Thursday, June 27, 2013

AARP: The Wrong Numbers

Sometimes I wonder if AARP loves or hates the people over 50 it claims to serve. The geezer has been a member for about 20 years. Over that time, I've been gradually becoming less enamored with AARP.

Yes, AARP does provide fully mature adults with discounts and special deals on a variety of things. And the organization’s magazine frequently has good advice. However, sometimes it seems AARP should take a closer look at products it endorses.

After years of satisfaction with auto and home insurance provided by The Hartford through AARP, my fondness for the organization took a heavy hit when we were making arrangements to move from Utah to Michigan. We decided the time was right to become a one-car family. I knew Michigan would have .
Is AARP giving you a good number?
somewhat higher rates because it requires “no fault” coverage, but assumed we would be helped by canceling coverage for one vehicle. When a Hartford rep told me what my new rate would be, I was shocked.

A State Farm agent in our destination area gave us better coverage for several hundred dollars a year less than the Hartford quote. It was no “come on” price. Since we made the change, State Farm actually has reduced the premium even further as our driving records stayed good and our lifestyle changed a bit.

I recently renewed our cell phone minutes. Yesterday, AARP sent an e-mail notice of a “Hot Deal!” to buy time plans from Consumer Cellular. The ad shows a delighted geezer couple dialing up someone after enrolling in a plan “starting at $10 a month” and featuring no contract plus free activation. An AARP member discount lowered the cheapest plan fee to $9.50 per month. However, each minute used cost 23.75 cents. The ad claimed activation was a $35 value.

We get limited service, primarily using the phone as a safety device. This is the type of service Consumer Cellular offers through its most inexpensive plan. My renewal deal provided enough minutes for our Tracfone to last us a year. It cost $8.33 a month, with no per-minute charge.  We bought our minutes off the shelf at Walmart. Several different minute amounts at progressively higher rates per month were available. No contract was involved.

Activation was free, and I didn’t have to do it. A clerk in the Walmart electronics section performed that chore while I waited, casting a bit of doubt on the AARP ad claim that activation is a $35 value.

If you’re not fond of Walmart, you can get the same kind of Tracphone deal at Radio Shack and Best Buy, and perhaps similar deals through other plans in other places. And you don’t have to pay AARP dues to get a good deal. You might even be delighted.

7 comments: said...

I buy my cell phone, landline, and FIOS service from Verizon and David gets his phone from Virgin. He says it is less expensive, but it always runs out of "energy" at the wrong time. He then must use the landline to call and top up his phone.

As for car insurance we do use the AARP kind, but I will advise David to check out the competition. Goodness, there is plenty of it. Dianne

PS thanks for the head's up.

Dick Klade said...

Our son had the opposite experience to ours with auto insurance. He got a better deal with AARP than he'd had for some years with another provider. So, it pays to survey the insurance providers now and then.

PiedType said...

I quit AARP when I realized they aren't a "Consumer Reports" for seniors, surveying and recommending the best products for us. They're a front for the few companies they represent, especially United Health, which my doctor said is the most difficult for them to deal with. And although I don't remember the details now, I didn't feel AARP represented my best interests with its positions in Washington.

As for cell phones, I'm with Straight Talk now, a division of TracFone, which I used previously and was very happy with. I switched to ST in order to get a nice smartphone, which I'm thrilled to have with no contract.

Tom Sightings said...

I go with Verizon. It's a little more expensive but also more reliable (at least from my experience.) I also have State Farm; they were inexpensive when I signed up, but have been raising their prices the last cpl. of years.

As for AARP, I wrote a post on it, Should I Join AARP? -- -- back in April 2011, and it's been one of the most popular posts of all time. However, now that I'm shopping for Medicare backup plans, I'm doing some more research ... which I will write about in the near future. In the meantime, thanks for relating your experience. We all learn something when we share information.

Bob Lowry said...

The AARP "product" that galls me is the term life insurance policy they promote: $10,000 of coverage (enough to get buried) for hundreds of dollars a year. That's a terrible deal.

As with any company, buyer beware.

Kay said...

We're AARP members and disappointed to read about this.

Bill Hamilton said...

This post brought back some difficult memories about AARP. We joined up as soon as we were eligible, as we were convinced it was the thing to do.

The top executive at AARP at the time took on a battle with some Government policy doctrine he vehemently opposed. (Sorry I can't recall what it was, but it had to do with how AARP and other organizations like it would function in their relations with the Feds.) He fashioned a survey of AARP members to determine how all in the organization viewed the policy, and he got a huge surprise from members: About 70 percent of us favored the policy.

In reporting to the members, the executive declared survey results invalid because the membership disagreed with his position in the matter (because--he said--we were confused and didn't understand what the policy was all about). Despite the survey results, he continued to contest the policy based on his point of view, and he lost.

I ended my association with AARP the same day I received the magazine bearing his report of the survey. His tenure with AARP ended shortly afterward, as I recall.