We Don’t Recommend FuelRods
FuelRod kiosks can be found at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, airports, and other locations. The service offers reusable, portable charging to fuel or charge your phone on the go, and then swap for a fresh battery. In this FuelRod review, we’ll cover whether the “unlimited” service is worth the money and effort.
While the headline is pretty blunt, there is more nuance to the question of whether you should buy a FuelRod while visiting Walt Disney World or Disneyland. As such, we’ll address their cost v. convenience, and weigh the pros and cons. Note that this FuelRoad review is entirely our subjective assessment of how FuelRods work (or don’t) for us. You may disagree entirely, finding a lot of value in FuelRods–and that’s fine.
For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, FuelRods are portable chargers that can be purchased in Walt Disney World parks and used to (partially) recharge your iPhone or other device on the go. You can then swap for a new battery pack at FuelRod kiosks once you’ve exhausted one. In a nutshell, our view is that FuelRods are pretty great…for people who have never heard of Amazon.com…
The general concept of these portable chargers is great for Walt Disney World. Using just the My Disney Experience app alone is a big drain that people underestimate as is browsing brilliant Disney blogs to figure out where you should eat. Suffice to say, it’s easy for your battery to die early in the day. Rechargeable battery packs have existed for some time (so to that end FuelRod is hardly revolutionary), and are one of the recommended staples on our What to Pack for Disney List.
The ‘twist’ with FuelRods is that when you’re done using them, you can trade out your depleted FuelRod for a fully-charged one at the many kiosks throughout Walt Disney World and Disneyland. The appeal is thus the ‘unlimited’ charge the FuelRods offer by virtue of swapping them out. When put that way, it’s easy to see the appeal of FuelRods.
Before we get going, there are a few interesting wrinkles to FuelRod policies. Two years ago, FuelRod planned to end the unlimited free swaps of FuelRods at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. That resulted in a ton of outrage among Disney fans and angry comments directed towards FuelRod via social media.
Even more notably, fans filed a class action lawsuit against the company. After several months of negotiation, that class action lawsuit was resolved with FuelRod creating a Founders status for people who has previously purchased FuelRods as early adopters. The FuelRod Founders status allowed eligible users to continue receiving free lifetime swaps. This was verified at the kiosks with a scannable QR code or imputing an email address, which then allowed FuelRod Founders to swap their existing FuelRods for free, even at kiosks that charge to swap.
We have to give big props to FuelRod here. Even though we aren’t huge fans of the product nor do we recommend it for most people, we still think FuelRod provides a valuable service for some guests. In short, FuelRod existing but charging a fee is better than the company going bankrupt and ceasing to exist at all.
As we’ve noted, FuelRod is a good option of last resort and we’re thus happy it’ll continue to exist at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. On top of that, FuelRod’s customer service team was diligent and conciliatory throughout this, offering refunds to disgruntled customers, and FuelRod stated that they’ve been forced to implement a swap fee to “maintain standards customers expect & ensure viability of the company.”
November 2021 Update: That’s not the end of the pay-to-swap saga! Sometime in the last few months, most (all?) FuelRod kiosks stopped verifying Founders status via email or QR code. We honestly don’t know when since we don’t use FuelRods.
We just happened to notice at one of the kiosks last month, and then started checking around to see if our friends (a couple of whom could be described as FuelRod advocates) whether they’ve had to pay for swaps recently. All responded that they have not. At this point, it would thus appear that swaps are free for all, rather than $3 each. This is great news for anyone who finds themselves in a pinch and ends up needing a FuelRod.
This couldn’t have happened at a better time, as the new Genie+ and Lightning Lanes at Walt Disney World and Disneyland are serious battery drains. While it’s theoretically possible to go an entire day using the Genie service without recharging, it’s very difficult. Many guests will be unprepared for this, and find themselves needing a spare battery during their days in the park.
Genie uses much more battery life than its predecessors, FastPass+ at Walt Disney World and MaxPass at Disneyland. On top of that, there are certain features, like the itinerary builder and PhotoPass AR lenses, that really kill a phone’s battery. Just ~30 minutes of playing around with the augmented reality filters took my battery down significantly. Just something to keep in mind if you’re visiting soon and don’t have a backup battery packed!
For many guests, the argument in favor of the FuelRod is the same as the Disney Dining Plan: convenience. However, like the argument in favor of the Disney Dining Plan, I’d counter that it’s the illusion of convenience, rather than actual convenience. And, like the Dining Plan, you’re paying extra for that illusion.
