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Getting to Know MagicBands

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By now you’ve probably heard about MagicBands. First available to Walt Disney World resort guests in 2013, MagicBands are now a staple tool at WDW, but there have been a number of changes over the years. Here’s a bit of history along with everything you need to know about using MagicBands today.

What exactly is a MagicBand?

MagicBands are plastic and rubber bracelets containing an electronic chip. Depending on which features are activated for you, the MagicBand can function as your room key, resort entrance gate opener, park ticket, Lightning Lane and Genie+ redemption mechanism, charge card for food and merchandise, interactive game piece, PhotoPass identifier, and more.

There have now been several iterations of MagicBands which have changed the device’s design, functionality, price, and even the name. Indeed, the MagicBand is now technically called MagicBand+, though guests rarely refer to them by the extended name.

What technology is used in the MagicBand?

The MagicBands contain a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip. The device sends and receives signals via a small antenna in the band. The Radio Frequency device works in short-range situations (touching the band to a hotel room’s “keypad”) or in mid-range situations (perhaps activating a portion of a ride or game).

Out in the real world, RFID technology is used in some credit cards, in highway toll paying such as EZPass or SunPass, in some video game controllers and in many other situations. Chances are you may already be using an RFID device at home and not even be aware of it.

How has the MagicBand changed over the years?

The original MagicBand, 2013-2016, was a single-piece band (with the exception of a removable outer rim that could be removed to all for smaller sizing for children’s wrists). The MagicBand 2 was the primary band from 2016-2022 (though you can still buy it today). This version had a larger, rounded midpoint with a removable center puck. That puck could be inserted into fobs of various designs or swapped into the center of a different band. Since 2022, the MagicBand+ has been the primary version available. MagicBand+ looks substantially similar to MagicBand 2, but the central puck area is several millimeters thicker. The MagicBand+ central puck is also removable, but I have never seen Disney sell any non-band holders for the Band+ puck.

Among the most significant changes is that MagicBand+ also has light and sound capabilities and must be periodically charged, with a proprietary cord, for those features to be available. For example, the MagicBand+ can be used to activate brief audio messages at statues around the parks. The light-up function may activate during fireworks shows or during an interactive game in the park. However, most of the “traditional” functions, such as tapping into the parks or Lightning Lanes, or using your MagicBand for purchases, will work even if your MagicBand+ is not charged.

In addition to physical attributes, the price of MagicBands has increased dramatically over the years. The original band was a free gift with every Disney World resort stay. Frequent guests and guests who had lots of split stays quickly amassed piles of MagicBands, so much so that creating Christmas tree garlands from MagicBands became a popular project. Disney began charging for MagicBands for all guests beginning in 2021 at that time you could buy the most designs for less than $25. With the MagicBand+ $25 is near the starting point of buy-in. Most MagicBand+ options are at least double this, if not more. If you are looking to economize, the solid-color bands are routinely the least expensive.

How do I physically use a MagicBand?

Most of the time you simply tap the Mickey icon on the face of the MagicBand onto an electronic reader. There are electronic readers on all the WDW resort room doors, at most counter service and table service restaurants, at most merchandise locations, at all park entrance gates, at all Lightning Lane attractions, at PhotoPass readers, at some resort pool entrance gates, and a few other locations.

Guests of the Disney-owned hotels may elect to make food and merchandise purchases using a MagicBand. If you choose this option, after tapping your MagicBand, you will generally be required to enter a PIN at the time of purchase as a security measure. You can self-select your PIN during online resort check-in or upon check-in at the front desk of your Walt Disney World resort hotel.

There are now also some MagicBand+ capabilities on Disney Cruise Line ships and at Disneyland. More on that below.

How Do I Get a MagicBand?

Guests who reside in the United States and will be staying at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel can purchase MagicBands during the resort booking process (via the Disney World website) and have them shipped to their homes prior to their travel, assuming that the reservation is made at least ten days prior to check-in. There may be a price break for buying a MagicBand when you are making a WDW hotel reservation, this is typically a $10 discount per band, but is sometimes a bit more. The other advantage to pre-ordering MagicBands is that they will have your name printed in them on the back of the puck.

