It may surprise you that I canceled my AAA membership since I mentioned using AAA for travel discounts in other McCool Travel articles. Why did I not renew my AAA membership?
Some reasons I did NOT renew my AAA membership include no longer using AAA discounts (finding same or better discounts elsewhere) and not needing AAA membership services.
But there was a real disrespectful tipping point that ultimately made me cancel my AAA membership. Below I list travel discount programs I use after I canceled my AAA membership.
AAA Membership Advantages
It is only fair to mention the good points of AAA membership. After all, I was a AAA member for 30 years and millions of people are AAA members.
1. Service emergencies
AAA members can arrange for an AAA-approved technician to diagnose minor vehicle issues and provide basic solutions—like jump start a dead battery, provide a small amount of gas, fix a flat tire, or tow vehicle to nearby repair station. Perhaps the best reason for buying a AAA membership is this access to AAA emergency services.
2. AAA Travel Discounts
Especially in recent years, the most valuable AAA benefit for me was travel AAA discounts, especially on hotel rooms and Hertz car rentals. See also our article on Basic Car Rental Tips and Tricks.
3. AAA Publications
At AAA offices, I have picked up hundreds of maps, Tourbooks, and TripTiks. Publications can now be ordered online so my visits to AAA offices were reduced to almost zero.
4. Trip Planning
Although they are a travel agency, I have never booked a travel component (air, hotel, car, cruise, package, tour) through a AAA Travel Agency. I inquired a few times but always found better deals elsewhere. I do know people who use AAA to book travel.
Similarly, I have inquired a few times about AAA insurance (auto, home, etc.) but did not find it a decent solution for me.
6. Other AAA Discounts
My local auto repair shop offers 10% for AAA members. There are other AAA discounts for merchandise and services. To see all of the AAA membership benefits, view the AAA Member Benefits Chart.
Here is a link for AAA membership renewal.
Here is a link for AAA membership plans and AAA membership cost.
Reasons To Cancel AAA Membership
1. AAA Emergency Service Not Needed
My AAA membership provided peace of mind for breakdowns but it was a benefit I had not used in many years. When I was younger and drove junkers, AAA provided battery jumps or short distance tows. My most recent service calls (several years ago) were canceled (by me) due to extended waits and when I found someone else to jump my car’s dead battery.
McCool Travel Tip: buy an auto emergency kit ($20 at Costco) or jumper cables. Store the jumper cables in the trunk and learn how to properly use them. When you have a dead battery, flag down a passing car or call a neighbor.
2. AAA Publications
Paper maps are cool but do we really need them anymore? I can go online and find detailed maps for practically any area of the world. If I truly want a map, I can stop at a visitor center and pick up a free one. I will miss, sort of, the monthly AAA magazine, although I rarely found anything useful in it. On second thought, maybe I will save a tree.
3. AAA Discounts
Now that I am 50 years old, I am an AARP member. Most AARP travel discounts compare favorably to AAA discounts, especially for hotels. Although using a AAA discount for Hertz rentals was my favorite, I can still use it. Also, my go-to car rental rate program is now Costco Travel and sometimes Priceline (through Autoslash).
McCool Travel Tip: request AAA discounts even if you are not a member. I have never been asked to show my AAA card when renting a car. A few hotels asked to see my AAA card. Booking Hilton rooms online require you to enter your AAA membership number.
4. AAA Trip Planning
Never used it.
5. AAA Insurance
6. Other AAA Discounts
Other than 10% off repairs, I cannot recall using AAA for any other non-travel merchant. I will not miss this benefit.
Straw That Broke The Camel’s Back—aka When to Cancel AAA Membership
The past few Septembers (AAA membership renewal occurs 1 October), I debated renewing my AAA card, for reasons I outlined above.
The following situation sealed my decision NOT to renew my AAA membership.
I bought a new car and dropped by a AAA office to get new local maps. It was a Sunday and I used the outside lobby map vending machine (cool feature). The machine denied my card (said my membership was not active). WTH.
Trying again, the machine spewed the same message. When I got home I checked online and my membership was active. Note, I could have (and should have) ordered maps online.
I sent AAA a message and they responded by sending replacement cards. No apology. Not asking what maps I wanted to order. Not thanking me for years of AAA membership. I was rankled (first time I have used that word).
Then the AAA renewal notices arrived. Are you kidding me? After the expiration date (Oct 1), I received a call. A customer rep pleasantly reminded me to renew my AAA membership. I said I will not because of this issue and negative customer experience. I suggested that she to relay the information to her supervisor. All she said was, “Oh.”
Over the past few years I decided I will cease supporting businesses that disrespect me as a customer. AAA is just one recent casualty and I suspect my decision will not adversely affect their bottom line. Emotional detachment from comfortable yet unhealthy relationships is an ongoing but worthwhile process. Easier to do with travel companies, too.
I went to a travel conference and heard countless disgruntled stories. Many former and previously very loyal United Airlines elite flyers switched to American Airlines in the past year. I respected them for doing that; their tales helped justify my decision to not renew my AAA membership and inspired me to finish this post.
“Support businesses that disrespect their customers.”
Do you have an AAA membership? Are you considering cancelling your AAA membership? Let me know what you decide.
See also these travel reference articles:
Why I Did NOT Renew My AAA Membership was first published for McCool Travel on 9 December 2014.