Disney’s new MyMagic+ system is undergoing larger and more frequent testing. A key component of MyMagic+ is the MagicBand, which means that more guests are having questions about the ins and outs of MagicBand use. Here’s a handy primer with answers to some of the most frequently asked questions abut MagicBands.
What exactly is a MagicBand?
MagicBands are plastic/rubber bracelets containing an electronic chip. Depending on which features you activate, the MagicBand can function as your room key, park ticket, charge card for food and merchandise, FastPass, interactive game piece, and more.
While these features are not currently active, future MagicBand purposes might include use as a PhotoPass identifier, MagicalExpress voucher, resort entrance gate opener, attraction special effects activator, etc.
What technology is used in the MagicBand?
The MagicBands contain an HF Radio Frequency Device (RFID). The device sends and receives signals via a small antenna in the band. The Radio Frequency device works in short range situations (touching the band to a hotel room’s “key pad”) or in longer range situations (perhaps activating a portion of a ride or game).
Out in the real world, RFID technology is used in some credit cards, in highway toll paying such as EZPass or SunPass, in some video game controllers and in many other situations. Chances are you may already be using an RFID device at home and not even be aware of it.
How do I physically use a MagicBand?
Most of the time you simply tap the Mickey icon on the face of the MagicBand onto an electronic reader. There are now electronic readers on all the WDW resort room doors, at most counter service and table service restaurants, at most merchandise locations, at all park entrance gates, and at all FastPass+ attractions. If you are making a purchase using your MagicBand, you will generally be required to enter a PIN as a security measure. You self-select your PIN upon check-in at your Walt Disney World resort hotel.
It does matter a bit that you get your “tap” correctly positioned. I happen to be left handed. When I used the MagicBand, it may be my imagination but I felt like sometimes the electronic reader was in a position that would be better accessed by a right-hander. Every once in a while I had to turn my wrist at an odd angle. This was not particularly challenging, it just took me a while to get used to. My right-handed husband had no issues at all.
How can I get one?
MagicBands are currently in a testing phase. You have to be chosen as part of the test to be given a MagicBand.
How can I get chosen for a test?
Currently all testers are guests registered for stays at Walt Disney World hotels. Not every hotel is part of the test. The current round of testing runs from Sept 3 to Oct 31, 2013.
Guests that will be taking part in the next round of tests will have to arrive at their Walt Disney World Resort between the dates of Sept. 3, 2013, and Oct. 31, 2013. Guests of the following resorts MIGHT be selected for MagicBand testing: Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas (Jambo House only), Art of Animation, Beach Club and Villas, Contemporary, Polynesian, Pop Century, Port Orleans Riverside, and Yacht Club. While there’s always some possibility that this list will change, unless you are staying at one of these hotels, it is highly unlikely that you will be a MagicBand tester. If you’ll be visiting Walt Disney World and are truly dying to test MagicBands, then you may want to arrange to stay at one of these hotels.
The dates and locations of future testing are not yet available.
If I do get chosen for test, how far in advance will I know?
I’ve been selected for various phases of MyMagic+ testing three times. In each case, I was informed of my selection via a large UPS envelope delivered to my home between 15-30 days prior to the start of my reservation. I have heard anecdotal evidence that some guests have been informed of test selection via email, but this has not been my personal experience.
Can I get a MagicBand if I’m not staying on property?
Not right now.
During the initial part of full roll-out, it’s likely that all resort guests and WDW annual pass holders will be given MagicBands as part of their package or ticket. At some unspecified later date, all guests (including day guests staying off property) will be able to use MagicBands for their park tickets, FastPasses, etc. We have no information about when this might happen, how it might happen (home delivery? pick up at the gate? travel agent distribution?), or whether additional costs might be incurred by day guests wanting to use a MagicBand. Stay tuned.
If I’m selected for MagicBand testing, how will I get my MagicBands?
MagicBands are now being mailed to guests’ homes prior to their travel, assuming that the reservation is made at least ten days prior to check-in. If there are timing glitches or if the reservation is made on short notice, the bands will be available at the hotel front desk during check-in.
When will the MagicBands be fully available?
The rumor mill has generated full implementation dates ranging from late October 2013 on through mid-2014. There is currently no official roll-out date. The product is in a test phase and implementation will depend on test results.
