If the news that the Social Security raise for 2017 was a meager 0.3% wasn't bad enough, now there's another blow: Congress has raised the price of the lifetime Senior Pass to National Parks from $10 to $80. You only have until Aug. 27 to get one at the old price. See below for why it's such a great deal.
Meantime, Social Security recipients have lost 23% of their buying power in the last 16 years, according to the Senior Citizens League, a nonpartisan senior group. This may be the time for seniors to take advantage of the wide array of discounts many retailers offer to older customers. (You may not even need to be a senior; the majority of McDonald’s restaurants, for example, offer coffee and, sometimes, other beverages at a discount to anyone over 55. Senior Discounts So Soon? has more on this.)
The problem is, senior discounts aren't always widely advertised. However, there's an easy way to find them: Go online and search the websites that track them. Here's our list divided by things you're likely to purchase.
Where the Senior Discounts Are
Restaurants & Groceries
The Senior List, a Florida-based website, includes information about senior discounts at more than 40 regional and national chains including Applebee’s (10%-15% off), Burger King (10%) and Jack in the Box (up to 20%).
Another website, Senior Discounts notes that since so many restaurants give a senior discount, the best way to find out is to call and ask. In addition, the site has a search form at the top of each page that can be used to locate restaurants (and other types of businesses) that offer a discount to seniors.
Both websites also contain lists of grocery store discounts, including days of the week, age and if the discount has been verified or not.
Clothing and Other Retailers
Check out The Senior List (mentioned above, under Restaurants) for a list of retail establishments for clothing and other items that offer senior discounts. You'll also find other discounted products; try the search box if you can't easily locate the information.
State Passes and Discounts
Many states offer a discount card to seniors. Others have additional programs offering discounts to residents of the state.
The easiest way to see what your state has is to search online: Type in the name of the state followed by “department of aging.” From there, a search on “senior discount” should pull up information about which discounts are available to seniors in that state.
For example, the New York State Office for the Aging has a senior citizens' resource guide containing information on discounts including exercise clubs and public transportation.
Trains and Planes
Amtrak, the national railway system, starts handing out senior tickets at age 62; passengers save 15% on the cheapest ticket for their destination, though they are not valid on some special trains. Cross-border trains between the U.S. and Canada have a 10% discount, but it starts at age 60.
Airlines also offer senior fares and perks. Check the airline's website for details. And don't forget local commuter trains and buses; many offer discounts as well. Greyhound offers a 5% senior discount for its buses; 10% for eSaver tickets purchased online.
National Parks and Recreational Areas
Since 1994, the U.S. Department of the Interior's lifetime Senior Pass for U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are 62 or older has cost $10. This is a terrific deal since a regular-price annual pass costs $80.
The senior pass provides access for a car with up to four adults to more than 2,000 recreation sites managed by the federal government, provided that the sites charge per vehicle and not per person. This includes all national parks and recreational areas.
That price is rising to $80 as of Aug. 28 so get one as soon as possible, which you can do by visiting a site where the passes are sold or buying one online (for $20, including the $10 processing fee). The letter must be postmarked before Aug. 28 to be sold at that fee and there's a 12-week backlog.
AARP (formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons) is a non-governmental organization and interest group for people 50 years of age and older. Members pay an annual membership fee and have access to a large number of discounts and reduced-price services in a wide range of areas including electronics, clothes, travel, flowers and many more.
Research – Go online and, using the keywords “senior discount” plus the specific item or service in which you are interested, conduct a search.
Ask – Call or visit the business establishment and ask if there is a senior discount.
Scrutinize the fine print and conditions – Discounts for seniors sometimes apply on certain days or during certain hours – i.e., “early bird” dining specials.
Check out other deals – Sometimes the senior discount is not as good as another discount being offered by the business or organization.
The Bottom Line
Not all businesses offer senior discounts, but you will be surprised how many are there for the taking if you ask. Some simple Internet searching yields numerous results, as well. It makes sense to take advantage of them, especially in today's economy (see Why the Current Social Security Cost-of-Living Index Is Hurting Retirees).