Super Cheap Annual Pass Idea - Another Rewards post!

Over in The Chat I mentioned that I was thinking about a way to get a Super Cheap Annual Pass™ and a few people expressed interest. Here’s a non-quick back-of-the-napkin type of post on the idea…

This possibility came to me in a sparkly vision while falling asleep the other night. Seven tiny men with diamonds for eyes told me to SEEEEK REWAAAARDDS… SEEEEKK REEEEEWARDDDS and I realized that I might double down on the technique of my trip last month.

I also realized that summer sausage, peach salsa and grapefruit beer are not wise bedtime snack choices.

If you’ve read my other rewards posts and/or are not a fan of lengthy caveats, what-ifs or inane wordplay, you might want to just skip down to the bottom summary part of this post called So, WHAT IF?.

Before I go forward with this post, I will repeat the caveats that I have in other credit card and rewards type posts:

If you are on the verge of a large expense like seeking a mortgage, car loan, or plan to borrow several dozen sawbucks from your Great Uncle Zeppo so you can build a Tiki Room bar on your back deck, know that the techniques I mention below will have you applying for multiple credit cards and you may want to do some real research on how it could affect your credit score and whether you are comfortable with any possible changes thereof.

For the record, we have a FICO score up the near the top of the scale and keep it there by not carrying any balances on credit cards from month to month if at all possible. One of the largest determinants in your FICO is your ratio of available revolving credit to outstanding balances. Near-zero balances = very good ratio.

Before our summer trip, DW got a new Disney Visa in her name, while I cancelled my old Disney Visa and reapplied for a new one. We also both picked up Barclay Arrival MasterCards.

Since then my FICO score has gone down 10 points and DW’s went down 1. But, we are both still in the top 3% of the FICO scale. (Also, if I did nothing else for several months, I’d expect both scores to jump back to at least near where they were at the start. They might even make us FICO King & Queen.)

Also note, dear readers, that this particular theory is nothing more than a thought experiment at this time. I can see right off that using some of the Chase Ultimate Rewards points as I am about to outline will NOT necessarily be using all of those rewards to their greatest benefit. It appears that you get a better bang for your Chase points by transferring and using them for airfare or hotels. But, the rewards as I use them are still fairly hefty.

We tend not to fly, so that’s not an option for us - plus I have another double-secret* plan for a hotel deal.
*It is not really double-secret. But also is not the topic of this post.

If you read my previous post Pre Trip Report or How I Embraced Credit Card Rewards and Learned to Love Them you can see how I obtained a Barclaycard Arrival Plus Mastercard for both my wife and myself. We each spent the money required to earn the 50,000 points bonus and ended up with more than 56,000 points to use for travel reimbursements.

After some mathemagical finagling, I ended up squeezing more than $600 in credit out of those points.

All said and done, my previous rewards plan all worked spectacularly.
Between Disney Rewards and Barclay travel reimbursements we used more than $2,200 in rewards to offset our trip costs. (And that doesn’t include the $450 Disney gave us as a CBR construction rebate.)

Boy howdy, we had an absolutely great trip. Since coming back from The World, both DW and I each started murmuring hopefully that we could go back again next year. As one does. So I started looking into options.

I recently learned of reports that you can cancel your Arrival MC and just 6 to 8 months later (or some unknown quantity thereof) apply for a new one and GET ALL THE BONUS POINTS AGAIN. (The turnaround time to do the same with the Disney Visa is 24 months.)

I also learned that the Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa has a similar deal to the Barclay Arrival MC: you get 50,000 points after an initial spending threshold and you should end up with at least 54,000 points worth at least $540 in reimbursements. (That is when redeeming for cash - it is more like $625 when transferring those points to hotel or airlines and using them there.)

So, what if our only goal in the world was to get a SUPER CHEAP ANNUAL PASS?
Or should I ask, whose goal is it not? (or is that is not it?)

Another of my previous posts touted a spreadsheet I created that will help people figure out the best deals on discount Disney tickets - which can then be used to upgrade to APs.

The basic theory (which I learned from several other TP Chatters - kudos to them!) is that if you use the discounted tickets once to enter a park then go to Guest Services, the CM should bridge the price of those tickets to the current Disney Gate Price value. You then pay the difference between the gate price and the AP cost to upgrade. If the CM handles it all correctly, you get to keep that original discount amount.

Now that I’ve beaten you down linguistically over many many paragraphs, here’s my idea in a nutshell:
We have 4 people in our family that would need APs in this thought experiment.

WHAT if we combined the Discount tickets AP upgrade with Rewards? Let’s see what happens.

Step 1. Apply for the Barclay Arrival Mastercard and Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa.
Spend at least the initial amount required to earn the bonus rewards.

Both my wife and I would apply for each card since there are 4 of us in our family and we needs all the points we can get. So, we will have 4 credit cards and we will have these rewards to use:

Step 2. Go to my Disney Tickets Find Max Discount spreadsheet, plug in your number of Adults & Children and note what tickets you should buy to get the largest savings.

