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In this post, we provide a roadmap for you to visit Walt Disney World for free or almost free by using a combination of credit card points and discounts to pay for your flights, hotel, and tickets. If you've read the principles behind doing Disney World for free before, click here to jump to the current hack. Otherwise, read on through the introduction and onto the hack!
The Principles Behind Doing Disney World For Free
Yes, You Actually Can Do This
If you've never used credit card points before, we've got a Start Here series of posts we've written for you. If you have a basic understanding (or you just want to get to the point) this post will identify the best current credit card signup offers for someone who wants to visit Walt Disney World. Those bonuses come in points that can be used to pay for hotel stays or flights, and we provide a list of "cash back" or similar bonuses that you can use to pay for tickets at the end.
A lot of people think there must be some "trick" to using credit card points this way, but there really isn't. We flew to Shanghai Disneyland on Korean Air's A380 business class, complete with a lounge and 14 hours of excellent service, using points we earned this way. I'm writing this from Hong Kong Disneyland, and I can tell you I've got enough points just sitting in my account to fly to Walt Disney World and spend a few nights at the Swan & Dolphin if we wanted to. There are a few reasons this might not be the best option for you (again, see the Start Here series for more), but for most of our readers, this is entirely obtainable.
Signup Bonuses Are the Best Route to Free Disney
A signup bonus is what a credit card company gives you for spending some amount of dollars in some timeframe when you get their card. If you need to know more about signup bonuses, check out our starter post here. Because they offer large chunks of points at minimal (or no) actual cost to you, these bonuses are the ideal route to free travel.
We Could Make It Totally Free, But That Might Not Make Sense For You
While having a plan for a totally free trip would have more of a "Wow!" factor, the truth is that once you get past flights, hotels, and some easy signup bonuses, the returns really start to diminish. For example, there are lots of cards that offer $100 or $150 as a signup bonus. We could just tell you to keep going out and getting these cards, but they're actually rarely worth the effort.
We also could use a really low-cost stay as our baseline. A single traveler staying one night at All-Star Music flying on Spirit Airlines visiting one park and bringing a ham sandwich for lunch isn't going to have an expensive stay, but no one wants to do that.
There Are Many Ways to Do Walt Disney World For Almost Free
Before we decided to keep this as one, ongoing post, we did monthly posts. Even if they have expired offers, it's good to see how flexible your options are. Here are the past four:
- May (a variety of cards, focusing on hotels and flights)
- March (similar to this month, but with more cash back / statement credits)
- February (a simple strategy for resorts other than Swan and Dolphin)
- January (with more flexible choice of airlines)
Your options expand with a partner
If you have a partner who can also earn signup bonuses on credit cards, you'll have even more options. You can generally only earn a signup bonus once (usually either in a lifetime or every two years). With a partner, though, you'll be able to earn major points. When the Chase Sapphire Reserve was offering 100,000 bonus points, we both got the card to build a stockpile of 200,000 points!
And now, this month's hack...
1. How to Get SIX Nights at the Walt Disney World Dolphin for $85
The Walt Disney World Dolphin is a Starwood hotel bookable with Starpoints. You can convert Marriott points into Starpoints, which creates some great opportunities to save on your Disney hotel!
Signup for the Chase Marriott Rewards for 80,000 points [1/1/18]
Chase has currently boosted the sign-up bonus for the Marriott Rewards Premier credit card to 80,000 Marriott points for $3,000 spend in the first 3 months.
This means after spending $3,000 in 3 months, you'll have at least 83,000 Marriott points. Marriott points can be converted to Starpoints at a 3:1 ratio, so your 83,000 Marriott points are worth 27,000 Starpoints.
Signup for the SPG Amex for 25,000 Starpoints [1/1/18]
The SPG Amex is back to its typical signup bonus of 25,000 Starpoints for spending $3000 in 3 months. Here's our referral link for that offer:
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express - 25,000 Starpoints for spending $3000 in 3 months
With this signup bonus and the Marriott bonus, you'll have a total of 52,000 Starpoints.
Those 52,000 Starpoints are good for SIX nights at the Walt Disney World Dolphin. The standard nightly rate for that hotel is 10,000 Starpoints, but when you book with Starpoints you get your fifth night free.
|Suggested Reading: Check out our Guide to Booking the Swan and Dolphin with Starpoints|
The Chase Marriott has an $85 annual fee, while the SPG Amex's $95 annual fee is waived the first year. So with these two cards, you'll get SIX nights at the Walt Disney World Dolphin for $85 in return for spending $6,000 on the cards over 6 months.
2. How to Get Four Roundtrip Flights to Orlando for $95
While American Airlines doesn't have great Saver award availability overall, I see a lot of availability flying into Orlando. Within the contiguous United States, a round-trip saver ticket will cost you 25,000 AAdvantage miles. A family of 4 needs 100,000 miles to cover their flights to Orlando. Getting 100,000 AAdvantage miles is easier than ever.
|Suggested Reading: Before you book your flight, read up on when to book domestic flights with points|
Signup for the Citi Aadvantage for 60,000 Miles [1/1/18]
The annual fee on the Citi is waived the first year ($95 thereafter) and on the Barclay is $95 (not waived). Between these two cards, you'll get 100,000 AAdvantage miles for $3001 spent and a $95 annual fee.
3. Adding Up Hotel + Flights = $180
To earn your seven nights and four round-trip flights, you'll need to spend $9,000 over a maximum of 9 months (plus the $1 purchase on the Barclay). This isn't an outrageous amount, but we've got tips on hitting minimum spend if you need them. You'll pay two annual fees (on the Barclay and the Chase Marriott) totaling $180.
4. What About Tickets & Incidentals?
Tickets and incidentals are a little tough. It's not too difficult to earn enough signup bonuses to pay for your tickets and incidentals (and we list some available offers below), but that might not be the best use of your spending power.
|Suggested Reading: Check out our Guide to finding discount Disney World tickets|
50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points can go a lot further than the $500 toward Disney tickets they'd be worth. Similarly, the $3000 you might have to put on a card to earn $150 back is worth a lot more if you can put it on a card that gives you, say, 50,000 airline miles.
Nonetheless, we want to provide you with some options. [Checked 1/1/18]
- Barclaycard Arrival Plus - Earn 40,000 bonus miles after $3000 spend in 90 days (worth $400 toward tickets and incidentals)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve - 50,000 Ultimate Rewards Points for spending $4000 in 3 Months ($450 annual fee, but you can use the $300 travel credit twice the first year) (worth $500 toward tickets and incidentals)
- Chase Sapphire Preferred - 50,000 Ultimate Rewards Points for spending $4000 in 3 Months
We really, really do not think you should sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve to use the signup bonus for $500 cash back / credit to cover Disney tickets and incidentals. You'll actually get more value using Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book Disney hotels.
|Suggested Reading: Interested in a Chase Sapphire card? Read our review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve|
If you'd like more, we always suggest you head over to Doctor of Credit's top current offers.