It’s said that seniors have a lot of political power in this country. Indeed, older Americans form one of the strongest voting blocs in the nation. At least one reason this is true is because the primary association serving the needs of America’s seniors is also one of the nation’s most powerful lobbying groups.
The AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has an absolutely enormous reach, with a membership of more than 38 million as of 2018. Representing the interests of people over the age of 50, the AARP is more than just an advocacy group. It is also a portal to an enormous variety of discounts, promotions, and savings opportunities.
And you may not know this, but it’s actually possible to join the AARP at any age.
In fact, its benefits are considerable both for those who are already retired and for those who are approaching retirement. From various consumer discounts and promotions to access to a host or valuable education resources, from the AARP’s extremely widely circulated public facing publications to its full spectrum of discounted insurance rates, AARP membership carries with it a wide range of valuable benefits and opportunities.
While there is a monthly fee to become an AARP member, this nominal enrollment fee can more than pay for itself if you make the most of your member benefits. But what are the perks of joining AARP? We’ll give you the rundown of our favorite AARP discounts and member benefits.
A Brief History of the AARP
The AARP traces its history to the late 1940s. At the time, it was extremely difficult from those over the age of 65 to relieve health insurance coverage. Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, working alongside a group of retired teachers, formed a group called the National Retired Teachers Association (NRTA). Beginning her efforts in 1947, Andrus was rejected by dozens of private companies, who deemed the aging demographic of teachers to be uninsurable.
Undeterred in her efforts, Dr. Andrus finally landed a deal for health insurance coverage for NRTA members located in New York State through the Continental Casualty Co. in 1955. Within three years, the deal was considered a financial success. This allowed Andrus to expand her mission to serve retirees from other professions as well. It was thus that the American Association of Retired Persons was formed in 1958 as a sister organization to the NRTA.
The Association succeeded in securing the same private health coverage for all members over the age of 55. Andrus served as the Association’s president until her death in 1967.
Over the course of the 70s and early 80s, AARP membership was served almost exclusively by Colonial Penn Group insurance companies. However, after that arrangement fell under scrutiny, the association invited open bids for coverage. By 1981, Prudential Group had become the singular underwriter for insurance coverage for AARP members.
This relationship remains in place to the present date.
However, the Association did make one major change in 1999. Shortening its official name to just AARP, the association announced that it would no longer be serving retired individuals exclusively. Today, the advocacy group offers member benefits that make it worthwhile to join AARP at any age, even as early as your 20s or 30s.
We’ll consider this in mind as we look at the various AARP offers and member benefits highlighted below. Spoiler alert–you could benefit from having an AARP membership card even if you are still quite a few years away from actually retiring..
How much does AARP membership cost?
Well, before we even get into the actual membership benefits, let’s just point out that, according to AARP’s website, you can enjoy access to your first full year of membership benefits for just $12. You’ll be charged an additional $16 each year for automatic renewal.
Considering that you can hardly buy a sandwich for that price these days, you can presume that it doesn’t take much to get your money’s worth out of this membership. In fact, one smart way to think about your AARP membership is to consider it an investment in a single benefit. For instance, if you think of your AARP membership as simply an investment in discounted travel costs, it’s pretty easy to see the return on your investment with your very first ticket booking
Since it won’t take you much to earn back your original outlay of $14, any other perks your enjoy–and there are many–are just icing on the cake.
And for even steeper price breaks, you can prepay for your first several years of membership. Get three years for $43 or five years for $63. If you’re a military service member or veteran, you can add an additional 43% in savings.
And perhaps best of all, you’re allowed to share your member benefits with your spouse or partner, which means that you really only need to pay for one membership per household.
10 AARP Membership Discounts That Make It Worthwhile
Now that you know what it costs to join AARP, let’s see what you get in exchange for that decidedly modest investment.
1. AARP Discounts at Restaurants
Membership comes with discounts at a wide variety of participating restaurant chains. The AARP estimates that its members will save roughly 15% overall on dining out costs when using their AARP membership card.
CNBC says that “With your AARP card, you can also save on food at a bunch of popular national restaurant chains including Bonefish Grill, Carrabba’s, Moe’s, Jamba and more. You can also search for local coupons and deals at specific restaurants and franchise locations nearby.”
You can get more details about participating restaurant chains and local spots directly through the AARP website. It also never hurts to ask about AARP discounts when you’re at the checkout counter. Just keep your AARP membership card handy any time you go out to eat.
This, says the AARP, can amount to an average savings of $450 per year for members (Already, you’ve recouped your initial membership investment by a considerable margin).. Take advantage of these discounts when dining out and your membership could pay for itself with just a few meals out.
2. Get Educated on Retirement
One of the reasons that AARP membership isn’t just for retirees anymore is because it comes with a ton of amazing and informative material designed to help you prepare for retirement. In other words, this is stuff you’re going to want to see well before you hang up your working shoes. After all, the time to begin preparing is now.
