AAA - more than roadside service?
February 28, 2008 11:39 AM   Subscribe

What practical uses, besides roadside service, have you used your AAA membership for?

I asked for and got a AAA membership for Christmas. I wanted it mainly for the roadside service, which came in handy just yesterday for a dead battery. I know there are other benefits to AAA, like hotel discounts, free road maps, etc. Browsing around the AAA website, I found out that I can get a 10% discount from! There are a TON of discounts listed on Which benefits do you actually use? Which are a waste of time? Does anyone know any "secret" AAA savings? I have "Plus" membership if that makes a difference.
posted by kidsleepy to Shopping (41 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
The big deal about Plus membership is that you get 100 miles of towing per incident (up to four). This means if you break down 100 miles from anyplace, you can get towed to where you want to go, not just the closest location. I have also used them when I lost my keys in an airport to get into my car. I have also used them for jumpstarts. I get AAA tour guides any time I travel to the US or Canada. I don't use them much personally -- their suggestions on restaurants and hotels are not to my tastes usually -- but just knowing where the hotels and restaurants are in an unfamiliar city is a pretty good indicator of where to point yourself when you're looking to stop after a long day of driving. I've used them to get passport/visa photos. If I recall correctly, they have a serious discount for Lenscrafters which is good if you're not the $40 glasses type for whatever reason.
posted by jessamyn at 11:47 AM on February 28, 2008

I use the hotel and car rental discounts quite often. The Hertz discount is almost always better than my corporate rate.
posted by Lame_username at 11:49 AM on February 28, 2008

I enjoy the trip planning on the AAA website. Not hidden, but not everyone knows of the online option.
posted by inigo2 at 11:52 AM on February 28, 2008

The TripTik for cross country drives has been very useful - but the 100 mile towing will pay for your membership for ten years if you ever have to use it.
posted by vito90 at 11:54 AM on February 28, 2008

In California anyway, you can't beat AAA for DMV services. That alone is worth the price of the membership.
posted by chez shoes at 11:55 AM on February 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Well I know I've had them break into my car a zillion times when I've left my keys in the ignition - which seems to happen with embarrassing frequency. I've had them make spare plastic keys for me before too. I'm not sure they do this any longer, but they used to offer no-charge AmEx travelers cheques as well. Other than towing (and I've used the 100 mile thing before, having broke down in the middle of rural Nevada), free maps and the occasional store discount, thats about all I've them for.
posted by elendil71 at 11:57 AM on February 28, 2008

I've used the discounts at a lot of different places: Amtrak; yellow cab taxi, when I book through dispatch, local attractions like Experience Music Project or the Pacific Science Center and local florists. Like Jessamyn, I'm not thrilled with their hotel suggestions, but I have used the discount once or twice when I failed to plan ahead and find a better hotel. If you're being touristy in any American city, check the entertainment section on their website and you'll usually find a lot of discounts. I got one of my friends a discount on his tux rental using my AAA card one day, so it's a good idea to just click through the website and see what all is listed in your area. Some of the discounts are no better than what you can find elsewhere, but it's easier than trying to hunt down some obscure coupon.

In 2006, there was a great deal where you could get multiple Fast Pass tickets, which allow you to bypass lines, if you bought your tickets in advance through AAA. I see that has been discontinued now. Damn.
posted by diamondsky at 12:02 PM on February 28, 2008

I send away for TourBooks and TripTiks almost no matter where I'm going. They are actually pretty useful, even if you don't slavishly follow them. The TourBooks sum up local history and give city populations and other nerdy trivia, which makes for pretty good content for your copilot to read aloud as you're logging boring highway miles. On roadtrips that kind of thing can really help you find spots you like.

As silly as it is, for budget travelers, their hotel/motel rating service is pretty damn good. About 10 years ago I took a cross-country trip with a friend. All the AAA motels we stayed in were at least acceptable. The couple of times we took a flyer on one without the rating, we had a bad experience.

They also send free and up-to-date maps, so I never pay for maps.

I've signed up for a monthly email from my regional AAA that has updates about discount offers and stuff. I hardly ever do them but there are some I would definitely use if opportunity lined up.
posted by Miko at 12:03 PM on February 28, 2008

Hotel and car rental discounts all the time. I used to get free traveller's checks there, when travelling overseas, but with ATMs I don't bother with traveller's checks anymore. I still usually get an international driver's license from them when I go to Europe, but with the exchange rate what it is now, that seems like another lifetime.
posted by thomas144 at 12:04 PM on February 28, 2008

The free maps, absolutely.
posted by Rash at 12:07 PM on February 28, 2008

Maps. Free maps. Tons of maps. Get an interesting map and turn it into a board for a custom game of Risk and take glory in seizing your roommate's hometown.