Additionally, anyone can buy a MagicBand via the DisneyStore website. MagicBands are also sold at gift shops in every Disney World hotel and at several shops within each of the Disney World theme parks. Note that you can save a little on the price of a MagicBand if you have something like an Annual Pass or cast member discount.

Can I get a MagicBand if I’m not staying on property?

Yes, the days of MagicBands being a resort-only item are long gone. Anyone is welcome to buy one. Just follow the link for the DisneyStore above or purchase one at Walt Disney World. Prices start at around $25 for a MagicBand 2 (limited availability) and upwards of $70 for MagicBand+ with specialty artwork. Guest-purchased MagicBands can be linked to a My Disney Experience profile that has existing park tickets and then be used just like a ticket.

Note that some MagicBand functions will be unavailable if you’re not staying at Disney World Resort hotel. For example, you won’t be able to use your band to pay for food or merchandise and you obviously won’t be able to open your hotel room door.

Can I still use a MagicBand from a previous trip?

Yes! As long as your MagicBand is linked to your My Disney Experience account, you can continue to use it for future trips. You can also have several MagicBands linked to one My Disney Experience account. This means that you can use them interchangeably, even during the same day of your trip. That said, some newer MagicBand+ options won’t be available with all older bands. A MagicBand 2 doesn’t have the same sound and light functions as a MagicBand+.

Additionally, your band’s battery charge might impact what you can do with it. Original and version 2 MagicBands have a non-replaceable, non-chargeable battery. Disney states that the batteries on these older bands were designed to last approximately two years. Once the battery dies, you will still be able to use some of the band’s features, notably opening a room door and tapping into the parks and Lightning Lanes, but other capabilities such as automatic linking to ride photos may be unavailable. The MagicBand+ is rechargeable, but if you neglect to charge it you’ll still be able to open your room and tap into parks and rides. However, it won’t light up or play sounds.

The two gold dots on the left are the contact points that will match up with the points on your charging cord for a MagicBand+.

I’ve had that purple MagicBand 2 puck on a key fob for about 7 years and I successfully used it last month to open my door at Disney’s Boardwalk resort and to tap into all the theme parks. If you don’t need lots of bells and whistles (literally) an old band will probably do you just fine.

Do I need to use a MagicBand?

No one needs a MagicBand. The vast majority of tasks performed by a MagicBand can also be accomplished with an RFID-enabled ticket or Key to the World card, or by using the MagicMobile function of the My Disney Experience app on your phone. Both of these options are available at no additional charge.

The only things that you can’t do with cards and MagicMobile are get some of the interactive attraction and game features available with MagicBand+ in the theme parks.

How do I control my MagicBand functions?

Many of your MagicBand functions are controlled via My Disney Experience. My Disney Experience can be accessed at the website or through a free downloadable app on your tablet or smartphone (Apple App Store, Google App Store, etc.).

On the app, click the “hamburger” menu. Then scroll down to find the “MagicBands and Cards” section. From there you’ll see your name and the names of any family members whose Disney accounts you manage. Choose a person and you’ll see all the MagicBands and cards (annual pass cards, Key to the World Cards, etc.) associated with them.

You can activate or deactivate any MagicBand so that it can’t be used for charging, tapping into the parks or Lightning Lanes, or entering your room at a Disney World Resort. If you have a MagicBand+, you can also pair it with your smartphone in order to adjust settings such as lights, color scheme, and vibration. For more on this, see Step by Step: Link Your MagicBand to My Disney Experience.

How do I link a MagicBand to my My Disney Experience account?

