Outsmarting the Disney World PIN Code Monkeys

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Bigfoot’s usual stomping grounds. What conceivable interest any ‘intelligent’ UFO would have in earth. How Sean Connery avoids aging. And until now, Walt Disney World’s method for determining to whom to send discount PIN Codes. Strike the latter off of the list of society’s great unsolved mysteries, as Disney’s PIN Code recipient selection process is about to be resolved. For those unfamiliar, PIN Codes are the holy grail of WDW discounts; an exclusive discount sent to a limited number of recipients that frequently allow early booking of a special offer that will later become available to the general public, or a variant of a deal that will become available to the general public, typically offering a more advantageous or ‘better’ discount for most Walt Disney World guests.

For years, Disney’s manner of choosing recipients for these PIN Codes has perplexed Walt Disney World visitors the world over. Some assume its based on luck of the draw, or perhaps alternatively that Disney has a room full of monkeys tucked away in the Cayman Islands and the company uses the whims of the monkeys to make decisions. A dangerous practice, no doubt, but some of the practices of the Walt Disney Company are so head-scratching that the only logical explanation is that they were made by untrained chimps.

Unfortunately, this glamorized version of the process Walt Disney World uses for selecting PIN Code recipients is likely untrue. As someone who frequently found these PIN Codes arriving in my email inbox and home mailbox up until a few months ago, it is my assertion that Disney more than likely has some sort of formula for determining who should receive the PIN Codes.

My fascination with these elusive PIN Codes began to grow a few years ago when I first heard of a friend receiving a PIN Code. The prospect of such a great discount piqued the interest of my frugality, and I embarked upon a mission to receive one myself. He cautioned me against trying, since the codes were sent out randomly, and nothing I could do would improve my prospects of receiving one. For a short while, I was content with this advice. However, after I began listening to WDW Today and hearing the hosts discuss how they never or seldom received the Codes, I began to think that maybe there was more to the process than haphazard luck.

On a whim, I decided to sign up for everything Disney-related that I could. Some of this I had already done due to the fact that I was an obsessed Disney-geek.  However, there were other things I did to help my odds, like creating multiple Disney.com accounts, registering as both “Tom” and “Thomas,” putting my address down as my mother-in-law’s house for some accounts, and some other questionable things that I thought might help my odds.

Suddenly, the Walt Disney World PIN Codes started to pour into my wife’s and my inboxes. Over the course of the two years, my wife and I received, from best I can tell based on my activity on various Disney forums, four of each PIN Code offer that was sent out. It is important to note that during this time, while we vacationed to Walt Disney World twice per year, we never booked a room ourselves, instead always having a Cast Member friend of ours book for us. This June we finally used our Disney Vacation Club membership to book a trip ourselves, and since, we have only received one PIN Code offer, and that only went out to two of our email addresses.

While two PIN Codes is better than none at all, I can’t help but theorize that the decrease was precipitated by us booking a Walt Disney World trip ourselves. Disney has little reason to incentivize frequent guests to continue visiting with these ‘exclusive’ discounts, so it is counter-productive for the company to send the discounts to these guests who will come anyway. Offering them a greater discount only loses Disney money, so instead, Disney likely concocted some sort of algorithm to determine to whom to send the PIN Codes, and the frequency thereto. This would explain why the hosts of WDW Today and other folks who commonly visit receive the PIN Codes with less frequency. While I am hardly a mathematical whiz, my intuition says that there are a number of variables that impact the algorithm, and that even frequent guests can employ certain ‘strategies’ to attempt to beat Disney’s algorithm.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Create a Disney.com account for each of your email addresses and express an interest in Walt Disney World with each account.
  • Order a set of Custom Park Maps for your kids or yourself to enjoy.
  • Order a Vacation Planning DVD (since both this and the above create waste, consider giving these to friends who are planning trips when you’re done using them).
  • Make Advance Dining Reservations for random dates, cancelling them shortly thereafter.
  • Search for Resorts on Disney.com while logged into your accounts, completing the survey that will pop up when you close out the window by selecting the option indicating the cost was too high.
  • Place a booking hold on a resort over the phone, cancelling it shortly thereafter.
  • Inquire about Disney Vacation Club.
  • Attend a Disney Vacation Club web sales presentation (you’ll receive a free gift) or in-person “Vacation as You Wish” presentation (Chicago/New York/New Jersey only)
  • Sign up for Disney Movie Rewards.
  • Sign up for any other Disney-related account you find.

I believe that using different mailing addresses (that you can access) and variants of your name “James” for “Jim,” etc., might help your chances, but I cannot substantiate this. We have managed to receive a high number of PIN Code offers by utilizing all of the above, so I have reason to believe that these factors will at least help increase your odds of receiving a PIN Code!

Have any other suggestions for increasing the odds of receiving a Walt Disney World PIN Code? Let us know your secrets in the comments!