Also, passport photos.
posted by Science! at 12:09 PM on February 28, 2008

I'm not thrilled with their hotel suggestions

Yeah, don't let me overstate that: I think the hotel rating is better for helping you avoid a crap low-end hotel than for finding an actually good, unique hotel.
posted by Miko at 12:13 PM on February 28, 2008

I used mine to get a 10% discount on 3 pairs of new eyeglasses, the total cost of which was not cheap and therefore worth it.
posted by Melismata at 12:16 PM on February 28, 2008

Circuit City has a 10% off $200+.
posted by mphuie at 12:17 PM on February 28, 2008

In addition to all the services listed above, I use them for auto and rental insurance (they offer very competitive rates), used car shopping and booked a cruise through their travel agency. They also have a nice quarterly magazine that highlights local points of interest, deals, and transportation issues.
posted by platinum at 12:28 PM on February 28, 2008

They used to have a service where you could go in and they'd make you a credit-card sized copy of your car key for emergencies.
posted by rhizome at 12:48 PM on February 28, 2008

Free passport photos! I got mine done there recently.

And the maps.

Oh, I'd recommed upgrading to a gold membership...includes 100 miles of free towing instead of the 3 miles that comes with the basic membership. Comes in very handy when you break down 50 miles away from home.
posted by emd3737 at 12:55 PM on February 28, 2008

They have a prescription drug discount card that offers serious savings--in some cases it's substantially below my insurance co-pay. The % off varies wildly--5% off for one drug, 90% off of another, etc.

Back when I didn't have insurance it's was a stupendous money-saver, and there were instances when the money I saved off a single scrip was more than the cost of a year's AAA membership.
posted by aerotive at 12:56 PM on February 28, 2008

10% off Fresh Choice is one we use from time to time - the kids love all-you-can-eat salad+carb. Nice to hear about the 10% Target discount - that's news to me.
posted by mosk at 1:40 PM on February 28, 2008

I used the AAA Circuit City 10% off deal when I got my new HDTV.
posted by yeti at 1:52 PM on February 28, 2008

hal_c_on: "Either totally get free gas."

Non-plus members pay for gas. Plus members get up to 3 gallons free. You're only allowed 4 emergency roadside service calls a year, so you could get 12 gallons of gas for the price of Plus membership if you don't use the towing or lock-out services.
posted by team lowkey at 1:55 PM on February 28, 2008

AAA saved me close to $500 on my Disneyworld package.
Plus the rep will call and make all your reservations, etc., you don't have to play the "Call Disney and speed dial your way through the menu options".
The magazine they send usually has one or two intersting "I didn't even know that existed" points of interest for my 3 state area.
The rental cars discounts are usually poor, since they start off with overpriced Hertz rentals.
posted by madajb at 1:55 PM on February 28, 2008

I have always loved the TripTiks because they have rest areas marked on them. My tiny bladder has been so thankful to know where the restrooms are so, so many times.
posted by pointystick at 2:04 PM on February 28, 2008

There is a full service AAA near my work that so far has handled all of my DMV related issues. Going to a AAA office, with ample parking, a 5 minute wait, and plush seating is of course a much better experience over the local DMV.
posted by Brocktoon at 2:35 PM on February 28, 2008

10% off your bill at Perkins Restaurants. Yum!

(Remember to tip on the pre-discount amount! ;-)
posted by sandra_s at 2:42 PM on February 28, 2008

Financed a car loan through them recently. Their rates were extremely competitive.
posted by deCadmus at 3:16 PM on February 28, 2008

I've never been big on the TripTiks, but absolutely, positively will use them for the free maps. Even with a GPS, having the maps is great for big picture planning of road trips.

In addition to the free passport photos, AAA will also handle issuance of international driver's licenses.
posted by bl1nk at 3:22 PM on February 28, 2008

Kind of what you excluded, but kind of not - When I had a car and AAA, I usually knew about when my membership year would flip and how many roadside services I had left. I would then make sure to find someone who had locked their keys in, needed a short tow/jump etc. and pretend I was their passenger to float them my service. It was fun and never even left myself stranded between then and the end of my year. The time someone needed a tow, I don't even think the driver needed me to go along, just to swipe my card)
posted by a_green_man at 3:34 PM on February 28, 2008

Mathowie brought up the issue of AAA's bias against bicycles on one of the podcasts and as a bike commuter I was a bit concerned. I looked into it and indeed they do often lobby against resources being spent on bikes(paths) rather than cars(roads). But I suppose I understand as that is the primary resource of their constituency. Wish they didn't. But I understand. I sent them an email about it which was ignored.

