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Six Flags Membership vs. Season Passes: Is one the better choice for you?

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Published: May 11, 2014 at 2:45 PM

In recent history, Six Flags has been trying to find new and exciting ways to get people into their theme parks. While Universal and Disney continue to raise their prices (without hurting attendance, I might add), Six Flags tries to keep the cost of entry low, as its plans to make its money once you get inside the park. It's not quite at the level of Spirit Airlines -- an airline known for cheap fares and bare-bones service; but we know which end of the spectrum they occupy.

In its newest attempt to get your hips pushing through a turnstile, Six Flags unveiled a “membership” program. The pitch: Low monthly payments that keep the cost of a season pass manageable. This is by no means a new idea in the theme park industry. Before my wife started working at Disneyland, her annual pass was paid for monthly and I believe (though I may be mis-remembering) that Six Flags has offered something similar in the past.

The catch: The membership isn’t simply a payment plan. It’s a 12-month commitment, then beyond that, Six Flags will keep on billing you until you tell it to stop. You’re locked in for a calendar year and then you are free to cancel at any time. The real catch? How many Six Flags are open 12 months a year?

Right.

That low monthly payment won’t hurt a bit in May, June or July when the park is open seven days a week and the uses are a-plenty; but how are guests going to feel in February when they quite simply can’t go to their local theme park? Yeah, that’s probably going to upset a few people.

Here’s a breakdown of what you’re getting with a Six Flags membership (standard):

  • Free admission to every Six Flags park in the country (day tickets are usually in the $45-50 range)
  • 15 percent off retail purchases of $15 or more
  • Free Fright Fest and Holiday in the Park admission
  • Park-picked days to bring a friend for free (yes, these days do get extremely crowded)
  • Lots of coupons of marginal value
  • If you buy a gold membership (I did) parking is free. Price breakdown below.

The standard membership at Six Flags Fiesta Texas (my “home” park) runs $6.58 a month if you purchase between 1-3 passes. If you increase your quantity to four or more passes (clever girl) they drop the price to $5.65 a month. For the gold membership you pay $8.75 ($6.49 for 4+) and get the a few additional benefits. The prices quoted above are after you’ve paid a $20 refundable security deposit. You can pay a dollar more a month and avoid making this payment; the deposit is returned after you cancel your membership (so long as you’ve kept it current for a year, of course).

Some of the additional benefits of getting a gold membership (at Fiesta Texas):

  • Parking is free at every Six Flags park! This is awesome! Parking runs anywhere from $10 to the still-beating heart of a close friend, so right off the bat this makes the gold membership worth it in my opinion.
  • No blockout dates (regular passes are blocked out October 18, 25 and December 20-21)
  • An extra bring a friend free ticket (still on select days)

These features are identical to what is offered with the season passes, so the only meaningful difference is that the price is paid over 12 months instead of in a lump sum. Again, it’s not a payment plan. No doubt Six Flags’ plan of attack here is much the same as other companies offering a membership: They don’t want you to cancel. On May 4 next year I’ll be able to cancel my membership -- but they’re hoping I won’t -- whether that be thanks to a great experience at Six Flags parks this year or (more likely) because I forget to cancel it.

Benefits and costs for each membership vary from park to park. At Magic Mountain, the gold pass runs you $10 a month and includes admission to Hurricane Harbor -- the standard one-park pass is just $6.08 a month. How a regular pass at a Six Flags in southern California is cheaper than one in San Antonio, I don’t know. I guess it’s balanced out by parking at Magic Mountain costing an extra $10, or something.

There’s value to be had in Six Flags’ newest season pass offering, but you’re not going to be having much fun when you pay $9 for a service you can’t use come February. Six Flags is hoping your use come summertime will help ease the pain of the payments through the winter.

Readers' Opinions

From 107.184.239.135 on May 11, 2014 at 3:00 PM
At least when I've looked at the Six Flags Magic Mountain numbers, I find the Membership option to be much more valuable than the Season Pass option.

Biggest thing that bugs me about the normal season passes is that no matter when you buy it in the year, it expires at the end of the year. Often it does get cheaper later in the year, but you're still paying for only part of a year.

The Membership is the same price annually (at least as compared to buying earlier in the year, like right now), but is good for the full year.

It also helps that Magic Mountain is open year round (just often only on weekends).

