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?.
BOILERPLATE CREDIT SCORE WARNING
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.)
THOUGHT EXPERIMENT WARNING
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.
FRESHLY SQUEEZED REWARDS
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.)
HOW ABOUT THEM APples?
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.
So, WHAT IF?
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.
Step 6. PROFIT AND PARK HOP.
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
I’M READY FOR MY CLOSE UP MR. DEMILLE
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.)