How do I control my MagicBand functions?
Many of your MagicBand functions are controlled via MyDisneyExperience (MDX). MDX can be accessed at the DisneyWorld.com website or through a free downloadable app on your table or smartphone (Apple App Store, Google App Store, etc.). Kristina Murphy gives a good overview of the MyDisneyExperience experience here and here.
You activate or deactivate the food/merchandise charging capability of your MagicBand when you check into your Walt Disney World resort hotel.
How to I link my park tickets to my MagicBand?
If you have purchased a full package from WDW, your park tickets should already be loaded onto your MagicBand. If you have a room-only reservation, you can manually add your park tickets to your MagicBand via the MyDisneyExperience website. This works both for tickets purchased through Disney (online, at a Disney store, leftover no-expire tickets, etc.) and for tickets purchased through third party vendors such as Undercover Tourist or Maple Leaf Tickets. On the MDX site, go to “My Reservations,” scroll down until you see “Link Tickets,” and follow the steps from there.
Again, if you only have park tickets but no WDW room reservation, there is currently no way to get a MagicBand. This will likely change in the future, but we have no word on when that might happen.
Are the MagicBands comfortable?
This is a matter of personal taste. I wore a MagicBand extensively for four days and many times forgot I had it on. My husband, who is less comfortable having things on his wrist, did notice that he was wearing his band, but found that he got used to it over the course of a vacation. The band size is highly adjustable, allowing it to accommodate everyone from a preschooler to a linebacker. Anecdotal evidence is that the key to comfort is proper sizing. Keep adjusting yours until you get the fit just right.
Can I use a card instead of a MagicBand?
Yes. In addition to MagicBands, testers are also being issued standard Key to the World cards as they had been in the past. Currently, the MagicBand and KTTWC functions are completely duplicative. Both items will unlock your room, allow you to enter FastPass lines, etc. If you really hate having something on your wrist, go ahead and use the KTTWC instead.
In the future there may be some MagicBand features that you’ll miss if you only use a card. For example, the longer-range RFID capabilities of the Band may activate game or attraction features that could not be otherwise accessed.
Can different members of my party use different ticket/key methods?
Currently, yes. During my previous MagicBand testing, there were times when I used a MagicBand and my husband used a KTTWC. This was no problem at all.
What color MagicBands are available?
The current colors selection includes: pink, green, red, orange, blue, gray, and yellow. If you end up not pre-ordering your MagicBands and getting them at your resort, then basic gray may be your only option.
If you don’t like the look of your MagicBand, there are embellishments available for purchase. These include fabric wraps which completely envelope the band as well as an array of clips, charms and sliders depicting Disney characters and icons.
Can the MagicBand help me keep track of my children?
This might be a MagicBand feature in the future, but currently child-tracking is not an advertised or (to the best of my knowledge) authorized use of the MagicBand. That being said, if a lost child is found wearing a MagicBand, it is theoretically possible that a cast member could scan the MagicBand, find the link to the parent’s reservation number and possibly a linked phone number. If my child were lost, I would not want to rely on this nascent technology. You can easily write your cell phone number on the inside of your child’s band, thus greatly reducing the time it takes to find the number. The inside of the bands are all a dark grey. In my experience, the metallic silver color Sharpie has the most “pop” on this surface.
Can I get my MagicBand wet?
Yep. No problem. You can swim and shower with your MagicBand.
Can members of my party share MagicBands?
While there’s nothing really to stop you from having Little Sis use Mom’s MagicBand, this is not technically allowed.
The bands are non-transferrable, even among family members. There are many situations (such as FastPass+) in which using a MagicBand alerts a cast member to the MagicBand holder’s name, meaning that a cast member might call Little Sis “Bertram” if she uses Grandpa’s MagicBand to get an extra spin on Space Mountain.
(If Bertram catches on as a little girl’s name, I’m taking credit for it. :-))
Does having a MagicBand mean that I don’t have to bring any cards into the park?
As a person who has had to go straight from a park to a medical care facility on more than one occasion, I recommend that guests keep photo ID, proof of medical insurance, and a real credit or debit card on their person at all times.