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Posted on September 10, 2010

38 Responses to “Outsmarting the Disney World PIN Code Monkeys”

  • Tom, I suspect something along those lines is true as well. I’ve booked my own travel, staying on site more than once a year, since about 1979. (Yes, I’m that old. I’m almost as old as Mr. Scopa.) The ONLY time I received PIN code was when it went to a friend’s mailing address. The friend from whom I had rented DVC points about 18 months prior. They didn’t have an email address, so they couldn’t have known I was that “crazy woman who sends in rewrites for their lousy javascript” at least once a month! The PIN code wasn’t very enticing, though. It was for free dining. If there are only two of you and you prefer to stay at deluxe resorts AND have annual passes, the AP or AAA discount is always a better bargain than “free” dining.

    Tom, I’ll keep collecting data, too! I have to run now and create a few more email addresses and tell my mother-in-law to save any mail that comes for me.

    • <<<>>>

      We have often found this to be the case (and thus the reason why we keep booking through a Cast Member friend rather than booking through the PIN Code. Personally, I would rather have a room-only discount than some bundled discount because there are generally things I don’t want in the bundle (e.g. tickets or the dining plan).

      That’s why I think the free dining promotion is so funny. People go crazy for this, but ultimately, it’s not that great of a deal unless you put the maximum number of people in the room, and stay at the cheapest resort possible. Recently, Disney has been closing this “advantage” by only offering the quick service DDP to value resorts. Given that you’d be getting a discount on your room if you didn’t get the “free” dining, it really isn’t so free.

      Actually, I think it’s somewhat interesting how Disney manipulates pricing and offers to see how the public responds. I think this is part of the rationale behind the recent ticket price increases: increase the price so that the perceived discount for those buying “money saving” packages is greater. Since few people are actually paying the rack rates or base prices anyway, they think they are saving more money, when in reality, Disney is just raising the list price and offering the same or a comparable discount. I could go on about this, but I think it’s probably (definitely) beyond the scope of this post!

      Keep collecting that data!

      • Tom,

        We have already booked our trip for the fall. If i use my other email to create an account and receive a PIN, do you think i would be able to apply it to our current trip?

    • Just want to add that I had never received a PIN code until I booked a disney cruise than canceled without losing any deposit. About a month later, I received a PIN code to use on a cruise. It was a much better rate than the advertised rate for the cruise. Of course I then booked with the discount. So I would suggest as someone did to book a trip and then cancel…and hope for the email. We saved around $2000 with the PIN code.

      • Well Gwen,
        I am trying out your method. I just booked for WDW in April. I will cancel it next week and see if they send me anything. I will keep you posted!

  • I’m not so sure about this. We’ve been to WDW 7 times in the last 5 years and I’d guess we receive 2-3 pin codes per year. So I’m not sure that they don’t send them to frequent visitors. We are, however, members of Disney Movie Club, Movie Rewards, and we sign up for the planning DVD each year. So maybe there’s some truth to that part of it.

    • I would be interested to know whether the email account you’re using to book the trips (if using one) is the same as that on file with your other accounts. Perhaps just signing up for a few other Disney products with the same account you’re using for travel-booking is sufficient. The thing is, the very fact that you receive 2-3 PIN Codes per year and others who go frequently have never received a PIN Code almost requires there to be something you’re doing differently–triggering something in the algorithm–to cause more Codes to be sent to you. Probability-wise, you’d have to be extremely lucky if that weren’t the case.

  • I’ll back this theory up. I’ve never gotten a pin code. In the past 4 years since I finished my CP I’ve booked 8 WDW trips, as well as 2 DLR trips, a Disney Cruise, and a Vero Beach trip. I’m a member of every official Disney site under the sun, and it’s never made sense to me why I personally don’t receive them…but I get them indirectly. Every so often I’ll receive 5 or 6 of the postcards from Disney with pins on the same day, all addressed to random friends (with my address since I was the one who booked with Disney) who have gone on trips with me once and haven’t returned again. Theory = proved.

    • Same here! I once took a friend of my daughters on a WDW trip during April vacation a few years ago….since that time, I have received numerous emails with PIN codes addressed to her thru my email address. But, becuase it’s addressed to her, I have not been able to use them (we tried and failed!)…even though I paid for her trip! I’m testing the theory…..it’s killing me though….I have NO trip booked (first time in a at least 5 years)…I’ve signed up for all Disney websites etc. Waiting for a PIN Code….We’ll see…

      • If I were to wager a guess, I would bet that the bullet points that fall into the category of “incomplete trips” (canceled bookings) would be the most important factors. After all, a membership in a movie club does show interest in Disney, generally, but it’s a bit more tenuated from a Disney Vacation than dining reservations or actually booking a room and canceling. There are some really good discounts out there right now, perhaps one of those would do the trick for you? Good luck!

