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Before you sign up for a AAA membership, weigh the benefits vs. the annual fee to see if it makes sense for you. Here’s a breakdown of what it costs for a AAA membership and a roundup of the perks including roadside assistance and travel planning services. Plus a look at whether or not the AAA hotel discount is a money saver.
As a lover of traveler I must admit I’m all about the BBD – bigger, better deal. Don’t get me wrong I love a great luxury hotel. But I want to save money on that hotel and other vacation costs so I can eat some great meals and drink good wine. AAA memberships offer thrifty travelers peace of mind and AAA hotel discounts. Here’s what you need to know to maximize your AAA membership.
What is AAA?
Let’s start with the basics. AAA is the American Automobile Association. It started way back in 1902 as a group of motor clubs to share maps and information about good roads for automobiles. Over the years, AAA has been involved in driver safety, transportation improvement efforts, battery recycling and more.
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Presently, more than 40 regional auto clubs are in operation offering roadside assistance and more to their members. AAA is now an insurance company as well. AAA Insurance offers insurance policies that include auto insurance coverage, home insurance, life insurance and renter’s insurance. Check out all their available services on aaa.com.
How Much Does a AAA Membership Cost?
AAA members can choose from three different membership levels. One thing to know is that the first time you join you’re going to pay a $20 admission fee, no matter which plan you choose. AAA divides states and regions into member auto clubs so fees per level can vary by AAA Club. All prices mentioned below are based on a Texas zip code and are for a single AAA member. The three membership levels are:
AAA Classic Membership
This is the base level for AAA. It costs $57 annually and includes 4 calls per membership year per member, tows up to 7 miles to the facility of the member’s choice, free fuel delivery (you pay for the fuel) and $60 towards locksmith service. This membership level is best for families who live and work in the same area. It is roughly $33 annually to add an additional family member.
AAA Plus Membership
This is AAA’s mid-level membership. It costs $91 annually for the first member and includes 4 calls per membership year per member, tows up to 100 miles to the facility of the member’s choice, free fuel delivery and fuel and $100 towards a locksmith.
This level also includes enhanced service that includes winching and extrication of motorcycles or RVs and RV tire changes. This membership level is great for those who live in the suburbs of a metropolitan area and commute. I am enrolled in AAA Plus because we live roughly 75 miles outside of Houston. It ensures that if I break down in Houston, towing to my local mechanic is covered at no charge.
This plan is also a good idea for RV owners or those who like to vacation in rental RVs. Learn more about renting an RV for your next trip here.
AAA Premier Membership
This is AAA’s top membership level. It costs $117 annually for the first member and includes 4 calls per membership year per member, one tow up to 200 miles, remaining tows up to 100 miles to the facility of the member’s choice, free fuel delivery and fuel and $150 towards a locksmith.
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This level also includes enhanced service that includes winching and extrication of motorcycles or RVs and RV tire changes. Additional services included above and beyond the AAA Plus membership include:
- a free one day rental car when towed in territory
- $10,000 identity theft insurance
- AAA Premier car buying consultation
- free CARFAX report
- $45 mail in rebate off of an $86 point inspection
- additional travel offers including free European travel guides, free international maps, one free set of passport photos and waived airline and rail processing fees
- $100 off home lockout service
- concierge service and 24 hour travel assistance during eligible trips more than 100 miles from home
At only $27 more than plus membership for a single member, this level of AAA membership is great for those who travel frequently, travel internationally or need assistance with trip planning. I had this level of service when I was a territory sales manager and was traveling 3-4 nights for business and it was well worth the money.
Can I Use AAA Roadside Assistance the Day I Sign Up?
If you’re reading this article because you need help today, beware. If you use your AAA Roadside Assistance the same day you sign up you will be charged an additional $75 non-refundable service fee. A AAA membership is a good idea to have in place before you need it. That being said, do the math. If you’re already in a situation where you need help and your out of pocket costs will be higher than $95 (fee + admission charge to AAA), then it may be worth it to sign up, especially if it’s a longer mileage tow.
What Does Your Membership Include?
Many travelers invest in a AAA membership because of the savings promised: discount theme park tickets, hotel discounts, rental car discounts and free notary services. Did you also know that AAA provides an arrest bond and bail bond service of $1000 and $5000 by showing your AAA card and a printed certificate if you are detained for a motor vehicle violation? (Hopefully, you and your family won’t ever need that service!)
All AAA membership benefits include:
- Roadside assistance services
- Mobile battery service and jumpstart
- Flat tire service
- AAA Member Discounts and Rewards
- Free domestic maps and AAA TourBook Guides
- Travel Agency benefits are available from AAA Travel, with member-only benefits on select cruise or land vacations
- Free Hertz Gold Membership
- Identity Theft Protection
- Referrals to AAA Approved Auto Repair Shops
- Free 40 point inspection at a AAA Approved Auto Repair Facility with a paid service
- Personal Notary Service (up to 10 free a day)
Best AAA Discounts and Benefits for Travelers
Diving into the AAA discounts and benefits travel available a little further will show you how valuable your AAA membership actually is.
