10 Useful Perks for Senior Citizens
I had been enjoying senior menu selections in restaurants for some time, but still got a bit of a jolt when I stopped at a McDonald’s one morning on my way out of town for an early appointment. Glancing at my receipt, I saw that I had been charged only 39 cents for a senior coffee. Nothing had been said about a senior discount, so how, I wondered, did they know I was a senior citizen? Well, perhaps it’s more evident than I would like to think. However, there are some benefits to achieving this pinnacle of maturity.
Here is a quick run-down of 10 types of discounts and programs you may qualify for as a newly minted senior citizen:
1. National Parks Senior Pass
Several years ago, when my husband and I visited a couple of national parks, we were surprised to learn that we could purchase a lifetime senior citizen pass for $10. Since then we have used that pass a number of times.
Recently, however, the National Park Service (NPS) has increased the cost of the senior pass from $10 to $80 (with an option for a $20 annual pass available). That is quite an increase. Still, this is arguably a bargain for a lifetime pass, particularly if you plan to use it a great deal. The NPS website states that the additional income will be used “to enhance the visitor experience in parks.”
Those $10 passes that were issued prior to the increase will still be honored for life. Seniors are eligible to purchase the passes at age 62, and may turn in four previously purchased annual passes for a lifetime pass.
2. Senior Freeze and Other Real Estate Tax Breaks
A “senior freeze” on real estate taxes is available in some states, as well as a homestead exemption (which does not require senior status), so check with your county assessor’s office to find out if these are available in your area and whether you qualify. A qualifying resident of Illinois, for example, must apply annually for the senior freeze. The purpose of this is to “freeze” the assessed value of the property, for taxation purposes, at the level where it stood the year before the homeowner’s first freeze application was approved. Illinois residents may also qualify for a “senior exemption,” which further reduces the assessed valuation of their property by $5000.
3. Restaurant Discounts
Various independent and chain restaurants offer senior menus and discounts, often for customers age 65 and up, but sometimes starting at age 55 or 60. Generally the restaurant menu will include a senior section with a number of offerings from the regular menu, but in slightly smaller portions and at a lower price. Denny's restaurants offer a 55+ menu. Taco Bell discounts the total bill, and McDonald's, as mentioned above, gives discounts on coffee for seniors 55 and over.
These types of discounts may differ according to store location.
As a senior citizen, you may qualify for benefits ranging from coffee to college tuition.
4. Grocery Store Discount Days
Certain grocery store chains and independent groceries offer senior discount days, often on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, usually with 5% to 10% off, although this seems to be less prevalent than it once was. In the case of chains, these discounts and days may vary by location.
Senior discounts of 5% are currently available on Wednesdays at Publix stores in Tennessee, North Carolina, and the northern portions of Alabama, South Carolina and Georgia for customers age 60 and older.
IGA and IGA Market Fresh stores offer discounts of 5% to 10% to seniors on specific days, starting at age 55, depending upon location.
Don't forget to check with your local grocery stores to see if they participate in senior discount days.
5. Other Retail Store Discounts
A number of national chain stores offer senior discounts of 10% to 20%. Examples include Michael's stores, which offer 10% off on selected merchandise every day to customers age 55+, and Kohl's stores, with 15% senior discounts on Wednesdays for those at least 60 years of age. Of course, these discounts cannot always be applied along with other coupons or to all types of merchandise.
Belk stores and Walgreen's stores have senior days on the first Tuesday of each month for customers age 55+.
With different store chains, these types of offers can fluctuate and/or vary by location, but if no discount is advertised it may be beneficial to inquire. In some cases, senior discounts may be valid only with a store credit card or a specific membership status.
6. Movie Tickets
Senior ticket prices are available at many movie theaters, sometimes as low as $5 for matinees. These vary by location and other factors. AMC is among the theater groups that offer discounts for seniors age 60 and over.
7. Waiver of Bank Fees
Free checking services (no additional monthly fees) are available with automatic social security deposit at some banks, so explore your options to find out what benefits may be offered at the bank of your choice.
8. Senior Organization Benefits and Discounts
Senior organizations such as AMAC and AARP offer group discounts on insurance, prescription plans, vision and dental plans, travel programs, and other services. Annual membership fees are required for participation in these plans, and more information is available online or by phone.
9. Travel and Hotels
Senior rates are available for many hotel chains, as well as some airlines and other modes of transportation. When booking a hotel online, you can usually find the senior discount, if available, on the hotel's website. This is sometimes listed under "Special Rates." If booking by phone or in person, remember to request the senior discount.
Travelers age 65 and above receive senior rates for travel on Southwest Airlines, and these fares are refundable. Details are available from customer service representatives and on their website. Other airlines may offer senior discounts in certain areas, so it could be useful to ask when booking.
Senior/disabled reduced fares are available for public transportation in many cities, as well.
10. Tuition Waivers
College tuition is waived at some universities and community colleges for qualified students who have reached the age of 65 in most states, but only age 55 in others. Usually this is a limited program, often applicable to only one course at a time and to be taken as not-for-credit.
In Missouri, for example, qualified applicants may receive a scholarship for tuition and enroll in any Missouri state school at age 65, if they meet entrance requirements. Eligibility is determined by each institution and is based on available class space, after paying students have enrolled. All other required course fees and expenses are the responsibility of the student.
However, the University System of Maryland has a "Golden ID" program in which retired people age 60 and over may enroll, even in degree-seeking programs, with tuition waived for no more than three courses per semester. Again, eligibility requirements and other restrictions apply.
Check with the school of your choice or online to see what rules apply in your state.