  • Interesting. I receive Pin codes a few times a year. I would say most of our trips, if not all, the last few years have been booked using a pin code. I figured we probably keep getting the codes because we use them. I did not sign up for multiple accounts. Although I did change my email address and do get codes to both email addresses. I do not belong to any other clubs or anything.

    • Well clearly your email is associated with the bookings, since you’re using the PIN codes to book, which presumably came to your email. So, I don’t know what to say? Maybe there are some variables you’re hitting that I missed? Perhaps when you’re there, you eat only at the California Grill, Citrico’s, and Victoria & Albert’s and Disney doesn’t want to miss out on this type of spending?! ;) I really don’t know; you certainly are an anomaly as far as this article goes. Perhaps monkeys truly are making the decisions?

  • After making at least 1 trip every 12-18 months for the last twelve years, I had never received a PIN code before. This year, I went on the WDW website and got a price quote and then saved two or three trip option quotes. Within 24 hours I received a PIN code good during those dates of travel. I did this two different times, once under my name, once under my husbands and it worked both times.
    I booked our upcoming trip under a room only 30% off PIN code discount at POFQ for late September and then rebooked because free dining was $70 cheaper.

  • This is a very l33t approach Tom, I’m impressed!

  • Nice post, Tom, and thanks to everyone else who posted tips. I’m going to try some of these shortly.

  • With all this scrambling for pin codes (and I’ve done it too!), I’d like to see a discussion on whether or not it’s worth it. I received one of the elusive pin codes this year, used to it book a trip, and then switched to the public fall offer when that was released. Finally, I switched to the AP holder discount. (These were all room-only discounts at a Deluxe Villa.) In the end, the pin code wasn’t as good as the AP offers.

    That being said, I did receive the pin code offer a full two and a half months before the AP discount was released. I guess my main point is that while it’s fun to go pin code hunting, I’d definitely advise keeping an eye on public or AP discounts too. Often they are just as good if not better.

  • I signed up for the planning DVD at the beginning of this year and on 2/9/10 I received a pin code offering 40% off a deluxe resort. I booked our families 1st trip to WDW for 8/11-8/18 at AKL, safari view bunk room. I called about once per month to find out if my pin code would allow me to upgrade to club level, everytime told “no, not available, sorry”. Anyway, when we checked into our room and given keys to our 4th floor room the cast member told me that we had been upgraded to club level access FREE of charge! I was stunned. I did a ton of logging in to my account on disney.com and calling with questions about our trip. I’m not sure if that influenced the free upgrade or not? I’ll tell you what it did though… I can’t stop smiling about our trip and am certainly telling EVERYONE how great WDW is for a family destination. By the Way, Thanks for such a great website, it helped us so much to make our 1st trip effiencent as well as fun!!!!!!

  • I have never received a PIN code myself and I’ve been going to Disney World every year to every couple of years since 1994. I’ve even ordered the Disney Vacation Planning DVD hoping for a code. Nope. So I booked the Free Dining Plan for Nov 2010 anyway, even though half my trip (we are going for 16 days!) was a blackout period. Very upset about that!

    Then I ordered a DVD for my sister under a different email address and mailing address and she got a PIN code email! And it was with no blackout dates! WTH? I was pissed.

    She wasn’t using it so I was going to use it myself and noticed it said non-transferrable. Ugh. So I figured I’d call Disney Reservations and ask for a manager and insist they give me the PIN rate. Then I thought I’d try it online first before I made a big deal over the phone.

    It did require me to book it using her name and address/zip as the place the documents will go, but it allowed me to use only my name and my husband’s and children’s names as the guests without having to use my sister’s (she has a different last name). So she will get the documents mailed to her house but that’s not a big deal. I saved $1400!!!

    I plan to try ordering the DVD next year again under my parent’s address and email…

    Hope this helps someone.

  • I noticed pin codes started coming to me after I answered a survey at Hollywood Studios. I stopped for 2 surveys (Epcot and Halloween party) last year and have gotten multiple PIN offers this year.

  • I have been a Disney devotee since birth, and have gone to WDW well over 100 times. The last few trips I have planned, booked and paid for my entire family (under my name) and have NEVER received a PIN. What really gets me is that before, during and after our stay, my parents get cute reminders in the mail, towel animals and autographed pictures left by mousekeeping, and bounceback offers. I get nothing! I’m too addicted to be able to stay away because of this, but I do wish Disney would put a little more effort into keeping their returning guests happy!

  • So you are saying that free dining is a better deal than the room discount at POFQ for Nov.13-19,2011? There will be just 2 adults.

  • Is there a way to find out what your pin code is for without contacting disney?

