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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Guest Post: How I Went To Disney For Free! (Well Almost)

This is a guest post by Angela, the author of Savvy Mom Finds I saw her article on another blog I frequent and thought it would be perfect for this site!

Last November we took our first real family vacation -- to Walt Disney World. We had been looking forward to our Disney vacation for quite some time -- in fact, it was five years in the planning. The best part about our vacation? It was almost free.

When our son was born six years ago, we applied for a Disney Rewards VISA. There are lots of rewards programs out there, but we settled on the Disney Card because once we had kids, we knew that Disney vacations were in our future. With the Disney Rewards VISA, you earn 1% in Disney Dream Reward Dollars on every purchase made with your credit card. For every $100 you charge, you earn one (1) Disney Dream Reward Dollar, and one (1) Disney Dream Reward Dollar is worth $1 when you redeem it at Disney.

For five years, we used that card for nearly every purchase we made: groceries, gas, household items, baby stuff, utilities, doctor's bills -- everything went on that VISA. In return, we amassed enough Disney Rewards to pay for most of our vacation. I scoured the web for the best vacation deal possible (Mousesavers is my favorite resource) and redeemed all of our rewards to pay for it. We opted for an all-inclusive package -- seven days at a Disney resort, seven days of tickets, and a dining plan that included all of our meals. It was a dream vacation for the kids, and we were so happy that we could give them a week of magic. We would not have taken such an extravagant vacation if it had not been for the rewards points. Our Disney Rewards covered about 80% of the total cost. We could have gone for completely free if we had opted for a value package, but we figured after five years of waiting for a vacation, we could afford a little splurge. And five years is the magic number for maximizing your Disney Rewards -- they begin to expire after five years. When we hit the five-year mark, we cashed them in -- we didn't want to lose a single one.

Now, I understand that there are those who have problems with credit cards. If you don't pay off your balance every single month, then the rewards cards just are not worth it. The interest charges will negate any rewards you accrue, and you aren't being a savvy consumer. In the fifteen years we've been married, my husband and I have always been very diligent about paying off our credit cards and not carrying a balance, so they work for us. We've had several different kinds of rewards cards in the past, but now that we have kids, it's the Disney Card for us. After taking one vacation on rewards points, we're already saving up rewards for another Disney trip we're planning a few years in the future.

There are more benefits to our Disney Card than just earning rewards:

  • We can redeem our rewards to pay for most anything Disney -- not just a vacation, but merchandise, too. Rewards can be used at our local Disney Store or at the Disney Store online, but I prefer to save all of our rewards for vacation.
  • As cardholders, we're entitled to special Disney discounts and offers. For example, the vacation package we chose was a special deal offered to Disney Rewards VISA cardholders only.
  • We receive special cardmember benefits in the Disney Parks (we got a free 5x7 family photo with Mickey and Minnie).
  • Cardholders always receive a 10% discount at the Disney Store with qualified purchases of $50 or more. You can also receive that same 10% discount on $50 purchases at Disney-owned merchants inside the theme parks -- save on souvenirs!
There's NO ANNUAL FEE, and new cardmembers get a bonus of 25 FREE Disney Dream Reward Dollars after their first use of the card (that's like 25 dollars -- FREE). If you want to learn more, please check out the Disney Rewards VISA website for complete details.

Angela is the author of Savvy Mom Finds, where she shares her favorite tips, tricks and fabulous finds to help you save money.

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