Is AARP membership worth the cost?

If you're turning 50 this year, you qualify for an AARP membership, but is it worth it? Can you get senior discounts without joining?

By MSN Money Partner Aug 20, 2013 2:00PM

This post comes from Angela Colley at partner site Money Talks News. 


MTN logoOnce you've reached 50, you're likely to start hearing jokes about getting a senior discount at Denny's. But reaching a certain age actually does present some new opportunities -- like AARP membership.


Portrait of smiling senior couple on bicycles © Robert Daly, OJO Images, Getty ImagesAARP says that for just $16 a year, members have access to discounts on insurance and other products and services.


But is it worth the admittedly modest cost, or can people get similar discounts on their own without joining the group? We looked into AARP's benefits and their value to see what's what.


Insurance

Members can sign up for auto insurance through the AARP Auto Insurance Program from The Hartford. An advertisement on their website says: "Drivers over 50 who switch their auto insurance save an average of $375."


To compare insurance rates, I used a base model: coverage for a 50-year-old Texas woman with no recent accidents who drives a 2010 Honda Civic, including comprehensive and collision, with low limits and high deductibles. I received these three quotes:

  • Allstate -- $215 per month.
  • AARP Auto Insurance Program -- $100 per month.
  • Geico -- $59.80 per month.

Since rates vary by age, location, driving record, and a number of other factors, you might find a good deal through AARP's plan, but you might also find a better price with another insurer. It's worth requesting a free rate quote from not just AARP but other insurance companies to find the best price.


Travel deals

Travel deals are another perk to AARP membership. Here are a few things you'll get:

  • Rental cars. Members get a discount at several car rental companies.
  • Hotels. Your membership will get you up to 20% off at several hotel chains, such as Sheraton and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts. Other hotels offer smaller discounts.
  • Travel. You'll get access to the AARP Travel Center by Expedia, which posts members-only flight deals, plus you're entitled to a discount at Park Ride Fly USA for off-airport parking.
  • Cruises and trips. The AARP Travel Center offers cruise deals like 5% off select Norwegian Cruise Line cruises and other discounts, such as 10 percent off Endless Vacation Rentals.

However, if you're thinking of joining AARP just for the travel discounts, you'll likely find other senior discounts that don't require membership. For example, Best Western offers a 10% discount to anyone 55 years or older. If you're 62 or older, you'll get a 15% discount at Marriott locations.


Some airlines, including Southwest, offer senior fares. A few flight deal sites also post travel deals for seniors, such as OneTravel, CheapOair and Travelation. However, make sure the discounted fares -- whether you find them through AARP or elsewhere -- are actually the lowest available for your chosen flights.

Other discounts

If you're diligent about flashing your membership card, you can save some money -- easily enough to earn back your membership fee. Some examples:

  • 15% off lunch or dinner at participating Outback Steakhouse restaurants Monday through Thursday and 15% off weekend lunches.
  • A free doughnut with the purchase of any large or extra large drink at Dunkin' Donuts.
  • 10% off at Bonefish Grill.
  • 45% off the price of membership to Angie's List.
  • 5% off plans and 30% off accessories at Consumer Cellular.
  • 20% off local or one-way rentals at Budget Truck Rental.

You can read the full list of discounts by checking out the AARP Member Benefits Guide (.pdf file).


However, many establishments and businesses offer senior discounts -- no membership required. For example:

  • AMC Theatres. Discounted tickets on Tuesdays for anyone 60 and up.
  • Verizon Wireless. The 65 Plus Plan comes with 200 anytime minutes for $29.99 a month for customers 65 and older.
  • Kohl's. Customers 60 and older get 15% off in-store purchases on Wednesdays.

You can find plenty of lists identifying senior discounts that don't require an AARP membership (although take note that offers change and not all stores in a chain participate). Among them:

Wherever you're shopping, it doesn't hurt to ask if they have a senior discount and how old you have to be to qualify.


Other features

AARP memberships also come with a host of other perks. For example, if you're married, your spouse will automatically get a free membership. If you're single, you can sign up for AARP's new dating site, which is currently 50%off for members. Members receive AARP Magazine, which has articles on everything from travel to personal finance. And you'll get access to their freebie section, which has free samples and other freebie deals.


Should you sign up?

One main advantage AARP has is the age limit. Most senior discounts we found started at 55 or older, but you can qualify for AARP starting at age 50.


On the other hand, you can take advantage of discounts available to people in all age groups by signing up for a company's emails or liking companies on their Facebook page.


Before you decide whether to join, check out the Member Benefits Guide to see if you'll get good use from a membership based on where you spend your money.


Have you been an AARP member? Has membership provided value to you?


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