According to The Hartford, “As you move toward or into retirement, taking care of your money is essential. As an AARP member, you can print or order free financial publications with detailed advice on topics such as carrying mortgage debt into retirement, dealing with age discrimination, investing with IRAs, reinventing your career and when to claim Social Security.”
Oh, and by the way, as a member, you automatically receive access to the AARP’s newsletter and its bulletin. These publications rank as the two most widely circulated publications in the U.S. today!
3. Enjoy Travel Benefits
If you’re looking for another reason that somebody in their 30s or 40s might join AARP, look no further than the wide array of travel discounts, promotions, and rewards that members enjoy. In addition to savings on restaurants, you can get hotel discounts, airline deals, and promotions for car rentals.
According to CNBC, “A wide range of hotels offer 5% to 20% off for AARP members and some even include late checkout on top of the discount. Avis and Budget offer up to 30% off car rentals for AARP members, and you can also get $20 off an annual Zipcar membership.”
As for flights, AARP says that members can typically enjoy a full $200 off most flights. Not only that, but members are allowed to extend that discount to a traveling companion, meaning that you can save $400 on most flights for two with AARP membership. You can also shave an additional 12% off of airport parking at most locations.
And on top of that, you can take advantage of a wide variety of tour companies and packages at reduced rates. For instance, says the Hartford, “AARP membership includes $50 off per person on small group cultural immersion tours from Collette Explorations. You also get up to $100 off per person on guided vacations, including river cruises to Europe, from Grand European Travel. If you want to see the world by train, you can get 5% off worldwide rail vacations and train tours from Vacations by Rail.”
Similar discounts may apply to cruise bookings as well.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Reach out to tour companies or package travel groups that interest you and see if your AARP membership discounts apply.
Of course, all of this can amount to significant savings on travel no matter your age. And if one of your big retirement goals is to travel, make sure you take advantage of every AARP discount to which you are entitled.
4. Have Fun For Less
AARP membership comes with a wide range of entertainment discounts and promotional deals. You may be able to present your AARP membership card at the movies for reduced tickets and concessions. You may even be able to access free online movie screenings through your membership. By participating in AARP’s Movies for Grownups program, you may be able to choose from a wide range of completely free at-home film screenings.
If you prefer to get out of the house, it may also be possible to get reduced ticket prices to attend sporting events, visit art museums, see live music concerts, and take in cultural performances. And according to the AARP website, members have unique access to completely free online gaming.
The Hartford notes that “You don’t have to let apps and games drain your bank account a buck at a time. AARP offers free online games for members. Enjoy lots of classics from backgammon to daily jigsaw puzzles and mahjong to solitaire. Some games are available to anyone, while others are for AARP members only.”
Find games directly through the AARP website and enjoy a fun diversion. Harftod notes that, as an added bonus, playing these games can help to keep your memory and mental agility sharp.
If you prefer reading over gaming, you can also get all kinds of great AARP discounts for books. The AARP bookstore gives members price cuts as high as 40% off for ordering from publishers directly.
In addition to being able to shop discounted titles through the bookstore, members enjoy free access to a wide spectrum of educational resources. Download free eBooks on a wide range of informational topics including money, health, nutrition, technology and much more.
5. Get Everyday Savings When You Shop
Of course, for some people, there’s nothing quite as fun as shopping. And if you’re an AARP member, this fun will cost you less at countless participating locations. Take advantage of special loyalty programs geared toward AARP members through large retail chains. For instance, you can link your AARP member to your Walgreen’s Balance Rewards club account and earn 50 AARP member points for every dollar you spend at a Walgreen’s.
Accumulated points may be redeemed for retail discounts or access to prize drawings and other fun perks.
You may also be able to access a wide range of coupons, discounts and promotional offers through national retailers. For instance, save Noble Horizons, you can “show your AARP card at Tanger Shopper Services and get a free coupon book with over $1,000 in discounts that can be redeemed at a variety of outlet stores. You can also get free printable coupons good at grocery stores, drug stores and other retailers from Coupons.com.”
These can all amount to considerable savings when you check out with regular everyday purchases like clothing, food, and over the counter medications.
6. Earn Points and Win Prizes
As noted above, as an AARP member, you have the opportunity to earn points toward special offers, retailer discounts, and even entry into special sweepstakes and prize pools. And participating in certain retail loyalty programs is one way to earn these points. But AARP also offers a number of fun, healthy, and educational ways to accumulate points.
The AARP Rewards for Good program lets you complete quizzes, attend webinars, and use certain online tools in exchange for points. This includes popular options like participation in health, wellness, and exercise challenges.
Once you’ve completed a number of challenges or activities, you can then redeem the accumulated points for all kinds of cool rewards. The Hartford says you can “deals and offers from local retailers, participate in live auctions on everything from iPads to gift cards, and enter sweepstakes for the chance to win prizes. AARP members earn 50% more points.”
