When it comes to traveling with kids, or if you are just a big kid yourself, you will inevitably find yourself looking at theme parks for a future vacation. Here at Upgraded Points, we are big fans of theme parks and know how much work (and money) go into planning a trip to one.
Parks such as Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and Universal Studios have mastered the art of entertainment and transport guests into a world where fun and magic are an everyday occurrence. These experiences can create memories for a lifetime but come at a price that can be shocking to both first-timers and travel pros.
Fortunately, there are ways to help reduce to cost of your next trip to Disney, or at the very least earn some bonus points or cash back on your spending.
Below, we’ve selected some of the best credit cards to add to your wallet that will save you some serious dough, whether you are going to see Mickey Mouse, Harry Potter, or both. Let’s take a look!
What To Look For
Signing up for a credit card is kind of a big deal, and we treat it that way around here. That is why we are very particular about what cards we have in our wallets, why we keep them open, and when we opened them.
A few extra minutes of research can mean thousands of extra points (and dollars) towards your next trip. With Disney and Universal in mind, here are some things to look for in your next credit card.
A solid welcome offer is a must-have when signing up for a credit card.
A welcome bonus or sign-up bonus is a fixed amount of points that the card issuer agrees to give you after you spend a predetermined amount of money on your new credit card.
These bonuses can range anywhere from 20,000 to 150,000 points depending on the card and the type of points they are. A big welcome bonus could mean hundreds of dollars in savings for your next trip.
Hot Tip: Not all points are created equally. Join our Facebook Group, Level UP Travel, to ask our community any questions you might have.
Travel credit cards nowadays come with a whole slew of perks to try and lure customers away from other banks, and they can be quite competitive.
With everything from free hotel nights to lounge access and travel insurance, there is plenty of value to be had with almost every travel credit card on the market.
When considering a trip to a theme park, what is an important perk for you? A free flight to Orlando? A free Disney hotel room? An exclusive one-on-one experience with Kylo Ren? These are all possibilities with the right credit card.
When you step foot into a Disney or Universal theme park, even if you are on the tightest budget, you are probably going to have to pay for something at some point. These parks have essentially made separating guests from their money a science, so if we are going to spend it, we might as well get rewarded for it, right?
That is when pulling the right credit card out of your wallet can make a big difference. While some cards may earn a simple 1x point per dollar spent, others may earn 2x, 3x, or more depending on the category.
With many of our favorite cards providing bonuses for dining, family travel, and entertainment, those points start to add up! Here is a quick chart to help you visualize how your spending is categorized.
|Walt Disney World
||Walt Disney World tickets purchased directly from disneyworld.com
|Walt Disney World experiences
|Advance Disney Dining Reservations
||Universal Orlando tickets purchased directly from universalorlando.com
|Universal Orlando tickets purchased from a Universal Orlando hotel
|Undercover Tourist theme park tickets
|LEGOLAND tickets purchased directly from legoland.com
Hot Tip: Planning a trip to Disney? Be sure to read our article on how to make your next trip to Disney as “stress-free” as possible.
The 8 Best Overall Credit Cards for Disney and Universal Vacations
If you are already getting overwhelmed, it’s understandable. There are a lot of variables that will inevitably factor into choosing the right theme park card, but the most important is having a card that you are comfortable using without having to worry about what category you are trying to hit and making the process too complicated.
While some of us love trying to squeeze every extra point out of every purchase, sometimes you just need a card that will provide you with good overall value no matter what you are spending on it.
No matter if you are looking for a premium card full of perks, a no-annual-fee card that is easy to use, or just a hotel-branded card to earn points at your favorite chain, we’ve got a little something for everyone.
With that in mind, and the focus on theme parks and family trips, here are our favorite credit cards for Disney and Universal vacations:
||Welcome Bonus and Annual Fee
||Benefits for Disney and Universal Vacations
|The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Earn 80,000 points after spending $6,000 on purchases in the first 6 months.
