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.

41 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!

      1. I think the biggest issue is that their website does NOT list all the places these kiosks are available. They have lacked severely in the updating task. WDW and DLR have several of the kiosks available and its actually a pretty good deal for the price and the connivence of having a charge whenever you need it. Yes the $9.99 one is a great price BUT you have to be able to charge it and make sure it is charged. You also have to buy a brand new one when it dies(which I have had several of these things die after 10-15 uses). So all in all $20 ($30 at WDW or DLR) and you now have unlimted charge for your device and a lifetime charger. Totally worth it if you travel often or have an AP for any of the disney parks.

        1. MotherofZelda, the lack of updates to the website has to be frustrating for people who purchased these. If you buy a high quality brand, they last a long time. The first Anker ones I bought are probably 3 or 4 years old and have sustained many charges without an issue.

  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.

  11. I have multiple high capacity heavier batteries. I also have 3 kids, their friends, and plenty of devices. Invariably the batteries do not get charged. So while they may last the first couple days of a WDW trip, by mid-trip everyone’s phone is dying due to pi** poor planning. In a strict apples to apples comparison, the FuelRod is a bad deal from a mah perspective. But factor in the real-life scenarios of a family of 5 who travel a lot and this becomes a no-brainer. I’ll be purchasing one (at a price lower than WDW charges) before our next trip. It obviously is family situation dependent, but don’t diss its value prop. After all, healthcare insurance is a real bad deal for someone who never gets sick.

    1. We love it. Been at the resort for 3 days now and swapped out our fuel rod over a dozen times. Why? Well because we can. Have a super pricey awesome backup battery with us too. But why waste it when I can just swap out my fuel rod every chance I get. Pass it around to everyone and we all get a good charge. $30 wasn’t bad to keep us all powered up for picture opportunities or needed to add or change a FP selection.

    2. Mike, the value prop of paying $10 more for a crappy battery at Disney is weak, at best. If you buy one ahead of time and plan to use it at the parks because you can’t keep your other batteries charged, I get it. I really don’t find it that hard to plug in my battery when I get back to the hotel each night. But, if you invest $20 ahead of time (choosing not to pay the extra $10 to Disney), then at least you’re preparing ahead of time.

  12. I use my phone pretty heavily. As well as bring a semi local and often doing day trips (Meaning no hotel room to go charge at mid day and needing a decent battery power on my 3 hour drive home). Yes there is a concern with the company staying in business but for my instance I think it’s a benefit (Plus for the life of me I can never manage to pack and charge a portable charger so one that I can exchange is a huge value)

    1. Testa, I’m horrible at remembering to pack what I need for trips. To fix myself, I keep everything in my backpack and only take it out to charge when I get home. If it’s something I might use at home (cord, adapter, battery) I have an extra one that’s just for home. If it only leaves my backpack briefly to charge, I have a fairly high success rate of getting everything packed.

  13. Here’s the deal. These are actually useful in ways not mentioned. For instance, you can daisy chain these together and charge many at once. That alone makes it worth it, and if you think not, try it with other batteries. And if you find one that does, please let me know, cuz I’d rather not have to go to a Disney park to get more.

  14. I recently just bought one because at the end of the day at Disney, my phone died. It was either lose out on some amazing pictures or spend 30$. I wanna say that it was worth it. I COULD get a better battery for my buck but I will not get the same convenience. Just like this morning my wife kept telling me to charge the damn thing and I just don’t want to. I checked the SD zoo and they had a few kiosk over there. They even have it in a few airports in the state I’m from. I think it’s worth it. If it breaks or loses it’s quality just travel to the nearest one and exchange. Of course, you’re not paying for quality, but the convenience. And this revolutionizes everything because everyone needs an external charger nowadays in vacations.

      1. 2nd trip to WDW and several trips to DL. Still using the same one I purchased last June. I love it. Never have to worry about charging a backup battery on a Disney Vacation again. I see them being around for awhile. They are constantly being used and people always ask the CM’s where the kiosks are. So it’s not a dying fad. It’s just a new convience item that seems to be working well.

        1. MotherofZelda, I get that it’s helpful and I’m happy you found use for it. When I say I’m not sure they can be around, it’s not because we’ll stop needing batteries. In theory, Fuel Rod has now gotten the maximum investment from you. They need to supply you with backup batteries for as long as you continue needing refills. They don’t have a good strategy I can see to make more money off of you. It’s essentially a pyramid scheme. They need more people buying new batteries to pay for your swaps.