Additionally, there are a number of Disney-related cards you may want to carry because their functions are not yet contained on the MagicBand. For example, I am a Tables in Wonderland card holder. In order to obtain the TiW discount, I needed to have the card with me. The MagicBand does not contain this information, nor is there any current way to link my TiW status to my MagicBand. And even though my annual pass holder status is linked to my MagicBand, if I wanted to take advantage of the 10% annual pass merchandise discount, I still need to show my AP card AND a photo ID. Right now, having a MagicBand means I’m keeping track of more things, not less. As the MagicBand gains more functionality, this will likely change.
What happens if I lose my MagicBand?
If you happen to misplace your MagicBand at Walt Disney World, go to the front desk of your hotel or to any park guest relations office as soon as possible and report the loss. They will deactivate the band so that other guests cannot enter your room or otherwise use the missing band. You will be issued a replacement band. Replacement bands are uniformly gray.
If you can’t get to your hotel or guest relations office right away, you can deactivate your band yourself using the MyDisneyExperience website or app. Got to the manage MagicBand section, select your band, and then deactivate. You can get a replacement later.
Are there any medical contraindications with using the MagicBand?
The MagicBand packaging does include a few medical notices, particularly for guests using implanted pacemakers or cardioverter-defibrillators. If you use these or any other medical device such as an insulin pump, neurostimulator, or hearing aid, you’re encouraged to seek medical counsel about RFID interaction with your physician and/or your medical device manufacturer. Please read the warnings enclosed with your MagicBand.
What is using a MagicBand actually like?
During a recent test, I gave a MagicBand a full workout. Check out my previous MagicBand test post for a detailed description.
You can also check out my experience using a MagicBand to pay for food at WDW table service restaurants.
Can an individual have more than one MagicBand?
Yes. Because I have been selected for multiple tests, I have now been issued my second MagicBand. I’m going to bring them both to the parks during my visit at the end of September. I’ll put the dual bands through the paces to see which features of my old band are still available on my new trip. I’ll let you know what I uncover.
MagicBands are also reusable. If you have one you like, you can continue to use it during future visits. Manage this function via the MyDisneyExperience website.
Is there anything special a WDW annual pass holder should know about MagicBands?
Yes. If an AP holder acquires a MagicBand during testing (by staying at a select WDW resort hotel), some functions of the MagicBand will remain operational after the resort stay (assuming that the AP is still valid). For example, an AP holder with a MagicBand can continue to make FastPass+ reservations and use the Band with in-park games such as the new Pirates Adventure quest.
Both my daughters want pink MagicBands. How can I tell them apart?
Pre-ordered MagicBands have each guest’s name printed on the inside. If you end up getting last minute or replacement bands without and imprint, I suggest that you physically write each owner’s name inside the band yourself.
I’m concerned about privacy. Is “Big Brother” (“Big Mickey”) watching me when I use my MagicBand.
If you’re asking whether Disney is collecting information about you when you use a MagicBand, then the answer is yes. They will know when you go to your room, when you enter the parks, how much you’re spending on merchandise and so on. None of this is particularly new. In the past, any time you entered a park or paid for merchandise with a Key to the World Card, Disney also gathered this information. Personally, I’m not too worried about it. Nor am I worried about RFID hackers roaming the parks. While a hacker could, in theory, obtain your MagicBand ID code through nefarious acts, they would not be able to access your credit card information or other personal data because these items are not stored on the Bands themselves.
If you’re nervous, you can somewhat limit your electronic footprint by paying for food/merchandise with cash and by inputting the bare minimum of data when activating your MyDisneyExperience account. Disney has very large privacy/use notice on the MyDisneyExperience website. Feel free to peruse.
Can I use my MagicBand at places other than Walt Disney World?
Right now, the only non-WDW application of the MagicBand involves the new Disney Infinity electronic game system. Apparently if you place your MagicBand on the game controller, Tinker Bell flies out of your TV and fluffs the pillows on your living room couch. Or maybe not, I’m not much of a gamer.
MagicBands are not currently used at any of the Disney theme parks outside Orlando.
I’m interested in the business implications of MagicBands. Do you have information about this?
There have been several articles in the mainstream press about MagicBands and their business and technological implications. Here are a few you might find interesting:
Now that you know the basics about the MagicBands themselves, stayed tuned for more info coming up about FastPass+ specifics. In the meantime, let us know if you have any additional questions about MagicBands.