When you’re planning a trip to a theme park, there are many things to plan for in your budget. No matter if it’s a summer/fall trip to your local amusement or water park, or if you’re packing up the family and heading to Walt Disney World for the week over the holidays, finding discounts for some places can be easy, and for others not so much. Discounts for Disney parks are notoriously difficult to find, but here are some hints of where to look (and where not to look).
Wherever you decide to go, you want to get the most reward points when buying theme park tickets. That means maximizing the points you’ll earn by using the right credit card. Here’s how:
1) Use a card that earns bonus points for amusement and theme park tickets
The Citi Custom Cash is the only card that directly offers theme park tickets as a bonus category. You’ll earn 5x points for up to $500 each billing cycle in whichever of the 10 selected categories you spend the most. Live entertainment, including theme parks, is one of the categories. The major limitations are the $500 cap each month and that you need to have an additional Citi ThankYou card if you want to transfer points to a travel partner.
2) Buy tickets ahead of time from an online travel agency and use a card that gives a bonus for travel
Many travel sites sell tickets for theme parks and amusement parks. When you buy tickets from these agencies, they’ll typically code as “travel,” and you’ll be able to collect the bonus points for that category.
Many credit cards list “Travel” as a bonus category. Some of the main ones are:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve – 3x points for Travel Expenses
- Citi Prestige – 5x points for Travel Agent Purchases
- Citi Preferred – 3x points for Travel Expenses
- Chase Sapphire Preferred – 2x points for Travel Expenses
- Costco Anywhere – 3% cash back for travel purchases
I’ve heard many people speak well of Undercover Tourist to purchase tickets. I’ve never used them, but I do trust the opinions of people who have. I did use aRes Travel, referred by Mousesavers.com, to get us tickets for Disneyland and had no problems. I’d also check out any discounts you may get from your employer. I have access to PerkSpot through my job and they refer me to Ticketsatwork.com to buy discounted tickets. However, the one time I used them for tickets, the charge showed up on my AMEX statement as entertainment, not travel.
A reader informed us that U.S. Bank’s Altitude Reserve does not consider charges from travel agents, like Undercover Tourist, to be in the travel bonus category.
3) Buy gift cards or prepaid tickets at a supermarket, office supply or home improvement store, using a card that earns bonuses for those categories
You can buy Disney gift cards pretty much anywhere. Pick somewhere where you get a good bonus on spending and get your gift cards there. You can then use these cards to pay for your tickets (If you have to get a large amount of money to pay for tickets, it’s possible to combine the amounts from several Disney gift cards onto a single card online by going here).
For example, Publix supermarkets sell Disney gift cards and Universal Orlando ticket vouchers in the store. You can use a card that provides a bonus for supermarket spending for extra points. I’d be careful about trying to max out this method with an American Express card, so as not to run afoul of the Reward Abuse Team.
I can also go to Office Depot, buy Disney gift cards with my Chase Ink Cash card, and get 5x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar. Any of these would be a way to maximize your spending on admission tickets
4) Purchase tickets at the hotel and charge to the room to earn extra hotel points
When I read about this, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before. If you’re staying at a hotel with a concierge desk, they may sell theme park tickets. NOTE: MAKE SURE YOU ARE NOT OVERPAYING FOR THE TICKETS!!!!!!!
If the tickets are the same price you would pay otherwise, see if you can place the ticket expenses to your room. That way you can use whatever card gives you bonus points for your hotel and you may even get extra hotel points as well.
5) Pay for your tickets online with PayPal
While not directly a way to earn extra points for your purchase, it is a way to use your credit cards to save money on tickets. Several cards give bonuses for using PayPal.
Cedar Fair Parks, including our favorite place, Schlitterbahn, allows you to pay for tickets with PayPal on their websites. Unfortunately, Disneyworld.com does not allow payments with PayPal. However, you can purchase gift cards directly from Disney with PayPal and use those cards to pay for your admission tickets.
6) The food you buy at the park will (usually) show as dining and not amusement park charges
That’s right. Most big parks have their food establishments (except for carts selling things like popcorn and sodas) registered as dining with credit card companies. Remember to use a card that gives you the best return on dining. Smaller parks are hit-and-miss. I found out the hard way that food vendors at Schlitterbahn show up as Theme Park spend.
Going to an amusement park can be expensive. If you do your homework ahead of time, you can save money on the tickets AND earn the most points for the money you’re spending.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary
Cover Image by aliwigle from Pixabay
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Currently our Amex biz card has 10% back on up to $1k spend at Lowes hardware. I was there yesterday and they had Disney giftcards so I bought $1k worth. Don’t need it for tickets but going to put it towards my DVC dues.
Capital One Savor offers 4% back on entertainment, which includes theme parks. It’s my go to 🙂
Oh, and that 4% can be 4x points