A Disney vacation can be many things: fun, exciting, memorable, exhausting, relaxing, or any combination of the above. However, no one would ever call a Disney vacation “cheap.” So for many people, it’s a luxury they save up for. Last week, Disney unveiled a new way to help people financially plan for a variety of Disney vacations and getaways: the Disney Vacation Account. The concept is pretty simple: set up an account and payments will automatically go into a fund toward a Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney, or Aulani vacation. It’s basically a bank account for your vacation. There are no fees associated with using Disney Vacation Account, and you can get your money out of it at anytime without any cancellation fees. With Disney Vacation Account, Disney is trying to provide a more seamless and pain free way way of saving up for the big trip to a Disney destination.
However, is using a Disney Vacation Account a good idea for you? It depends. Read on to find out more.
How to Set Up A Disney Vacation Account and The Basics
Setting up for a Disney Vacation Account is extremely easy. Go to the Disney Vacation Account site and click Sign Up. When I tried to log in using my MyDisneyExperience login, it recognized my Disney Online account then prompted me to continue the sign up process. I would recommend doing this as it will tie your Disney Vacation Account to your existing MyDisneyExperience login.
To get started, you can select what vacation you want to save up for, when you would like to go, when you would like to reach your savings goal, and how much you want to save. Based on that information plus a preference for how often you want to contribute, an automatic payment amount will be calculated.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been working non-stop lately, but it sounds like a fun idea to plan for a vacation, even if it’s just for demonstration. For this example, I created a Disney World vacation for April 2016, one year from today. Because the “When do you want to reach your savings goal” date must be at least 2 months before the vacation, that is set to February 2016, although I could set it to be earlier. My imaginary WDW vacation budget is $2000, which should be enough for a room for a week with a ticket package and maybe even a dining plan. There are four options for payment frequency: Weekly, every 2 weeks, monthly, and one time. If I start paying every 2 weeks starting next month, my automatic payment will be $90.91. If I go monthly, the payment will be $200. That sounds good to me.
Next it asks you for some basic contact information and to check off on a User Agreement. Because I had logged in with my existing Disney Online account, all the pertinent information is already there. Next, you can add a credit card for the automatic payments, and finish creating your account. There, the vacation fund for my my imaginary vacation in next April is set up. I can’t wait.
Once you’re in your account, you can track your progress, edit your payment goal or frequency, make a one-time contribution with a Disney Gift Card or debit/credit card, request a refund, or use your funds toward your vacation. You can use the money in your Disney Vacation Account to buy park tickets, pay for a hotel room or cruise, or purchase a vacation package through Disney that includes dining or a flight. Just be sure to have your Disney Vacation Account number when you book the trip with Disney or a participating travel agent. You can also redeem the funds in your account for a Disney Gift Card, but the money would have needed to be in the account for at least 60 days. That might be useful if you overestimated your budget and want to use the remaining funds at the parks, but I don’t see a reason to not just get a refund on that extra money.
One thing to note: Setting up a Disney Vacation Account is not the same as booking a Disney Vacation. It’s easy for you to pay for your Disney Vacation with the DVA, but you will still need to book a hotel room or a package with Disney after creating your Vacation Account. While there are no cancellation or refund fees for the Disney Vacation Account itself, you are still subject to the fees or lost deposits associated with the canceling a specific vacation package.
So, it’s a pretty simple concept: an easy and automatic way to put money away toward a Disney Vacation, even on both coasts!
The Good of using Disney Vacation Account
It’s free: As I’ve stated a few times, there are no fees for starting or canceling your Disney Vacation Account.
It’s easy and automatic: Not to sound too much like an informercial, but you can have a “set it and forget it” mentality with saving toward your Disney World or Disneyland vacation. Yes, it’s true that you’ve been able to pay for a Disney World vacation package before in installments, but this is the first automatic way to do so. Just pick an amount and frequency you’re comfortable paying, add your credit card, and let it run.
