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What is the Future of Disney MagicBands?

With all the changes happening in Walt Disney World, the entire guest experience is going to be different in the next couple of years. Recently Disney announced that it is eliminating complimentary MagicBands to resort guests starting in 2021.

Row of MagicBands shipped to home

What does this mean for the future of Disney’s MagicBands?

In this post we will go over the new changes to the MagicBand system and what it means moving forward. We’ll talk about whether or not this means MagicBands are going away for good and if so what could replace them in the future.

Whether we like it or not, MagicBands are evolving in 2021 and beyond. Here’s a rundown of what to expect.

What’s Changing?

Disney Park entrance MagicBand scanner and fingerprint

Disney World recently announced that they will no longer be offering complimentary MagicBands starting with arrivals January 1, 2021, and beyond.

That means those rectangular boxes that come in the mail weeks before your Walt Disney World vacation and let you know you are almost back home again, you won’t be getting them anymore.

This might be a surprising move to some due to the importance MagicBands have had in a Disney World vacation over the last few years. Think back to 2013 when MagicBands were introduced to the world. Disney invested over $1 billion dollars into the MyDisney+ system which brought us MagicBands as we know them today.

This system uses RFID technology and a long-range radio. MagicBands send out thousands of signals and allow computers to analyze real-time data of guests’ movement and are designed to bring you the best possible guest experience while in the parks.

Magic Kingdom entrance and train station from Monorail

MagicBands work together with My Disney Experience and FastPass+ and function as hotel room keys, park tickets and credit cards for charging all those amazing Disney snacks!

MagicBands come in all colors and special designs and have been given to tens of millions of guests over the past 7 years.

Even though we can’t imagine a visit to Walt Disney World without one, Disney has been working on phasing out MagicBands for some time now. That’s why they have announced this change to stop offering free MagicBands to resort guests. Those little packages that immediately bring a smile to your face will stop coming in 2021.

What Is Replacing MagicBands?

stack of colored MagicBands

Instead of promoting MagicBands, Disney is unveiling a new innovative offering as part of the My Disney Experience app which will handle the same functions that MagicBands now do, plus more.

According to wdwmagic, in collaboration with Apple, Disney is planning on using Near Field Communication technology (NFC) to leverage the Apple Wallet system. Apple has already been testing NFC technology with good results in American college campuses where it is currently used by over 100,000 students.

This contactless system is similar to how MagicBands work and will allow you to charge purchases in Disney World, as well as using it as your park ticket, and for things like FastPass+.

That means you will soon be able to use an Apple Watch or iPhone to handle all these tasks on your vacation. NFC technology isn’t only limited to Apple thankfully, Android phones and devices similar to the Apple Watch will be able to be used by guests in Disney World.

Advantages to Keeping MagicBands in Disney World

Dooney & Bourke MagicBand

So what are the downsides to this new technology and MagicBand replacement?

Door Locks – The first thing is NFC technology is not currently compatible with Disney World’s door lock system. That means a device like the Apple Watch wouldn’t work to open room doors and guests would have to use the My Disney Experience app on their phones. That is doable, but brings up our next issue…battery life.

Battery Life – One nice thing about Disney MagicBands is that there is no battery required and guest don’t have to charge another device. Just slip your MagicBand on and you know you are good to go all day with no problems. Having to use your smartphone in place of a MagicBand will further tax its battery which guests already have to worry about.

Imagine the complaints if you arrive back at the room and your only way to open the door now has a dead battery. There will be a lot of fit Cast Members running back and forth from the front desk to guest rooms to open doors.

MagicBands are easy for kids – Another downside to switching away from MagicBands is that not all kids have smartphones or Apple Watches. In that case I guess the parents will have their children’s tickets on their devices, though this makes it a lot more difficult when families split up in the parks to go off and do different things. They can also use a card, but MagicBands are much more fun for kids than a card is.

MagicBands are more convenient – Let’s face it, you don’t always want to carry around your cell phone with you in Disney World. For example, If I’m just hanging out by the pool for the day I often leave my phone back in the room for fear of it getting stolen near the pool. I don’t bring my phone to the gym in Disney World either, or sometimes just to walk around my resort.

This new system would require guests to have their mobile device now with them all the time which is an inconvenience.

Being Inside the “Disney Bubble” – MagicBands are great because they remind you that you are in the most magical place on Earth and away from the outside world. The reduce the need for other devices like mobile phones which distract you and work against the immersive environment Disney works so hard to create. That’s why it feels so bad when you have to take off your MagicBand at the end of your trip!

Will MagicBands Be Eliminated Entirely?

Blue and orange MagicBands on wrist

For now, Disney will continue to offer MagicBands as an option to guests. They realize the above points are important for guests and therefore will continue to support MagicBands and cards.