As an AARP member, you have opportunities to earn points everyday in exchange for reduced prices just about everywhere, not to mention the potential to win some pretty cool prizes. Make sure you are always looking for opportunities to gather points, and that you take full advantage of the resulting discounts when shopping.
7. Get All Kinds of Discount Services
As a member of AARP, you can get discounts on a wide variety of online and in-home services. For instance, the AARP has a partnership with telecom provider AT&T that can save you money on your wireless plan. All you need to do is present your AARP membership card to your AT&T service provider.
This is worth a $10 discount for every line you own. You can also get up to $50 waived from your activation and upgrade fees. Consumer Cellular also offers monthly fee discounts and savings on some accessories.
Other services that may offer consumer discounts through partnerships with AARP include caregiving services like CareLinx, shipping services like UPS, food delivery companies like Landry’s Kitchen, Silver Cuisine, and Schwan’s, and even unique services like genealogy company Ancestry.com.
Present your membership card for reduced prices with these participating services. And always ask your service providers if they have any unadvertised promotions for AARP card holders.
8. Get Insurance For Less
If you recall from our brief history lesson, the AARP began as a way to help retirees procure health insurance coverage. Today, the association offers its members access to a variety of discounted insurance offers. For instance, you may be able to get discounted car insurance through your AARP membership, especially if you qualify for the association’s good driver discounts.
You can also get dental and vision insurance for you and your spouse or partner through your membership. Both the dental and vision insurance plans offer reduced copays and limits to out of pocket costs as well as access to widespread healthcare provider networks and guaranteed acceptance for AARP members. You’ll also have access to the AARP Hearing Care Program, which comes with a complimentary in-person hearing test, custom fitting for hearing aids, and up to 20% off on a wide selection of approved hearing add devices.
You may also be able to reduce your homeowners insurance expenses through your AARP membership. According to Noble Horizons, your membership should allow you to “take advantage of Homeowners Insurance Programs that offer valuable coverage for your personal property and protection against personal liability. A range of options are available to meet your needs — whether you own a house or condo, or you’re a renter. Save even more when you bundle your home and auto policies.”
In addition to these benefits, you may be able to take advantage of the AARP Prescription Discount program to offset the costs of your prescriptions which are not covered by your health insurance or Medicare Part D. These savings, says Noble Horizons, can average up to 61% for AARP members.
And as it turns out, the insurance price breaks don’t end with humans. Your pets also get access to your AARP member benefits. According to Noble Horizons, you can even get price breaks on pet insurance.
The home healthcare organization reports that “AARP allows you to keep your furry family members healthy with up to a 10% member discount on pet health insurance (when you enroll online) plus a $35 prepaid Petplan Visa® Prepaid Card you can use at your next vet visit.”
9. Get Career Help
When you think of AARP, it’s understandable that you tend to think only of retirees. That’s exactly why the organization shortened its name to AARP. Some membership benefits are clearly designed to support those who are still in the midst of their career.
For instance, did you know that you can enlist AARP’s writing support programs for help with your professional resume? Whether you’re a working adult seeking a career change or you’ve retired from full time work but you’re interested in reentering the workforce on a part time basis, the AARP offers help getting your resume ready.
According to the AARP’s website, “Everyone can get a free resume review. Members save $30 on basic, $60 on intermediate and $100 on advanced writing packages.”
Use AARP’s Resume Advisor, powered by TopResume, to stay in the game (or get back on the field).
10. Get Someone in Your Corner
Naturally, all the discounts and benefits noted here above can really add up, especially for retirees who may be living on a fixed income. But being a member of the AARP is about more than just getting discounts.
You also become a part of a broad network brimming with valuable support resources. For instance, becoming a member gives you access to a host of valuable educational material. The Hartford says that “As an AARP member, you can print or order free financial publications with detailed advice on topics such as carrying mortgage debt into retirement, dealing with age discrimination, investing with IRAs, reinventing your career and when to claim Social Security.”
You can also get important information and tools in order to better understand and protect yourself from fraud, identity theft, phishing scams and more. Get Watchdog Alerts, a “scam-tracking map” and access to a helpline in the event that you’ve been victimized by fraud.
In addition to getting valuable advice on these subjects, your membership in the AARP will make you a contributor to its lobbying and advocacy efforts. The AARP identifies itself as a committed advocate for seniors, retirees and others among its 38 million person membership on issues like Social Security and Medicare. As a dues paying member of the AARP, you are helping to fund the efforts of those who are working to represent your interests in Washington.
One of the big takeaways here is that it’s really never too early to join AARP and begin taking advantage of member discounts. The exact same logic applies to retirement planning. To get the maximum benefits out of your retirement strategy, it’s best to start as early as possible.
If you’re not sure where to begin, you can jump to our advice on how to start your retirement planning today!