for this purchase, for a net spending of $921.90 or an 7.8% discount.

This trick works anywhere that has both a 5% rotating category and where you can find Disney gift cards deals. Sam's Club is the most notable other popular option for finding Disney gift card deals. As always, we have to disclaim here that “your mileage may vary.”

That 7.8% (which we’ll round up to 8% for the rest of this post) isn’t a huge discount, but it’s a really solid baseline for an easy method, assuming you have either the Chase Freedom or a Discover card that participates in the 5% cash back program. We don’t call this the best because it is always the biggest discount—it definitely isn’t. But the combination of ease and discount size is unbeatable.

Finally, if you’re interested in digging a little deeper, if you use your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book travel as a Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholder, you’ll wind up with 4,825 Ultimate Rewards points worth $72.38 toward travel, bringing your net spending down to $892.60, or a 10.7% discount.

Other Disney Gift Card Deals

Most straightforward, there are gift card merchants who buy and sell gift cards online. They sell these at a discount, and you need to be sure to research the legitimacy of any offers (and even then there’s always a risk). You'll typically save 5% buying Disney gift cards this way.

Other Points Deals

You’ll also occasionally stores offering rewards point for Gift Card purchases, as with the Kroger 4x fuel point deal. In addition to the 5X points back discussed above, always check whether your credit card—particularly higher end cards from Chase, American Express, and Citi—get significant points back at stores that sell gift cards. Even if it’s not 5X back, it might be worth considering.

eBay

Here’s the thing about eBay: it is a highly trafficked and thus highly efficient market. You can very rarely get a deep discount from a reputable seller on a genuine product. Discounts usually are about 4%, though you'll see 8% to 10% occasionally. Personally, we'd stay away from this method. You can get over 8% without risk using our best method, so stick with that.

The best eBay offers max at 8% off.

The best eBay offers max at 8% off.

Buying Gift Cards With Your Target REDCard

Target issues “REDCards” and when you make purchases from Target using your REDCard, you get 5% off. While this discount excludes purchases of Target gift cards, it does NOT exclude purchases of Disney gift cards, which you can purchase at Target. That's an easy 5% to save if you can’t access the best method.

The Target method ain't what it used to be.

The Target method ain't what it used to be.

How Can I Use Points To Get Discount Disney Gift Cards?

This is an important, and oft-confused point. Let’s say you have a credit card that earns 2% cash back that you can redeem as a statement credit. After spending $1000, you have $50 sitting in your account, so you log online and purchase Disney gift cards for $50 and then redeem your statement credit. 

These are not discount Disney gift cards. That $50 cash back in your account is as good as any other $50 (you can redeem it for a statement credit, for example). If your card issuer offers you, say, $50 of Disney gift cards for $40 of cash back, then you're getting a discount.

Discover offers discounts on using cash back for a variety of gift cards, but Disney isn't included.

Discover offers discounts on using cash back for a variety of gift cards, but Disney isn't included.

This applies to using points, too. Lots of stores have programs where you earn points for every purchase and allow those points to be spent on Disney gift cards. In general, you should of course spend money at stores that are giving you points back, at least as long as prices are equal.

But using those points for Disney gift cards is the same as spending cash, there's no “Disney” discount involved unless the store is offering you a better rate on Disney gift cards than other products you could buy.

Should You Buy Discount Disney Gift Cards?

We didn't mean to bury the lede, but this is an important question to ask, and it's what prompted us to write this post to begin with. The truth is that this is a much more complicated question than many writers give it credit for.

The Case For Discount Disney Gift Cards

As far as travel hacking and saving on Disney goes, these methods are are pretty straightforward. At the end of the day, you wind up with a Disney gift card in hand, ready to be spent on your vacation, either for less than you spent to get it or with a nice cash back statement credit sitting on your credit card. That's pretty compelling, we admit.

On the face of it, the math is pretty compelling, too. If your Disney vacation costs you $3000 and you can save the baseline 8%, you're saving $240, a good amount of money.

