As part of the MyMagic+ program, Walt Disney World has started offering a new type of device that takes the place of the normal park ticket or Key To The World card called the “MagicBand”.

What is it?

The MagicBand is an RFID-enabled device designed to be worn around your wrist. It takes the place of your park ticket/annual pass, room key, room charge, dining plan, PhotoPass and Fastpass tickets. You can use it to enter the park, use FastPass+ kiosks, enter FastPass+ lines, and enter your resort room and charge purchases to your room (Disney resorts only). They can even be used for checking in for Magical Express transportation from the airport to the resort. More possibilities for their use may come later.

It’s made from a form of plastic that’s fairly flexible and generally comfortable to wear (although comfort depends on the person.) It is also completely waterproof so you can wear it into pools and water parks and not have to worry about keeping tickets and room keys on you.

Do I need a MagicBand?

No, a MagicBand is not required for any of the main functions. You can use your regular park ticket, pass or Key To The World card to enter the park and utilize FastPass+ and make room charges (if you are enabled for that as part of a Disney resort reservation.) However, there are some new enhanced experiences and features that you might potentially miss out on. See the “What are the advantages?” section below.

How do I get one?

If you have a Disney resort reservation, you will receive your MagicBands for free. You will be given the opportunity to “customize” (i.e. choose color and have a name printed on the inside of the band) MagicBands via the My Disney Experience site up to 30 days (at this time) before your check-in date. Within a few days after, if you have a shipping address within the United States, they will be shipped directly to you. If you are outside the United States, they will be shipped and held for you at the resort.

If you do not customize by the deadline, you will receive the “Iconic Gray” bands by default without a name on them when you check-in.

If you are an Annual Passholder and your pass is already active, you will also receive MagicBands for free. Simply log in to My Disney Experience and select the option to customize. They will be shipped within a few days, and will include a Passholder-exclusive slider to place on the band and a card used to show for parking and discount purposes. If you pass is not yet active (you have an “exchange certificate” or voucher, or are picking them up as a will-call, you will not see the option until you’ve activated the pass at the parks. Unfortunately that means you won’t have the bands for your first trip on any given pass.

If you are not a resort guest, or simply want an additional band or color, you may purchase the standard color bands at many locations around the property for $12.95 each. You can also purchase accessories for the bands at these locations to further customize and decorate them. Originally, you could only purchase them and activate them on an My Disney Experience account right away. You can now purchase without activation so they can be given as gifts. This does not, however, apply to the limited edition bands that are occasionally sold for special events.

What are the advantages?

RFID technology generally works faster and more reliably than the older magnetic stripes used on the old tickets and cards. It’s all electronic and can’t easily be scrambled by magnetic sources. It’s also a convenient single device for for all the purposes mentioned above, whereas before you would have a Key To The World card, potentially a separate park ticket or Annual Pass, and had to collect and hold FASTPASS tickets. Now you have just one item you tap to the touchpoint readers for all of those, and it can conveniently be worn on your wrist, instead of having to fumble through a pocket or bag or lanyard for the right card. And if you are a Disney resort guest, you can personalize each with a name on the inside of the band so you know which one belongs to which family member, even if you choose the same color!

In addition to the basic RFID advantages, MagicBands also have a short-range transmitter that can be read a short distance (estimated to be between 9 to 15 feet maximum in normal conditions) that can be used for special experiences that will not require a guest to explicitly use the band on a touchpoint. Such experiences are still being developed, but often-cited examples would be a princess or other character in a meet and greet knowing your name before you even approach them and whether you’ve visited before, or automatically adding a ride photo to your account by sensing you passing the camera.

How long are they good for?

For the basic functions, they are in fact theoretically good forever. For the short range transmitter portion, however, it is estimated that non-replaceable battery contained within the band is good for 2-3 years from the time the band is assembled. Although information isn’t 100% clear, Disney appears to be saying that they are good for about a year, but since they haven’t been out that long how Disney is handling “expiration” of bands is not clear at this time.

Are they reusable?

Absolutely yes. You can use a MagicBand from a previous trip, as long as it is listed as “active” in your profile on My Disney Experience, and it is functional.

Can I have more than one?

Yes. In fact at this time Disney will give you a band for each resort stay you have, even if you have more than one within a year – even if they are back-to-back. You can even use them interchangeably for all functions, as long as they are all listed as “active” in your profile – it doesn’t matter if you received it for a particular resort stay or not. There is a limit to how many active devices you can have in your profile, however. Reports vary between six or seven active devices.

How do I copy my park ticket or FastPass+ selections to my MagicBand?

You don’t need to. Nothing is actually stored on the MagicBand. It simply has an ID number. Think of it as something like the key to your house, and the items in your My Disney Experience profile (your park tickets, FastPass+ selections, etc.) and other items like room charging are things in your house. By using your house key, you have access to the things in the house. The MagicBand works the same way – when read by one of the readers, it unlocks access to your profile for the access station, allowing you to enter the park, or use your FastPass+, or charge something to your room.