  15. Just want to throw my two cents in on this one. I am an AP holder in California and we go to Disneyland a lot. My phone *always* dies (I use the Disneyland App and take Pictures religiously). I had a full battery on the way to Disneyland but after about 3-4 hours in the park my phone was going to die. I’d never heard of the Fuel Rod before, but unlimited swapping sounded good enough to get me through the day. Biting the bullet I got one. I went from 10% – 70% while using it, that was great! Then I just swapped it out and got a new one. My phone was charged for the entire trip, and then my dad’s phone, and my brother’s which had also begun to die at the end of the day. I get what you’re saying about buying a quality battery charger and using that all day, and I guess to each their own.

    I don’t really think it’s a pyramid scheme. We’re giving back the fuel rods and recycling essentially. It’s a swap. And I’m not entirely sure I get the argument you’re trying to make here. Initially you said buy a good battery charger like the Anker to give you all the power you could ever need in a day. I’m not saying anything bad about the Anker because I don’t own one, and it’s probably a better investment if you’re not going to a place that has Fuel Rod kiosks. But if you’re going to a place that does have a Fuel Rod kiosk (or several) then you would also get all the power you could ever need in a day and more power for other people in your party.

    Then you say that your Anker batteries have never died on you.

    So the idea is to purchase a rechargeable battery that will give you enough power to last all day and is durable for several years. So if the Anker does that, then wouldn’t that mean that Anker has gotten the maximum investment from you? How does Anker stay in business? Essentially Anker needs people to keep buying their rechargeable batteries to stay in business too right? The good strategy for Anker is to create a product that will eventually die so you have to come back and buy more. So isn’t that a bit of a con too? I don’t know the math of how Disneyland or Fuel Rod decided it was a good business strategy that could make money while providing a convenience to park goers, but I don’t see them installing the kiosks just to take them out a year or two later, in which case, hey the rechargeable battery is still a rechargeable battery that you can power on your own. Maybe they bank on the fact that people will forget their chargers and buy an extra one at the park/kiosk, like they sell everything else (sunscreen, which I buy every single time 🙁 ), in which case they have more people buying new batteries.

    Anyway, I’ve seen more kiosks pop up in California, maybe not at every corner, but they’ve got them at Disney and at the San Diego Zoo and airports.

    I just wanted to add my review because this little Fuel Rod saved the day for my family, but I almost didn’t buy it because of your review. Not saying it was a bad review, but wanted to offer a different opinion. It’s definitely not the Worst Purchase I could have or ever have made at Disneyland.

    1. Christine, thanks for weighing in. Let’s break down your comments into a couple of issues.

      First, my comments on pyramid scheme. As long as you don’t lose your battery, you can get free exchanges forever. However, batteries don’t last forever. The quality of battery that I suspect Fuel Rod is using are not the latest and greatest. That means they need to keep paying rent on kiosks and buying new batteries to supply your current battery. They don’t get a dime from you again unless you happen to lose the battery. The costs associated with the upkeep of that network means they need to sell more new customers. After all, why would you buy a second battery from them when you can just get free refills?

      Anker, on the other hand, sells plenty of other products. And, when my batteries do wear out I’ll buy more. Now, Anker makes a premium product and I haven’t had many die. But, they will die eventually and I’ll need to buy more. The Anker batteries I carry are capable of charging a phone many times over, so I don’t need to be near a kiosk to get a charge.

      You’re essentially swapping quality and capacity of a good battery for convenience. Except, that convenience goes away when you’re not near a kiosk. It worked out in Disney, but once you’re home there’s no kiosk at your local supermarket, bank, etc. So, you plug your battery in just like I do.

      In the end, I’m really glad you were able to keep your phone charged at Disneyland (as well as the phones of the folks traveling with you). And, I’m happy to hear you’re an AP holder. This is our first year as one, and we’re really enjoying it. If you feel you got plenty of value at Disneyland from the Fuel Rod, I’m happy for you! I still don’t see their business model succeeding long-term.

  16. Edward, I am totally with you on the fuel rod discussion. I have yet to figure out why anyone would pay for a low quality charger at Disney prices. It seems more logical to me to buy a decent Anker quick charge unit and get multiple charges from it (for almost the same money you pay for the so-called convenience you get with a low capacity charger that you have to keep swapping out) And, I’m pretty sure that when you do swap a fuel rod, you don’t get a “new” one… but one that has been recharged. To each his own, I guess. Just because a Disney park sells something does not make it a better product…I know…. I go their often.

    1. John, that’s part of my problem with Fuel Rod. I think I’ve gotten some “duds” when I swapped. Sure, I can just grab another one, but only if I happen to figure it out when I’m near a kiosk. Just go buy an Anker. 😉

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