*UPDATED* You can shop at Costco WITHOUT a membership!


This post was written just a month shy of 3 years ago, it’s been one of the most popular posts on TFF still getting daily visits!  I’ve heard mixed reviews from readers (as you can see in the comments) about whether or not it worked for them, is still working, etc.  However just this weekend a reader named Celeste left a comment saying that Costco verifys that you CAN use a Costco Gift Card to shop their store WITHOUT a membership!  Are you ready for this?  Head on over to their website and see it for yourself…

Costco has created another convenient way for members to pay for their purchases: The Costco Cash card. 

You must be a Costco member to purchase or reload Costco Cash Cards.  Members and non-members may use the cash cards to shop at any Costco location in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and online at Costco.com or on Costco.ca. Costco Cash balances may be used toward membership or merchandise.

Here’s the original post I wrote back on April 28th, 2010:

I had heard this from many people so I decided to go into Costco yesterday to verify it, sure enough it’s true!  I asked at the customer service desk if this was true and the lady said absolutely and began to tell me the ins & outs.  It was verified by several people behind the counter as she asked them for a few specific details.

Here is how you do it:

Purchase a Costco Cash Card (gift card) at the Customer Service desk, must be a minimum of $25.00.  Use that gift card as your “member’s card” to get into the store. Shop as you normally would. When you go to pay, you pay first with your gift card but any remaining balance must be paid with cash or debit (no American Express). That’s it! You’ve just shopped at Costco for free and saved the $50 a year membership fees.  Of course you don’t get the Costco Member benefits, cheap gas, etc but your items are still protected under Costco’s very generous return policy.

UPDATE: It’s been brought to my attention that you must be a Costco member to purchase a cash card, but the rest of the shopping trip remains the same.  So give a friend or family member some cash and you’re set!  You could consider asking them to purchase (4) $25 cash cards to use on separate shopping trips.  Then buy them lunch for being so kind.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This is exactly why I love my readers!  Reading through the comments I’ve learned that you CAN buy gas with a cash card and you can also purchase liquor and use the pharmacy to fill prescriptions, all without a membership!   You DO NOT need any type of card to enter the store if you’re using the pharmacy or purchasing liquor, it’s prohibited by law to require membership for those services.

Our family DOES have a membership and this is why we bought one.  With that said you need to know how to use it wisely.  Here are a few of my most recent Costco shopping tips and tricks posts:

  1. Everything You Need to Make 20 Meals at Costco For $150 & Utilize Your Slow Cooker
  2. This OR That? The Ketchup Edition.
  3. Tips for Saving Money by Buying BULK Canned Foods at Costco
  4. My Costco Kid’s Lunchbox Snack Ideas – $0.25 or less per serving!
  5. (Updated List!) Items I would NEVER buy at Costco…
  6. (Updated List!) Items I WILL buy at Costco…
  7. How to find Clearance items at Costco

Have you tried this?  I’d love to hear your experiences!


  1. says

    While you are right, however, when you don’t have a coupon, Costco can defiantely be cheaper than some places. There are a few things, I have actually broken down the prices for somethings to determine which is cheaper and which is not. Thanks for the FYI!

  2. Ryann says

    I’ve never heard this but THANK YOU!! There’s a couple times a year when I need to buy a lot of meat or paper products or something and I have to have someone pick something up at Costco for me whenever they happen to be there. This will save me a lot of phone calls next time I throw a party!

  3. andilu says

    Wow, thanks for the great tip!
    We stocked up a few months ago right before our membership expired, and allowed it to lapse. We are a small family, so didn’t use it for too much (tp, cat litter, mexican coke, gas & sometimes liquor). How great to know that we can still pop in a few times a year and stock up!
    I think the thing i miss most is getting my $1.35 fro yo after shopping! :) And of course the free samples :)

  4. says

    I didn’t know about this! It sounds like a great option who only want to use it occasionally.

    I agree though that the prices are not the best for those of us that are coupon/sale shoppers. The few things I have found worth getting there are:

    2lb cheese blocks… generally priced at $4.29-$4.69 for cheddar

    I Can’t Believe Its Not Butter tubs. I think around $7 for 5lbs
    (I bought a bunch at safeway on sale and with coupons and with a catalina and it was still cheaper at costco)

    Lemons: a whole bag for $3-$4 versus $1 each at the grocery store


  5. SueBee says

    Wow, that is GREAT information! Thanks for checking that out and sharing the scoop with us! I do still shop enough at Costco that with my Executive Membership, I end up paying only about $20-$30 per year for the membership, because I get the rebate check back. As I’ve learned couponing, I now know there are definitely things that I didn’t realize are almost NEVER cheaper at Costco- cereal being a big one- but others that are an unbeatable value. Gift items and books are always a great value. Also I like to bake and I have yet to find a better price on pure vanilla extract than I can get at Costco! Sugar and flour are items I never see coupons for, and I use a lot, so I buy those at Costco. Cheese, frozen chicken breasts, fresh bagels, romaine lettuce & usually other fruits & veggies too, are all the things I find to be the best value at Costco.