And like your house, you can have more than one door with different locks, and thus have different keys, all accessing the same items. So you can actually have more than one MagicBand (or RFID-enabled pass or Key To The World card) associated with your profile, and they are, for the most part, interchangeable and any of them can be used for entering a park or utilizing FastPass+. Being able to open your room or make room charges is a bit hit or miss at this time, but the front desk should be able to verify that they will work for your room.

My wrist is very small – could it fall off?

Yes, but the band can be made smaller. The band consists of an inner section, which is the colored part, and an outer dark gray part. You can actually separate the inner section from the outer, resulting in a “kids-sized” band. Note that once this is done, you cannot reattach the outer part.

Do I have to wear it?

No, you don’t. You can put it through a belt loop, or on a lanyard, or in your bag. The wrist is just the most convenient place, as all the touchpoints are designed to be at that level.

Can someone duplicate my MagicBand without me knowing, or get my personal information?

Potentially, yes, they can be duplicated. But really, what can they do with it? There is nothing other than an ID number stored on the band – several, in fact. That ID could potentially be read from a distance with specialized equipment. But in order to utilize that ID number, it would have to be duplicated onto another compatible RFID device, which the person would then need to use in the presence of a Cast Member, so if it doesn’t look right the Cast Member may stop them. And in order to make a purchase, they would also need to know your PIN number. Without a PIN number, at best they might be able to get to your FastPass+ selections at a kiosk and use them, or enter a park using your ticket (if they manage to get around the finger scan). Not a lot of advantage in doing so.

In order to get ANY personal information, they would have to also have access to the database that Disney maintains that contains all your information – which is very, very protected. Even the access stations around the park only have access to the information that they are required to access. For instance, a station at the FastPass+ line only displays the first name of the guest to whom the band belongs and whether it was valid for that attraction at that time.

Can they track me with it?

Yes, yes they can. But if you think about it, they can already track you in a number of ways already. This is nothing new, it just happens to be a bit more overt because of the technology. Aside from “Big Brother” concerns, however, the technology is meant to improve the guest experience by knowing where the crowds are and reacting accordingly. If, however, you want to limit what they can track, opt out and do not order or purchase the bands and opt for RFID cards instead. This will potentially limit the experiences you might be able to receive, however.

If you’d like to see how they work to aid in your understanding, see the “How does it work?” section below.

Where else can I use it?

Currently, we know of two uses outside of Walt Disney World:

Disney’s Vero Beach Resort: A Disney Vacation Club resort in Vero Beach, Florida along the east coast of the state. The band can be used for room and pool access like at WDW resorts.

Disney Infinity: While in Toy Box mode in the game, placing the MagicBand on the pad where the playset piece/toy box power discs go will unlock an exclusive toy box item.

How does it work?

WARNING: Very dry technical information ahead…

RFID stands for “Radio Frequency IDentification”, and encompasses a variety of methods by which an identification number or string can be transmitted from a device and read by another device.

There are two basic types of RFID that concern the MagicBands – “passive” RFID and “active” RFID.

Passive RFID is fairly common. If you’ve ever used a card entry system where you placed a card on or near a sensor to unlock the door, it’s the same thing. Basically, the device (card or band) contains a chip in it and an antenna. It doesn’t require a battery or other power source. When placed within a magnetic field (which is emitted by the reader), it created enough of a charge in the circuit that it wakes up and then transmits its unique identification number to the reader on a specific frequency. The reader receives that number, and sends it to the computer which can then look up the relevant information for that ID (if there is a valid FastPass+ for the attraction, or if you should be admitted into the park, etc.) Typically this only work over very short distances (from touching to a few inches) unless a high powered reader and/or sensitive antenna is used.

This is how almost all of the functions used at Walt Disney World work. You place the card or band against a “touchpoint” (with a light-up Mickey head in a circle, the symbol for MyMagic+), and it scans it quickly and sends the information to the computer, which then decides if it is valid. If the Mickey head turns green (potentially other colors if the band is a special “limited edition” version), it is valid for whatever purpose it was. If it turns blue, it is either not valid or simply didn’t read properly. Occasionally you may need to try a second time.

The big advantage of passive RFID is there is no need for a power source in the device itself, as all power is provided by the reader wirelessly. That means that the passive part of the band will in theory work forever.

Active RFID is different. It uses a powered transmitter in the device to send a signal out at all times or when it is turned on. In the case of MagicBands, it is always on, sending out it’s unique ID (and a different ID than the passive side), where a passive receiver can pick it up. This generally allows it to work over longer distances. Many automatic tolling systems use this type of method, although some can use a passive system.

A power source is required, and thus the MagicBands contain a non-replaceable battery. The battery won’t last forever, but at the power levels and frequencies involved, it is estimated to last up to 2-3 years from when it was assembled. The signal can be read at an estimated maximum of 9 to 15 feet, allowing uses that don’t require a guest to overtly take any action to activate an experience. Thus your name can appear on screens in various attractions, or ride photos automatically associated with your account, without you needing to do anything to make it happen except wear your band.

The RFID ticket cards that are used now for park entry for guests without MagicBands lack the active transmitter, and thus guests with them can not see the same experiences the MagicBand users get.