- Annual fee of $695 (rates and fees)
- 5x points when booking airfare directly with the airline or with Amex Travel (up to $500,000 per calendar year)
- 5x points when booking prepaid hotel stays directly with Amex Travel
- Fantastic airport lounge access with the American Express Global Lounge Collection
- Awesome travel insurance
|Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
- Earn 75,000 miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
- Annual fee of $95
- 5x miles on hotels and rental cars when booked via Capital One Travel
- 5x miles on Turo purchases through May 16, 2023
- 2x miles on all other purchases with no caps
- Travel insurance
|Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card
- Earn $300 after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
- Annual fee of $95
- 4% cash-back on entertainment
|Chase Freedom Unlimited®
- INTRO OFFER: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) – worth up to $300 cash back!
- Annual fee of $0
- 5% cash-back on travel purchases via Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 5% cash-back on Lyft purchases through March 31, 2025
- 3% cash-back on dining and drugstores
- 1.5% cash-back on all other purchases
- 0% introductory APR promotion
|Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
- Annual fee of $550
- 10x points on hotels, car rentals, and Chase Dining when you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 10x points on Lyft purchases through March 31, 2025
- 5x points on air travel when you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 3x points on dining and all other travel
- Complimentary Priority Pass Select membership
- $300 travel credit
- Amazing travel insurance
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Earn 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
- Annual fee of $95
- 5x points on all travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 3x points on dining
- 2x points on other travel
- Fantastic travel insurance
|Citi Premier® Card
- Earn 80,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
- Annual fee of $95
- 3x points on flights, hotels, dining, gas stations, and supermarkets
|Disney® Premier Visa® Card
- Earn a $300 statement credit after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
- Annual fee of $49
- 10% in Disney Rewards Dollars on select purchases at shopDisney.com and select merchandise purchases of $50 or more at select locations at the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts
- 5% in Disney Rewards Dollars on purchases made directly at DisneyPlus.com, Hulu.com, or ESPNPlus.com
- 2% in Disney Rewards Dollars on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and most Disney locations
- 0% introductory APR on select Disney vacation packages
1. The Platinum Card® from American Express (Top Pick)
Hot Tip: Check to see if you’re eligible for a welcome offer of up to 150,000 points with the Amex Platinum card! (The current public offer is 80,000.)
When it comes to premium travel cards, there is no card more famous than the Amex Platinum card. Packed with perks, this has been a fan favorite for years and still continues to be one of ours.
We are big fans of American Express Membership Rewards points around here, with plenty of transfer partners, access to American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts, options to redeem for gift cards, and more — the options to redeem for travel could seem almost limitless.
Factoring in 5x points when booking airfare and hotels directly with Amex Travel, building up a nice points balance could be easier than you think.
Of course, these perks don’t come cheap. With an annual fee of $695 (see rates and fees), this card isn’t for everyone. But when you break down the perks, it is surprisingly reasonable. Here are some of the most popular benefits:
If you are planning on applying for an Amex Platinum card before your trip to Disney, there will be plenty of ways to save some money. The welcome bonus alone could cover your airfare or hotel, and the lounges and Uber perks will make your trip even more comfortable! Enrollment may be required for benefits mentioned.
2. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
The CapOne Venture card is a great card for someone looking for easy-to-use miles and a nice sign-up bonus.
One of the best parts of Capital One miles is that they are extremely flexible, easy to use, and never expire.
If you want to try and get a little (or a lot) more value out of your miles, you can transfer them to an airline or hotel partner and book a flight or stay with them instead. By doing this, you can easily get more than 2 cents per mile worth of value, essentially doubling your sign-up bonus.
Another decent option is by using your miles to book travel directly with Capital One Travel. This will get you 1 cent per mile in value but you won’t earn any additional airline or hotel rewards points, so it may not be the most rewarding option.
Overall, the CapOne Venture card gives travelers an easy-to-use rewards program with plenty of redemption options, especially when booking a trip to visit Mickey.
3. Capital One Savor Rewards Credit Card
If you like the ease of the CapOne Venture card above, you will probably like its cash-back sibling, the CapOne Savor card.
The CapOne Savor card earns an impressive 4% cash-back on entertainment purchases, 2% cash-back on grocery purchases, and 1% cash-back on everything else. So that means a trip to the parks could earn you a nice chunk of change.
The big rewards on entertainment purchases (those park tickets aren’t cheap!) and the ease of having a cash-back card make this a very compelling card to have in your wallet when you want to go have some fun!
4. Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Sometimes you just need a simple, no-frills card that provides solid value. For us, that is the Freedom Unlimited card.
The Freedom Unlimited card is a no-annual-fee card that is marketed as a cash-back card, but when combined with a Chase Ultimate Rewards-earning credit card, it can actually provide you with valuable points.
This unique card will earn cardholders 5% cash-back on travel that is purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, 3% cash-back on dining and drugstores, 5% cash-back on Lyft purchases (through March 2025), and then an unlimited 1.5% cash-back on everything else. That’s a lot of cash-back! And this is outside of the introductory offer of a 1.5% cash-back boost available to new cardmembers.
New cardholders will get a nice little welcome bonus (which is better than nothing for a $0 annual fee) on top of 0% interest for 15 months on all purchase and balance transfers.
That means that you can get apply your welcome bonus straight to your Disney or Universal trip, finance the rest of it for free, and earn points!
5. Chase Sapphire Reserve®
It’s hard to talk about credit cards without someone bringing up the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, and that’s for good reason. The Chase Sapphire Reserve card stormed onto the premium credit card scene a few years ago with a big sign-up bonus, lots of perks, and even celebrity endorsements.
But now that the dust has settled, is it still worth a spot in your wallet if you are planning a trip to Disney or Universal? We think so.
The first thing we will look at is the welcome bonus, which despite not being as high as it used to be, is still a lot of very valuable and flexible Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
Next is the staggering $550 annual fee which can easily scare some people off right away. But that is before they realize the card also comes with a $300 annual travel credit, a Priority Pass Select membership, a $100 Global Entry/NEXUS/TSA PreCheck credit, DoorDash DashPass, rental car elite status, extra travel insurance, and more.
Most cardholders will get way more than $550 worth of value from their Chase Sapphire Reserve card each year just from those perks alone. When you factor in 3x points on travel and dining, this could be a go-to card for your next trip.
Thinking specifically about a Walt Disney World trip, you could use the $300 towards airfare, enjoy some airport lounges and TSA PreCheck, grab a free upgrade when you pick up your rental car, and then go check into a Walt Disney World Resort hotel that you booked with points — easy!
6. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers 5x Ultimate Rewards points on all travel booked via the Chase travel portal. This includes any theme park tickets, tourist attractions, tours, and more. Although the travel portal doesn’t sell tickets to U.S. Disney theme parks, you can find them for overseas locations.
Add the ability to redeem points at a rate of 1.25 cents each and the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is one of the best options out there.
7. Citi Premier® Card
The Citi Premier card is a great overall card, not just for your Disney or Universal vacation, but for travel in general.
With a generous sign-up bonus, a relatively low $95 annual fee, and 3x points on flights, hotels, gas stations, dining, and supermarkets, it is easy to see why this card is so popular.
Citi ThankYou Rewards often get overshadowed by Chase and American Express, but this often-overlooked program can provide excellent value — especially when earning triple points is so easy to do.
These ThankYou Points can be quite versatile when it comes to planning your next trip to Disney. You can choose to transfer them to one of Citi’s airline partners to help pay for your family’s flights down to Orlando (hello, JetBlue!), book your trip through the Citi ThankYou Travel Center at 1 cent per point, or just cash out your points for gift cards to use during your trip.
Either way, you will be able to save some serious money just by applying the sign-up bonus towards your trip. On top of that, many of your purchases during the trip will code as travel and dining, so you will earn 3x points that you can redeem for future travel!
8. Disney® Premier Visa® Card
We couldn’t write about the best credit cards for a Disney vacation without mentioning the Disney Premier card … or could we?
While there are certainly some perks to be had, most consumers will be able to get better value out of one of the cards mentioned above. That being said, if you already have some of our favorite cards and have an available Chase 5/24 slot, the Disney Premier card could be a decent choice.
New cardholders will receive a welcome bonus as described in the above table and then 2% in Disney Rewards Dollars at gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and most Disney locations.