    Can’t you use the Costco cash cards at the gas pumps, too?

  6. says

    great info! thx!
    Just had to share.. the case of rice milk is 50% cheaper than buying individual boxes at the regular store though & almond butter for the huge jar is CHEAP!

  7. Wayne Landana says

    This is good info, thanks. One thing I like about Costco is their quality far exceeds many other retailers. For example, their meat department has consistently quality cuts of meat that are cheaper and much better tasting than Safeway.

    • Meat Quality says

      Actually, while Costco revieves their meat shipments every 2nd-3rd day and the majority of which are already in pre-cute portion sizes for t-bone, strip, flank and other common cuts of meat, safeway recieves their meat daily and in larger cuts meaning that the certified butcher (not meat department counter attendant, but a REAL BUTCHER) then makes the quality cuts from the much larger half-cow portion that is shipped. Not only does this promote employment at Safeway instead of Costco’s approach of having these steps pre-done at the factory, but also yields superior quality and texture to the meat from Safeway, beef, poultry, pork etc. alike.

      • Another vote for Costco's Meat Quality says

        I shop pretty much exclusively at Safeway (proximity to home) and Costco (prices). I have a hard time believing that Safeway has better cuts of meat. This is the 3rd time I’ve moved and oddly, the 3rd time Safeway has been the closest store to my apartment. In each and every case, I’d take Costco meat over Safeway. No exceptions. What you say may be true (with the exception of quality and texture).

        The only place I know that rivals Costco on meats is Whole foods. I think Whole foods may be slightly better, but you can’t beat the price and quality of Costco.

    • Nancy says

      They have their own coupons that come out every month or so, like now is .09 photo prints, diapers, etc…

  8. Kate says

    This is so interesting! Thanks for sharing! I am a member, but agree that some things are not better deals – you do have to watch. Some are though and the best deals are when Costco sends you coupons.

  9. Janine says

    We love costco! We are a large family and have found that because of the quantity we buy Costco ends up being our cheaper option. We are in there almost every week it seems. I agree with SueBee on the vanilla. It is the best vanilla we have ever used! We also get a rebate check and this year I’m paying $30 for my membership. I save more than that just buying Kirkland brand diapers and wipes.

  10. Tiffany M says

    Yes, my parents use the Costco Cash card at the gas pumps. In fact they ONLY fill up at Costco with their Cash Card :)

  11. Angela says

    Other things I’ve found cheaper at Costco, besides the gas, is great Santa Cruz Sour Dough bread, cheese (mozerella & grated), Noah’s bagels, kid’s Cliff bars, bannanas, & Costco coffee for $9.99 for 2.5 lbs (which works out to $4 per 12 oz) is cheaper than Starbucks on sale this week for 4.50 for 12 oz at Safeway.

  12. says

    I have a large family and I also have an executive membership and I pay nothing for the membership because of the rebate check, it pays for itself and then some. For me it’s a great deal because of the coupons I get monthly from Costco as well. They save me a ton. But I also buy big ticket things from there. This year I’ve bought a Nikon camera, a shed, a picnic table, a computerized sewing machine, etc… and now I’m looking at a rather large swingset. So in my case it pays.

    I will definitely be passing this on to my sister though, she has a smaller family and although there are things that are cheaper for them, it doesn’t work out the same for them to have a membership and not just because of the quantity but also because of the location, they have to travel a ways to get to a Costco. This will likely be a perfect option for them.

    Thanks for sharing.

  13. Sarah says

    So, to all you executive members- I was told when I signed up that if my rebate from the % cash back was under $100, they round it up to $100, essentially making the membership free. Is that not true?

    Regardless, there are definitely things there that are cheaper (cheese, bananas, Tree Top apple juice) and some that are definitely not (cereal- holy cow!). I still won’t buy diapers there because they are so much cheaper at the drugstores with sales/coupons. And if you look at the price per diaper on the Kirkland brand vs the Huggies brand at Costco they are the same. I’ve never understood that!

      • Nancy says

        We’ve never paid a membership fee at all. We always get more than $100 back on our rebate. This year we got about $160. Everything is not cheaper at costco. You have to look and buy the things that will save your family money.