  • Thank you for this article. If it helps I called and created an account with Disney back in Nov of 2011, for an Extended Family trip we are planning for Nov 2012 (10 plus rooms). Since then I have received 4 seperate PIN code offers from Disney. We have never booked before and this would be our first trip. None of the pin code offers were for the period we were looking for so I never thought twice about them until I read this. I have no other disney accounts except this one.

  • I received a 10 % PIN code today after signing up for about a million different Disney sites. 10%????? come on!!!! Throw me a bone Disney!!!

    Might use another email address and sign back up.

    Thanks for a great site!

  • I had no idea until I read this article that the PIN codes were all that special! I went to WDW in March 2007 and then again in August 2009 and booked through a travel agent at AAA. I also am signed up on the Disney website. My husband and I were looking to go in March again this year and in December, I received a PIN for 35% off the resort for Jan. 1 – March 31 of this year! It made the difference between us being able to stay in the Contemporary vs. another resort (since this is “peak” season). I really have no clue what I did to get one of these PINs but I’m sure glad I did as I highly enjoyed my stay in the Contemporary!

  • Slowly…becoming obsessed on getting pin code. Got one last year, booked, cancelled because of free dining. Now trying again for this October. Going to try the book then cancel idea.

  • I got an elusive pin code after booking and canceling a trip through WDW reservations. I also ordered the customized maps and planning DVD (Before I had to cancel.) So, I’m not sure which one worked. I just know that I received one shortly after I canceled. We are planning a trip for July of 2012, and I am sooooo excited!! :)

  • Are these pin numbers only valid for US citizens?

  • We planning on going 1st week of January for 6 nights. We have been 4 times in the last 8 years, always booking myself thru the website. Never seen a PIN code before. We had friends going the same time as us, who DID receive a PIN code. It was substantial for our family of 4. It would allow us to move from Value resort to Moderate resort, and save $300 PLUS it included FREE DINING which we otherwise would not have received. I called DISNEY and explained the situation, and since we were going with friends, (and they could verify their reservations), they allowed us to take advantage of the offer. Saved us $1300 all said and done.

  • Keep up the excellent work. I book marked your site, and I’m wanting further to read more articles like this. I’m looking for the subscribe box right now :). Good luck

  • I’d like to know the answer to Fiona’s question. Are these PIN codes only available to US citizens and/or residents?
    I suspect the answer is yes. I’m signed up to Disney.com and Disney movie rewards, and I was sent a planning CD two years ago. I have never seen a PIN.
    Can anybody can confirm this, or better still refute it?
    (Australian, visited WDW April 2012)

  • I have gone every year for 7 years. Never even knew a pin code existed. I made a profile for my son, who is 7, just to play around online with him. I received a pin code in the mail a few weeks later. I could not use it, because he is only 7 and has a different last name than my wife and I. Clearly this system is only for people who are not already in their database as a customer who has spent money.

  • I seem to get a pin every time they send one. However, I am a tad obsessed with planning so I visit their site often checking different quotes and different resorts. I also order a planning DVD every year. I utilize the chat feature on the site whenever I’m trying to plan as well I think that whenever you show a lot of interest, but you don’t book, they want to send you the offer.

  • Thirty years, two kids, and dozen or so trips since our first 1982 WDW trip. Recieved first ever 35% off Pin# in December 2013. Over the years we have had the free planning DVD’s sent to three different addresses without receiving a pin#. Sat though a Disney Vacation Club pitch. We stayed at at least one value, 4 different moderates, and three different deluxe resorts. We have arrived by private taxi, rental cars, and the Magical Express. We have flown into Orlando on numerous different air carriers. multiple rooms on one trip. Vacationed with Kids and without. Purchased hard tickets for MNSSHP & MVMCP. One Disney vacation Club with free dining trip also. Vacationed on the fourth of July, August, September, October and December. All to no avail as far as getting a coveted pin#. Our daughter and her husband received a pin# via a post card the very next year after staying at the POFQ sans kids. We just stayed at POFQ in September for two years in a row while buying MNSSHP tickets each year. Voila, we get a pin#. Is POFQ the chosen resort? Is it because we came two years in a row at the same time( slow season). Because we purchased MNSSHP tickets two years in a row? We have also made and had to cancel room and dining reservations multiple times over the years. That provided no magic pin# for us either. Lack of employer approved vacation dates prevented us from using the December 2013 pin#. Disney recently offered a Summer Vacation promotion to their Visa card holders then to the general public. Within a few days after that, we recieved another (30%) pin# offer. Our second in four months and 30 plus years. We intend to use it! I suspect there maybe more than an algorithm at work here! Could it be that Disney has a marketing department that likes to entice repeat visitors during the slow seasons? Your guess is as good as mine. No wait, its probably better. One thing is for sure, I’ll bet the pin# distribution methodology has been constantly evolving. More resort rooms to fill in off seasons equals more pin# s to come. I surely hope so for all of us Disneyphiles.

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