Paying Your Way – Managing Disney Gift Cards

Food & Wine 2015 Gift Card
Food & Wine 2015 Gift Card – © 2015, Julie Mascardo

With Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival underway, you are almost guaranteed to see various articles and message board threads suggesting you buy a Disney gift card to purchase your items (Food & Wine even offers special, smaller gift cards that come with an elastic wristlet so the card is always available for easy payment). That makes now the perfect time to discuss how to best manage your Disney gift cards and add a bit of an update to Laurel’s write-up about gift cards from last year.


A Word of Caution: You Can’t Pay Your Rent with a Disney Gift Card

To be clear, this post is not suggesting that you immediately run out to start buying Disney gift cards to fund a future Disney vacation. On the contrary, I am generally cautious about putting money into Disney gift cards because I like more flexibility from my dollar than “I can only use this for Disney-related items.” (It’s the same reason I wouldn’t set up a Disney Vacation Account.) My point is that you should definitely evaluate your situation before putting money into Disney gift cards. They won’t earn you any interest.

A Brief Word about Purchasing Disney Gift Cards

When it comes time to purchase Disney gift cards, I echo Laurel’s advice, namely: try to maximize your return on the purchase. For example, Laurel mentions various credit card cash back and discount strategies, such as the Target REDcard or the 2% cash back she gets on her Disney Visa card. Though a full rundown of such value maximization options and strategies is beyond the scope of this post, I would encourage you to be on the look out for various “percent off” shopping days at locations that sell Disney gift cards, and then make sure that gift cards are actually part of that promotion. I say that last part because, tragically, Target’s REDperks program no longer provides a discount for gift cards on what would otherwise be one of their “5% off Shopping Days”. Of course, regardless of where you purchase your gift cards, make sure to retain as much documentation as possible so that you can (hopefully) prove ownership if you lose it.

Screenshot of
Screenshot of

Managing Gift Cards

Once you’ve purchased your Disney gift cards, I recommend registering the cards with I think the site has improved greatly since Laurel’s post, so definitely give it a try. It lets you manage your registered cards by viewing the available balance for each card, and, more importantly, by allowing you to transfer balances between the various cards on your account. The balance transfer feature allows you to consolidate your gift card money onto a single card, which you can then carry around in lieu of a bunch of smaller denomination cards. Registering and managing your cards through also provides an option for handling a “lost card” scenario – you would transfer the balance from the missing card to one of your other cards, indeally before some nefarious villain finds the lost card and goes on a shopping spree.

Since the website only allows you to have 5 cards registered at any one time, you will have to actively maintain your account. I have found that the following setup works best for me:

Kivus Family "Magic Box"
Kivus Family “Magic Box” – © 2015, Elyssa Kivus

Card 1 – Stay at Home Card (Balance: 0.00)

This is a card that I keep in a safe place at home. It doesn’t come with me when I go to Disney World; it just hangs out at home so that in the second-to-worst case gift card scenario, I am able to transfer all my gift card balances to it. While it’s just sitting at home, however, it has a $0.00 balance. (For the record, the second-to-worst case scenario is losing all the cards in my possession but transferring the balance. The worst case scenario is losing all the cards in my possession and not transferring the balance before the money has been spent by the story’s villain.)

Card 2 – At Disney World Backup Card (Balance: 0.00)

This card comes to Orlando, but doesn’t come to the park with me; instead it stays in the hotel room as part of my Disney “magic” box (i.e., the box that I keep Magic Bands, buttons, etc… in). Much like the Stay at Home Card, this card typically has a $0.00 balance, but I can transfer my balance to it if I lose my “Carry Card” (described below.)

Card 3 – Empty

I like to keep one of my five registration slots empty so, when I get new card, I can easily add it to my system by either transferring its balance, or giving it one of the other roles in my system.

Cards 4 and/or 5 – Carry Cards (Balance: All of the Money!)

As I alluded to earlier in the article, I transfer my entire gift card balance to a single gift card that I carry around, and I have that card marked as the “Primary Card” in my account. That said, I can understand possibly wanting to have more than 1 card to pay in the parks, such as a separate card for one of your teenagers to take while she goes off on her own, which is why I say say “and/or” in the item title. The second “Carry Card” might also be your new Food & Wine Festival card. I find this much easier than trying to keep track of multiple cards with, potentially, widely varying balances. With my system, I also feel I have a decent “backup” in place should I lose my card (I could transfer the balance from my lost card to either the card I have in my hotel room or to the card that I have at home.) - Manage Gift Card Screen – Manage Gift Card Screen


Disney gift cards can be a convenient way to pay for items, but be careful before you start to “invest” in them. Thankfully, allows you flexibility in managing your gift cards, and it also provides a way to reduce the potential negative impact of losing a card.

Are you someone who uses Disney gift cards to save for your vacation? Have you ever lost a Disney gift card? Did you attempt to get the money refunded? Let us know your Disney gift card related stories in the comments below.

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John Kivus

John is on the long list of attorneys who are also huge Disney fans. He likes to think there's more to him to that, but the jury's still out. John's love and fandom for Disney is only rivaled by his love for his wife Elyssa and his fandom for the Boston Red Sox. Though they live in North Carolina, John and Elyssa try to visit Disney World whenever possible - especially for runDisney events, holidays, special occasions, vacations, and days that end in the letter "y". John can be found on Twitter at @kivus.

7 thoughts on “Paying Your Way – Managing Disney Gift Cards

  • October 6, 2015 at 9:14 am

    Just wondering if you can put your gift card onto your wrist band. When we go next to WDW with our daughters, it would be nice if they had a set amount of money attached to their magic bands rather than bother with an extra card especially at the water parks – and believe me, I don’t want them to have access to my credit card – just in case they get carried away with their spending – in fact that might be a good idea for my husband and me too lol. I know at 23 and 21 they are responsible but we can all get carried away at WDW!

    • October 6, 2015 at 9:39 am

      Technically, you can’t tie someone’s Magic Band to a gift card at check-in. You could, however, use the following procedure (which has a similar end result):

      1. Set specific spending limits on the bands for your 23 and 21 y/os when you arrive (see, e.g., NOTE: The amount they spend would be advanced against your credit.
      2. The night before check out, apply your gift cards to your Magic Band balance (which include the balances racked up by your 23 and 21 y/os.)

      Again, this isn’t exactly what you were looking for, but it does put a limit on your daughters’ spending and allows you to pay for that spending with gift cards.

  • October 6, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    Can you buy these gift cards in the UK and load them with dollars or do you only get your local currency?

    • October 6, 2015 at 3:51 pm


      I asked one of our intentional TouringPlans bloggers, and (despite her best effort) Disney only lets you put local currency on the gift cards.

  • October 6, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    It might be worth making sure your card(s) are activated before you leave home. We paid for a $50 card at Target a few months ago, but it was somehow not activated. It was all sorted out when we got home, but it would have been a lot nicer to have been able to use that card.

  • October 6, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    The disney savings account is not restricted to spending at disney. I planned a spontaneous trip to wdw, and decided that since I had that money saved up I would use it. Then my wife decided that we should fly, so travel expenses went from being the last thing we paid for, to the first thing. So I did a refund from my disney savings account for the money I needed to buy my airfare. Worked great. It took about a week to get the money back.


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