The Points You Don’t Want to Use for Disney Stays

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A little while back we won some nights at a fully staffed over-the-top villa in Jamaica via an online travel auction site. Then a month or so ago it all fell through, and with it so did our mid-summer family travel plans. We had won the villa at a real steal of a deal via a legit site and had gotten some friends pretty excited to travel with us. It was a true bummer when the folks who run the villa basically went dark after a certain point and wouldn’t respond to us or the company who ran the auction. We got our money back from the company who ran the auction, but having it fall apart was a deflating experience, especially after getting others amped up to travel with us.

 

Around the same time the Jamaica trip hit the ground with a thud, I was coincidentally writing about some happenings at Disney World. The timing was right for my heart to rebound from the Jamaica debacle by falling in love with the idea of a quick summer trip to Disney with the girls. The Jamaica deal was so good that even after getting that refund we didn’t really have a ton of cash earmarked for something as potentially pricey as Disney, so I turned to using points for our flights and a part of our hotel stay to keep cash costs low.

Our first daughter having a blast at Disneyland as a 2 year old

While we have used previously SPG points to stay at The Swan on Disney property and we stayed at other nearby less expensive properties, what really attracted me to a stay at Disney was the idea of staying at the Polynesian right on the monorail. I’ve always wanted to stay at this resort, and I’d love to get a feel for how the location helps with logistics when visiting the parks with little kids…you know, for ‘research purposes’.

Disney Polynesian Resort

Since the trip had become Poly or bust in my mind, I rented some Disney Vacation Club points from a friend to secure part of our stay there for less than paying for the room outright. For the rest of the stay I used Chase Ultimate Reward points via the Sapphire Reserve at a 1.5 cents per point value. All in it came to about 30,000 Ultimate Reward points per room night…which is the same price as a top tier Hyatt property if I had transferred the points to Hyatt, just in case you are keeping track of how pricey Disney can be. I wasn’t thrilled with the redemption from that perspective, but I was thrilled to get to try to ‘The Poly’ without my bank account taking a dramatic hit. After all, I literally have wanted to stay there for about three decades, and from that perspective this was one of my best redemptions ever.

The Points You Don’t Want to Use for Disney

Booking the Disney Resort of your choice on the Chase Travel site using points is very easy and straight-forward, but it didn’t take too long for me to realize that booking via this manner comes with some very real drawbacks even if it keeps money in your pocket.

The big drawback to booking Disney Resorts via this manner isn’t the number of points you spend, it is that when you book you are provided with a confirmation number, but it is not a confirmation number that Disney recognizes.

This is a very big deal for most people because to set up your Magical Express transportation from the airport, get your included Magic Bands, and secure your FastPass reservations, you need your Disney hotel confirmation number to add to your Disney account. I called Chase Travel to try and get some help tracking down a confirmation number that Disney recognizes, and after some back and forth I was given another confirmation number….only Disney didn’t recognize that one either.

I went through this routine a second time with the Chase Travel group, called, chatted, and emailed with Disney trying to get help on their end, turned to Twitter for advice from fellow travelers, and ultimately came up with this likely conclusion…when using Ultimate Reward points your Disney hotel isn’t fully booked, at least not in your name, until right before your trip. It is also totally possible this phenomenon extends beyond Disney, but in most cases that isn’t as big of a deal…though it can be if your name never arrives where it is supposed to be.

I spent way too much time and head banging coming to this realization. Thankfully, I had made an inexpensive “hotel” reservation directly with Disney during this time period (hello campground!), so I had no problem getting FastPasses, Magic Bands, etc. set up while I was trying to sort this all out.

In the end, I cancelled my Disney reservation made via Ultimate Rewards in favor of rebooking that part of the stay directly with Disney. It is worth mentioning that I was not charged the stated $25 cancellation fee. I then just modified the ‘cheapie’ reservation I had made directly with Disney at the campsite to The Polynesian, and all of our related FastPasses and such were kept safe and sound. There was an element of risk in this plan, but it was the best solution I could come up with.

Thanks to purchasing Disney gift cards using some Amex Offers, earning 5x points at office supply stores, and more, we are still making out okay on the portion of the hotel stay we booked directly at Disney. We simply loaded Disney gift cards we purchased to our Disney Vacation Account, and then used that to help pay for the Disney hotel when making the reservation online. It’s not as great as paying with points and staying ‘for free’, but in this case it was the better choice since I don’t think we would have received our actual Disney confirmation number until perhaps just days before our stay.

I can’t wait for our trip to Disney, but I also don’t think I will consider using Ultimate Reward points in this manner again. If you want to use points to book a Disney hotel, you would be much better off simply booking it directly with Disney and then paying with an appropriate credit card.

Have you encountered a similar situation? How do you use your points to stay at Disney?

