We all love a good bargain, no matter what our age. But if you're a senior citizen on a fixed income, finding discounted goods and services can mean the difference between making ends meet and going without.
The good news is that tons of senior discounts are available -- often for people as young as 50. One caveat right up front: Although many senior discounts are substantial, you sometimes can find better bargains -- especially on travel-related expenses like airfare, hotels and rental cars. So always do your research first before requesting the senior rate.
Here's a roundup of some of the best senior discounts I've found:
An AARP membership costs only $16 a year for anyone over age 50, including free membership for spouses or partners. AARP's discounts website features discounts on dozens of products and services including rental cars, hotels, restaurants, clothing and department store chains. AARP also offers an inexpensive driver safety course for drivers over 50 (members and nonmembers alike) that can lower auto insurance premiums by up to 10 percent or more.
Popular AARP discounts include:
- 20 percent discount on installation or upgrades to ADT home security systems.
- 45 percent off membership to Angie's List.
- 20 percent off purchases from 1-800-FLOWERS.com.
- Up to 25 percent off car rentals from Avis and Budget.
- Up to 20 percent discount at many hotel chains including Hyatt, Hilton, Wyndham, Best Western, Days Inn and Ramada, among others.
- 10 to 20 percent off at many restaurant chains, including Claim Jumper, Denny's and Outback Steakhouse.
- 15 percent off many Geek Squad services from Best Buy.
- A free 45-minute consultation with an Allstate Legal Services Network attorney, as well as 20 percent off member attorneys' fees.
A quick Google search will uncover numerous other senior discount resources. One popular site is SeniorDiscounts.com, an online directory of more than 220,000 U.S. business locations that offer discounts to people over 50. Registration is free, although they also offer a $12.95/year premium that offers members-only discounts and other perks. Other good sites include Brad's Deals, Sciddy.com and Savvy Senior.
Other commonly available senior discounts include:
- A 15 percent discount on the lowest available rail fare on most Amtrak trains for travelers over age 62.
- Greyhound offers a 5 percent discount on unrestricted fares (over 62).
- Southwest Airlines offers senior fares (over 65). Although not necessarily their lowest available rates, Southwest's senior fares are fully refundable.
- The U.S. Geologic Survey senior pass (over 62) provides free lifetime access to more than 2,000 government-managed recreational sites (including national parks), as well as discounts on camping and other amenities. Senior passes cost $10 in person or $20 by mail.
- Verizon Wireless offers discounted mobile phone service for subscribers over 65.
- Both Walgreens and Rite Aid offer monthly senior discount days for members of their rewards programs where most non-prescription items are 15 to 20 percent off. Ask your neighborhood pharmacy if they offer similar programs.
In addition, many restaurants, department stores, movie theaters, museums, theme parks, banks, credit card issuers, utilities (including gas and electric, water, garbage, telephone and cable) and other businesses offer special discounts or promotions for seniors. Always ask before your purchase is rung up.
In addition to shopping-related discounts, there are many ways seniors and other low-income families to get help paying their bills, including:
- LIHEAP (Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program) provides grants to help pay utility bills.
- SNAP (USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) helps millions of lower-income Americans buy nutritious food each month.
- Rental assistance for low-income families is available from several U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development programs as well as other state and local agencies (visit this site for details).
- Medicaid, a joint federal and state program that provides healthcare benefits to low-income and disabled people.
- Medicare provides healthcare benefits (including hospitalization, doctor visits and prescriptions) to people 65 and over and those under 65 with certain disabilities or end-stage renal disease.
- Medicare Savings Programs help certain low-income and disabled individuals pay their Medicare premiums, deductibles, coinsurance and copayments.
- PACE (Programs for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) provides comprehensive medical, social and rehabilitative services for seniors meeting eligibility standards for nursing home care.
- Most pharmaceutical companies offer patient assistance programs (PAPs) that provide uninsured and low-income people access to prescription drugs they couldn't otherwise afford. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for details. Also check out Medicare's alphabetical list of drugs available through PAPs (which has links to detailed eligibility information), Partnership for Prescription Assistance, RxAssist and NeedyMeds.
- Visit this USA.gov site for a comprehensive overview of additional government benefits, grants and financial aid programs.
One last resource is the National Council on Aging's BenefitsCheckUp, a free service that helps seniors and their caregivers find financial assistance for healthcare, housing, food, utilities, in-home services and more. After answering a questionnaire, you're issued a personalized report describing programs and services for which you may be eligible, including links to their websites and applications. (AARP provides a similar service called Benefits QuickLink.)
Bottom line: Abundant resources are available to help seniors save money on purchases large and small. You just have to do a little research -- and ask whether senior discounts are available. Remember, 10 percent here and 20 percent there can really add up.
This article is intended to provide general information and should not be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a legal, tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to you and about your individual financial situation.
To participate in a free, online Financial Literacy and Education Summit on April 2, 2014, go to Practical Money Skills for Life.
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