This May Be The Worst Purchase You Can Make At Disney World

Our family loves Disney World.  It’s not cheap, but there are so many lasting memories to be made.  We’ve purchased $15 balloons, $18 souvenir mugs and a variety of other items our kids just had to have, while passing up on many more expensive “Disney must haves”.  As you’re busy creating memories, the smart phone battery is dying from all the pictures with princesses, heroes, villains and Mickey.  Being able to charge your phone while in the park is almost a given unless you’re taking pictures with a true camera.

I just saw an announcement that Disney World was going to be rolling out Fuel Rod kiosks in the parks.  In case you’re not familiar, these are kiosks where you can purchase a small, portable battery to recharge your smart phone.  Once you purchase the battery, you get unlimited free “swaps”, where you deposit your discharged battery in a machine and get a fully charged one back (you can also recharge yourself).  If the information (and pricing) is accurate, then it leads me to wonder whether the folks at Disney got played or are intentionally marking this up to obscene levels.  Fuel Rod doesn’t have an announcement on their website yet, so maybe all the details aren’t quite squared away.

I ran across Fuel Rod in a couple of airports last year.  I was definitely skeptical, but just kept walking past the kiosks, preferring the batteries I already carry.  I finally broke down and bought one, but should have stayed skeptical.  I paid $20 and ultimately arrived at the fact that there was no way the battery was worth it.  So, you’re paying a premium of the convenience of kiosk location, something that’s sorely lacking right now as I’ve only seen them in a handful of airports.

The announcement about the relationship with Disney World states that the price is $30.  I have to assume it’s the same size battery I paid $20 for (which is still the price Fuel Rod lists on their website).

If you’re looking for a battery the same size, you can just buy the Anker lipstick battery for $9.99 on Amazon, with free shipping.

Disney World

Heck, for $30 you can get an Anker battery that’s 3 times the size of the lipstick version.

You can read a detailed breakdown of a variety of battery sizes I’ve carried.

Giving You The Power

I’m hoping the $30 pricing is just misinformation.  I’m really hoping this info helps folks make a better decision here.  Even at $20, this is a bad price for a lackluster product.  Don’t sacrifice money for convenience you don’t really need.  Buy a good battery, charge it before you hop on the Seven Dwarves Mine Train, and spend the rest on one of those really expensive balloons.

Note: the Amazon links are referral links for me.  Yes, I earn a few pennies if you buy a battery through one of my links.  But, I won’t make nearly as much as you’ll save if you buy a real battery instead of a Fuel Rod.

23 Comments

  1. Ten or more years ago, I needed a new SD card at Disney World. I still remember the exorbitant price! But I too love Disney.

  2. If you fail to plan ahead, and your phone is dying after a ten hour day at WDW, then you either lose out on photo ops and the useful apps that help maximize your visit, or suck it up and pay the Disney price. We went there in February, and took a battery and charger with us. It was too easy to pop them and a few water bottles and snacks into the backpack before leaving the hotel. Had we not, we could very well have wound up paying whatever we needed to in order to keep our iPhones running; after all, it was our daughter’s first trip to WDW.

    1. Exactly! On a recent trip to DW we packed our Amazon-purchased battery but threw in the wrong charge cord. Aaaaaa! How grateful we were for this new service. (no phone – no photos) We swapped it out maybe a dozen times and it saved all four of our party from disaster. The only complaint I had was that more kiosks were needed – a problem they seem to be solving. A much better purchase than most park items! I’m a fan!

  3. I just paid $30 for one. But I’m an Annual Passholder and come often so a one time $30 investment and I can swap for new ones anytime we are here- which is sometimes 2-3 times a month. Sounds like a great deal to me

  4. I agree that it’s kind of expensive, you could buy and manage 3 Anker batteries for this price, but then you’ve got to juggle charging them all. It’s like going to a restaurant and saying this food would cost 1/3 the price at the supermarket. You’re paying for the service as much as anything.

    Fuel Rod had to design and build all of these kiosks. Not sure which, but the kiosks either have to have some innovative way of recharging the deposited batteries, or someone has to physically go and swap them out on a regular basis. Outside of Disney, they usually charge $20 for the battery. It seems reasonable that they pay something to Disney to put these kiosks into the parks, so Disney’s premium is the extra $10 per unit.

    The fact that you can swap these out all day is why I might try it out. Perhaps at first there aren’t a lot of kiosks, but as the concept proves itself, we’ve already seen an expansion to more locations… it could keep growing (both inside and outside of Disney). Not that it’s so hard to manage batteries, but given the investment, labor, and rent, I’d say that there are much worse values at Disney.

  5. I really have no idea what your bitching about you certainly do Pea convenience up charge to basically by the thing for 20 or $30 and walked to a kiosk or another kiosk within the parks and exchange it out for a full one so you don’t have to stand in a wall and charge it that’s what youre paying for. The app it was just $30 for a recharge stick that would be absurd but it’s $30 for a recharge stick with accessories that you can exchange any time you want for a full recharge stick if you’re in the park and need it

    1. Chuck, I think you’re missing the point. That money would buy you a battery bigger than most people could ever kill in a day. I’m talking 6 or 7 charges of your iPhone. The very few total kiosks in the park are only as good as you being close by. You might say it’s easy to pass by one, but Disney is a big place.

  6. I bought a FuelRod in an airport for $15 (I’m cheap, and used a coping I found online at the time), and I plugged the rod into my phone and put it in my jacket pocket so I could walk around while charging from maybe 35% to 70% (Note 4) before the battery was drained. Then, before boarding my flight, I swapped out for a fresh charged fuelrod which charged my phone to full in the flight.