My spreadsheet’s chart says the tickets with the largest discount are 7 Day Park Hoppers from Boardwalk. (Note the vendors are color-coded in these charts.)

However, due to our wanting to use rewards reimbursements, there’s a slight difference in normal AP upgrade technique that I want to cover in this scenario. So, please bear with me on this side trip…

To maximize the rewards reimbursements, we want to make sure that the tickets we buy with each card cost at least $500. If you look at the price in the data table down below in the spreadsheet, the 7 Day Park Hoppers cost less than that:

Happily, my spreadsheet also has a table that tells you the largest savings for each type of ticket by the number of days, so it is easy to find other options:

You can see that the 10 day Park Hopper Plus tix also offer the same discount savings. There are also a few other ticket types and days that are within a few dollars of those savings. - any of these are worth checking.

If you scroll down to the ticket table in the sheet, you can see those 10 Day PH+ tix cost more than $500 each. Bingo!

Step 3. Use each credit card to buy one set of the multi-day tickets you found above.
In this example, we would use each card to buy a set of 10 Day Park Hopper Plus tickets at Boardwalk Ticketing.

Step 4. Use Rewards on each card to get travel reimbursements.
(In order to maximise the reward on the Barclay Arrival MC and get the whole $600, you will need to add an extra step that I go into in my original post. Too much detail for here.)

From my table in Step 1, you can see that in this scenario, DW and I would each have one Arrival MC and one Sapphire Preferred Visa, and together we would have about $2,280 in rewards to use.

(At this point I believe that is the minimum available for this technique - I may figure out a trick for more later…)

Step 5. Use your tickets to enter one of the Disney parks, then go to Guest Services and upgrade to AP.

Remember, if all goes well with the CM they should bridge your tickets and you will get to keep that original discount. My spreadsheet tells you how much the upgrade should cost and has a handy table to print and take with you in case the CM comes up with a different amount (as many have reported happens.)

In this example, the upgrade at Guest Services for all 4 of us should cost $1,167.


At this point - you are done. You…

  • Earned some large credit card rewards bonuses
  • Bought discounted tickets
  • Used the credit card rewards
  • Upgraded to Annual Passes

Here is how the numbers all come together (assuming I have not made any blatant errors):

So, you can see that using this process you will have ended up with 4 Annual Passes at a NET COST of about $190 per person. Well, that seems like it might be worth pursuing!

Obviously, spending $3 to $4 thousand dollars in 3 months on each credit card to earn the bonus points will take most of us some time to do. So, if this process does work properly, one will want to do it with enough lead time to get all of the rewards lined up in time to buy the tickets and redeem the rewards.

I’ll be cogitating (and thinking) on this whole process in the days to come and see if there are any holes in my plan.

I’ll also be looking into a Starwood Points method of staying at the Swan or Dolphin for 5 days for free. That is not a method I made up by any stretch, but I want to check out the ins and outs of that tactic, and see if I can do the same at an official Disney resort instead. (I’m not a fan of $45 daily fees at the Swolphin, even with a free hotel stay.)


Thanks for the info. Don’t forget too, that when you upgrade you can be using either Disney Gift Cards you bought at a discount or apply the cost to another credit card bonus or rewards program that will further decrease your price. :blush: Also, those eligible for discounted APs the savings will be significantly more than mentioned above. We can’t afford NOT to have APs right?

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Great read @JJT. I’m new to this strategy. Do the two credit cards mentioned have an erase travel expenditures feature? I wasn’t sure if that was what you were referring to. Also, is Boardwalk considered a travel purchase in this situation? Thank you!

Great points! :smiley:

Plus, there are all of the AP discounts one will get for food, merch and and even rooms (plus parking if off site.)

Yes - these cards are doing something like the “erase travel”

I did that with the Barclay this year for our tickets - turns out Undercover Tourist is categorized as Travel, so they were reimbursable. I still need to go through how the Chase Ultimate Rewards work in detail, but from what I understand so far you can use the rewards the same way.

I assume so far that the UT tix could be erased on Chase too - in fact I haven’t read anything that says Chase cash back is limited to travel at all. Would love to hear from someone with Ultimate Rewards if that is the case or not.

I think any hotel will work for travel.

YES- that too! And for our family we also reap the benefits of my husband traveling half the year, so even going 4-5 times a year, almost all of our hotel, flights and rental cars are paid with points and miles from those reward programs. We have found that WDW is one of the best places to vacation and package all of these strategies together.

I just noticed an error in my calculation I’ll have to look at - since the tickets I would buy are only $516, we can’t necessarily assume we are using the entire ($540) cash back on the Chase Rewards. (Worst case, it makes the net cost of the AP go up to $214 each.)

When getting reimbursements on Barclay’s rewards, they only offer you various tiers of points to redeem based on the value of the valid travel expense - not sure if Chase does that too, or if you can use the exact amount to redeem.