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

Comments

  1. or, renting Disney Vacation club points… best value!! We are staying at the Poly (only one night, then switching to the Dolphin) for roughly $260 (same room goes for $600 with tax on Disney’s website).

    • We did that for some nights, but wasn’t availability for every night we needed. Great deal in some situations!

  2. I have an existing reservation with Swan/Dolphin using Chase Ultimate Rewards several months in the future. I’ve exhausted our SPG points on prior trips, but I have enough UR points for our next stay. I had been trying to figure out this very issue to be able to “load” our reservation into the Disney system. Of course, I booked a refundable rate, so the reservation probably won’t lock in until about 3 days out. We are annual passholders, though, and we don’t use the shuttle, so the “only drawback” for us is making FastPass reservations 30 days out, every morning, rather than 60 days out for the entire reservation. It’s still incredibly, incredibly annoying, but I expect some complications every time I use UR for hotel. That generally has been my experience across the board.

  3. I had the same issue when I booked a few nights at a hotel when I went to Europe. I had a “reservation” number through chase just not the hotel. they gave me the same story they gave you. It all worked out fine but never the less, it was a bit disconcerting not to have an “official” reservation.

  4. I second Barclays Arrival as a better option. My wife and I actually split the cost of a reservation for a Partner Hotel with a shuttle to/from Disneyland a couple of years ago on Barclays Arrival points and came out with the vast majority of the hotel bill covered. That was incredibly easy, and it should be similarly easy to do with WDW. The downside is that it would take way more Arrival Points for a Swan/Dolphin reservation during that time than it does Chase UR points.

  5. Which on-line travel auction site(s) have you had good results with? We used to use Luxury Link quite a lot before they tanked (knew those deals were too good to last!).
    Thank you, Mommy Points

    • I don’t have one to recommend at the moment. I think we had a one-off bad experience with the one we used, but I still can’t really recommend them at the moment since the whole thing went belly up.

  6. I had the same issue booking a trip for this November. I called the UR booking desk twice and each time received a “confirmation number”, but it would not link in MDE. After the second number failed I called the phone number listed on the reservation link page, and the Disney representative was able to look up my “Disney” confirmation number based on contact info and arrival time.

    The second half of our stay will be at the Dolphin, and I had no problem linking the Starwood confirmation number in MDE.

    • That’s good – Disney wasn’t able to pull anything up for me based on any piece of info. I was hopeful they could, but no dice for us.

  7. What other non-Disney hotels would you recommend for a Disneyworld trip that we can use points for a family of 4? I need to utilize our cash for tickets and food.

    • SPG points at the Swan or Dolphin is good. We have also used Hyatt points to stay at the nearby Hyatt Grand Cypress.

    • Earlier this year we stayed at the Hyatt place lake buena vista and very much enjoyed it. It is a new hotel with a very good free breakfast and large rooms with very comfortable beds. It is literally just outside Disney Springs and is surrounded by restaurants. Now this is a hotel, not a resort but they do have a nice pool. I booked through ultimate rewards because it was actually cheaper than transferring points into my Hyatt account. Normally it is the oposite but this time it was cheaper to book through UR.

  8. Not Disney related…Newbie mistake: I booked a Non-Refundable rate through Chase UR site for a Hyatt stay. I called Hyatt and found out I was unable to use one of my Club Lounge Access Awards for his stay as bookings through “3rd Party” sites are ineligible for club lounge access awards. We booked this stay to celebrate our 12th anniversary. And my CSR card insurance will not cover a refund (so I could rebook direct) unless we had eligible reasons for cancellation. Bummer!

    • The best deals come and go such as stacking an Amex Offer with discount rates at Sam’s Club, or an Amex Offer at Office Depot, or sometimes grocery stores have done promos. A static offer is 5x on Ink Plus at office supply stores or getting them discount at Sam’s Club, but it gets better when a couple offers become stackable at the same time.

      • The best deal I have found is to purchase $500 Disney gift cards on Sams Club online during the 5x Chase freedom card promotional period. I believe that will be coming up in October.

  9. We booked the Beach Club for a stay last month using UR. At first, it went smoothly with an additional call to Chase to get the Disney confirmation number so I can link tickets. Not sure how the agent was able to pull the number but they did. Fast forward to less than a week out, I tried calling Disney to see what type of bed was reserved because there are multiple layouts to choose from and neither Disney could recognize the confirmation number that was linked in MDE and Chase couldn’t help me either after a few HUCA. It was a little concerning but rolled the dice and everything worked out great.