The problems with FuelRods are two-fold. First, the $30 price is very high for a battery pack of this capacity and quality. Second, the aforementioned capacity is poor by modern battery pack standards. (Although this has improved in the last couple of years, it’s still nowhere what you’d get from something from Amazon for $30. Nor is the charging as fast.)
Let’s talk a bit more about FuelRod’s capacity relative to its competitors. Unlike virtually every other battery pack on the market, FuelRod does not indicate its charge capacity. (Which alone should set off red flags.) Scant information is available, but it looks like it can charge an iPhone about halfway, which would put its capacity at under 3,000 mAh.
Let’s give it the benefit of the doubt and say the FuelRod has 4,000 mAh capacity. This Anker charger offers 5,200 mAh for ~$22. Over double the capacity in a similarly-sized charger for half the cost. For under $30, you can get this Anker charger with 10,000 mAh capacity and high speed charging (this is the charger we currently use as of 2021–it’s great). That’s enough to charge multiple devices, and do so far faster than FuelRod.
We have recommended alternatives on our packing list that offer larger capacity, lower cost, and faster charging than FuelRod. Some of these chargers will not only get you through an entire day in the parks–they’ll charge your entire family’s devices for the day.
By battery pack standards in the year 2021, FuelRod is antiquated. Unfortunately, they’re boxed into that (literally) due to the design of the dispensing machines that require maintaining the same style and size of battery pack today as 5 years ago when they debuted. Suffice to say, a lot has changed in backup battery technology in the last 5 years.
To be fair to FuelRod, the case could be made that there’s a certain convenience in never having to charge a battery pack–just being able to swap out the existing pack ad infinitum. Or that it can be a lifesaver if you forget your charger, cables, etc. True, it does offer appeal in both scenarios. There’s absolutely no arguing about FuelRod being useful if you’ve forgotten your charger/cables.
However, the case for general convenience in everyday scenarios is tougher to make. When I get back to the hotel at the end of a long day, I hate having to plug everything in before getting ready for bed. The thing is, I have to do that regardless with my camera, phone, etc. Plugging in one additional item is (literally) a <30 second commitment that hardly poses an insurmountable obstacle between me and a good night’s sleep.
Moreover, this argument is only even plausible in a world where FuelRod kiosks are ubiquitous. Such a world does not exist, nor will it ever exist. FuelRod’s business model relies upon spontaneous purchases from consumers who either don’t do the research or don’t have a viable alternative. Outside of airports, theme parks, and similar ‘vacuums’, they will lose to competitors. (For the same reason that no one in their right mind would pay $14 for a cheeseburger at Cosmic Ray’s if it were located in their hometown.)
If you’re primarily concerned about using FuelRods at the airport, Walt Disney World, or Disneyland–that’s great. FuelRod probably has you covered. For Disney regulars or Annual Passholders, there is value in FuelRod. Again, we’re not saying this is a totally useless service or product.
Ultimately, the only people for whom I can see FuelRod holding appeal once they get past the initial idea of convenience is those who have never heard of rechargeable batteries before stumbling upon the FuelRod kiosk while in the parks. Yes, these people do exist. We see countless guests sitting in corners charging their phones in random outlets during the course of their vacations.
For those people (or people who simply forget to pack their portable chargers), the FuelRod presents a good spontaneous purchase, as the cost (in time) of sitting in a random corner everyday during a pricey Walt Disney World vacation far outweighs even the $30 cost of a FuelRod. However, if you’re reading this FuelRod review in advance of a trip to the park and have the opportunity to order a higher capacity battery pack from Amazon, that’s your better option.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
What do you think of FuelRods? Will you continue to use FuelRods if they end free unlimited swaps and start charging for them? Are you a FuelRod Founder? Do you agree or disagree with our FuelRod review? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
I am a founder. I only use it at Disney. I have used the code at an airport kiosk. It’s worth it in spades with free charges. No free charges and it’s lost all value. I own a couple other portable charges as well (your Amazon alternatives). My issue is that one fuel rod charges my phone 1.5 times, and I can need multiples through the day thanks to long park days, multiple devices, and draining Wi-Fi. I don’t have the luxury of recharging my convenience device mid day while in the parks. I also often need separate chargers to charge multiple devices at the same time (thanks kids). A couple cheap fuel roads with unlimited charges is there height of vacation convenience for us. It’s not recharging one bank, it’s multiples, multiple times a day …. When sometimes I crash forgetting to put my own phone on the charger at night. It takes too long to charge the next morning when rushing out the door. I shouldn’t have to invest so much headspace into managing a charging schedule of critical devices while herding overtired high on sweets children. $30 is nothing to outsource that after spending $5k+ on a Disney vacation.