The easiest way to link a MagicBand+ to your My Disney Experience account is to open the My Disney Experience app on your smartphone, power on the band, tap it against the back of the phone, and follow the prompts. If that doesn’t work, or you are linking a MagicBand 2, start by tapping the hamburger icon at the bottom of the app screen, then scroll down and select “Link to Account”. From there, you can choose one of three methods: scan the serial number on the back with your phone’s camera, simply tap the band against the phone, or type in the serial number. For a detailed walkthrough, see Step by Step: Link Your MagicBand to My Disney Experience

How do I link my park tickets to my MagicBand?

If you have purchased a full Walt Disney World package, your park tickets should already be loaded into My Disney Experience and associated with your MagicBand. If your tickets are not linked, you can add them manually. Once a ticket is linked to your My Disney Experience account it is automatically linked to all your active MagicBands.

To link tickets in the My Disney Experience app, start by tapping the hamburger icon at the bottom of the app screen, then scroll down and select “Link to Account”. Then follow the prompts. For a detailed walkthrough, see Step by Step: Link Your MagicBand to My Disney Experience (the title says MagicBand, but the process is virtually identical). This works for tickets purchased through Disney (online, at a Disney store, etc.) and for tickets purchased through third-party vendors such as Undercover Tourist or Maple Leaf Tickets.

Are the MagicBands comfortable?

This is a matter of personal taste, although most people seem to agree that they are not uncomfortable. The band size is highly adjustable, allowing it to accommodate everyone from a preschooler to a linebacker. Anecdotal evidence is that the key to comfort is proper sizing. Keep adjusting yours until you get the fit just right.

Can the MagicBand help me keep track of my children?

While technically possible, this is not a current feature and it is probably unlikely to happen. That being said, if a lost child is found wearing a MagicBand, it is theoretically possible that a cast member could scan the MagicBand, find the link to the parent’s reservation number and possibly a linked phone number. If our children were lost, we would not rely on this technology. You can easily use a Sharpie to write your cell phone number on the inside of your child’s band, thus greatly reducing the time it takes to find the number. Or get a tracking device like an Apple AirTag and connect it to your child’s shoe.

Can I get my MagicBand wet?

Yep. No problem. You can swim and shower with your MagicBand.

Can members of my party share MagicBands?

The biometric finger scanner at the park entrance tapstiles will prevent you from using someone else’s MagicBand to enter. However, once you’re in the park, nothing stops you from having Little Sis use Mom’s MagicBand, though by the letter of the Disney law this is not allowed.

The bands are technically non-transferable, even among family members. Moreover, there are many situations (such as when tapping in to use Lightning Lane) in which using a MagicBand alerts a cast member to the MagicBand holder’s name, meaning that a cast member might call Little Sis “Bertram” if she uses Grandpa’s MagicBand to get an extra spin on Space Mountain. (If Bertram catches on as a little girl’s name, we are taking credit for it.)

That said, you could purchase Genie+ for, say, both yourself and your spouse. If you hate roller coasters and your spouse loves them, he could go on Space Mountain using his Genie+ entitlement on his MagicBand and then go through the line to ride again using your MagicBand and your Genie+ entitlement. (Not that we know anyone who has done this. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.)

Does having a MagicBand mean that I don’t have to bring my wallet into the park?

No one ever made you bring your wallet into a theme park, but it’s a good idea, even if you have a MagicBand.

For instance, if you find yourself in the unfortunate scenario of having to go straight from a park to a medical care facility, you will be better off carrying a photo ID, proof of medical insurance, and a real credit or debit card on your person at all times.

Additionally, there are a number of Disney-related cards you may want to carry because their functions are not yet contained on the MagicBand. For example, Annual Pass (AP) information is linked to your My Disney Experience app, but if you wanted to take advantage of an Annual Pass merchandise discount, you would still need to show a photo ID.

Another possible pitfall of using just a MagicBand is that Disney’s systems do crash from time to time. Using a MagicBand may mean that you have one more thing to keep track of rather than a few things.

What happens if I lose my MagicBand?

