The idea here is the same as the concept behind the layaway programs that used to be popular at many department stores — you set aside a little bit of money each week or month, paying the store in installments until you've paid enough to take delivery of the item. In this case, you're paying in advance for a Disney vacation, whether it is to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Aulani, or on the Disney Cruise Line or Adventurers by Disney.
Obviously, you can put aside money in advance to save for a Disney vacation without a Disney Vacation Account, and many fans have been doing so for years. But the Disney Vacation Account might be helpful for people who need a firewall between their vacation savings and everything else in their bank account in order to ensure that they do save for their vacation. If you've given your money to Disney already for the vacation, you're not going to spend it elsewhere. It's a smart business move for Disney, in that it locks you into a vacation with them, months before you'd likely have made your reservations otherwise.
But is a Disney Vacation Account a smart business move for you? Let's take a look at the details.
Two big points to consider:
Keeping those points in mind, we can see two scenarios in which using a Disney Vacation Account can be a good business deal for you, one scenario in which it's a bad deal, and one in which it is an absolutely horrible idea.
Here's the best-case scenario for using the Disney Vacation Account — you set up your automatic contribution to the account using a miles- or points-paying credit card that you pay off in full every month. The trick is that you must pay off the credit card, so that you do not incur any interest charges that destroy any value from using the account.
Sure, you could just wait to put your Disney vacation on the card when you book, but then you'd need to pay the full amount that month to avoid the interest charges. Most people would need to save in advance to be able to do that, but by using the Disney Vacation Account, you not only can take care of that, you can get access to your points earlier, as you would be accruing them month by month in advance of your trip, and not all at once when you go. Plus, with the $20 gift cards from Disney, you're earning an added benefit on top of the points or miles you earn from your contributions.
The other potentially valuable way to use the Disney Vacation Account would be if you were contributing using a debit card that pulled from an account that earned substantially less than 2% annual interest. Remember those "free" gift cards? At $20 per $1000 spent, that's effectively a 2% interest benefit, assuming that you contribute for 12 months in advance of your trip. Now, Disney won't "round up" to the nearest $1,000 when issuing the gift cards, so if you spend $3,875 on your trip, you're only getting $60 in gift cards. That means the actual interest-style benefit will be less than 2%. But if your checking account is earning some micro-fraction of a percentage point in interest, you might make more saving in the Disney Vacation Account than leaving your money in checking.
It's a bad move to give your money in advance to Disney if you have access to a savings account where you can earn more than 2% interest on that money between now and the time you have to pay Disney for your trip. Why let Scrooge McDuck earn the interest by holding on to your money when you could be getting that benefit, instead? Yes, it will require that you show the discipline to set up your own contribution schedule rather than use Disney's fancy new tool, but you'll end up money ahead by the time you leave. And if something should happen when you need immediate access to your cash, you'll have it. (Disney can take 3-4 business days to process a refund to your original account, on top of a seven-day hold after its deposit.)
Here is what you should never do with a Disney Vacation Account — contribute to it with a credit card where you end up paying interest on the balance. This is potentially even worse that just paying for your entire vacation on a credit card you can't pay back right away, because you'll be accruing interest charges for months before your vacation as well as afterward. That's an extra expense that's just compounding, month by month by month. Do not do this, no matter how tempting playing with Disney's new payment tool might seem. You're just increasing the cost of an already expensive vacation.
What do you think about the Disney Vacation Account?
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