How to Get Free or Cheap Museum Admission

Try getting a deal through your bank, the local library or other affiliations.
Lauren Schwahn
By Lauren Schwahn 
Edited by Kirsten VerHaar
How to Get Free or Cheap Museum Admission

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A trip to the museum can deliver a much-needed dose of history and culture; after all, you can’t get up close and personal with dinosaur bones or Vincent van Gogh’s expressive brush strokes just anywhere.

Accessing precious artwork, artifacts and experiences might seem like it could put a strain on your budget, but there are ways to avoid or alleviate the cost.

Here’s how you can visit a museum for free or cheap.

Reserve tickets with your library card

Looking to explore the art and culture in your community? In cities like Seattle and Boston, you can get free passes to local museums through the public library system. This usually requires nothing more than a valid library card and a quick phone call or visit to your library’s website to set up.

Take advantage of bank or credit union benefits

Some financial institutions give their customers free or discounted museum entry. Through the “Museums on Us” program, Bank of America credit or debit card holders who show their credit or debit card and a photo ID can get free general admission to select museums during the first full weekend each month.

Not a Bank of America member? Check with your financial institution to see if there’s a similar offer available to you.

Visit on a day with free or reduced admission

Check the calendar before you plan a trip. Many museums allow visitors for little or no charge on certain days or during certain hours. General admission to the de Young and Legion of Honor museums in San Francisco, regularly $15 each, is free every Saturday for city residents with ID and free for everyone on the first Tuesday of every month.

Other places, such as the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., and the Getty Center in Los Angeles, are always free.

Look for flexible pricing policies

Museum prices aren't always set in stone. You can sometimes pay less by booking your ticket ahead of time. For example, you’ll save $3 per ticket to Boston’s Museum of Science when you buy at least one day in advance of your visit.

Museums occasionally have suggested retail prices but offer you the opportunity to "pay what you wish." This is true at the American Museum of Natural History in New York if you purchase at the ticket counter, for example. It never hurts to read the fine print.

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Use military, senior or other discounts

As is often the case at movie theaters and retail shops, some museums offer patrons discounts based on age, job or other criteria. Those with military, teacher, student, senior or other status can often catch a break. Ask specific locations about special rates you might qualify for and be prepared to show the proper verification, such as a driver’s license or military ID, upon entry.