The Case Against Discount Disney Gift Cards

The case against chasing down discount Disney gift cards is simple. Your discount Disney gift cards can only be used at Disney. Disney does not always have the lowest available rates for hotels, and they never have the lowest rates for tickets. If you can get a bigger discount booking through someone other than Disney than you can get buying gift cards, it doesn't make sense to buy the discount gift cards.

Suggested Reading: Check out our Guide to Discount Disney Tickets

When you get your tickets from Undercover Tourist, you are spending less and Disney is making way less than when you buy directly from them. That's why they are happy to have retailers selling gift cards at a small discount. They're still winning when someone uses them to pay for a vacation.

Don't Use Disney Gift Cards on Hotels And Tickets

This is the part where we tell you that most of what everyone else has been telling you is wrong. People who write articles like “How I Saved Hundreds With Disney Gift Card Deals!” often (but not always) are making a big mistake buying hotels and tickets with those gift cards.

Building off the above paragraph on the case against discount Disney gift cards, we want to give you an explanation and example of why they aren't useful for booking hotels and buying tickets.

If you take two lessons away from this post, make them:

  • Always get at least an 8% discount on Disney gift cards

  • Almost never plan to use discount Disney gift cards for hotels or park tickets

Let's say you have a foolproof method for buying discount Disney gift cards at 10% off. And let's say that in doing so you also get 2% back on your purchase of gift cards using a 2% cash back card, so your method nets you a 12% discount (actually 11.8%, but we'll round up).

Booking a Sample Vacation with Discount Disney Gift Cards

Here’s a sample booking for a four-day, four-night Disney vacation for a family of four (kids both 10+). Let's say that Granny ("G" for Gift Cards) finds a good deal on Disney gift cards and books this trip with those gift cards (we're going to round our numbers for simplicity):

Item List Price w/ Tax Price after 12% Discount
Four Nights at Art of Animation $781 $687
4x 4-Day Park Hopper $1816 $1598
Total $2597 $2285

With Granny's 12% savings using discount Disney gift cards, she'll spend a net of $2285 on this trip.

Booking a Sample Vacation on Undercover Tourist

Here’s another way for Granny's friend, Hilda (“H” for Mouse “Hacking”) to book that trip. Hilda books through Undercover Tourist at a discount:

Item Price at Undercover Tourist Discount from List Price
Four Nights at Art of Animation $742 5%
4x 4-Day Park Hopper $1428 21%
Total $2170 17%
Undercover Tourist even offered us a $20 promo discount!

Undercover Tourist even offered us a $20 promo discount!

Plus, when we arrived at our 12% discount for Granny, the last 2% was what she got back on her credit card buying the gift cards. Hilda gets 2% back on her card buying from Undercover Tourist. So, Hilda gets $43 back for a net spending of $2127, or an 18% discount from the list price. Hilda has easily beaten Granny in savings!

Using a Combination of Both Booking Methods

Okay, but most of that savings came from the savings on the tickets. What if Granny and Hilda put their brains together and realized they could book the tickets through Undercover Tourist and still save on the hotel using discount Disney gift cards?

Using discount Disney gift cards, the hotel costs a net of $687 after a 12% discount, while through Undercover Tourist the cost is a net $728 (after 2% cash back).

We admit, that means you’ll be $41 better off using discount Disney gift cards for your hotel in this scenario. But let's be real and consider that $41 in light of the following:

  • You needed a 12% discount on the Disney gift cards to save $40. That is not easy to get. We were trying to be generous to Granny for effect. Our baseline was only 8%, remember.

  • We got the gap down to $41 without using any other tricks, like booking your Disney hotel with points, Citi Prestige 4th Night Free, or deal hunting at other hotel sites.

  • When we made this fake booking, Undercover Tourist immediately offered us a flash discount of $20 to book within a certain amount of time.

  • To save that $41, you need your trick to work for buying over $700 of gift cards.