That said, I didn't cancel my membership and often use the discounts which seem to be offered at almost any hotel, and bunches of other places. Though most of my travel is payed by the university I work for, saving them money makes sense to me. Saving them money is saving tax dollars and as a tax payer I would hope others follow suit.

And you can count brownie points from my supervisors another nice benefit of the membership.

Don't use their mapping services or travel guides 'cause I found this spiffy web site called Google. Works quicker.

Plus the roadside service. Used that and clearly earned back the membership fees. But I never buy new cars so perhaps thats a variable.
posted by Toekneesan at 3:40 PM on February 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Along the same lines as what a few others have said: when my husband's car registration was stolen, we went to AAA instead of the DMV. It took a very short amount of time and didn't make me frustrated and angry, like the DMV usually does.
posted by TheClonusHorror at 3:44 PM on February 28, 2008

yup, you'll get 30% off frames and lenses at LensCrafters. Maps, maps, maps. Free passport photos. Hotel discounts. Rental car discounts. Amtrak. Other things I can't remember right now.
posted by spinturtle at 3:46 PM on February 28, 2008

Oh. and AAA members also have access to their Car Buying Service, which among other things, has a kind of pre-arranged "no haggle" price for participating dealerships. I've used it twice and was quite pleased. As part of the process, the dealership will even start the paperwork ahead of time so all you really do is show up, sign a few documents and drive away. This is, of course, providing you have already chosen your vehicle.
posted by elendil71 at 4:21 PM on February 28, 2008

My wife always gets an AAA discount when we rent a car and free maps when we travel.
posted by A-Train at 4:25 PM on February 28, 2008

chez shoes writes "In California anyway, you can't beat AAA for DMV services. That alone is worth the price of the membership."

In Alberta too, much better than any other registry service.

I love the TripTiks and I try to abuse the free map service.

Also they have prepay movie tickets at a 40% discount but only for Odean theatres.
posted by Mitheral at 6:24 PM on February 28, 2008

I got a discount on my Penske truck when I moved recently. Wasn't even looking for it. Can't remember how much, but the site says 12% plus free unlimited miles on one way moves, plus another 10% if you book online.
posted by Askr at 7:01 PM on February 28, 2008

I renew my driver's license at AAA. Or change of address. You don't even have to be a member to take advantage of this, anyone can walk in. Hardly ever a wait...definitely worth the $2 upcharge.
posted by illek at 7:44 PM on February 28, 2008

My Mom has had AAA for many years but never used it for anything (just the peace of mind in case of emergencies). She was about to cancel her membership until she discovered that her local pharmacy gives hefty discounts to AAA members on their prescription medications. That savings alone makes it worth the annual fee. My Mom (who used to pay for all prescriptions out of pocket) now pays about half of what she used to. It's worth asking your pharmacist if they have any such discounts.
posted by Mael Oui at 8:24 PM on February 28, 2008

It's true about their lobbying; they are not so hot an organization w/r/t to their advocacy of improvements for roads and car-based transport. But I think that unless you live in a dense city hub where not having a car is practical and manageable, in the US you otherwise need a car, and if you have a car you do need some protection against the unavoidable. It's disappointing that they can't just protect motorists without lobbying for crappy stuff, but perhaps if more of us did what ToeKneesAn did and wrote in, we would at least be a vocal minority indicating that we did not see bikes and cars as natural enemies.

I can't imagine being who I am - a cheapskate used-car proponent in New England who logs a fair number of road miles going places and doing things - without the promise of the AAA bailout. It's like a magic scroll of transport -- you can only get so fucked. For the peace of mind alone, AAA is worth it.

But this post inspired me to look at my benefits again, and I am definitely not optimizing my membership. Many chain stores are offering discounts, and though I don't shop at chains usually, a 20%-30% discount on something I need like shoes or towels is noteworthy. There is a discount on moving/storage PODS and lots of reduced fees for whitewater rafting, schooners, and ski areas in New England. It's definitely worth checking into your region's website every so often.
posted by Miko at 9:54 PM on February 28, 2008

Mod note: comment removed - this is not a thread to talk about AAA's lobbying. The question is specific and it is limited. Go to MetaTalk or email if you have to stump for your favorite non-AAA company
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:47 PM on February 29, 2008

Best answer: There are a ton of great ansers in here- thanks guys!
posted by kidsleepy at 7:26 AM on March 5, 2008

Response by poster: *answers. duh.
posted by kidsleepy at 7:27 AM on March 5, 2008

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