Heels First Travel describes getting AAA membership just for the hotel discounts.
And that’s exactly what I do.
Hilton sometimes has decent AAA rates, though I usually book their MVP rates.
At Hyatt, where I stay somewhat frequently, AAA rates are usually approximately the same as prepaid rates but which are cancellable. I’m nearly allergic to non-cancellable hotel rates, unless I’m getting a monster discount such as order of magnitude 50% off via Priceline. I’m usually not willing to book a non-refundable rate for a mere 10% off unless it’s exceptionally close to check-in. So the AAA rate deal is worthwhile to me, I capture the savings while maintaining the flexibility. And after 3-5 room nights booked this way I break even on my annual membership.
Now I can’t say I’ve ever been ‘carded’ or asked by a hotel to prove that I am a AAA member.
But an actual membership makes things a bit easier, the Hyatt and Hilton websites require you to enter your AAA number when making a booking (although I’ve never been asked for my AAA number when booking offline with Hyatt).
Presumably I could grab the savings most of the time without actually coming out of pocket for the membership, just as many people use corporate discount codes at hotels without actually working for the company that negotiated the discount. That works in the U.S. most of the time, and it’s very rare that anyone is asked to prove they work for a specific company (although one hotel chain did used to ‘card’ employees of a large 3-letter corporation at their Vegas hotel properties because the rates were so low). In Asia, though, I hear of corporate rate eligibility being verified quite regularly.
I don’t especially value AAA, I used it quite frequently in my first couple of years as a driver since my first cars cost less than $1500 and broke down frequently. (My very first car was a Renault Alliance with electrical problems that cost ~ $750, purchased wholesale. It was almost worth the price paid for it.) When I first moved across country after college AAA printed out a “trip-tic” set of directions for me to follow. That was quickly replaced by MapQuest. And of course you used to be able to purchase money orders from them at no fee, part of a great mileage earning strategy back in the day.
Today I give them my membership fee and I take my hotel discount and really don’t engage with them in any way.