Paying for Merchandise at Walt Disney World: What Can You Use to do This?

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You’re at the Magic Kingdom, your Sweet Baboo wants a sweet Mickey tee. You’re more than happy to oblige, but how exactly do you pay for this souvenir. Not surprisingly, Disney accepts many forms of payment. Here are your options:

  • Cash. Yep, good old American money works wonders.
    • Pros: It’s easy to understand, save, count, etc. If you need more, there are ATMs located at all the WDW parks and resorts. You can use it at non-Disney locations.
    • Cons: If you lose it, it’s gone.
  • Credit cards. Disney accepts Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diner’s Club, Discover, and JCB (Japanese Credit Bureau).
    • Pros: Familiar, easy.
    • Cons: Maybe too easy.

Disney dollars are fun, but perhaps not the most practical choice.

  • Debit cards. These work if they’re scannable like a credit card. Debit cards with the Visa or Mastercard logo work just fine.
    • Pros: Easy to budget.
    • Cons: Might not have accessible funds if you need to make a particularly large purchase. (Or is that another pro?)
  • Traveler’s checks. Must be in U.S. currency. You must have a photo ID to use.
    • Pros: Replaceable if lost or stolen.
    • Cons: There may be fees to purchase. Some cast members may be unfamiliar with these, causing your transaction to take a bit longer. Some banks no longer offer these for purchase, making them difficult to obtain.
  • Disney Dollars. Disney dollars are Disney’s in-house currency. They look like Monopoly money would if it were designed by Mickey Mouse. Disney dollars used to be more widely available, but now they can only be purchased at Guest Relations and resort locations at Disney World and Disneyland, and via mail order. Disney dollars can be obtained for an even exchange of American dollars. You can use them as you would U.S. currency at Disney locations.
    • Pros: They’re pretty. They make a fun gift.
    • Cons: They’re somewhat difficult to obtain these days. They’re not replaceable if lost or stolen. Are you really going to use them, or are they an expensive souvenir? Cast members would rather be tipped in real cash than Disney cash.

Use a Disney Visa, get a reward card.

  • Disney gift cards.
    • Pros: Gift cards are easy to obtain, may be purchased at park locations, online, and at Disney Stores. Reloadable. Balance check available online. Can be used for non-park items such as cruise and Disney Store purchases. Many attractive designs available for gifting. No fees to use. Funds may be recoverable if card is lost/stolen.
    • Cons: Can only be used in Disney situations. For example, Disney gift cards won’t work at the shops/restaurants of the Swan & Dolphin because these are not Disney-owned locations. May not be used at Disney Stores outside the U.S.
  • Stored value cards. These are pre-paid, non-Disney gift cards. For example, the American Express Gift card or Visa TravelMoney card. Like debit cards, if these are machine readable and are imprinted with the logo of a major credit card company, then you’re good to go.
    • Pros: Easy, convenient, may be purchased in many locations. Helpful with budgeting.
    • Cons: Limited availability of funds in an emergency.
  • Disney Visa Rewards redemption cards. Disney Rewards Visa holders accumulate points which they can turn into a gift-card-like device for use at Disney locations.
    • Pros: Hey you earned it!
    • Cons: Only useful in Disney situations. Limited availability of funds in an emergency.
  • Your Key to the World card. If you choose to do so, your Key to the World Card (your room key) can be encoded in a way that allows you to charge merchandise/food/tickets/etc. to you room account. To set up this service you need to leave credit or debit card information, or a cash reserve, with the front desk of your hotel.
    • Pros: Convenient – your entire vacation is on one card. Reloadable. Can be replaced if lost. Possibly a good option for guests who only use cash, but don’t want to carry large amounts of cash on their person.
    • Cons: Only useful in Disney situations. Limited availability of funds in an emergency.

You can turn your room key into a payment card.

Believe it or not, there are actually a few forms of payment that Disney does not accept. These include:

    • Personal checks. Disney merchandise locations stopped taking personal checks as payment in 2006. I’ve spent way more time than is healthy trying to suss out the current status of personal check acceptance for on-site resort room payments and other non-merchandise situations. I’ve spoken to three different cast members at 407-W-DISNEY and the front desks of four different resorts and gotten many different answers, including: no personal checks ever; personal checks OK, but no cash advances; personal checks are OK with drivers license as ID; and personal checks are OK with drivers license and credit card as ID. Truly, I’m not sure what the actual policy is, and having gotten such a variety of answers from different cast members, I’m at a bit of a loss as to even find out the real scoop. At very least this tells you that if you want to use a personal check anywhere at WDW, you’re in for a bit of a run around. When in doubt, use a debit card.
    • Non-U.S. currency. Only United States currency is legal tender at Walt Disney World. If you find yourself with only international paper on hand, currency exchange is available at the Disney resorts, theme park and Downtown Disney guest relations offices, and at Orlando International airport. Be aware that there may be limits on the amount of currency allowed to be exchanged. A strange bit of trivia for you: While Walt Disney World does not take payment in foreign currency, you can buy foreign currency at Walt Disney World. Many of the shops at Epcot sell souvenir packs of coins from each of the countries represented in the World Showcase.

Cash payments must be in U.S. dollars.

DOES IT MATTER WHAT PAYMENT METHOD I USE?

