How a $12 AARP membership can save you hundreds on your next trip

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An Acorn stairlift and a medical alert necklace are not prerequisites to an AARP subscription. Actually, anyone can enroll once paying the membership fee — and it’s a wise investment.

AARP memberships are normally $16 per year, but are currently selling for just $12. In other words, for $1 per month, it’ll grant you fun discounts for things like audiobooks, mobile phone plans, even groceries and food subscriptions. But if you travel with any regularity, an AARP membership will almost certainly save you exponentially more than that each year.

Let’s look at the travel benefits that come with AARP, so you can decide if it’s the right fit for you.

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You can get meaningful discounts at great hotels, like Waldorf Astoria. (Photo by EQRoy/Shutterstock)

AARP hotel benefits

More than 50 hotel brands from Hilton, Best Western, Choice, Radisson and Wyndham participate in some kind of AARP discount. Almost all discounts are a flat 10% off the hotel’s best available rate. If you don’t book directly with a hotel, you won’t get the discount.

Booking direct isn’t a bad thing — after all, you earn points and elite night credits when booking direct. Plus, if you’ve got any elite status, you’ll get perks like free breakfast, potential room upgrades, late checkout, etc. You’ll get none of these by booking through an online travel agency like Orbitz or Expedia.

Here are a few of the most intriguing hotel brands with which you can receive a discount (all of which happen to be Hilton):

  • Waldorf Astoria
  • Conrad
  • Embassy Suites
  • Hampton Inn
  • Curio Collection

Luxury brands like Waldorf Astoria and Conrad can cost hundreds of dollars per night, so if you’re springing for a room, you could save $30-$50 per night with an AARP membership. Also, if you’re paying for expensive hotel stays, read our post on the best websites for booking cheap hotels.

AARP will also give you late checkout (2 pm) at Hilton hotels. While that certainly sounds like a perk, Hilton offers late checkout to all its members — even those with zero Hilton elite status. The only caveat for those without AARP is that each hotel stipulates what “late checkout” means. You could receive as late as 4 pm — or as early as 12 pm.

Note: With the right hotel credit card, it’s easy to earn complimentary Hilton elite status that comes with benefits like free breakfast and room upgrades, such as the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (my all-time favorite credit card). The information for the Hilton Aspire card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Finally, AARP will grant you Radisson Gold elite status after just four stays with Radisson. You’d normally have to spend 30 nights or 20 stays with Radisson before earning Gold status.

Rental car benefits

If you rent a car once per year, AARP’s rental car perks alone will offset the membership’s nominal $12 annual fee.

You’ll get up to 30% off with Budget and Avis, and 5% off with Payless. That’s a fair deal, but the exciting perk is that you’re eligible for an upgrade based on availability, as well as a free additional driver. This can save you up to $65 per rental, depending on how long your reservation lasts.

And if you’re in the habit of renting with Zipcar, you’ll get 43% off an annual Zipcar membership (a ~$30 discount), as well as $40 in free driving credit.

These benefits can stack nicely when paying for a rental car with a credit card that offers complimentary rental car insurance like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

British Airways discounts with AARP

You’ll receive up to $200 off British Airways tickets, depending on the class of service you buy:

  • $65 off coach
  • $65 off premium economy
  • $200 off business class

Only round-trip transatlantic flights qualify for this discount. Because of this, the discounts aren’t stunning, but they are still worth pursuing if you’re already planning no flying the carrier. British Airways occasionally offers deeply discounted business class fares, so if you can splurge when they pop up, this is a great complement.

Additionally, this perk is stackable with the 10% discount on British Airways flights when paying with a Chase Visa card. While you technically need to pay with the British Airways Visa Signature® Card, many report that you’ll be able to get the discount when paying with any Chase Visa Card. Just enter the promo code CHASEBA10 when booking your flight through the AARP website.

While this benefit is set to expire on Jan. 31, 2021, AARP and British Airways continue to renew their relationship each year, so expect it to stick around for the foreseeable future.

The information for the British Airways Visa card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Restaurant discounts

AARP gives discounts at 14 different restaurants, including:

  • Carrabba’s Italian Grill – 10% discount for pick-up orders placed by phone
  • Outback Steakhouse – 10% discount for pick-up orders placed by phone
  • Denny’s – 15% discount for pick-up orders placed by phone
  • Bonefish Grill – 10% discount for pick-up orders placed by phone
  • Rainforest Cafe – 10% discount

The portfolio isn’t big enough to move the needle towards opening an AARP account in my mind. Still good if you frequent these particular restaurants. Target them when you’re traveling, perhaps?

Is an AARP membership worth it?

AARP is, for some reason, a gem hidden in plain sight. Its association with just retirees is old news, as anyone can be a member. Between its hotel, rental car, airfare, and restaurant benefits, it’s a fantastic travel toolkit.

We often post about deals that could save you $1,000+, like earning bonuses from many of the best travel credit cards. This isn’t one of those deals. It probably won’t save you hundreds and hundreds each year, but it’s super easy to receive a value that surpasses the $12 annual fee many times over. For example if just one of the following bullets is true, AARP membership is worth it:

  • You spend more than $120 per year at restaurants like Outback and Carrabba’s
  • You spend more than $120 per year at Hilton hotels
  • You pay for an additional driver on your rental car reservation at least one day per year

Bottom line

AARP is a no-brainer for most of us who travel even once or twice per year. At $12 per year, it’s effortless to recoup the fee in a variety of ways, and it’s benefits stack nicely with a lot of travel credit card perks.

Let us know the money you’ve saved with AARP travel benefits! And subscribe to our newsletter for more travel tips and tricks delivered to your inbox once per day.

Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals. He has also authored and edited for The Points Guy.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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