    • Alicia says

      Sarah – No, they don’t bump up the rebate, but they will refund the difference between regular Gold Star membership and Executive. I think it’s $45? So if you paid $100 for Executive but only got a $15 rebate, they’d refund the difference ($100-$45-$15=$40 refund).

    • Lyndi A says

      The diaper difference, even though they are the same price per diaper – The Huggies are the “regular” type, versus the Kirkland Signature diapers are “supreme”. I’ve purchased both depending on which is currently on Costco coupon, and prefer the Kirkland brand FAR over the Huggies because of their fit, comfort, and they’ve never leaked on me! Also – the Kirkland brand always has more diapers per box – giving you more time in between trips to stock up on diapers! P.S. Their size 1-2’s are excellent! I buy newborn diapers with coupons at other stores, then as quickly as I can, switch to the Kirkland 1-2 size!

  14. Yolanda says

    What I am wondering is how you were able to enter the store to purchase the gift card without a membership. A few years ago, my husband and I went to the Costco in Concord to inquire about their memberships. An older gentlemen in front of the doors told us that if we wanted to go inside we had to have a membership. We told him that we wanted to go to the service desk to ask about what membership options were available. He said that we could ask our employers or check online, but without a membership we could not enter the store. Needless to say, I have boycotted this place ever since.

    • Julie says

      That is bull! You can tell them you just want to go in to eat and you don’t have to show your card. I would have asked to speak to a manager or something.

    • Tina says

      I also have boycotted Costco when they wouldn’t let me in to pick up my pictures at the time THEY said to pick them up because the entrance time for my card was an hour later. The guy at the door was extremely rude about it – so much so that I promptly wrote a letter of complaint to the manager and cc’d corporate on it. In the end they blew me off big time so I canceled my membership and have never looked back.

    • Sarah says

      I NEVER show my card when I go in. Ever. And legally they have to let anyone in who wants to go in because they have a pharmacy. Pharmacies are not allowed to discriminate based on memberships. So Anyone, member or not can use the pharmacy.

    • angelica says

      I think I know who you are talking about. This older gentleman does not work there anymore. Back when they had extended hours for the executive members, I arrived at 9:55 and he refused to let me in and told me I should upgrade. He really pushed that membership and was a jerk about it.

  15. Kevin says

    Costco is so cheap on some items that it’s actually cheaper to buy in bulk and let half of it go to waste than to shop at a supermarket chain. We normally get a 2 pack of gallon jugs of milk and 1 person can never finish it all. At the price they sell it for you can let a whole gallon go to waste and still come out ahead.

    • Danae says

      Sam’s Club does it differently…they one price for members and another higher price for non-members. You don’t have to have a membership there, but you will pay more which negates the benefits for the most part pf going there.

      • Anonymous says

        That’s not true. There isn’t a different price for members and hasn’t been in a very long time. You do have to be a member to shop at Sam’s but during the holidays they’ll have some shopping days for non-members but the prices are the same.

      • RJ says

        That’s not true. Sam’s hasn’t had different prices for members and non-members in many years! You do have to be a member to shop at Sam’s but they’ll have 1 day passes sometimes but the prices are the same for everyone.

      • LovestoShop says

        You can shop at Sam’s without a membership. You have to go to Customer Service for a day pass. However, you pay a 10% upcharge for not being a member.

  16. Tina says

    Prior to my membership, Costco allows a one day pass membership which I have used a couple of times through the years without paying a the full membership price.

  17. Susan says

    Well that is interesting! I assumed you needed a membership to buy a gift card. My mom is a member and buys me a $25 gift card and I go in as a non-member and they have a special card they scan at the register for me to use the gift card and I pay the balance with my AmEx.

    I’m glad to know I could just walk in and buy a gift card myself now! Going to try that soon. Thanks for the tip.

  18. Lisa @ The Spot To Save says

    WOW – this is great news. So many people have had to cut luxuries like warehouse memberships. I linked you in a post about this. Thanks!

  19. Debster says

    I get my priscriptions at Cosco, you DON’T need a membership card to get priscriptions, (or liquor, or cigerettes but who needs them, anyway?;-) ) I guess by law they can’t make you have a card for those things, and do not mark up the med’s. I fill one at Cosco for $19.00. I was having to pay OVER $120.00 at C.V.S!! So worth it..

  20. Sarah P says

    From what I know this TOTALLY works, BUT any “coupon deals” that members get…you do not. Ex: I can save $9 on diapers & wipes (combo) as a member and it scans automatically with a membership, but non-members pay the regular price.