The one downside is that you do indeed need to take action to cancel, instead of action to renew.

From Kurt Dahlin on May 11, 2014 at 3:03 PM
I'm a frequent visitor to Six Flags Magic Mountain, having logged roughly 67 visits in 2013. I thought about switching over to the new membership, but honestly, I don't trust them with my financial information. Security breaches are far too common these days and I'd rather not give Six Flags permission to dip into my bank account each month. I also don't want the hassle of having to remember to update my banking information with them every time my credit card renews. I'd rather make a one-time cash payment and be done with it for an entire year.
From Tony Duda on May 11, 2014 at 3:11 PM
So, which 6 Flags parks are open all year?
From Charles Reichley on May 11, 2014 at 6:49 PM
This is the same as the Busch Gardens "monthly payment plan". And it works the same way, making you forget that you have it. Or -- because of price increases -- you want to keep it, because if you cancel, and then change your mind, you will forever pay more for the same thing.
From Gabriel Schroll on May 11, 2014 at 8:20 PM
As far as I know, Magic Mountain is the only park open all year round. Fiesta Texas looks to have its last weekend November 15-16, and its Wikipedia page showed "March to January" operating calendar, so it's open most of the year, and probably more than any other Six Flags outside of Valencia.


From AJ Hummel on May 11, 2014 at 10:00 PM
Tony, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, and Six Flags Mexico are open year round. Six Flags Fiesta Texas, Six Flags Over Texas, and Six Flags Over Georgia are close to year round (late March to early January). The remaining Six Flags parks are March-May to October, with a shorter season as you get farther north.

I've always gone with a Season Pass over a Membership and will continue to do so as it is not that expensive and my visits to my local Six Flags (Magic Mountain) tend to vary in frequency. Some years, I've gone six or seven times, plus visited Six Flags parks in other areas of the country, while in other years I've only gone once or twice. As a general rule, if I don't anticipate four Six Flags visits in a year (total, not just SFMM) I don't buy a pass and just pay per visit (with discounts, $30-40 per visit is not uncommon).

From Tony Duda on May 11, 2014 at 11:06 PM
I only regularly went to Great Adventure and they were open generally from Easter to Halloween. But that NJ with bad winters.
From Bobbie Butterfield on May 12, 2014 at 11:22 AM
Thanks for writing this article. It's made me reconsider the options. I never really thought about purchasing a membership - I've purchased a season pass for the past several years - but insofar as I paid roughly $103 for a gold season pass, a basic membership (parking not included) at my home park (Six Flags Great Adventure)for $6.67 a month or $80.04 a year might be the better option IF I continue to use New Jersey Transit as my means of access to the park. If, on the other hand, I borrow my dad's car to get to the park, a gold season pass works out to be slightly cheaper than a gold membership.
From 204.128.192.34 on May 12, 2014 at 12:08 PM
When I purchased my membership last year I spoke with someone on the marketing team who told me proces would be rising for membership soon and when you buy, it locks in the current price. I also was able to lock in hurricane harbor, gold and parking at the regular price as that was the current promotion. No the monthly membership is #3 mor per month for what I already have. I appreciate the membership recognition of this new program.
From 70.160.153.5 on May 13, 2014 at 3:43 AM
As others have mentioned, the real benefit of Membership vs the Season pass is price lock in. This of course only works if it's a park you're going to go to year after year. I've had the "membership" at Busch Gardens for several years now at the Platinum level (similar to the 6F Gold) . With the price increases that have happened since I'm now paying $60/y less that if I was buying the same level seasons pass, and only $25/y more than buying the standard level season pass.
From Stephen Tuday on May 14, 2014 at 12:32 AM
I buy a season pass every year so membership has little to offer in my case. Additionally, my local park (Georgia) has typically offered its best price for the next year's season during Fright Fest which I usually buy then and be done with it. I cannot complain about the pricing - which has remained essentially static for years - especially since SFoG is adding a Hurricane Harbor water park (free with admission) and has also announced the addition of Holiday in the Park (first time since the 1993 season), extending the season by 26 days into January 2015. I really do wish the SF chain would get away from the 'Spirit Airlines' business model though. Passes should cost considerably more, but food and parking should be more affordable. And those mandatory ride lockers should either be complementary or removed altogether. And while they are at it, spend a few extra bucks to refresh the theming once in awhile.

Great article...

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