More Than Movies: Discounts for Seniors Abound

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Candice Choi, AP Personal Finance Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — A lower ticket price at the movies isn't the only financial perk of getting older.

With baby boomers not showing any signs of slowing down, those turning 62 will be glad to know the milestone comes with significant discounts. To induct the latest wave of boomers into the seniors club in 2011, here are some benefits worth noting:

Shopping

Many national retailers quietly offer little-known discounts of about 10 to 15% to older customers. For example, Kohl's reduces prices for customers 62 and older on certain days of the week. Other retailers that offer senior discounts include Banana Republic, KB Toys and Ross Dress for Less.

"It's not as unusual as you think, but you have to ask," said Marshal Cohen, an analyst with the market researcher NPD Group.

Stores generally don't publicize the discounts or list them prominently on their websites in part because they're only available to a select group of customers. So if you feel shy inquiring about deals at the register, call ahead and ask to speak with a manager.

With national chains, keep in mind that policies can vary by location. That's particularly true for franchises. For instance, a 10 percent discount is a common perk at Dunkin' Donuts, but may not be offered at all locations.

You don't always have to be 62 to qualify either; retailers may offer discounts for customers as young as 50.
Travel

Airlines, hotels and other travel companies don't always make their senior discounts easy to find either, so it's worth calling customer service to check what deals are available.

At Budget car rentals for example, customers have to search for the term "senior discount" on the company's website.
Customers then click a link for "special senior savings," which automatically fills the coupon code "U088802" on the reservation page for a savings of about 10 percent. Customers provide proof of their age when they pick up their cars.

Discounts aren't always that buried, however. At Southwest Airlines, travelers searching flights on the low-cost carrier's website are shown the "senior fare" alongside other available fares. The senior fares are usually around 20 percent less than the regular fares, but can be as much as 75 percent less. Fliers have to be 65 or older to qualify.

Amtrak also gives seniors a 15 percent discount on the lowest available rail fare on most routes. As for hotels, guests at Marriott can get 15 percent off the regular rate at more than 3,600 of the company's locations.

Regardless of where you find a discounted senior rate, keep in mind that it won't always be the cheapest available option.

Particularly if the senior discount is modest, it's worth checking if the company is running any special promotions that can save you more. Alternately, you might be able to find a better deal through third-party vendors such as Cheaptickets.com or Priceline.com.

Community Services

Local governments also extend numerous free or low-cost services to seniors.

The hub for tapping into these services is typically a local senior center. At the 255 centers in New York City, for example, seniors can sign up for numerous recreational classes, including yoga, tai chi and pottery. The centers usually offer lunches for voluntary contributions of a few dollars or less too.

Savings could go far beyond recreational activities. In New York City, those 65 and older qualify for reduced mass transit fares regardless of their income. And low-income seniors who live in rent-controlled apartments can apply to have any rent increases picked up by the city.

Programs will vary depending on the city or county, so check with the local office for the elderly or aging for programs you may be eligible for.

AARP

Getting older means you're eligible to join one of the country's biggest clubs — AARP. Anyone over 50 can join, and membership costs $16 a year (or $43 for three years and $63 for five years). The fee includes a subscription to the group's magazine, which covers health, financial and political issues affecting seniors, and access to a vast range of discounts.

AARP partners with grocery and restaurant coupon sites and numerous retailers, restaurants and travel companies to offer members discounts. One popular discount introduced this year is for 20 percent off at Denny's. The discount is good from 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. Coffee is $1 for members and their guests all day.

In addition to discounts on cruises and more traditional vacations, AARP also offers some more unusual travel opportunities. One new option, for example, lets members can spend a week volunteering at a senior care center in Lima, Peru. The cost is about $1,500 and includes meals, lodging but not airfare.

The new focus on volunteer tourism is reflective of the generation's broader interests, said Ken Budd, senior editor at AARP The Magazine. "As far as travel, this isn't a tour bus type of group."

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