Great AAA discounts drive me to delight over July 4th weekend


As the July 4th holiday weekend officially concludes -- one of the busiest motoring holidays of the year -- it bears a look at how the Automobile Club AAA does by its members. I'm talking shopping, of course. While most people associate "Triple A" with flat tires, dead batteries and lockouts, I like them for another reason: the discounts that hotels, restaurants and retail shops give when you show them your AAA card.

Yet a full 40% of AAA members don't avail themselves of the discount, says the auto club. Of the 60% who did last year, they averaged a savings of $76 per person, which more than covers the annual classic membership. Count me among them.

New discount programs introduced in 2009 included, Sit 'n Sleep, the Gap Outlet and Banana Republic Outlets stores. AAA members get 10% off the San Diego Zoo one-day pass, 10% off Barnes & Noble and 20% off any floral arrangement sent by FTD. Your card also gets you in cheaper to most museums, theme parks (forget Disney, though), tourist attractions and even some movie theaters.

I've never stayed at a hotel that didn't have a AAA rate and I've gotten used to asking our waiter each time we dine out whether there is a discount for AAA members. All the car rental companies offer them as well. If you subscribe to DirectTV as a AAA member, you'll get a $10 a month credit on your bill for 20 months -- $200. Sirius XM Radio gives AAA members 20% off on equipment, free shipping and activation plus a bonus month of service.

I saved 30% on a pair of New Balance running shoes at the chain's factory outlet just for showing my card. In fact, if you show your card at the management office for most premium outlet malls, they'll hand over a nifty booklets of discounts for most of the shops. The trick is just to ask.

Truth is, I probably use my AAA card more than I use my credit card these days, including when they came to jump my battery on July 4th. After all, you'll never get to drive to the fireworks unless you see a spark from your battery first.