    But portable power is only one of the major benefits of a freely swappable rechargeable battery.

    I’ve got some larger capacity portable battery packs, including some that cost much more. But eventually those battery packs begin to fail. At first they just accept a little less charge, but eventually you can’t charge at all. So…you recycle them and buy another, right? But for the FuelRod, the user isn’t bothered by the battery’s lifecycle, or how to ‘responsibly recycle’ the worn out battery. Fuelrod’s kiosk or the magic elves that keep a charged rod ready for us to exchange, must charge and test the rod, and eventually they also have the burden to retire and replace the failing rods when they eventually reach their end of life.

    How many portable batteries have YOU owned that simply wrote out and croaked? This ‘fuelrod’ auto-magically never does (as long as you occasionally have access to one of their decreasingly-rare kiosks). I’ve seen generic battery packs about this size die in under 2 months. I needn’t care if this battery really dies, as it gets a free replacement on my next flight.

    When buying, get a Fuelrod in the airport ($20), and do a Google search for “fuelrod coupon”, and try one (or several) of the code(s) to save a few dollars (I’ve seen $3-$5 in the recent past).

    1. Kieth, glad you’ve had a positive experience with Fuel Rod, and sorry to hear about your problems with other batteries. I’ve actually never had a battery die on me. I’m guessing I eventually will. But, my Anker batteries just keep on going. To re-state the obvious, you only get a new battery when you’re near a kiosk. And, you need Fuel Rod to stay in business for a long time. No guarantees there.

    2. I PLANNED to buy a Fuelrod for my 1-week trip to Disney for my phone (with a crippling battery life due to software constantly in use). The thought process was that while I was in the parks (and Downtown Disney), I would have plenty of places to stop-and-swap my battery.

      Of the 4 parks in WDW, Magic Kingdom had 5 places, and Animal Kingdom had 1 centrally located place, and each of the other parks had 3 locations each.

      It may have been an slight inconvenience, but it allowed me to delay replacing my phone for now. My wife and I also has a couple of other battery chargers between us. But, when the Fuelrod was empty, I would just stop by on my next trip when I passed by one of the swapping stations.

      HOWEVER, I wish I had done my research before my trip to learn that the system used at Disney is THE SAME ONE YOU BUY FROM THE ORLANDO AIRPORT. I would have saved that $10 retail markup price and also used a coupon code like you mentioned.

      And yes, Edward, the 2600 mAh capacity of the Fuelrod is not impressive. But, if you use it in a specific environment where it can be frequently swapped out, the value comes clearly into focus for even a cheapskate like me.

      1. Keith, given your phone issues, it sounds like you might have gotten your money’s worth. Sorry you didn’t discover this post earlier and save a few bucks. Hopefully I can help you save money in the future!

  7. I love my fuel rod! 3 of us regularly go to Disneyland and we swap it out quite often! I’m a fan and wish they had a Kiosk at Universal Studios where I am going tomorrow!

  8. I’m on the positive side of this discussion. I have several battery chargers but certainly don’t want to carry more than one, today 3 of my group had to borrow my non fuel rod to charge their phones, if I’d had a fuel rod with us we could have charged them full then exchanged. So for folks who go to the parks or places that have the kiosks it works. So I bought the fuel rod as my charger is spent and we will be here for at least two more hours. Plus I now own a multi charge short cord that would cost me at least 9or $10 WIN even if this were my one and only trip. (It’s not as we are passholders). I understand your point, sadly not everyone remembers everything they might need. Personally I have never purchased a $15 balloon! LOL everyone has their limits and something that lasts one day is not on my purchase plan!

    1. Susan, I get the use case. But, I can fully charge my iPhone 6 or 7 times with the battery I carry. That’s plenty for my wife and I for a day in Disney. Also, if you’re looking for cheap cables, try monoprice.com. Glad it worked out for you, though!

  9. Trying to figure out why you hate the fuel rod so much. I was at California Adventure over the weekend, and bought one. Yes, it was $30. I had frankly never even heard of it before, so had no idea that it was normally only $20, but hey – you always pay a little more at DLand, so no worries. I was at 7% when I bought it and it got me up to 70%. I wasn’t all that impressed, but hey – I ended up with a phone for the rest of the night, so total success. I charged the fuel rod in the hotel that night, and put it in my purse for the next day’s venture to DLand. Again, ended up at 10% towards the end of the day, and plugged it in to the fuel rod. This time it brought me up to 92%, so wow – great! It should be noted that I use my phone while it’s charging – snapping photos, taking video, using data for apps, etc. I only run out of battery on days where I’m out and about all day and using my phone constantly, so it’s a bit rare. I think this little fuel rod is amazing; a great addition to my purse/backpack! I will, however, be buying the one you suggest for my emergency/disaster backpack.

    1. Slyvia, glad you got good use out of it. I’ve found the battery level to be poor and the kiosk availability sparse. Plus, you’re paying about 500% more than you should for that size battery. That’s an awful lot to pay for unreliable batteries and scarce kiosk locations.

  10. This may be the worst title ever for stuff at Disney. So glad we ignored your advice! The swapping of fuel rods was efficient and fun. Unlimited swapping! Forgot to charge overnight? No problem. It’s a keeper, so when yours dies, I’ll just swap for a new one!

    1. DC Coleman, glad it worked out for you. But, until there’s some ubiquity for kiosks, I just can’t behind this. Plus, the quality of the battery is really poor. You’re paying to rent a low-quality battery instead of owning a high-quality one and not need to hunt down a kiosk. Plus, you pay a $10 premium to buy the same battery from Disney.

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