Retiring: Senior Discounts Aren’t Just for Seniors Anymore


Retired Brains offers more categories of discounts, like apparel, travel, groceries and entertainment. Who knew that baby boomers and others over 62 could get 10 percent off clothing at Banana Republic and 5 percent off at Greyhound? Or that a 55th birthday qualifies purchasers for 10 percent off Best Western hotels and Midas auto services? (Discounts and deals may vary by the individual store or franchise.)

Apps, too, have started to facilitate age-based deal hunting. The Senior Discounts app available at the Apple App Store ($1.99) lets users enter their birth year to show the offers for which they qualify: up to 30 percent off at AMC Theatres for people 60 and up, and 10 percent off purchases at Goodwill on certain days of the week for those 55 and up. Boston Market offers those 60 and up a discount.

A rival app, Senior Savings, 99 cents at the App Store, shows lists of businesses that offer discounts, scrollable either alphabetically or by age. Turning 55, for example, will earn you a discount at Piggly Wiggly once a week, while a 65th birthday lowers the suggested admission fee at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The nonprofit advocacy group AARP, whose 50-and-over card carriers are eligible for an array of members-only discounts, has its own free app alerting members to places where they can save money — including the 30 percent off at Budget Rent a Car or the up to 60 percent off they are eligible for on eye exams at LensCrafters.

But it is a newer app on the senior discount scene, Sciddy, that may be the most ambitious yet. For $7.99 at the App Store or Google Play, it finds people 50 and up discounts — and they don’t even have to remember which store offers what. Sciddy uses GPS technology to alert its users when they have walked into a business that will offer them a discount.

The goal, said Steve Mitchener, who developed Sciddy as a website in 2011 and turned it into an app last year, is to eliminate the “out of sight, out of mind” nature of senior discounts.

Although there is significant overlap among all the senior discount lists — Sciddy, too, lists Ben & Jerry’s and Banana Republic and others already mentioned here — the difference is the automatic reminder.

For example, “If you go to Applebee’s, it’ll tell you, ‘Hey, don’t forget to ask for your senior discount,’” Mr. Mitchener said. Phones not on mute get a ka-ching! notification in addition to a visual cue.

Mr. Mitchener, who is 59 and lives in St. Louis, said that he chose the name Sciddy because it is catchy, but that some of his customers have made up their own acronyms. “The best one yet is ‘Senior Citizen Instant Daily Discount for You,’” he said.

He has six children and seven grandchildren, so he grew accustomed to looking for “kids eat free” signs. Then he realized that, even though he hasn’t considered retiring and won’t for several years, he is old enough to rack up considerable savings when he picks up the check for his large brood, whether at restaurants or the department stores where he and his wife take their grandchildren back-to-school shopping.

“Sometimes people say to themselves, ‘Big deal, it’s a 10 percent discount,’” Mr. Mitchener said. “But if you’re walking down the aisle at the grocery store and your phone pings you and says, ‘When you get up to the cash register, ask for your discount,’ you’re going to do it.”

Most users pay off the cost of the app through savings within the first month, he said.

The app’s nine categories for savings include travel (hotels and rental car companies), entertainment (movie theaters, golf courses and concert halls) and pets. “A lot of people don’t know you can be 55 and save money at the vet’s office,” Mr. Mitchener said.

Sciddy has identified 260,000 senior discounts, and Mr. Mitchener thinks as many as a million may be available nationwide, including individual stores within franchises. For example, some Dairy Queens offer senior discounts, but others don’t.

His team scours the country daily for establishments to add, including those individual franchises. Some Sciddy enthusiasts help by way of a forum where they post new finds and also exchange notes about their experiences with how well, or how poorly, a business honored a discount. A frequent topic is carding, or the need to prove one’s age to get a discount: “It hardly ever happens,” Mr. Mitchener said.

Jean Chatzky, a consumer finance expert whose title at AARP is financial ambassador, said that people are often “stunned” by small perks available to AARP members, like the free doughnut that Dunkin’ Donuts offers to people who flash their card when buying a large beverage.

There are contrarians who oppose such perks. One Huffington Post writer complained in a 2016 article, “I don’t see the justification for giving a group of people a discount just because they’re still breathing.”

As it is, the age-discount playing field may be becoming more level, as the various programs expand by going after people in middle age. AARP has been sending 49-year-olds invitations to join its organization and reap the rewards of membership on their 50th birthdays. In 1984, it lowered the minimum membership age to 50 from 55.

Many of the newly eligible “definitely are not aware that they qualify for discounts,” Ms. Chatzky said.

At the Senior List, which draws 100,000 visitors a month, Amie Clark, a founder, said her discount lists are one of the top two attractions. The other is reviews of medical alert systems.

“Women 55 and up are our most frequent visitors,” Ms. Clark said. “I think a lot of them come on looking for medical alert systems for their parents, and then they find they can save some money for themselves through the discount lists.”

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