If you happen to misplace your MagicBand at Walt Disney World, you can deactivate your band yourself using the My Disney Experience website or app. Go to the manage MagicBand section, select your band, and then deactivate. Deactivating the band will prevent it from being used to open a hotel room door or make charges. You can reactivate it later if you find it.

If you need help with this, go to the front desk of your hotel or to any park guest relations office as soon as possible and report the loss. They will be happy to help you deactivate the band.

Both my daughters want pink MagicBands. How can I tell them apart?

There are enough color and pattern options now that most families can find a way to give each person a different design. Additionally, pre-ordered MagicBands have each guest’s name printed on the inside. If you end up getting last-minute or replacement bands without an imprint, we suggest that you physically write each owner’s name inside the band yourself.

I don’t love the MagicBand designs I’m seeing. Are there ways to access more options?

Yep. There are a few locations at Disney World where you can custom design a MagicBand, notably in the store at the exit to Space Mountain in the Magic Kingdom and at the tech shop inside the Disney Springs Marketplace Co-op. At these spots you’ll find kiosks where you can choose more designs and printed personalizations.

I noticed that my MagicBand+ box says “works with Alexa.” What’s that about?”

Disney World is phasing Amazon Alexa devices into hotel rooms. Theoretically, some in-room Alexa interactions are supposed to activate lights or noises on a MagicBand+. We have not had success in getting this to work, though admittedly our testing of this particular feature has been minimal. Let us know if you get your MagicBand to interact with a WDW resort room Alexa.

Buying fancy MagicBands for my family’s Disney World vacation adds up to a significant cost. Can you give me some pros and cons of buying them?


  • They’re wearable. For some folks, this is the main attraction of the bands. They like having easy access to the band’s functions without having to fumble around in a wallet or pocket for various cards.
  • They’re reusable. For frequent Disney hotel guests, there is an environmental advantage to having one reusable MagicBand versus dozens of disposable room key cards.
  • They can be a fun fashion statement, if that’s your thing. Match colors with your outfits or support your fandom!
  • Your kids/teens can use them to have some autonomy. The wearability factor means that older kids are less likely to lose these than they would a card. Send a kid back to the room to grab a sweater or over to a snack cart to buy popcorn with less worry that they’ll lose the key or leave the payment method behind.
  • They’re waterproof. Many folks enjoy that they can go into the water at the pool or water park and easily keep their room key and payment method on their person rather than leaving it poolside, vulnerable to theft.
  • They can be a souvenir. For those who collect things, these are a unique take-home item.


  • Carrying your kids’ bands can be a pain. While the bands are sizable to tiny wrists, we’ve observed many a preschooler lose patience with wearing a MagicBand. That means that mom or dad ends up stuffing the bulky band into a pocket. Carrying your child’s card in your wallet is much easier than this oddly-shaped device.
  • The MagicBand+ needs to be charged. This one makes me a little nuts. I have so many cords to keep track of. And now here’s another one?!?! And if you lose your cord you can’t just pop over to Best Buy to get a new one. Sigh.
  • They’re easy to forget. You’re probably in the habit of bringing your wallet (containing necessary cards) with you wherever you go. That reflex does not exist with an unfamiliar device like a MagicBand. [Cue my husband taking my band to run from the resort bus stop back to the room to retrieve his.]
  • You have to pay for them. Ugh. Seriously, ugh. Who needs more things to pay for?
  • Tan lines. This has been a common complaint from the bands’ inception.
  • They do not have an infinite lifespan. The bands are reusable, but their shelf life is finite. The tiny batteries housed in the bands are not replaceable. And even the rechargeable MagicBand+ batteries will eventually give up the ghost. If you visit the parks infrequently, the environmental benefit of declining multiple cards turns into the environmental negative of tossing a battery and a greater volume of plastic compared to just one card.
  • You need dexterity to use them. Tapping the Mickey head icon on the MagicBands to the Mickey head icon on the readers (tapstiles at the park entrance, hotel doors, payment readers in shops, etc.) is easier said than done. About half the time, I end up having to take my band off to use it. If you have poor mobility in your hands or wrists, the bands can even be a struggle to put on without assistance.
  • They compete for wrist space with other devices. People who wear bracelets, watches, FitBits, and the like may find it cumbersome to add another item to their arm.
  • They can ruin your look, if that’s important to you. Not everyone enjoys wearing an advertisement.

