Senior Discounts That Really Aren’t

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If there’s anything baby boomers hate more than aging, it’s the idea of being considered senior citizens. A collective aversion to ask for “senior” discounts or specials has prompted some companies and organizations to start tiptoeing around the word or avoiding it entirely in their marketing (even the AARP). But there’s a better reason boomers — along with anyone in an older age bracket — might want to avoid asking for the “senior” package or promotion: In a world overrun with discounts and deals, sometimes “senior” specials are nothing special. They’re often identical to promotions and offerings available to all, regardless of age. And at times senior deals even cost more.

The Pew Center on the States just released a survey of senior checking accounts. Researchers compared these accounts to basic, no-frills checking accounts. The results? Not so hot. “At some institutions, senior accounts are very similar to basic checking accounts and do not offer many additional benefits,” the report says. Some are actually worse: One institution charged seniors a monthly maintenance fee more than double that of its “basic” account, and had a $5,000 minimum balance — $1,500 more than the requirement for the basic account.

“Seniors with this type of account are paying a higher price to buy in to special features like earning interest and waivers of certain fees. For seniors who do not meet the minimum balance requirements to waive the higher monthly fee, it is unlikely these perks will cover the additional cost of the account,” the report warns.

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On senior-centric site, blogger Caroline Mayer details her frustration trying to book both Amtrak and Southwest Airlines tickets. Amtrak offered her a senior fare of $62 for her trip, even though an advance-purchase ticket for the same itinerary was $49. Flying to Albuquerque on a “senior fare,” she found, was actually around $50 more than a regular, promotionally-priced (nonrefundable) ticket.

Online Shopping

Under its “member benefits” section, the website touts “free sitewide shipping” on That’s nice, but guess where else a shopper can get that perk? A second deal offers free shipping on orders of over $50 at the website of don’t-call-it-a-girdle underwear brand Spanx. Plugging “Spanx coupon code” into Google, though, yields valid free shipping offers that don’t require a minimum purchase.

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Even the AARP isn’t blameless. A current member promotion on the AARP’s website offers $25 gift certificates for $4. That sounds like a good deal, but’s own promotion to customers on its mailing list is $2 for that same $25 certificate.

Another AARP benefit is 20% off the bill at Denny’s. That’s not bad, but the fine print says it’s only valid from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m., so if you want one of the restaurant’s signature breakfast platters at breakfast, your AARP card won’t get you very far. You’ll have better luck looking online, where a quick Google search turns up coupon sites with valid 20% off coupons — with no age or time restrictions.

MORE: Why Seniors Don’t Deserve the Senior Discount