Disney Rewards—A Word of Warning

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Some people are not credit card users, and I understand the pitfalls of not paying off your credit card debt monthly.  But for those of us who like to use credit cards to our advantage in order to get the points or bonuses offered—without incurring any finance charges—the Disney Rewards Visa card from Chase is a great option for Disney lovers.

My husband and I have had our Disney Visa card for several years.  We use it for gas and groceries and any other shopping in order to accumulate the $0.01 on the dollar Disney rewards.  Our initial plan was to pay off the card at the end of each month.  However, since my husband gets paid weekly, we often found the monthly bill daunting, so we started paying off the debt weekly online, which worked much better for us.

Although you can use Disney Rewards for all kinds of Disney purchases (e.g. online and at The Disney Store), we have always used our rewards for Disney World vacations.  This year our reward points came to $290, which is like having a $290 coupon for our vacation!  However, trying to redeem our rewards this time around turned into a nightmare.

I had ordered our Rewards card online a few weeks before our vacation balance was due, but I had neglected to call the activation number when the card arrived in the mail.  As I was about to pay off my vacation balance, I realized that I needed to activate my card, so I called the number.  The first obstacle I encountered was that the primary cardholder on the account was my husband.  I was a secondary cardholder, but was not allowed to activate the account.  (In hindsight, I wish I would have listed myself as the primary cardholder when I filled out the online form for the credit card years ago because I am the one who always makes our travel arrangements.)  I realize that this obstacle is in place for our protection, but in the moment, it was very frustrating.  I could not reach my husband at work, and our balance was due that day.

Once my husband arrived home, he called to activate the card.  Then I called our travel agent and gave her the card number so that she could process the payment with Disney World.  In just a few minutes, my agent came back on the phone and told me that there was a block of some sort on my Rewards card.  It was not allowing Disney World to charge it.

To make a long and nerve-wracking story short, it took us three days of phone calls between the Rewards program and Disney World to get the Rewards card to work.  The operators at the Rewards program always insisted that there was no block on the card and that it should work.  Disney World continuously said that the card would not go through.

At one point a senior service specialist at Disney Rewards said that the problem was that we really did not have $290 reward dollars, although that is what showed up on his screen and in our account online.  He said we actually had $289.75 and that is why Disney World could not charge $290.  He said the reward program rounds up, but the points are not really there.  I asked if there was anyway he could adjust our rewards such that he would manually input the $.25 we needed.  He said that could be done, but my husband—the primary cardholder—would have to authorize that.  He made a note in his system so that when my husband called back, the adjustment would go through.

When my husband called later to authorize the manual addition of points, the consultant he spoke with said there was no note in the file and he didn’t know anything about manually adding points.  After some discussion, the consultant said he could not input $.25 or a dollar but could at $10.  He did that for us, and we appreciated it.  But when Disney World tried to charge the card again, it still would not go through.

During the three-day saga, a consultant at the Rewards program would often promise to do something but not follow through by the time we called back the next day.  My poor travel agent was wonderful, patient, and encouraging through it all.  At some point during the whole mess, my husband asked if he could be transferred to customer service or a complaint department at Disney Rewards to let them know about our problems and frustrations.  He was told, “no.”

Had our rewards amount been small, I would have probably given up at this point, but we had gone out of our way to earn the $290, and I was not going to give up so easily.  Eventually, the Rewards card worked.  To this day, I do not know what the glitch was or how it was finally resolved.

We have used our rewards in passed years with no problems, but this unpleasant experience has taught me a few things.

1.  Disney does not own the Rewards program, so don’t expect Disney-like customer service from them.

2.  Order your Rewards card and activate it several days before you need to use it.

3.  Don’t give up on the points you have earned.

4.  If you are the main trip planner, don’t list your husband as the primary cardholder.

I have not written the Rewards program off completely, and we may use our Disney Visa in the future to build points towards another trip.  However, this experience has made me a little bit hesitant.

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