TripTik Travel Planner
While TripTik has multiple components, the one that adds value to my travels is their road trip planner. It serves two purposes. The first is travel inspiration. You can search suggested road trip routes. Or, if you know your starting point and end point, you can enter them in to create the route. It allows you to add up to 25 stopover points along the way and can recommend points of interest. As a long road trip lover, I’m a fan of this tool. I can create multiple routes, marking places I want to stop on them and save them under trip names. It’s a great way for me to compare different itineraries I’m thinking about to see if they’re right for my family.
TravelingMom Tip: Always carry your AAA membership card. Some businesses require it to receive member discounts – even if you’ve already entered your member number into a reservation. It’s also a great idea to download the Auto Club app to your cell phone. You can use it to request roadside assistance and look up your insurance cards.
Who doesn’t love a map? No matter how digital I go, there is something about having a paper map, especially with kids. They love to trace over our route, mark where we’ve been and hang them up later. You can get metro, state, regional and US maps free from AAA with your membership.
Hertz Discounts for AAA Members
Being a AAA member gets you a free Hertz Gold membership. Honestly, this really doesn’t mean anything because Hertz Gold Plus is the lowest rung on Hertz’s rewards program and is free to begin with. However, your AAA membership will get you the free use of one child safety seat, a 10% discount off Hertz fuel purchase option and free additional qualified drivers who are AAA members (must hold a major credit card in their own name and meet standard rental requirements). You’ll also get $20 off the Hertz base rate.
While I usually travel with my own child-safety seat, it did come in handy on a flight we were on that had a mechanical issue. We found ourselves landing in Tampa instead of Orlando with a lap child and no car seat since we had planned to ride the Magical Express to our Walt Disney World Resort. The free car seat with our Hertz rental was a nice perk.
Easier International Travel
If you plan to travel internationally, your local club AAA office can be a giant help to you. Not only can AAA order numerous foreign currencies for you but they can assist you with things like getting your International Driving Permit and passport photos. A AAA travel agent can also assist you in booking rail tickets and more.
Access to Travel Insurance
AAA offers travel insurance to members through Allianz Travel Insurance, who we also recommend. This insurance can cover things like trip interruption, trip cancellation, emergency medical coverage and more. Definitely a plus in today’s environment. Read more about what travel insurance covers here.
Hunting and Fishing Licenses
If your trip involves outdoor fun, save some time and pick up applicable licenses at your local club office first.
Driver’s License Renewals and Duplicates
Don’t wait in line at the DMV! Some AAA locations offer license renewal services and can assist you in getting your REAL ID. This service is not available at all locations, so definitely double check before heading out.
The Parking Spot Discount
Parking at the airport during a trip is an expense that can add up. With AAA you’ll get a discount of 10% at the Parking Spot and there are often special offers available to members. I’ve routinely seen 20% off parking coupons when you enter through the AAA portal.
AAA Hotel Discounts Aren’t Always Cheaper than the Room Rate
Are you using your AAA discount to book a hotel? These days that doesn’t always mean it will be cheaper. Because hotels negotiate AAA room rates up to a year out, if the area’s hotel room prices fall, the regular nightly rate can fall below the negotiated rate. It pays to be a smart consumer and look up the rates both with and without AAA to see if you’re really scoring a good deal.
Price Checking the AAA Discount
Ask yourself a few questions.
Is it a higher end hotel in the brand family? The upper level of hotels (Hilton, Doubletree, Marriott, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, Renaissance) tend to have AAA rates that are lower than their nightly rates. If you’re booking a higher end hotel, it’s smart to double check the rates with and without AAA but chances are the AAA rate will end up being lower.
Are you staying in a city? In larger cities the rack rate tended to be higher than the AAA negotiated rate. In these cases the AAA rate provided significant savings.
We compared prices being charged in Madison, WI for 2 adults with a date of 4/26 for all of the below searches.
Next we’ll add in the AAA rate.
See how some prices are higher with the AAA rate? The Hilton and Hampton Inn are each $5 higher. You’ll save $3 with AAA on the Doubletree and Home2Suites and a whopping $20 on the Hilton Garden Inn with AAA. Your mileage will vary with the AAA rates when rooms are plentiful. When the room rate is higher, the taxes on the room increase as well on the final check out bill. Always do a comparison before booking. On a side note, Madison is a great city and that $91 room rate at the Hilton Garden Inn with AAA? So worth it. Here are some fun free things to do in Madison with kids.
Now when we look at the Marriott-First without AAA :
Now when we look at the AAA rates at the same Marriott properties for the same night:
In this case three hotels are lower, yay! The AAA rate is only higher at SpringHill Suites by $6 night.
Bottom line: When using a AAA discount to book a hotel, be sure to do your homework or you could end up paying more.
Are you a member? How do you use AAA to save? Tell us in the comments!