Architectural details on the exterior of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Support & Save: Reciprocal Museum Membership

Whenever my husband and I travel, it is a foregone conclusion that we will go to the art museum(s) in the city. I like art. He likes art. It makes sense and we enjoy it immensely. And it is by way of our love of art museums that I have found a great way to save money visiting museums with a reciprocal museum membership. Art museums can be expensive despite being well worth the cost. With a reciprocal membership, we’re able to enjoy admission to museums across the country without opening our wallets. (Except to show our membership cards, that is.)

Not only that, but a museum membership is a great way to put your money where your mouth is and support your local museums!

What is a Reciprocal Museum Membership?

First and foremost, a museum membership should be an act of support for your local museum. I can’t stress that enough. Many museums that offer memberships tend to have varying levels of support for you to choose from. Often there is a less expensive level for students or individuals and a higher level for couples or families. Generally, the more money you donate, the higher level of membership you can get.

And the higher levels of membership offer more benefits, often with greater value. Among the benefits that some museums offer is reciprocal membership. This benefit offers the member free admission at a select number of museums.

My husband and I, for example, are members of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Since we live just outside of the city and frequently visit the museum, it makes a lot of sense. It also means we’re able to contribute and do our part to guarantee the museum’s future.

Among the benefits at the art museum’s Keystone Level supporter is reciprocal admission to more than 50 museums in North America across the United States and Canada. That includes major national art museums like New York City‘s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

When we travel, we simply show our museum membership card instead of reaching into our wallets. Instead, we’re able to spend some of the money we saved in the museum gift shop or for a break in the museum cafe.

Using Reciprocal Benefits

An extra benefit to being a member? At some museums, you can use the members’ museum admission desk. This is especially valuable, as anyone knows, at the Met. The line just to buy tickets can seem neverending, especially during peak travel season like in the summer. By using the members’ desk, you can effectively jump to the front of the line. You’re saving time as well as money.

Of course, not every museum offers a reciprocal membership. Nor may the ones that do be of particular interest to you. So it is important to do your homework based on your area: which museums are nearby and which offer the reciprocal museum membership. Some of the museums our membership provides access to don’t charge admission.

The North American Reciprocal Museum (NARM) Association can help you to find museums in your area that participate in such a reciprocal membership program. Their network includes not just art museums but botanical gardens, children’s museums, zoos, and many other types of cultural institutions. Museum members are across North America in the United States, Canada, Bermuda, El Salvador, and Mexico.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the initial membership fee. In addition to being a great way to support your local museum, membership fees are largely tax-deductible.

Save Money Traveling

It is no secret that saving money only counts if it is something you want. All those grocery store coupons for cat food do not really help your wallet if you only have a dog, right? The same is true with money-saving travel tips. Nearly every major city has one or more of those travel cards offering free or discounted admission to popular attractions. So consider your travel habits and if a reciprocal membership makes sense for your personal travel style.

All photos, as well as opinions, are my own.

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