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.
Managing Gift Cards
Once you’ve purchased your Disney gift cards, I recommend registering the cards with Disneygiftcard.com. 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 Disneygiftcard.com 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:
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 Disneygiftcard.com 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.)
Disney gift cards can be a convenient way to pay for items, but be careful before you start to “invest” in them. Thankfully, Disneygiftcard.com 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.