Are The AARP Membership Perks Actually Worth The Price?

There's a popular misconception among some otherwise thrifty consumers that you need to be an older person in order to join AARP, but that's not actually true. The general public will, of course, be forgiven for making that mistake. After all, AARP is short for American Association of Retired Persons. However, the reality is that anyone 18 years or older is welcome to join the organization, though a certain few benefits are only available to members over 50 years of age. 

AARP was formed in the late-1950s with the primary goal of providing health insurance to retirees, which was a challenge prior to the introduction of Medicare in 1965. Nowadays the organization has almost 38 million members and provides a range of valuable discounts on everything from flights, hotels, and cellphone service to restaurant meals and more. And yes, the AARP still provides savings on insurance, though those discounts might, in fact, be limited to retirement-age members.

So while virtually any legal adult can join AARP, does that mean it's worth your serious consideration? At the risk of oversimplifying, AARP membership isn't free, so are you likely to save more with discounts than the membership costs? Let's investigate.

How much does an AARP membership cost?

The privilege of adding an AARP card to your purse or wallet will set consumers back $16 per year, with the first year discounted to $12 if the member agrees to automatic renewal. Do mind the financial pitfalls of autopaying subscriptions, however, or it could wind up costing more than the meager discount offered for enrolling.

If you've determined that making AARP a part of your long-term budget strategy is worthwhile, consumers of all ages can also opt for a three-year plan at a one-time cost of $43 or a five-year plan for $63. Note that AARP occasionally offers sales, like around the winter holidays. For example, the company offered a five-year membership for just $45 during a Black Friday sales event in 2023. (Check out Money Analysis's look into how much Americans spend on Black Friday.)

It is also worth mentioning that both veterans and active members of the military are entitled to membership discounts up to 43%. Finally, AARP lets members share their subscription with another adult in the same household for free.

Travel is a key area where AARP members can save

Joining AARP unlocks an avalanche of discounts, so in the interest of brevity, Money Analysis will zero in on a few of the most lucrative opportunities. A long-running and well publicized deal among travel enthusiasts is a discount on round-trip airline tickets on British Airways. Both economy and premium economy class qualify for a $65 discount, while passengers in luxurious business class receive $200 off a round-trip booking. If you're traveling to or connecting through Europe from a U.S. city served by British Airways, this perk alone could pay for a multi-year AARP membership.

Once you arrive at your destination, members can save up to 30% on rental car rates from vendors like Avis and Budget, as well as 5% to 20% discounts off the best available rates at multiple hotel chains, including Hilton, Best Western, and Choice Hotels. Considering that each of those chains has several, if not a dozen or more brands under its umbrella, the potential for scoring a great deal on a hotel room is significant. One caveat is that you'll want to have proof of your AARP participation, like the membership card, when checking into a hotel or picking up a rental car, because some vendors do confirm membership.

AARP perks are indeed worth the membership price

Besides travel, you can also score an AARP discount on something we all use daily: cellular phone service. AT&T customers can receive $10 off per line per month on the AT&T Unlimited Premium® PL plan, while customers of Consumer Cellular — an already-affordable carrier that piggybacks off other networks — receive a 5% discount on monthly charges.

With AARP, dining deals are yours for the asking as well, with discounts of at least 10% at more than a dozen restaurants, including Bonefish Grill, Outback Steakhouse, Denny's, and Jamba, just to name a few. While it might take some strategy to max out every cent of benefit value from an AARP membership, even the occasional discounted meal, car rental, or hotel stay will easily pay the modest annual fee, especially if you catch it on sale. For a complete list of benefits and discounts from which to base your decision to join, we recommend visiting the AARP website.

Finally, if you need a little extra motivation to join the organization, know that AARP frequently sends out a welcome gift to new and renewing members. Recent examples of the free gift include a USB charging hub or a tote bag.