If you are an older adult, you’re probably aware that many businesses offer senior discounts. If you’re diligent about finding and using these discounts, the savings can really add up. And if you dig deep, you can score even better deals, getting some goods and services absolutely free of charge.
Start by looking for free stuff for seniors
Some freebies are available only to people who have reached a certain age. Others are accessible to everyone but can be especially beneficial to those who are living in retirement on a fixed income. Here are six top types of freebies that can help seniors:
- Tax preparation. The IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs offer free basic tax help to qualified taxpayers. The VITA program helps those who make $57,000 or less, people with disabilities, and folks with limited English-speaking skills. The TCE program offers free tax help for people age 60 and older with a focus on pension and retirement-related issues. Both programs are staffed by IRS-certified volunteers. Use the VITA/TCE locator tool to look for a site near you.
- Prescription drugs. Several supermarket pharmacies including Meijer, Kroger, Winn Dixie, Publix and Reasor’s fill prescriptions for select antibiotics for free. Meijer, Price Chopper, Publix and Shoprite also offer free diabetes medications and supplies. You might need to enroll in a pharmacy loyalty program to receive the free medications, though. And of course, you need a valid prescription from a doctor. Check with your supermarket pharmacy to see if they participate in a similar program.
- Eye care. EyeCare America, a public service program of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, provides free eye exams and up to one year of follow-up care to seniors age 65 and older for any condition diagnosed during the initial exam. They also offer a no-cost glaucoma eye exam to eligible people without insurance. Visit EyeCareAmerica.org for program guidelines and eligibility information.
- Education. You might be surprised to learn that public and private higher education institutions in all 50 states offer tuition waiver programs for seniors. Some of these programs are available to people as young as 55. Generally, you’ll need to go through the normal admissions process and be accepted by the college or university before you can enroll in classes. Check out this list of programs by state.
- Museums. Most museums offer senior discounts for admission, and some let older adults visit for free on certain days. Bank of America cardholders of any age can get free general admission to more than 225 museums in dozens of cities across the U.S. on the first full weekend of every month through the Museums on Us benefit.
- Transportation. Some localities and states let older adults ride for free on public transportation. For example, the Pennsylvania Free Transit Program allows people 65 years and older to ride free on local fixed-route service with a senior citizen transit identification card (which is also free).
Save money with special discounts just for seniors
Freebies are fabulous, but discounts are nice too. And the good news is that numerous businesses, including restaurants, attractions, hotels, grocery stores, pharmacies, airlines, retailers and car rentals, offer senior discounts. Some offers are available to people as young as 50, although age 60 and older is more common.
In many cases, you need to prove your eligibility. These price cuts can represent outstanding bargains, however, so it’s definitely worth the effort. A few examples:
- The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass offers adults 62 and older lifetime access to 2,000 national parks and recreation areas for a one-time fee of $80.
- Amtrak offers a 10% discount on most rail fares on most Amtrak trains to travelers age 65 and older
- An AARP Prescription Discount Card entitles AARP members and non-members to discounts on FDA-approved prescription drugs. AARP members get additional benefits and deeper discounts. The card might save you more than your insurance or out-of-pocket costs.
Some businesses prominently promote senior discounts on their websites or in their stores. You also can search on one of the many websites dedicated to researching discounts. TheSeniorList.com, for example, is a community-driven portal that regularly updates its list of participating establishments. But often, the best way to confirm if businesses offer a discount is to ask.
More tips to score the biggest discounts possible
Occasionally, special rates for seniors aren’t that special, which means you’d be better off taking advantage of other deals. So check out offerings accessible to consumers of any age—through travel deal sites, mobile apps, coupon sites, daily deal sites and rewards programs—before making a purchase.
For example, some hotel chains offer discounted rates to travelers 62 and older. Default to these discounts, however, and you could miss out on a better rate, such as a discount offered for a non-refundable advance purchase.
And you could save even more by booking plane tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars and more through NEA Travel.
NEA Discount Marketplace is an exclusive shopping platform that regularly negotiates special discounts for NEA members on brand-name merchandise from hundreds of top retailers, online stores and local merchants. Plus, you can earn cash back when you shop and receive your reward via check or PayPal.
In addition, consider buying discounted gift cards for restaurants, retailers and more through exchange websites such as GiftCards.com and Raise. Membership clubs such as Costco Wholesale also offer cut-rate cards for various businesses, with savings often running between 20% and 25%.