Introduced in 2013, MagicBand is a waterproof, removable bracelet that facilitates your stay at Walt Disney World. Each band contains two types of embedded radio frequency transmitters that enable both short-range and long-range tracking.

Once linked with a guest’s MDX profile (i.e. your account that you set up on the Disney World website) via the Disney World app (download via Google Play or iPhone), it can do all sorts of things:

• Stores ticket info. Touch it to a lollipop-like scanner for entry.
• Records and redeems reservations such as dining. (The expanded capability is technically called MyMagic+.)
• Validates PhotoPass details. Scan it with photographers and tap it to post-ride photo kiosks to add new images to your portfolio.
• Allows Disney resort guests to make purchases (with a PIN; day visitors cannot) and open hotel room doors and gates. They also tell tollkeepers if you have a parking pass.
• Allows Disney Parks to track your movements. That can be fun: You might open the photos on your Disney World app and discover a shot of you on Slinky Dog Dash or a video of yourself on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (available for purchase, of course).
• Furnishes a beautiful tan line.

MagicBands come in sassy colors and as special collectors’ editions featuring beloved characters. Disney used to mail its resort guests free MagicBands in preparation for their stays, but not anymore—they’re now $5 if ordered ahead. You can also buy one once you arrive ($20–$35) and link to MDX using the code on its back, but you can only link it once.

But don’t feel pressured to buy a MagicBand, because now your smartphone can do most of the same tricks. Keepin’ it contactless, in 2021 Disney announced MagicMobile, which turns eligible iPhones, Apple Watches, and Google Pay-enabled Android phones into de facto MagicBands. Once MagicMobile is added to your digital Wallet through the Disney World app, you don’t even have to unlock your phone to scan in. However, you may find it annoying to be on your phone even more than you already will be, so the old-fashioned method of the MagicBand still has its appeal—and it preserves your battery for photos and calls.

If you have privacy concerns, you may decline both MagicBand and MagicMobile; you will be given a plastic card that only contains a passive radio transmitter chip that’s used to tap for entry but cannot trace your movements.

No matter what you use to scan in, brace yourself for the overspending potential of tapping a device rather than taking out a billfold. Studies show we spend 18 percent more when we don’t handle cash or credit cards—a big reason the company decided to sink $1 billion into this. Notably, nearly every exec who convinced the company to spend that money has since left.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.