When I first used a MagicBand, back in the olden days of 2013, my reaction was, “MARVELOUS!” Seven years laters, my feeling is a more neutral, “Meh.”
When MagicBands, those colorful snap-on bracelets that Disney World issues to help guests execute tasks, debuted, they were a free perk given to every guest staying at a Disney hotel, as well as to annual passholders. Some of the functions of MagicBands include: Disney hotel room key, park admission medium, food/merchandise payment method, and FastPass ticket (when FastPasses existed). MagicBands may now be becoming a thing of the past–free distribution was discontinued in January 2021.
Though the MagicBand freebies are over, you can still buy new bands. Prices range from about $10.00 for a solid color version (the ones that used to be free), purchased online by a Disney hotel guest in advance, to about $20.00-$40.00 for fancy themed versions sold in the parks and on shopDisney.com.
The alternative to having a MagicBand is that your Disney resort will give you a standard plastic card use as a room key and hotel ID. Or, if you’re not staying on property, you can use a plastic card as your park ticket and pay for items with cash or a standard debit/credit card or an electronic payment method such as ApplePay. Disney has also stated on their web site, Starting later in 2021, we plan to unveil an innovative new offering as part of the My Disney Experience app that will bring features of a MagicBand to your smart devices.
To help you decide whether a MagicBand is something you want to pay for, here are some of the pros and cons of MagicBands.
- 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 a kid back to the room to grab a sweater or over to a snack cart to buy a popcorn with less worry that they’ll leave the key/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 relatively inexpensive souvenir. For those who collect things, these are things to collect that are at a lower price point than some other Disney-branded items.
- Carrying your kids’ bands is 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.
- 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 now. 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 life span. The bands are reusable, but their shelf life is finite. (Disney estimates that they’ll last for two years.) The tiny batteries housed in the bands are neither replaceable nor rechargeable, meaning that once they run out of juice, they’re toast. 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.
What’s your current thinking on MagicBands? Will you buy one for your next trip? Will you keep using your old ones until they die?
First published January 29, 2021. Updated June 16, 2021.