This story was originally published in the Chicago Tribune Prime Time senior living section.
One of the best things about being a so-called senior is all the great discounts you are entitled to. It’s a whole lot more than just a few bucks off at the movies. People of a certain age can save on everything from dog licenses to home insurance. You just have to ask every time you shop or dine or purchase tickets or travel or pay for city services — even pay your bills.
“If you don’t ask you’re definitely not going to get a discount most of the time,” says Amie Clark, co-founder of The Senior List, a website that has an extensive listing of businesses offering senior discounts. “Often employees are embarrassed to ask you,” she says.Most senior discounts start at age 50-65, so all those small savings can add up over the course of your lifetime. (Tip: Always carry ID with you.)
The Senior List names dozens of chain restaurants and major grocery stores that have senior discounts, but there is a catch, Clark says. “So many senior discounts are up to the individual location because many restaurants are franchises. One McDonald’s might do something different from the McDonald’s down the street.” But that should not stop you from asking. “If they don’t offer a discount, ask them why not? Seniors tend to be loyal customers and they might change their policy.”
A great time to ask is when you are taking the grandkids out for fast food or ice cream. Many places such as Dairy Queen, Dunkin’ Donuts, Sonic and Mrs. Fields offer a senior discount or free beverage.
Some stores have well-publicized senior discount days. For example, Kohl’s offers 15 percent off to seniors every Wednesday.
Walgreens has a senior discount day about once a month on average, but you need to sign up for Walgreens’ loyalty program “Balance Rewards” to know when it’s coming, says spokesman Jim Graham. “We don’t have an annual schedule made up a year in advance, though it is often the first Tuesday of the month,” he says.
Senior discount days at Walgreens mean 20 percent off regular priced merchandise, with some exclusions. You must be 55 and older or a member of AARP to take advantage of it.
The drug store Rite Aid has a similar monthly senior discount program.Also, be sure to ask at Stein Mart, Banana Republic, Michael’s, and Salvation Army Thrift Stores and Goodwill stores. These retail chains have senior discounts that they don’t necessarily advertise.
Movies and museums
Senior movie ticket prices are easy to spot in the lobby. Ask for senior discounts on concessions and watch for senior days, as well. For example, Cinemark theaters have regular senior days for those 62 and older.Surprisingly, some Chicago museums do not offer senior discounts. However, the Field Museum of Natural History does. Seniors 65 and older get a $5 discount on all-access admission, and a $15 discount on membership. The Museum of Contemporary Art offers seniors $5 off, which is about a 40 percent discount.Travel discounts and AARPMany hotel chains, cruise lines and car rental companies offer senior discounts, and you should always ask for one. Amtrak offers senior tickets at a 15 percent discount that you can easily book online, with no proof of age (62+) needed to book.
An AARP membership is not free, but it unlocks a whole world of discounts, many of them travel related. They are usually 10-15 percent. The membership can pay for itself on the first trip you take because it costs only $12-$16 a year. Anyone 50 or older is eligible, so you get a lot of years to save with it.
In addition to travel, AARP has a vast network of discount partners. For example, at the time of this writing, AARP members could save 30 percent on prescription eyewear at participating Lenscrafters, (optical shops are great places to get senior discounts), and 10 percent off a meal delivery service, bistroMD.You can save even bigger on fixed expenses such as home insurance and your wireless plan. The AARP discount can be applied to your current plan if your company accepts it, so this could be a very lucrative phone call to make.Keep in mind that AARP is not the only senior membership organization that offers discounts. There are at least seven similar organizations: 60 Plus Association, American Seniors Association, Association of Mature American Citizens, Christian Association of PrimeTimers, Christian Seniors Association, National Association of Conservative Seniors, and The Seniors Coalition.
The National Park Pass
The $10 lifetime senior National Park Pass is soon going the way of the dinosaur, the National Park Service has announced. So if you are 62 or older, apply right now at nps.gov before the price jumps to $80.
If you live in the Chicago area, you might be eligible to ride city trains and buses for half fare or for free. Anyone on Medicare or 65 or older or disabled may apply for a Reduced Fare Permit on CTA and RTA. Visit rtachicago.com or call 312-913-3110.The Illinois Department on Aging has a Ride Free Transit program, with eligibility based on age and income. Find out more at Illinois.gov/aging and click on the Benefit Access tab to apply online, or call your local Office on Aging.
Chicago city vehicle stickers are pricey, but seniors 65 and older need pay only about one-third the cost. Call 312-74C-LERK for the details. Fortunately, your dog does not have to be a senior to save you money on his or her annual City of Chicago dog registration. Senior humans 65 and older pay only $2.50 for a neutered dog and $5 otherwise. Visit chicityclerk.com or call 312-744-DOGS.Many suburban towns also offer senior discounts on stickers and licenses. Check with your local city or village clerk.