  10. MommyPoints – your reservation is actually booked at Disney under your name, its just that neither Chase UR portal people know what you are talking about, and the regular reservations desk doesn’t have this info either. The easiest way to get the MDE number is to call Disney Wholesale Direct 407-939-7671 – the folks that deal with travel agencies and third parties like Orbitz (I’ve also used it with Orbitz bookings to cut out the middle man). I used Chase UR points last November for 1 night at the WDW Port Orleans, called the Wholesale Direct number and was able to get the “real” WDW confirm number by giving them my name – I don’t think I even needed the Chase travel confirm number – I was then able to attach to My Disney Experience and book my fastpasses, etc. Only thing is to make sure and change the address for where the Magic Bands are shipped because the default address is the third party. FYI – I got this tip off of the TouringPlans.com Lines App under “WDW Chat” – where those people are experts in Disney like you are in travel points :). Subscribing to TP and using the very active chat in the app is hands down the best info you could ever find on Disney World. Also you aren’t the only one to bang your head against this – I’ve read of many other people having the same problems with the Chase Travel Portal in this chat – lots of people leverage their flight and hotel points for these trips.

      • Oh I completely agree. That phone number is not really for consumers to call it’s actually for the TA’s but its the quickest and easiest way to get that magical confirm number. Kind of a hack. Orbitz and others used to have the same issue but since they have so many WDW bookings they learned who to call but I’m guessing whoever runs the UR portal doesn’t have much experience with WDW. I’ve had this number saved off for a couple of years now – one of the more useful tips I have come across.

  11. If I am needing to book a room only hotel reservation at a Disney resort through conventional means I usually do it at cheaptickets.com rather than direct through Disney because cheaptickets always has a 16-20% off code that stacks with whatever discount is automatically shown. They don’t always have the same room inventory available though. You have to go through an extra step or two to kink your reservation in MDE but the process I found on disboards (I think) was pretty straight forward.

  12. I have the Poly booked for about $250/night (including tax!) in August through a WDW travel agency exclusive deal. This one is their best rate all year, for dates before and after Labor Day, but they have discounts other summer weeks as well. Here’s the link if you want to check for overlap with your dates. I learned about them through Touring Plans. http://magicalvacationstravel.com/agency-exclusive-offers/

    • Yes, I was so sad those dates didn’t work for us. We start school so early here in August, but great deal for anyone who can make it work!

      • Sorry to hear that! You just need to check in before the end of the promotion or check out by the beginning of their promotions to get the deal. Guess it just means you’ll have to go back!!

        • I know – our school district moved the start date up by about 10 days this year, so locks us out, but maybe another year!

  13. I just read this….and I have some questions too about an upcoming Disney stay booked thru UR portal….ugh! I’m going to try the number a pp provided

  14. I have a Wilderness Lodge night booked through Chase UR for Christmas. I called Disney and they weren’t able to give me the number and said that they couldn’t find a reservation in my name. I also called Chase UR and they were able to give me the correct MDE number. Frustrating to spend an hour on one simple number so we can book dinner and fastpasses! I wouldn’t have bothered, but it was an add-on night to the beginning of the trip and I wanted to make dinner reservations at 180 days. Thanks for the tips!

  15. I recently made a hotel booking with Chase points, a Hampton Inn for an overnight, and at check-out the front desk told me, oh, I see you booked your stay on Expedia.

    Hmm. so maybe Chase uses the Expedia portal some how? Anyway, big headache for WDW stays.

    I’m hoping to use some chase points for a stay at Disneyland, where you don’t have to do the same crazy dance with 180-day ADRs and fast passes (yet?). I know I can stay off-site and still be across the street, and there are some great options for doing that….but I also would like to keep the Grand Californian as an option if possible.

  16. I haven’t read all the comments, but before I booked our Disney hotel, I did a quick google search for “booking Disney hotels with Ultimate Rewards”. I read on several sites to 1. Make the reservation; 2. Call Chase for their confirmation number; 3. Call Disney with that conf. number to get their unique number (I called the general Disney number and they were able to direct me) for use on My Disney Experience online to set up fast passes, Magical Express, etc. …. Disney was able to find the reservation, no problem, and from that point forward, our reservation has proceeded exactly as it did when we booked directly with Disney for our last visit. We are staying at a Disney hotel and getting all the perks we did before. Yes, it was more convoluted than it should have been, but I was so glad to be able to use the points for our stay. We are flying down with Southwest points, and I bought our Park Hopper tickets from Undercover Tourist using their Amex Offer, saving 10% off the ticket charge.

    • Christine, yeah sadly that didn’t work after multiple attempts in my case. After devoting several hours to trying to get someone on the phone or chat to give me a working confirmation number, I gave up. I’m glad that not everyone had the same end result. Sounds like you did a great job setting up your trip! We also did the UCT with Amex Offer discounts for tickets. Love it!

    • Disney was not able to give me the MDE number. I spent 30 minutes on the phone with Disney and they told me to call Chase. I spent 30 minutes on the phone with Chase and was finally able to get the number. Not sure it is worth the effort for the MDE number!

  17. If using Chase UR to book Disney – after 24 hours of booking you can call Disney Wholesale @ 407-939-1947 & they can give you your Disney Confirmation # to link in MDE.

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