If you are a big Disney fan, you can probably get some outsized value out of the following perks, which include:
- 5% in Disney Rewards Dollars on card purchases made directly at DisneyPlus.com, Hulu.com, or ESPNPlus.com
- 0% APR for 6 months on select Disney Vacation Packages
- 10% off purchases of $50 or more at Disney and Disney.com
- 15% off select guided tours at Disney parks
- 10% off select Disney dining locations
This card isn’t for everyone, but if you can take advantage of those discounts and special experiences, there is plenty of value with the Disney Premier card.
Hot Tip: Ready to book your trip? Don’t miss the ultimate Disney vacation packing list and our best tips.
The 2 Best Credit Cards for Disney and Universal Hotel Stays
While the cards that we listed above can earn you rewards that can be redeemed for hotel stays (and a plethora of other options), none of them are specific to a Disney or Universal hotel or even a hotel chain in general.
Below are some of our favorite hotel-branded credit cards (regardless of where you are traveling) that can also be quite useful when booking your trip to Orlando.
||Welcome Bonus and Annual Fee
||Benefits for Disney and Universal Hotel Stays
|Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
- Earn 150,000 points after spending $4,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months.
- Annual fee of $450
- 14x points on Hilton stays
- Up to $250 Hilton resort credit
- Hilton Honors Diamond status
- Free Night Reward certificate every year
|Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card
- Earn 150,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
- Annual fee of $650 (rates and fees)
- 6x points on Marriott purchases
- Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status (plus the ability to spend $75,000 in a calendar year for Platinum Elite status)
- 1 Free Night Award after your card renewal month (up to 50,000 points)
- 15 Elite Night Credits every year
- Complimentary Priority Pass Select membership (enrollment required)
1. Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
The Hilton Aspire card is a fan favorite for many reasons. If you like to stay at Hilton properties, this is the only credit card that will give you automatic top-tier Diamond status just for having the card — which is huge.
Diamond status alone could be worth the $450 annual fee for some, but the card also comes with an annual $250 Hilton Resort statement credit, $250 airline fee credit, and a Free Night Reward good at almost any Hilton property worldwide. With a handful of other great perks, it’s easy to get your money’s worth with this card.
A hefty welcome bonus combined with 14x points on Hilton stays and 7x points on travel and dining will have you with more than enough points for a nice stay near the parks.
If you’re headed to Orlando, there are dozens of redemption opportunities including some awesome Hilton Vacation Club properties and even a luxurious Waldorf Astoria in Disney Springs!
2. Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card
If you are looking for some Disney magic by staying on-property and really close to the parks (without spending a fortune), consider the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card.
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card is a premium card with a $650 annual fee (rates and fees), but anyone staying at a Marriott property should easily be able to come out ahead of that fee with some simple planning.
Aside from the Marriott Bonvoy points offered as a welcome bonus, the card comes with a $300 annual credit (up to $25 each month) to use at restaurants, a free night award (up to 85,000 points), Priority Pass lounge access (enrollment required), and much more.
Disney fans are surely familiar with the Walt Disney World Swan, Walt Disney World Dolphin, and Walt Disney World Swan Reserve right near EPCOT, but did you know that they are Marriott hotels? That means you can redeem your credits, points, and free night awards there. Rates start at 50,000 points (but can get lower) or $150, so from the perks we mentioned above, new cardmembers would have enough for 4 free nights — at a Disney hotel!
Hot Tip: To make sure you don’t miss any deals, download the Official Universal Orlando mobile app (iOS, Android) and search for active offers.
No matter how long you are planning to visit Disney or Universal, it can get expensive quickly.
A family of 4 means 4 flights, a rental car, a decent hotel room, multiple park tickets, meals, and more. If you are paying cash for all of that, the total can easily reach thousands of dollars.
While with some intense planning, it is certainly possible to reduce a lot of those costs, you can easily reduce a big chunk of them (flights and hotels) by simply using credit cards to your advantage.
Of course, for this to make sense, it needs to be done responsibly. If you think you may end up carrying a balance and paying interest on your credit card, it will almost certainly not be worth it. That being said, if you can maximize credit card benefits and reduce your costs at the same time, you will find yourself taking your family on the best kind of vacation: a free one!
The cards listed above are just some of our favorites that we use on a daily basis, but if you have any questions about a specific card or a specific trip, let us know in the comments or join our Facebook Group!
The information regarding the Disney® Premier Visa® Card and Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card, click here.