Senior discounts are a welcome perk for retirees who are on a fixed income, and they sure take the sting out of going gray, but the best bargains on the block are not always easy to find.
Indeed, those willing to do some digging — and disclose their age to a 20-something sales clerk — can cut the cost of their groceries, restaurant bill, airfare, and health care products by up to 20 percent or more. Eligible consumers may even be able to lower their property taxes (in certain states).
“A lot of vendors don’t advertise their senior discounts,” said Jim Miller in an interview, author of the syndicated column “The Savvy Senior.” “Asking is the best way to find discounts, but a lot of retirees are either too proud to ask or don’t want to admit their age.”
Where to look for senior savings
The Internet is a great tool for ferreting out savings while in retirement.
Before you take the grandkids to the local zoo or art museum, said Miller, do a quick search online. “Just type the name of the location and the term ‘senior discount’ and it’ll show you immediately what they offer,” he said.
Websites like seniordiscounts.com, which bills itself as the largest directory of senior discounts with more than 250,000 listings, and theseniorlist.com provides a roundup of the best savings opportunities.
Seniors with smartphones can turn to free mobile apps, such as Sciddy.com, which provides a round-up of current discounts available locally to consumers age 50 and older. The Senior Savings app, which is only available for the iPhone and costs $0.99, similarly offers a list of hundreds of discounts organized alphabetically for easy scanning. (Related: Tips for maximizing your retirement income)
There are hundreds of deals available for AARP members, including discounts on wireless phone service, health care products from drug stores, reduced rates at the Westin Hotel and other hotels, and roadside assistance, which are extended to those 50 and older, but other discounts typically start at age 55, 60, or 65, said Miller.
Senior travel discounts
Several airlines also offer discounts to “silver” travelers, which can help budget conscious seniors visit loved ones across the globe, check destinations off their bucket list and head to warmer climes when the wintry weather sets in.
Southwest Airlines offers discount rates and fully refundable fares on both domestic and international flights to those 65 and older who book over the phone.
United Airlines also offers reduced senior fares to travelers who are 65 and older to select travel destinations.
And British Airways offers AARP members who book roundtrip tickets online various time-sensitive deals to more than 130 destinations worldwide, including Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, subject to availability.
One of the best breaks for older travel enthusiasts, however, is available through the federal government.
For $80, U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or older can obtain a lifetime pass to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites and national parks, including Yosemite National Park in California, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, and Acadia National Park in Maine. The cost of the lifetime Senior Pass jumped from $10 in August 2017, as a result of new legislation, but those who previously purchased one for $10 can keep their pass for life.
It may also provide up to a 50 percent discount on some amenity fees for camping, swimming and boating.
“The Lifetime Pass is super popular, and it’s a discount that is good for the rest of your life,” said Miller.
Breaks on food
A number of grocers have done away with the senior discount in recent years, but those aged 60 or older can still get 5 percent off their tab on Thursdays at Harris Teeter.
AARP members get 10 percent off all orders from Silver Cuisine, a meal delivery service.
Food accounts for roughly 13 percent of annual household expenditures for seniors aged 65 and older, or roughly $5,804 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1 A 10 percent savings would put $580 back in their pocket.
The seniorlist.com offers a comprehensive list of discounts available through franchise restaurants, including Carrabba’s Italian Grill, which gives AARP members 10 percent off, Perkins Restaurants, via its Fifty-Five Plus menu, and Ponderosa Steakhouse, which offers a special senior menu.
Senior shoppers can also stretch their savings by taking advantage of retail discounts, which typically vary by franchise location.
Discount store Kohl’s, for example, offers consumers who are age 60 and older 15 percent off in its stores every Wednesday, while Rite-Aid drug store offers seniors who are aged 65 or older and join its wellness65+ club (free) an extra 20 percent off non-prescription purchases the first Wednesday of every month.
Though not age-specific, discount gift cards are another good way to cut costs by up to 50 percent.
Discount gift card exchange website Giftcardgranny.com enables shoppers to purchase gift cards from more than 1,000 stores and restaurants. Consumers can even sell the unwanted gift cards they receive for cash or swap them for a merchant they prefer.
Gift Card Granny lets shoppers sign up for free alerts to retailers they prefer and the “cards” can be either plastic (sent by snail mail) or digital (sent via email.)
A comprehensive list of senior discounts on medicine, a major expenditure for many older adults, is available on theseniorlist.com.
Seniordiscounts.com has partnered with UNA Rx to provide savings of up to 75 percent (average 32 percent) at more than 57,000 national and regional pharmacies nationwide, including Walgreens, Publix, Eckerd’s, Wal-Mart, Safeway, Kroger, and Target.
Other membership programs exist, as well. AARP offers a prescription discount card to members and their families that cuts the price of many Food and Drug Administration—approved generic, brand name, and specialty drugs by an average of 61 percent, according to its website.
Warehouse giant Costco also offers a prescription savings program for members, regardless of age, that can generate savings of up to 70 percent.
Aging Americans may also qualify for a host of tax breaks from Uncle Sam, including the Health Coverage Tax Credit, which pays 72.5 percent of qualified health insurance premiums for eligible individuals, and a potentially larger standard deduction for those 65 and older who do not itemize deductions.
Seniors need not pay for tax preparation services, either.
Both the Internal Revenue Service and AARP (for members) offer free help.
The IRS “Tax Counseling for the Elderly” (TCE) program offers free tax assistance to taxpayers who are age 60 or older.
AARP Foundation, in cooperation with the IRS, offers free tax preparation services at locations across the country from late January or early February to April 15 every year through its Tax-Aide program. Trained volunteers are also available to answer taxpayer questions throughout the year.
Senior discounts won’t make you rich, but they may free up enough room in your budget to breathe a little easier – or pay for all those extras.
“The discounts are not generally huge, but they can add up depending on how much you spend and how active you are,” said Miller. “We have found that even wealthy people love to take advantage of senior discounts. If you can save a few bucks, why not?”
Of course, frugal spending should be in accompaniment with a carefully thought out retirement savings plan. Retirees should discuss their own retirement goals and circumstances with an experienced tax and investment advisor or legal counsel, as appropriate.
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1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Consumer Expenditure Survey, Table 1300," 2016.