You'll probably have to admit your age, and maybe even prove it. But if you're willing to confess a number, you can rack up some great discounts. Here are some tips for finding and getting the most out of senior citizen discounts:
[See 10 Great Senior Discounts.]
Research national deals. Some businesses clearly list senior discounts on their website or post them in the store. Amtrak travelers age 62 and older are eligible for a 15 percent discount on most rail fares, and many public transportation systems offer discounts or even free rides to people above a certain age. Many museums, movie theaters, restaurants, and retailers also clearly post senior rates. Arthur Lewis, 72, of Los Angeles, orders two eggs, bacon, grits, and fruit from IHOP's special senior citizen menu for people age 55 and older five days per week. "It's smaller portions, lower prices, and it's what I want," he says.
Find out about unlisted deals. Many stores provide discounts only to seniors who ask for them. "Most businesses won't advertise or promote their senior discount, so it's very difficult to locate them," says David Smidt, president of SeniorDiscounts.com. "Wherever you are doing business, ask whether there is a senior discount available." The Albuquerque-based SeniorDiscounts.com has an online directory of businesses that offer discounts to people 50 and older, although free registration is required to view some areas of the site. A premium membership, which costs $12.95 per year, entitles SeniorDiscounts.com members to additional deals the site has negotiated with businesses. The website Sciddy.com also lists senior discounts by city. Sheila Moss, 70, of Smyrna, Tenn., gets $2 off every time she gets her hair cut at her local Supercuts. "I go there anyhow, but it's kind of nice to save a couple of bucks," Moss says.
Ask at local businesses and services. Many local businesses will give senior discounts to regular customers. Krystyna Colburn, 66, of Greenfield, Mass., recently found out that her plumber was willing to offer a discount to seniors. "Things you may not expect to be discounted might be," says Colburn. "I am not ashamed to ask. You have to ask for it to get it." When seeking a discount on household services, "Ask for a quote first and then ask for the senior discount," advises Smidt. Other somewhat unexpected things you might get a discount on (if you ask and qualify) include utilities, your water or trash removal bill, property taxes, cable, and even your cell phone bill.
Pay attention to the fine print. Some discounts are only available on specific dates or times, and age requirements vary considerably. "Most supermarkets and retailers offer breaks to seniors on specific days of the week," says Jim Miller, author of The Savvy Senior: The Ultimate Guide to Health, Family, and Finances for Senior Citizens. Moss often plans her shopping trips to Goodwill and Kroger on the day a deal is offered. "If I am going shopping, then I try to tailor it on the right day to get the discount," she says. Kohl's, for example, offers shoppers age 60 and older 15 percent off in-store purchases on Wednesdays. And Ross customers age 55 and older get 10 percent off purchases made on Tuesdays. In some cases, the day of the week a discount is offered varies by location.
Get an AARP card. AARP, which costs $16 a year to join, has negotiated a wide variety of discounts on behalf of members. More than 80 percent of AARP members have taken advantage of AARP offers over the past year, according to Dave Austin, vice president of marketing services for AARP Services. The most utilized AARP deals are for travel, including hotels and rental cars. AARP offers up to 25 percent off car rentals from companies including Hertz, Alamo, and National, and up to 20 percent off at hotels including Sheraton, Weston, and Ramada. There's also a variety of discounts in other categories, ranging from 20 percent off at Teleflora to 15 percent off products and 5 percent off shipping at the UPS Store as well as limited-time-offer deals. AARP membership is available to people age 50 and older, which often allows people to qualify for senior discounts at a younger age than they otherwise would.
Senior discounts aren't always the best deals. A senior discount isn't always the best possible price you can get on a product or service. For example, a recent search on Southwest.com for a flight from New York to Boston found that the senior fare was $288 while the lowest available fare, listed next to it, was $240. However, senior fares, unlike some other types of tickets, are fully refundable. You may also be able to book hotel rooms at a lower rate than the standard senior discount. "The senior discount isn't always the best deal available, especially if you have found a special deal for travel," says Miller. "You need to do some comparing before you just book the senior discount."