It’s secure: Basically, the Disney Vacation Account is a bank account, so it’s FDIC insured. That should give you some peace of mind when adding funds to the account. That having been said, be sure to use a good, secure password to avoid any headaches.
You can use your credit card: I actually really like that automatic payment method for the Disney Vacation Account is with a credit card. My credit card give me good perks like cash back or Delta miles, and when making big ticket purchases, I go with the card that will give me the most rewards. You will still benefit from that by using the Disney Vacation Account, rather than doing a direct deposit from a bank account.
It’s a better way to pay with Gift Cards: Here’s a tip you might not know about. Every now and then, you can get Disney Gift Cards from Target at a small discount. I have friends that love paying for their Disney World trips this way, as they’re basically able to save 5% on the hotel, tickets, and food. However, they have to buy dozens of gift cards at a time, so managing them all can be a pain. And if you lose a gift card, it’s like losing cash. Because you can make deposits into your Disney Vacation Account using Disney Gift Cards, it’s a more secure and easier way to pay for your vacation than reading the numbers off of 20 cards to the (very patient) Disney booking agent.
Up to 2% back in Disney Gift Cards: For every $1000 you spend on a Disney Vacation using the Disney Vacation Account, you will get a $20 Disney gift card. Combine this with the cash back or rewards from your credit card, and it’s a nice bonus. However, the gift card only kicks in every $1000 milestone. So if you spend $1000, you’ll get a $20 gift card. Spend $2000 and you’ll get $40 in gift cards. But if you spend $1500, you’ll just get $20, or 1.5% back. Right now, the gift card promotion is running for vacations paid for by the end of 2017, but this program could be extended. Also, the account must be open for at least 120 days in order to qualify for this perk.
The Bad of using Disney Vacation Account
Great for booking, but you can’t really use it once you’re there: You can pay for your vacation package very easily with your Disney Vacation Account, but once you’re at your destination, you bafflingly don’t have easy access to those funds. So you can pay for your room, tickets, dining package, or anything else you can pay for before your trip with the Disney Vacation Fund. The fund is not really designed to pay for anything beyond that. If you charge a meal or a souvenir purchase to your room while you’re in the park, you can’t use your DVA to pay for those extra purchases. Disney’s solution is to convert the funds in your account into a Disney Gift Card, but why not just pay for it with cash or buy a gift card elsewhere? It makes total sense to be able to pay for room charges with your Vacation Account, or to tie your Vacation Account to your Magic Band and be able to make purchases straight from the fund at a Disney Park or resort. Hopefully that will change in the future.
Not for staying off property: This kind of goes without saying, but you can only use your Disney Vacation Account at official Disney locations. However, you’re currently not able to use it for staying at the Swan or Dolphin, which aren’t official Disney resorts but have a sort of semi-official on property status. This limitation makes sense, but then again, it’s another limitation.
You won’t earn anything on the money: Yes, Disney Vacation Account is basically a bank account, but you won’t earn any interest on your money. Depending on how much you put in and for how long, this might not make a difference. If I was putting in $2000 over the next 6 months, I probably wouldn’t earn more on that money in a bank account or investing that money than I would be getting the cash back bonuses from my credit card and the Disney Gift Card rewards. However, it’s a different case altogether if you’re trying to save up $10,000 on a cruise package for your whole family over 2 or 3 years.
So, should you use the Disney Vacation Account to save up for your next Disney World or Disneyland vacation? The answer is really depends on your situation. If you want a way to save up for your vacation without having to think too much about it, this might be a good solution for you. If you want a way to easily store your gift cards or to maximize your cash back, this provides another way to do so. However, there are limitations, and you might personally be better off managing this money on your own.
The good news is that this is a completely optional tool with no fees and minimal risk. If you want to pay for your vacation the way you’ve always paid for it, you still can. If you want a service to help automate saving up for it, then you have a new option.
Will you be using this to save up for your next Disney Vacation? Definitely let me know. I’m curious to find out what your thoughts are and what vacation you’re saving up for!