  • 2% cash back for booking on Undercover Tourist is sub-optimal. A holder of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, for example, could effectively get 4.5% back.

Many people reading this could probably close the $41 gap. If we are able to use the Citi Prestige 4th Night Free benefit, for example, our hotel will only set us back $585.58, and that's ignoring the Citi ThankYou points we'd earn.

Suggested Reading: We can show you how to always get the best rate on your Disney hotels!

There's an even smaller chance that they wouldn't have to put more than $41 of effort into getting all the gift cards. And that's really "the rub" of this whole process. Yes, you can save, but not as much as you think, and it will still take time and effort.

Here's When To Use Disney Gift Cards

There actually are a few situations in which having discount Disney gift cards might be your best option for saving.

Save on Disney Cruise Line and Adventures by Disney

Savings on these Disney Cruise Line and Adventures by Disney are incredibly hard to come by. Since you can use Disney gift cards for these, this is where you'll get the most value using discount Disney gift cards.

Disney Cruise Line can be a great use of discount Disney gift cards.

Disney Cruise Line can be a great use of discount Disney gift cards.

Save on Dining at Disney Locations

At many Disney table service locations, a 10% dining discount is one of the perks of the Chase Disney Visa credit cards. Discounts for Disney World annual passholders are also available. At Disneyland, annual passes get you access to a wide range of discounts at quick service stops as well.

Besides that, this is probably the situation where stocking up on discount Disney gift cards makes the most sense for most Disney travelers. This can be a great way to add a little bit of savings when planning your budget Disney vacation!

Save on Disney Merchandise

Again, the discounts available to annual passholders and Disney Visa card holders are probably going to be more helpful here in general. But if you don't have that card, then getting discount Disney gift cards might make sense for you.

Closing Thoughts

There is way too much hype and way too little analysis out there about using discount Disney gift cards. We get it. Buying a gift card at a discount is a quick win, and we don't offer many of those here. If we really just wanted more subscribers, we would have just written “Save 8.4% TODAY On Your Disney Vacation!” We also get that there are some crafty or lucky ways people stumble into gift cards at deeper discounts. Obviously if you can get gift cards at 50% off through some promotion, do it!

The downside is that Disney gift cards just lock you in to Disney’s prices. In areas where you’re pretty much in that boat no matter what (Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney, and most purchases at Disney parks) it makes sense to take whatever discount you can get. But when you can beat Disney in other ways, like by buying your tickets and hotels at a discount, you're better off doing that.

What do you use Disney gift cards for? How do you get them?

All Your Other Disney World Planning Questions Answered

Don't be overwhelmed by Disney World planning! Take a second to check out our most important content and you'll not only be an expert, but you'll save big $$$ along the way.

Just starting out? Check out our Walt Disney World planning guide! If you're still picking dates, we've got everything you need to know about Disney crowd calendars. For picking your hotel, check out our Walt Disney World hotels guide.

When it comes time to book we’ll help you find discount Disney World tickets. Decide whether you need a dining plan in our Complete Guide to Disney World Dining Plans! And at 180 days out it's time to book those Disney World Advance Dining Reservations!

Don't forget to master your Disney World FastPass+ strategy a few months in advance. We'll keep you out of long lines so you can maximize the magical time in the parks! We've got park-specific guides as well: Magic Kingdom FastPass, Epcot FastPass, Animal Kingdom FastPass, and Hollywood Studios FastPass.

Know what to ride with our guides to: Magic Kingdom rides, Hollywood Studios rides, Epcot rides, and Animal Kingdom rides! Plus learn about the water parks with our guide to Blizzard Beach and our guide to Typhoon Lagoon! And for some some fun prep, check out our Ranking of Every Ride at Walt Disney World.

Finally, before you head out, be sure to check out our to-the-point packing list, 10 essentials you forget to pack for every Disney trip. And if you're interested in saving, there's no better list than our 53 Ways to Save on your Disney trip from start to finish.