If not, I’ll be looking into using some Chase points for the tickets, then the rest for a hotel stay or something to use all of the points possible. I also see you can combine Chase points with a spouse, so I need to think about whether there is any mathematical advantage doing that…

I use Chase Ultimate Rewards and feel that I’ve gotten a great return. I originally had the Preferred Card and recently upgraded to the Platinum Reserve. The Chase Ultimate Rewards are fairly different than the Capital One “travel eraser.” With Capital One you book your travel through any site (airline website, etc) and then you erase that purchase after the fact on your statement. With Chase Ultimate Rewards there is a booking portal that you need to book through. It acts as a travel agent (which can be a good thing). You can see the value of the travel in points as well as in dollars. So if you don’t have enough points, you can always make up the rest in cash.

PS: I like having Chase be my travel agent as there was an error in my booking and they were able to fix it for free while Delta wanted to charge me $75!

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You can choose the exact amount of Chase points to redeem. Down to the single point. There is actually a little sideways toggle that you can just drag to pay all points/some points.

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I’m looking at some posts now about using the Chase Ink cards with their rotating 5x points categories to earn much higher rewards on things like utilities and gas. Then they transfer those points to the Sapphire Preferred so they can be used for more value in other travel programs.

After a mortgage refinance last month and the holidays done, I’ve gotten back onto researching my strategy here.

While doing this realized that the Barclaycard Arrival has downgraded the bonus to 40K miles from the previous 50K - putting that info here as a placeholder for me to re-crunch the numbers.

Another quick update for later: If anyone plans to start using credit card rewards for trips, now might be the time to start the ball rolling. I need to crack open my spreadsheet to figure out timing:

Chase Sapphire Preferred has upped bonus reward to 80K points:

Still has the original 50K points for $4K spend in 3 months, but now you also get 30K more points after you spend $20K in a year. Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card |

There is also a business card (if that applies to you) that has a sign on bonus of $500 if you spend 3k in the first 3 months. No annual fee. It’s a new offering, but won’t apply to certain people.

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Thanks! I’m going to resurrect my spreadsheet from last year and go over all of the options I had in there, including the Ink business card etc. I’ll post a run down and try to make a simpler summary of it all…

This is great information! Anyone with experience buying tickets through MVT? Wondering if these are coded as travel on these credit cards?

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I think there is always the chance of some odd gray zone, but I think in general any TA should be coded as travel for rewards cards. I have read on the Barclaycard travel forums when there was an issue with things not coding correctly, people were able to call and have the charge assigned correctly, but of course that could be hit and miss.

Here’s a good Points Guy post on the Chase travel coding that might help. Also, he also briefly mentions it regarding the Barclaycard Arrival in this post.

This thread is a couple of years old, but is probably a good place to pin the video I’m pasting below…

I’ve wondered how much money I might save by purchasing several APs now under the assumption that Disney will keep raising prices every year. So, I created a spreadsheet! (Go figure.)

My sheet lets you enter the number of APs to buy, the estimated annual price increases, along with your savings interest rate to determine how much interest you would lose by using the money now to fund your crippling Disney habit.

You can then tell the sheet to start using APs at some year in the future - a summary table at top will tell you how much you’d save (or lose maybe) with a fistful of APs.

Caveat: My sheet assumes you buy a new AP every year and doesn’t factor in renewal costs, because that would get ugly fast on the spreadsheet front. This is just a fun mind problem, after all.

Also, I assume anyone doing this would be using cash on hand rather than any funds earmarked for long term investing that might earn a much higher rate of interest.

You can play around with the sheet here.

Plus - if you act now (or later even), you can watch my rambling 10 minute video on how to use the sheet! At no cost. (Except for slowly decaying brain cells, maybe.)

Here be the video…


So, while driving in today I started wondering about this tactic and how much lost interest it would take to kill the advantage of pre-purchasing the APs.

So, let’s assume we’re being a little proactive and are going to purchase 4 AP vouchers now, then start using them in 2022.
(Estimating annual AP price increase at 6%.)

If your cash was earning 1.5% in your bank account, you’d have saved $1,185 in AP costs, missed out on $273 in interest, for a net savings of $913.

I then fiddled with the cash interest rate return and left all other factors alone: Turns out if your cash was earning all the way up to 6.50% you’d still be a few $Dollars ahead buying those 4 APs!

I then played around with both the Year of First Trip and the cash interest rate: For every year later you start using those APs, your maximum cash interest rate can increase by 0.2% and you’d still break even.

I may need to start socking a little cash away for some retirement APs starting 9 years from now!


Isn’t the discount pretty significant when renewing your AP, vs. buying your first one? I suppose that’s not guaranteed, but all your other assumptions are based on past reality. It would be an interesting exercise to figure out how many years ahead you’d need to buy your vouchers before your planning ahead outweighs the built in discount.

Oh, sure - renewal discount is pretty substantial and would eat away at the savings, for the near term years anyway. But, it you were buying several years out inflation would jump even that renewal rate up too.

But my thought experiment ignored that - more of a what if you didn’t actually renew every 12 months, but every 15-18 months? Thinking about people who often have gaps in time where they don’t go so can’t renew.

Maybe one of these days I’ll create a modified analysis with your idea! :slight_smile: