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Free tickets to 150 museums

Need an afternoon out? Bank of America is buying, at museums and other cultural centers across the country.

By Donna_Freedman Feb 22, 2012 12:42PM
Want a free ticket to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Shedd Aquarium, the Motown Museum, the Houston Zoo or the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum?

You might already have it. Check your wallet.

If you own a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card, or a card bearing the BofA logo, you can take part in Bank of America's Museums On Us program.

Any of the above-mentioned cards is your open-sesame to 150 museums in 31 states, from as far north as Alaska to as far south as Florida. The card plus a photo ID will get you in without paying on the first Saturday of every month. Sometimes on Sunday, too. (Post continues below)
While there's plenty of fine art to be viewed, this party is far from elitist. (See "Country Music Hall of Fame," above.) Choose from an intriguing mix of venues, such as:
  • Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego.
  • IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum, near Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
  • Art Institute of Chicago.
  • Brooklyn Children's Museum.
  • The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Boston.
  • National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.
  • Discovery Science Center, Santa Ana, Calif.
  • Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, Mich.
  • Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City.
Click on the link above to find out what's available in your neighborhood -- or in any city you're planning to visit. If that trip encompasses the first weekend of a month, you just saved yourself the price of admission. Don't you just love frugal tourism?

The savings can be considerable. A ticket to the Houston Zoo is normally $13, admission to the Henry Ford Museum is $17 and a walk-through of the Whitney Museum of American Art will set you back a cool $18.

Depending on your location, the Museums On Us program may net you other perks. For example, the Seattle Art Museum's splendid "Gauguin & Polynesia: An Elusive Paradise" exhibit, which runs until April 29, costs as much as $23 to see. But those BofA cardholders can get in for $8 on the first weekend of the month.
Sometimes a special exhibit or program may actually be free with the gratis pass, but not always. Call first, lest you take the bus all the way across town only to discover there's a separate admission fee for the traveling exhibit of King Tut's underpants.

Of course, you could also look at it as "I saved X dollars getting in so I'll gladly pay to see the boy king's tighty whities." And I hope you'll drop at a bill or at least some coins in the donation bins found in most museum lobbies.

So get your midwinter-weary self out of the house. Head out to the Art Institute of Chicago, the Anchorage Museum, the Harvard Museum of Natural History or whatever's open in your area. Enjoy a little frugal culture, whether highbrow or having to do with lariats.

More on MSN Money:
Feb 22, 2012 3:27PM
If you travel, don't forget to check the museums/attractions in those cities. Remember, it's not just art museums -- you might get to go eye-to-eye with a shark at an aquarium, or listen to Motown hits.
Thanks for reading Frugal Cool.

Feb 22, 2012 3:17PM
I'm very excited about this program! I'm going to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit in an LA museum next weekend! I've known about this for several months now and a friend of mine has been going to different exhibits for the past several months.
Jun 8, 2012 12:31AM

Hi, Donna,

     Just wondering if the free admission is extended to each person in your party or if it only applies to the person whose name is on the credit card.  Would be great if the spouse and kids got in free or at a discount. also!

     BTW...I really enjoy your articles and live by your saying,  " I save whenever I can so I can afford to buy what I WANT!"  Makes perfect sense to me. I constantly get complements on my home.  It has been furnished almost entirely second-hand through Goodwill, yard sales, and auctions.  Our couch and big chair, our computer, our mattress, and all major appliances were purchased new.  Otherwise, everything is pre-owned and refurbished, if necessary. 

     Keep up the good work.


Mar 8, 2012 1:46PM
We actually went to the Houston Zoo this past weekend, we don't use our BOA card much, Discover is better to us, but I do love to take advantage a few times a year of the free museums. The best part, is it's really not that much more crowded, if any, than any other weekend!
Feb 24, 2012 3:53PM
Sorry Ro in SD CA.  You can't use this program to see the Frida Kahlo/Surrealist exhbit for free.  You can use it to get into LACMA for free but the exhbit is a separate fee.
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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.