Are there MagicBands for Disneyland?

Yes. One of the big differences between the MagicBand+ and previous versions is that the same MagicBand+ can be used at other Disney properties, and even on the Disney Cruise Line ships. There is a significant overlap between the MagicBand experience at Disney World and Disneyland. Guy Selga has a good overview of the West Coast situation. Also note that his post has some good images of the light-up and game-playing features of the MagicBand+ that are close to what you’ll find at Disney World.

You mentioned Disney Cruise Line. Can I use a MagicBand on my Disney Cruise?

Well, kind of. You can use your MagicBand+ to complete some tasks on the Disney Cruise Line ships such as opening your stateroom door, paying for things in the merchandise shops, and linking your cruise photos to your account. But there are fewer uses for bands at sea. It’s also important to note that ports other than Disney’s private islands have no mechanism to scan a band to verify that you are a passenger on a ship. When you’re off the ship you will absolutely need to bring your physical key card and a photo ID with you – a band just won’t cut it.

One caveat, due to some legal issues that are above my pay grade, the MagicBands sold by Disney Cruise Line are called “DisneyBands” rather than “MagicBands.” If you buy one on a ship or via the DCL website, you’ll see it called a DisneyBand, even though you can use it interchangeably both on the ship and in the parks. To use a park band on the ship, be sure that you’ve linked your My Disney Experience and Disney Cruise Line accounts.

Right now, if you already have a MagicBand+, go ahead and bring it with you on your DCL sailing, but I wouldn’t buy a DisneyBand+ specifically for a cruise, if only because it’s another thing to keep charged in an environment with a paucity of electrical outlets and a ban on power strips.

What are your thoughts on the current state of MagicBands? Let us know in the comments.

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Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel (now PlanDisney), a regular contributor to, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obsession - Broadway theater.

5 thoughts on “Getting to Know MagicBands

  • My family all wear Apple watches, and I’ve been told I can use them as a MagicBand. Can you do an article (or if you already have, do an updated article) on how to link an Apple watch to MDE, what functionality it has and how it differs from a MagicBand?

  • Great overview. A couple notes for clarification:

    A MagicBand’s RFID functions are divided into “passive” and “active” functions.
    -“Passive” functions are those that require physically tapping the band against a reader (park/LL/hotel room entry, purchases, etc). Those functions do not use the internal battery and will always work (even if you have an older legacy band with a dead internal battery, or a MagicBand+ that needs to be recharged).
    -“Active” functions are those that don’t involve tapping against a reader, and do require the internal battery. Aside from the games and bells and whistles of MagicBand+, the key active function of a MagicBand is automatic linking of on-ride photos. If you have an older legacy band with a dead internal battery (or an MB+ that needs to be charged), those ride photos won’t link automatically.

    Also, I will grumble with the section header “How to I link my park tickets to my MagicBand?”, as the construction of that question reinforces a common misconception :-). Everything revolves around you and your My Disney Experience profile. Park tickets are linked to your profile. MagicBands are linked to your profile. MagicBands (and KttW cards and MagicMobile) are just digital IDs for accessing your profile and its entitlements. You don’t “load” park tickets (or anything else) onto a particular band.

    • Hi Andy, thanks for the close read. 🙂 I’ve updated the text in the linking park tickets section to be much more clear that you are linking the tickets to My Disney Experience, and then they are available via MagicBand. I’ve left the header as is though — that’s what people search for, so changing it to be “more correct” just means people won’t actually find our information. It’s a challenging line for us to walk between “being correct” and “being findable in search”.

      • “Once a ticket is linked to your My Disney Experience account it is automatically linked to all your active MagicBands.”

        *CHEF KISS* 🙂

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