Fwiw, I believe they have been upgrading the rod throughout the years while maintaining the form factor. If you want to complain about them, you are better off talking about them getting stuck in the machine and the fear that you will lose a stuck rod with no recourse.
@Paul if you enjoy carrying around that heavy powerBRICK that’s great. I’ll just keep the little Fuel Rod and if needed use it, then swap it out for a charged one.
We were at Disney today and had to buy a fuel rod. it was nice to have and use but we had to do a swap due to it not giving us a full charge. They were free swap-outs. The price of $30 was high but that is park prices. the coke you get outside of the park for $1.50 is $6 in the park. wish the cords that came with them were longer. since I don’t go to the parks much I don’t know where I will go to swap these out when needed besides just reusing them. I agree they should hold more power.
Modern battery size matters. My Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has a 5,000 mAh battery. The kid’s iPhone 12 Pro Max is 3,687 mAh. The new iPhone 13s are all over 3,000 mAh, with the Pro Max over 4,000.
I used my Galaxy all over the place this summer, for everything, videos, pictures, My Disney Experience, etc. I NEVER needed to recharge until back in the room for the night. The kid had to borrow the Anker PowerCore+ 10050 mAH a few times towards the end of the day.
The combination of larger batteries and battery efficiency means Fuel Rods fall farther behind each year in what they contribute.
I can say that I noticed more Fuel Rod stations than ever this summer, but they lack versatility. We use our portable battery packs at parades, camping, sports, you name it. I was recently in the hospital for an extended period, and We didn’t have a long enough charging cord, We ended up rotating battery packs from home to keep my phone charged (including our 20,000 mAh pack). Try that with your fuel rod.
The convenience is a plus. Unfortunately, if I’ve forgotten my charger and cord, then I’ve forgotten to bring my old Fuel Rod too. Defeats the swap purpose, but sure does help them keep making money….
I have a regular charger but use this as a back-up for me and my daughter as well. We have founder status so it seems like a good back-up plan. My biggest problem last year was I think they weren’t used much and I at times find that the machines weren’t plugged in. Hopefully my trip in early December will find they are more ready for my exchange.
I am a lover of the fuel rod. I take a lot of pictures at WDW and my battery charge goes down fast. I love having the convenience of just swapping out my battery. Even if I brought a back up charger, I would blow through that and need another before park close (I’m usually a commando tourer).
I’m an early adopter (when swaps were free). Did I need to do something to get founder status?
P.S. I don’t use my Fuel rod other than at Disney
Pretty ridiculous. I bought a GoalZero 5200mah charger for $26. It has a flip out USB plug that will recharge it from any USB hole.
With everything else you buy and pack for a disney trip, spending an extra $30 on amazon before you go seems like a no brainer.
This just seems like another Disney up charge you can easily avoid.
The fuel rods are still being swapped for free at WDW as of June 2021.
I am team Fuel Rod. Packaging is great, convenience is worth the 30USD. Also comes with the plug for my GoPro (which is rare). A million thanks for letting me know of the Founders Status thing, believe it or not, I got mine as WDW Oct 25, 2019!
I feel like I am out in the left-field- 30 dollars too much? Try buying a charger at the airport. I was so happy to find this item as my phone died at the park. Aren’t we willing and almost even expect to pay a higher price, not just Disney, at most amusement parks of high caliber? I feel if the price were low it would still be questionable to consumers; believing the low price automatically means it’s low quality. I would rather pay what isn’t an outrageous price than miss taking a picture and capturing a memory or missing a call from a child Looking for you. Plus it’s reusable, come with there different attachments for charging and can be swapped out. As for the 3 dollars, I’m not getting it – that’s life, prices go up. Try going to Starbucks, you can charge for free; while you drink your twelve dollar coffee. Everyone is free to have their own opinions, I’m just sharing mine âœŒï¸
You may have heard some phone users complain that one power bank or the other damaged their phone and then concluded that power banks damage phone battery. Does using a power bank damage your phone battery?