Beyond the pros and cons listed above, there’s not much difference between payment methods. However, you should be aware that there may be discounts available to you should you choose one method or another. I’m specifically talking about the Disney Visa card. Beyond the Visa Rewards, a key selling point of the card is that it allows you merchandise discounts at some locations. For example, if you pay with cash, you pay the full retail price. If you pay with a Disney Visa, you get a 10% discount. I’m not telling anyone to go out and get a credit card, but if you happen to have a Disney Visa, you should always ask if there’s a discount for using it.

GIVEN ALL THE OPTIONS, WHAT SHOULD I HAVE IN MY POCKET?

Again, much of the choice is personal preference based on the pros/cons above. However, I would strongly caution you against ever walking into the park with just your Key to the World Card or Disney Gift or Reward cards in your pocket. You should ALWAYS carry some cash as well as some real-world plastic.

Cash will be needed if you quickly and unexpectedly need to take a taxi. This has happened to me twice in my WDW travels, both times related to medical situations. The corollary of this is that once I was away from WDW in my medically needed required taxi, I was “off campus” and thus needed to have real money on hand, not just Key cards and gift cards. As tempting as it may be leave your wallet in the hotel safe and venture into the theme parks with just your Key card, PLEASE don’t do it.

So Disney shoppers, what’s your preferred method of payment when you’re in the parks? International peeps, do you find any unique challenges with payment for Disney parks merchandise? Let us know in the comments below.

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Posted on March 14, 2012

13 Responses to “Paying for Merchandise at Walt Disney World: What Can You Use to do This?”

  • We recently learned that you don’t necessarily have to pay with your Disney Visa to get the 10% discount: if you are paying with the rewards card and show the visa, CMs will also give you the discount. The rewards card doesn’t automatically get the discount because it’s transferrable (there’s no name on the card).

    • Good tip about the discount with the rewards card. I’ve tried to pay cash before, but show my Disney Visa, and was denied the 10% discount. I wonder if I got a cranky CM or if that’s a genuine rule.

  • Good recap. Note the Disney Visa card is only available to US residents, so like home (=foreign) currency, puts foreign guests at a disadvantage.

    • That’s a good reminder. Thank you.

      Whenever I pay for something in the parks, I go through the whole list of cards in my pocket (Visa, DVC, D23, AAA, AnnualPass) and ask if any of them will get me a discount. Some of those options are available to international guests.

  • Just wanted to add my two cents…we have been purchasing Disney Gift Cards at Target, using my Target Red Card, Debit Card. Every week, I purchase one $50 gift card. I get a 5% discount for using my Target Red Card (currently…guessing they will catch on to this sooner or later). We are saving for a HUGE trip in 2013, so I figure by doing this EVERYTHING will be paid for, and we’ll not only get our 5% discount for using the Target Red Card, but we’ll be able to add either our D23, DVC, or TIW discounts to help reduce our overall costs. No matter what, that trip will have NO (future/current) out of pocket expenses because we will have prepaid for all of the Gift Cards!
    -KJ

    • This is one way of looking at it, but a better alternative might be to take that money you are freezing in non-appreciating gift cards and invest it in a low-risk account. Then, pay for everything on your trip with a high-rewards credit card and use those invested funds to immediately pay off the card.

      You’re likely losing more than 5% due to the time value of money (http://www.tvmcalcs.com/tvm/tvm_intro) by buying the gift cards now, so there’s that, plus the 2-5% in rewards you’d receive at the end of the trip.

      Erin, this is an interesting overview of payment methods, but looked at objectively, from a purely economic standpoint, I see no better method of payment than credit card. I know some people dislike credit cards for whatever reasons, but they’re still the most pragmatic form of payment for those who use them correctly.

      • I completely agree with the credit card being the easiest method of payment. I nearly always use a credit card or my KTTW card (which is basically the same thing) when I’m in the parks.

        There are, however, a HUGE number of people who have sworn off credit cards. We get several questions a day on disneyworldmoms.com about whether credit cards are required and asking for alternative payment methods.

        We also hear from many folks like Kristin who use Disney gift cards as a budgeting tool. Probably the same subset of guests who like the Disney Dining Plan as a budgeting tool. While, as you point out, this may not make totally sound sense from a financial perspective, it does give them great peace of mind that they won’t come home to big bills after their vacation.

  • I travel to WDW annually from the UK and generally have my KTTW card and about $100 cash on me. I keep track of my spend and clear my room balance every 4-5 days to make sure I a) haven’t forgotten anything and b) never let the balance get too high. We leave a credit card in the safe and not the same one we link our KTTW card to. The final belt and braces is when we do pay our balance, we use travellers cheques and not the card. The front desk always know how to use them!

  • Was looking for this on the web and found on your site, thanks. Prepaid Debit Cards

  • I wonder if Disney has a prepaid debit card that you can use? That would be great if they did, they could give you a merchandise discount if it is used and you could still use it outside of Disney.

    • There is no Disney debit card. The closest thing would be the gift card, which you can preload with any specified amount. You can use the gift card at the US Disney parks, US Disney hotels, the cruise line, Disney Stores (retail and online), and a few other situations, but you can’t use it in non-Disney-related venues.

      • by Jenny Martin on July 24, 2013, at 11:12 am EDT

        There is a debit card available through Chase that is a Disney debit card! It is not a pre-paid card…it is my regular checking account debit card that has several Disney perks, such as 10% off a $50 or more purchase at Disney Stores and select locations in WDW and Disneyland, a character meet & greet at WDW and Disneyland with a 5×7 photo, 10% off select dining locations at WDW and DL and $50 onboard credit when you use it to pay for a DCL cruise in full. Also, you get to choose from 4 Disney card designs.