They won’t be offered free to guests anymore, but guests will still be able to purchase use MagicBands throughout retail locations in Walt Disney World. Disney has even said they will be offering them at a discount including new designs and colors to choose from.

That said, it’s clear that the entire MyDisney+ system is not long for this world. Disney wants to make a shift away from MagicBands and they’ve already made that clear. In the coming years, more and more guests will have smart devices making the transition easier to do.

Just the fact that Disney is offering them at a discount should tell you all that you need to know. It sounds like they want to get rid of the inventory they have until the system is phased out. Who even knows if FastPass+ is coming back or if that is getting phased out too.

In the long run it will save the company money by not having to give away tens of millions of MagicBands per year, not to mention it will be better for the environment saving landfills from those same millions of bands.

Right now we don’t know how long this transition will take and when Disney will completely eliminate the MagicBand system. It will take some time to get guests used to the changes so we imagine MagicBands will still be around for the next couple of years. After that, all bets are off.

This is a developing story, expect more info soon. Stay tuned…

If you are interested in finding out when more changes are made to MagicBands, don’t forget to sign up for our FREE Weekly E-Mail Newsletter. We will update you on this and other Disney Planning Tips. You can sign up here: Join our E-Mail Newsletter

Your Thoughts

I want to know what you think about Disney replacing MagicBands…

  • What do you think about phasing out MagicBands?
  • Is it a good idea?

Let us know in the comments section below!

If you enjoyed this article, as always I appreciate it if you’d share it with others via social media.  I work hard at making this website into a useful resource for you and your family to plan your visit to the Disney Parks and I hope it can help you! Thanks 🙂

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Jenn

Sunday 29th of November 2020

Keep the magic bands even if we have a small fee to get them my phone is constantly dead and using it for all that would be a pain it’s huge I have no pockets as a women and again my phone does not last a full day so this would be a pain and me being a mom don’t need more issues after a long day of parks .

Trish

Tuesday 10th of November 2020

Our family always thought of Disney world as our special place. Disney has changed so much over the past few years, it’s getting harder and harder to enjoy. Rising prices, no more this, no more that. We may change our special time to something else. May Caribbean resorts, or a beach resort instead. I think Walt Disney himself would be disappointed in the direction they’re going.

Marla

Monday 5th of October 2020

Magic bands are wonderful. I like the fact that I don't have to take my phone to the pool, etc. Also, they are really easy to use and the systm works so well. I'd even be willing to have to purchase the band. Why change something that is working well? I've noticed that Disney is becoming greedy with money. We used to go every 3 years and can no longer do that because of the cost of tickets, etc. A normal family cam no lo get afford to go. It has turned into a once in a lifetime trip for some families. Walt wanted it to be accessible to all families. He is probably turning over in his grave with all of the recent changes.

Ziggy

Wednesday 14th of October 2020

Hi Marla, for sure there have been a ton of changes. I think some of them have been unavoidable this year due to what's going on in the world, but it is difficult no doubt. You have a right to be concerned as it has gotten much more expensive and they've turned away from regular families to higher-paying customers more and more. Let's hope it doesn't get too much more out of hand

Barbara

Monday 5th of October 2020

We haven't visited Disney World in many years so have never had the chance to use the Magic Bands. We're now planning a two-week Disney trip to celebrate our 50th Anniversary (in 2022) that will begin with a week in Disney World. I rarely use my cellphone (I get great battery life by keeping it turned off most of the time), so using a Magic Band would be so much more convenient and easy for me. Guess I'll just have to keep my fingers crossed that the bands will still be available in January 2022. AARGH!!!

Ziggy

Wednesday 14th of October 2020

Hi Barbara, thanks for the comment. I think there is still a good chance they will be around in 2022 so I wouldn't worry too much. I hope you have a wonderful trip!

Susan Almgren

Sunday 20th of September 2020

Even Goofy would recognize what a dumb idea it is to switch from total convenience of magic bands to absolute inconvenience of cell phones. Disney use to be about making DW vacation magical for the guests; now, it's all about a bigger profit for Disney (AND Apple). Well, hope you save enough in discontinuing those free magic bands to make up for all the guests you're going to lose as a result of your greedy bad decision. It will also cost you participants in the various Disney races since so many of us include DW park visits when registering for a race. Unlike years past, there are now plenty of great Orlando alternatives to Disney parks for vacationing. This retiree will forego purchasing another DW annual pass with trips from PA to DW every two months and opt for the alternatives. How fitting that the pixie dust once making Disney such a magical place has now been blown away by a villain named Bob Chapek. Time for a hero to step in & save the day, bringing back the magic!

Travis Green

Friday 25th of September 2020

Iger is back at the helm now and I am not sure we will see him leave that post. (Fingers Crossed) Chapek has not done Disney any favors and the executives and power players know this. I would truly be surprised to see Iger walk away again, he is going to be seen as the man who single handily saved Disney - post Covid. Either you are disney material or you are not...