No it does not. It could maybe if the power bank caught on fire and melted into your phone, I guess. Almost impossible. Your phone will not take more charge than it can handle, so if it gets overloaded it’s a problem with the phone, not the power bank.
Well, got qualified as Founders Club for free swaps! Will be trying it next week.
It worked great in September!
Just came across this article and wanted to see what the community thinks. I just started my company Juix last year and I think we address all the issues Fuelrod has.
Essentially, we provide kiosks where you can Rent a Power bank for an hourly fee with a maximum daily fee. Generally this is $1 / hour and $5 / day with a maximum of 2 days rental time. If you want, you can buy the power bank for $20 after the 2nd day.
The power bank itself is 5000mAh and has all the cables attached. I have been thinking about reaching out to Disney but until reading this article, didn’t consider it an immediate need. What do you guys think?
Sounds too expensive, frankly. I’d bet that FR is giving Disney kickbacks on the kiosk sales.
I go to Disneyland quite often and forget my portable charger sometimes. I’ve got 2 FuelRods and I’ve exchanged then for free many times. I’m going to be upset if I have to start paying $3 to change them out. That would really suck. I mean its really a hassle keeping up with a toddler and your phone battery is running low, then your charger is running out. Then you have to come up with $3 after the park is already robbing you half blind.
Why do you have 2 fuelrods?
I’m guessing you would have two fuel rods so that more than one person in your family can be charging their phone at the same time.
I’m guessing one day the OP forgot her portable charger AND her 1st fuel rod, and had to buy a second one…
I bought a Fuel Rod when I was in Disneyland in 2017. My husband and I visit the Busch Gardens near our house regularly and we never use our phones. Additionally, when you visit BG, you aren’t allowed to have backpacks on rides. So when I went to DL, I brought a fanny pack because I didn’t realize you could have bags there, and I was trying to keep things compact so I didn’t bring much, which included not bringing a phone charger. However, I had NO CLUE I would use my phone as much as I did that day and was forced to buy a Fuel Rod. In the 3+ years that I have had it, I definitely got my money’s worth – both at Disneyland that day, but also at BG and airports throughout the world. My husband and I have had NO CLUE how the company has stayed afloat – there is a limited profit here when they have swaps for free. I understand why they did it, but I agree that a $3 swap isn’t worth it, especially when you can buy a much better product for much cheaper elsewhere. But I guess that doesn’t matter for me lol since I can get the Founders status – thanks for letting me know. Signing up now and hopefully can use for our trip to WDW in January!
Thank you so much for running this update. We bought a fuel rod last September at Port Orleans and swapped a ton in the parks as the Disney AP drains my battery. We loved it so much but were hot mad when we saw they started charging. I’ve already applied thanks to you for founders status and I can wait to enjoy free swaps during our trip in August!
I enjoy the convenience of being able to swap out my FuelRod at various locations within the Walt Disney World Resort at any point in time. I also LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the clear plastic carrying tube that holds not only the FuelRod but also cables for both Android AND Apple cell phones (my family uses both types of cell phones). That small tube easily fits in a small fanny pack that I carry into the parks on a daily basis. Sure, I own a lot of portable chargers that pack more powerful wallops than the FuelRod, but they’re larger and thus don’t have small plastic carrying tubes to contain them & their various cables. Paying $30 to the FuelRod folks for something handy AND convenient is well worth the cost to me, especially when comparing that reasonable cost against the obscene prices of a Disney hotel, Disney theme park tickets, and/or a Disney meal. To me, $30 ain’t nothin’. Hell, even Rick Blaine from Casablanca would agree: “Minnie, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three ten dollar bills don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy Walt Disney World.”
‘Partially charge’ is subjective at best…with thousands of possible devices that’s a lame comparison. We’ve had even more modern Galaxy phones go from 10-100…
Totally missing the point on convenience! We often recharge ours in the resort room but long day with park hopping means more phone use. Newly unveiled plans to dumpster MagicBands (free at least) and require using the app with NFC or Bluetooth enabled means more drain and necessity.
The number one idea with these is quick swap in the parks and going about your day…
PS. It’s not a Disney co monopoly! They’re available at more n more airports at a lower cost and still free swaps. Great idea for business travelers and should be pushed for sports and shopping venues…
If you dont like em, dont buy em…but if comparing to a normal small 18650 battery powered stick, it’s far from apple’s to orange’s!!! Sometimes carry both and use the Fuelrod waaay more…