I accidentally shared Kindle’s Lending Library with my friend Adriana.
After a phone discussion, I remembered a book she might want to read. “I borrowed it via Amazon just to read chapter five,” I emailed her.
“Wait — borrowed via Amazon? How does that work?” Adriana responded.
But this isn’t a post about Amazon, or even about books. It’s about memberships.
Think about all the memberships you pay for on a monthly or yearly basis. You’ll probably think of AAA, your airline points credit card or your college alumni association. You might think of AARP, or your carsharing membership.
Many of these affiliations come with extra perks, from discounts and upgrades to outright freebies.
But if you don’t know about the perks, you can’t use them.
If you want to make the most of the memberships you already pay for, here are three ways to max out your benefits.
Pay Attention to Promotions
We all try to get to “inbox zero” as quickly as possible. But if you’re not reading emails from the services you already pay for, you’re definitely missing out on special offers and discounts.
Don’t forget to sift through your mail and skim the magazines that arrive as part of your memberships.
What used to seem like junk might start to seem like dollars saved — if you can spot the discounts flashing at you from the pages of that alumni association or museum membership magazine.
Your email inbox and snail mailbox are the best ways to find out about new promotions you can cash in on.
When you’re logged into your online memberships accounts — maybe to pay your bill — take a few extra seconds to look around.
I scored a discount recently just for paying my credit card bill. I have an airline points card, and my payment confirmation screen included a short list of promotions I could select. This one caught my eye: “Get $15 back when you spend $60 or more at Amazon.com.”
What luck! I shop for just about everything on Amazon, and that particular credit card is already tied to my Prime account.
I’m confident I’ll spend enough by the end of December to get the $15 added back to my card.
All I had to do was click on the offer to have it applied to my card. When you really think about it, all I really had to do was scroll down and look to spot a deal.
Look for the Discounts You Want
On the hunt for a certain discount? Head to the web.
“The benefits vary from club to club,” said AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesperson Jeanette Tejada de Gomez, about the company’s discounts. But she advises the Web is the best place to check for both local and national discount offerings.
Review the listed benefits for your membership and take note of what you might be able to use most often.
Then use the heck out of them.
Elizabeth Xu, a freelance writer based in Toledo, joined AAA for car insurance and roadside assistance. She’s only used the roadside assistance service once, but has come to rely on the AAA discount that comes with many travel bookings.
“I nearly always book travel online and it’s really simple to see if an accommodation has an AAA rate — most do, and it’s easy to save $10 to $30 per night,” Xu said.
Another discount category surprised her: Attraction tickets.
“Because my husband and I have moved around so much, we really enjoy getting to know our new city,” Xu said. “It’s nice that we can do so with a discount.”
The couple even found competitive discount rates for Disney theme parks with their AAA membership.
“Some of the most underutilized programs are discounted movie tickets, attraction tickets or savings at stores the member already shops at,” Tejada de Gomez said.
Smart members can earn back the cost of their yearly membership with the savings from one month of applicable discounts, she added.
Get the App
Check through your memberships to see if any of them offer a smartphone app. A quick glance at your app can be the difference between saving and paying full price.
For example, the AAA Mobile app maps out the cheapest gas stations in your area.
Meanwhile, the AARP Member Advantages app will help you find the discounts nearest you. Since an AARP membership gets you a discount on just about anything — if you’re of a certain age — you might need the app to keep track of them all.
Or, take the co-working space I pay to visit a few times a week. Looking at the company’s check-in app shows me when there are free happy hours and networking events scheduled for members only. Events have included free yoga classes, guest speakers and wine tastings.
Adriana’s book-borrowing discovery worked out for both of us. She’s getting more out of her Amazon Prime membership, and I’m starting to use discounts to make up for the annual fee on my airline credit card.
I’m definitely reading my mail with a more critical eye.
Your Turn: How are you maximizing your membership benefits? Share your tips and favorite discounts!
Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!
Lisa Rowan is a writer, editor, and podcaster living in Washington, D.C. Her student ID finally expired this month, and she’s looking for ways to make up for her student discount at the movies.