For some reason, the familiar blue AAA card has been a mainstay on my key chain – although I’m not entirely sure why. I questioned this even further after going to the AAA Ohio Travel Show in January. This made me ultimately ask a critical question: why did I have an AAA membership?
Aside from the free tickets to the “Travel Show” (if you could call it that), I could not think of one instance where I used my card in the last year. For the annual membership fee, what value was my membership giving me? After some deliberation and investigation into the value of my membership, I ultimately let my membership lapse. Here’s why I decided to cut my cord with the Auto Club for good.
Guide Books are Dated – REALLY Dated
Do you remember the last time you walked into an Auto Club location for a map, guidebook, or “Trip Tik?” I can’t remember either. Thanks to the advent of mobile devices and the World Wide Web, travelers can get access to maps and destination information with a number of taps and clicks. Although paper maps are a great analog for when nothing is working, I’m not sure there’s enough paper maps in the world to justify the annual cost of membership.
So what about the guide books? Although my lack of an attention span fed by the digital age could be to blame, I find the guide books for any location to be cumbersome and lacking well-organized information. Instead of the robust, well written guides I get from Lonely Planet or Frommers, the AAA guidebook is a book of lists: lists of attractions, lists of hotels, and lists of destinations with little more short description and rating. If given a choice, I’d rather pick up my iPad before a AAA guidebook.
AAA Member-Only Discounts are Varied (At Best)
Aside from the discounts at hotels, I’m not sure that I have ever used my AAA card to get a discount to an attraction or destination. Trevor has a crafty (and long) set of memberships that he draws from for discounts, while I stick to my standards list of partners as well. These include American Express, Costco, and even some loyalty programs – but that’s a blog for another time. If I can’t find it among that group, it may not be accessible.
What I will say in favor of AAA is that their discount list is long. But trying to find a discount from the Auto Club either requires diving into (yet another) book of lists, or a confusing search on a poorly designed website. Once again, AAA is a victim of technology: until it catches up, the value of my membership is hard to actualize.
Over-The-Road Benefits from Other Paths
AAA is (arguably) best known for their promise of roadside assistance. In fact, there was a point-in-time when the Auto Club was the name to know for stranded drivers. Yet today, service is hard to get by calling: either the phone agents can’t find you in the world, or you may be qualified as a lesser priority depending on your location.
With a number of other memberships offering me roadside service, holding a AAA membership for this purpose alone seems redundant. I also have roadside service through my auto insurance company and American Express. If all else fails, I can use urgent.ly to hail a tow truck Uber-style for assistance. The app uses my GPS location to not only call a tow truck, but also estimate the costs of service. With all these services on demand, why do I need to pay an annual fee as well?
In short: AAA used to be an incredibly valuable membership that could help travelers across a number of needs. Today, AAA feels like the great-grandparents of travel service: archaic, frustrated, and trying desperately to hold on to the way things used to be. With a number of options available to me for my travel services, I have decided to let my membership lapse. That $56.50 is better spent towards my next adventure, wherever it may be.
How do you feel about AAA? Have you pulled the plug, or are you holding on to your membership? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!