UPDATE: The Disney Vacation Account is no longer offered.
Is the Disney Vacation Account Right for You?
In 2013 The Walt Disney Travel Company, along with JP Morgan Chase, created an easy way for Disney World vacationers to save for a future vacation.
The Disney Vacation Account allows you to make automatic contributions into an FDIC-insured savings account that can later be cashed in for a Walt Disney World Resort vacation, or any other Disney Resort such as Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa and Disney Cruise Line.
The program begins with the Budget Estimator, an online tool that will assist you in determining what your trip might cost. The estimator still requires a great amount of research so a travel planner such as Darren of Magical Vacations Travel can be valuable here. Once you have a general idea of what you’d like to do on vacation and how much it will cost, you can begin making contributions to your account whenever you want, up to five years in advance. Deposits can be made automatically using a credit card or debit card on a set schedule or even by using a Disney Gift Card.
This is not a layaway plan or a vacation account through a typical bank. With this plan, Disney encourages you to save for a future vacation without any penalties or fees. Plus you will get some bonuses along the way! You don’t have to finance your trip with a credit card that could take months or years to pay off at high interest rates.
The Disney Vacation Account does not yield any interest that a typical savings account would but for every $1,000 you spend on a qualified vacation purchase, you’ll earn a $20 Disney Gift Card. You can earn up to $500 in gift cards but you would have to apply $25,000 from your account to get that amount. If you opened a vacation savings account at a bank, the average interest rate would be about .06%. On $25,000 you’d earn about $15 interest after one year.
Keep in mind that your account must be active for a minimum of 120 days in order to receive the bonus gift cards and they can take 4 to 6 weeks to arrive by mail. This is a very important detail that some people have missed when they attempted to cash out on bonuses too late. The money in your account can be fully refunded at anytime without penalty.
A Strategy to Maximize Savings
If you purchase Disney Gift Cards at BJ’s Wholesale you can save about 4 to 5 percent on each card purchase. For example, a $100 Disney Gift Card will cost about $95. The same is true at Target if you have their credit or debit card. Some Sam's Club retailers also sell discount Disney Gift Cards. You can deposit the funds on these gift cards into your Disney Vacation Account - it's like getting an additional 4 to 5 percent discount on the cost of your vacation. NOTE: You can make contributions using Disney Gift Cards only after the account has been opened for 60 days or more.
When it’s time to book your vacation
Using your Disney Vacation Account to book a vacation is generally an easy process but there have been reports of a few challenges mostly because the program is still new. If you book online, you will have the option of depositing your funds electronically right into your reservation.
If you opt to pay by phone, know that some Cast Members might not how to transfer the funds. Just remind them to run your Disney Vacation Account number as a Disney Gift Card in their system.
The Disney Vacation Account can be a great way to save for your Disney vacation. It certainly provides more value than interest from a bank and you can avoid carrying the balance on a high interest credit card. Just be sure to mark your calendar so you have plenty of time to redeem your benefits.
Updated February 2017, Darren Wittko