Dear Savvy Senior,
It seems like senior discounts have been dwindling over the past few years. What’s the best way to find them? —Penny Pincher
One of the great perks of growing older in the U.S. is the many discounts that are still available to seniors. While the recession has caused many companies to cut back or eliminate their senior discount programs, there are still plenty of good deals out there. Here are some tips and tools to help you find them.
The first thing to know is that not all businesses advertise it, but many give senior discounts just for the asking — so don’t ever be shy or embarrassed to ask. You also need to know that some discounts are available as soon as you turn 50, while others may not kick in until you turn 55, 60, 62 or 65. Here are some other tips that can help you find the best deals and discounts.
The single best resource for finding senior discounts is SeniorDiscounts.com. A savvy resource that lists more than 150,000 businesses offering senior breaks on a wide variety of products and services like airlines, car rentals, travel, recreation, local transportation, shopping, restaurants, hotels, state and national parks, medical services, pharmacies and museums. For an annual fee of $8 you can find discounts by the city, state, or zip code, or by the category you’re interested in. Or for $13 you can find and get discounts through their members-only club, and receive a printed copy of their SeniorDiscounts Guide to boot. Also check out SeasonedSpender.com and Bargains4seniors.com, two less established sites that let you search for discounts and deals for free.
Join a Club
Another avenue to senior discounts is through clubs and organizations. The one you’re probably most familiar with is AARP (www.aarp.org; 888-687-2277), which offers its members (age 50 and older) a wide variety of discounts through affiliate businesses. Annual AARP membership is $16. But that’s not all! There are other groups you may not think about or be familiar with such as The Seniors Coalition (www.senior.org), an education and advocacy organization that provides discounts to its more than 4 million members — you can join at any age for $13.50. Or, if you’re a current, former or retired federal employee, you can get discounts by joining the National Association of Active and Retired Federal Employees, or NARFE (www.narfe.org; 800-627-3394). Also consider AAA (www.aaa.com). While you don’t have to be a senior to join, AAA provides a variety of travel and shopping discounts to go along with their emergency roadside services.
If you’re interested in discounted travel there are loads of options, most of which can be found at Seniordiscounts.com, or if you join an organization, through their Web sites and membership materials. In the meantime here are some of the best deals you should know about.
Hotels: While most hotels offer minimal senior discounts, the Hyatt (www.hyatt.com; 888-591-1234) offers the biggest — up to 50 percent off to seniors, age 62 and older.
Transportation: The only domestic airline that still gives discounts to seniors today is Southwest (www.southwest.com; 800-435-9792), which offers senior fares to passengers age 65 and up. For train travel Amtrak offers a 15 percent discount to coach travelers age 62 and older (www.amtrak.com; 800-872-7245). And if you’re going by bus, Greyhound (www.greyhound.com; 800-231-2222) offers a 5 percent discount on unrestricted fares to seniors over 62. Also, most local bus lines offer discounted senior passes.
Car rentals: Most car rental companies offer discounts to seniors, especially to club members like AARP and AAA.
National Parks: One of the best travel deals available is the "America The Beautiful — Senior Pass" (www.nps.gov/fees_passes.htm). This is a lifetime pass that will let you and anyone in your car into national parks, forest, recreation areas and monument grounds. Available to those 62 or older, you can get it at one of the federal recreation sites for a one-time fee of $10, and it never expires.
Savvy Tip: Another great resource is Joan Rattner Heilman’s book "Unbelievably Good Deals and Great Adventures That You Absolutely Can’t Get Unless You’re Over 50," (McGraw-Hill; $16.95). In its 18th edition, the 2009-2010 version lists hundreds of discounts, perks and privileges on just about everything. You can find this book online and in bookstores nationwide.