Monday, August 07, 2006

Follow up on lessons from Disney: Use gift cards

One Disney diehard friend of mine had an interesting suggestion about how to manage the spending money of my stepdaughter and her friend during our recent trip to Disneyworld. Instead of handing out their spending money in cash whenever they needed it, we could have provided them with Disney gift cards.

Convenience, and some control
As I see it, the primary benefits of gift cards are convenience and a medium-level of spending control. Cards are available in the parks in increments as little as $5* and can be used in any Disney gift shop or snack bar. However, they usually can't be used with the park "street vendors" that sell things like ice cream, popcorn, etc., which are more prone to being purchased on impulse and tend to add up quickly.

Perhaps best of all, using gift cards prevents you from having to be your kids' personal ATM with a seemingly unlimited money supply. When their cards run out of cash, so do they.

(*Note: According to unofficial Disney site, a $6.95 shipping and handling fee can apply when ordering cards by phone. Also, cards are available in $25 increments if purchased online through

A hassle, and possibly faster spending
On the con side, you do have to take time out once in the park to go purchase the cards. That can be a hassle when everyone is anxious to hit the rides as quickly as possible. Also, the cards are essentially the same as cash, so if they are lost or stolen, the money's gone.

Perhaps more of a concern is the inherent tendency to spend more when using a card (whether gift, credit, or debit card) than when using cold, hard cash. It's possible that my stepdaughter and her friend would have spent their money more quickly using a card instead of dollar bills. It's an interesting experiment that would be worth a try on our next trip.

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