How I’m getting a free Disney World trip using credit card perks and points


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One constant of the pandemic has been a never-ending news stream from the wonderful world of Disney.

Parks closing, parks re-opening (basically before any other travel or attraction), changes in the guest/park experience and now, how the parks will deal with the pent-up demand of Disneyholics. It may sound crazy to head to a busy theme park in a pandemic, but thanks to Disney’s rules and procedures, it’s actually a pretty solid choice.

With my vaccinations complete, I’m again headed to Orlando this July to meet a couple of other families for some solid Disney exploration and adventure. A trip to Disney World can easily cost thousands of dollars and can be a difficult trip to complete in its entirety on points and miles, especially if you like to stay on Disney property.

But, I love a good challenge. So, here is a recap of how I’m covering the cost of travel, tickets and food at Disney World using just my credit card reward points and perks.

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Capital One Venture Miles for tickets and campsite

There are very few good options to get great value out of your points and miles for Disney tickets, but Capital One Venture Miles from my Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (currently available with an up-to 100k mile welcome bonus) is a rare example where you can get the desired value out of your rewards.

With Capital One’s ability to redeem points to essentially wipe out travel charges you make to the card, you can use Venture Miles to cover any travel expense charged to the card at a rate of one cent per mile. Since you earn 2x Venture Miles on all purchases, this is equivalent to using a 2% cashback card to cover your Disney expenses.

For lodging, I’ll again be driving my RV down to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.

We stayed for a week last fall and found the campground to be such a fun Disney experience. It also happens to be the most affordable on-property location, though still quite expensive as far as campgrounds go. The campground will cost me about $350 for three nights, requiring me to use 35,000 Venture Miles to erase the charge.

When it comes to park tickets, there is one important note to make here: Disney tickets purchased directly from Disney by themselves do not count as travel and therefore cannot be erased. (They usually do when purchased as part of a larger lodging and ticket package.)

However, Disney tickets bought from do traditionally count as a travel charge and you’ll be able to erase the purchase with your Venture Miles.

For my dates this summer, the three-day Disney Theme Park Base Ticket will cost $378.91 requiring me to redeem 37, 891 Venture Miles to erase the charge. This puts the cost of my lodging and ticket at around 72,000 Venture Miles and $0 out of pocket.

The Venture Rewards card currently comes with its highest-ever sign-up bonus: 100,000 bonus miles after spending $20,000 on the card within the first 12 months of account opening. This is awarded in two installments.

First, you can earn 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months. The second set of 50,000 miles is awarded with a total of $20,000 in spending in the first year on the card.

Gallery: 10 Credit Cards That Have Gotten Better During the Pandemic (GOBankingRates)

I recently picked up the Capital One Venture Rewards card for both my wife and me, meaning with 200,000 welcome bonus miles plus the miles earned to meet the minimum spend, I’m happy redeeming 70,000 of them to help make Disney free as far as my wallet is concerned.

Amex Platinum PayPal credits for Disney gift cards

At the start of January 2021, American Express unveiled a new temporary perk for American Express Platinum cardmembers: an up to $30 monthly PayPal statement credit. Amex has automatically issued these monthly statement credits for eligible PayPal purchases that I’ve charged each month.

When I first heard about the PayPal credit, I immediately thought of one of my favorite discount gift card websites that I know accepts PayPal:

While I typically buy discounted gift cards from the site, they also sell new gift cards for just about any amount, including brand-new Disney gift cards you can order for exactly $30.

When you select checkout with PayPal, a pop-up window will show you your linked cards, including your personal Platinum Card from American Express which specifically tells you about the PayPal credit right on the pop-up:

Both my wife and I carry a personal Amex Platinum card and this is how I’ve been using each of our monthly credits.

With $60 in free-to-me Disney gift cards coming in every month, by my July trip, I’ll have $360 in Disney gift cards saved up to cover food, drinks and anything else I want to buy in the parks and on property.

Related: TPG’s guide to visiting Walt Disney World 

Gas programs for free gas

I’ve written a couple of times about the self-admitted obsession I have with either not paying for gas or, at the very least, not paying anywhere close to full price for gas.

Whenever I have an RV trip coming up, I begin to strategize about a month out how to earn enough credits in a variety of programs to cover the diesel I’ll need to buy for the nine-hour drive to and from Orlando from my home in the Atlanta area.

Fuel Rewards, GetUpside, TruNow, Pay with Gas Buddy, Marathon’s Make-it-Count, Kroger Fuel Points and some targeted Amex offers can all make it incredibly cheap or free (depending on what promotions are occurring) for my summer drive to Orlando.

Related: Best credit cards for buying gas 

Bottom line

Through a combination of using Venture Miles earned from a sign-up bonus, free Disney gift cards thanks to a new Amex Platinum monthly perk and a variety of programs that let you save on gas, I should have my summer jaunt to Disney World be entirely free when it comes to cash required from my wallet.

There may likely be some unexpected cost of an RV part, repair or something else unforeseen, but as it stands I’m pleased with the different redemptions and strategy I have planned to cover my travel, lodging, tickets and food. Disney is always fun, but it’s that much more fun when the cost to me is $0.

Featured photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy. 

SPONSORED: With states reopening, enjoying a meal from a restaurant no longer just means curbside pickup.

And when you do spend on dining, you should use a credit card that will maximize your rewards and potentially even score special discounts. Thanks to temporary card bonuses and changes due to coronavirus, you may even be able to score a meal at your favorite restaurant for free. 

These are the best credit cards for dining out, taking out, and ordering in to maximize every meal purchase.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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