  21. says

    Costco is awesome for diapers! Every couple of months or so they issue diaper coupons that allow me to get $9 off my Huggies or in some cases the Costco brand of diapers. Can’t beat it! Their baby formula is also an incredible price and way way cheaper than I have found it anywhere else.
    I agree also about Costco meats – they are high-quality and usually a good price. We always get our frozen chicken breasts there.
    Not everything there is a good deal, but our membership is worth it for the baby and kid stuff:)

  22. Christina says

    Awesome – I was debating on whether or not to renew my membership which we bought for major purchases like my Dyson Animal – best price hands down (but that was a couple years ago) and our treadmill. Their baby wipes are great and that’s all I really go there for now, cash cards it is!! Thanks so much :)

    • Christina says

      Now I just heard that if you do not have a membership they charge you an extra 10% at checkout – using a cash card. Hmmm. Seems like membership is worth it for some but not for everyone, ah well.

  23. Christi says

    My favorite Costco buys are Ground Cinnamon and Vanilla, way cheaper than any of the grocery stores. Since I’m a big baker, I use a lot. But I did find that the Wal-mart brand wipes are about the same price as the Costco ones and I don’ t have to shell out so much at once or store all the extras.

  24. Mary Acuna says

    One of the reasons I love Costco is because you can get an American Express Card with no annual membership fee due to Amex. Then what I do is charge everything I would normally pay cash for and send the payment (via my online banking) the next day. Amex gives you a yearly rebate that you can cash (which is hard to sometimes)…Anywho, needless to say, my $400 rebate for just shopping as I normally would was a veryyyy nice perk. Only downfall I can see, is you have to be very disciplined and not just go credit crazy. Make sure you send in those payments the next day cuz their apr is in the 20% range.

    • Tanya says

      You don’t have to pay the same day to avoid the finance charges. As long as you pay off the whole bill at the end of the month you don’t get any charges tacked on. I’ve been doing that for years :) Used to use my MC but now my AmEx from Costco.

  25. Mary Acuna says

    …which is hard to [see]…Sorry, left out the “See”. Its not hard to cash, its hard to see cuz its in the fine print. :)

  26. Carrie W says

    Yolanda, that is strange and I’ve never come across that. If I had to guess, I’d say you were dealing with employee on a power trip. The Costco I frequent has the customer service desk near the EXIT and we just explained to the door checker that we were there to see about getting a membership. We were directed to the exit door and let right it. And there have been other times I’ve gone “in the out door”, to grab the coupon booklet from CS, or to hit the food court, and was never asked for my membership card.
    Since beginning to coupon, I’ve debated letting my Costco membership go. I started keeping a list of what we still buy there, and the answer was clear – KEEP the card!! My husband is a beer snob, and just what we save on his pricier brands pays for the membership in a year! Heck, at a consistent $.33/lb, I think we save enough just on bananas to pay for it! Plus, as other have mentioned, the discount on books and magazines, clothes can be a great deal there, and I LOVE the $1.35 fro-yo! We may spend/buy/go there a lot less than we used to, but the membership still pays for itself many times over by the end of the year!

  27. Melanie says

    You can use your debit/visa /mastercard @ Costco.. but would but still need need a membership card to get gas, or it will not work..just like Sams’s you put your membership card in, then it asks for payment.. if anyone knows anyway around this let me know..

  28. Leslie says

    My MIL pays the fee and I get a card, but I rarely go now, that I Q :) Q = coupon and for me, its a VERB :) LOL

  29. Susannah says

    THIS IS SO AWESOME!! I didn’t purchase a membership this year, because it did not work out to a savings for me…but there are just a few things that I prefer to buy at Costco. For instance, I can’t get garbage bags cheap with coupons, for some reason, so I like getting a huge box that doesn’t run out for a long while. Also, I love the taste of their spices…especially the cinnamon. And the store brand of jelly bellies are a great deal around Easter when the coupons come out.

    I am SO glad I can still shop at Costco for those few things I like to buy there!

  30. Kristina says

    Thanks for the tips! I have definitely noticed that not everything is a better deal there, so I shop very carefully and try not to get swept away but something that looks like a good deal but isn’t. I don’t have the discipline or organizational skills to do a lot of couponing at the moment, so a few trips a year to Costco are totally worth the membership fee to me. Are Costco gift cards sold outside of Costco? If I can buy them at, say, Walgreen’s, then I may give up the membership. I like getting their coupons in the mail though (did you know you only have to bring one in, and all qualifying items you buy will be discounted?), and if we’re planning a big-ticket buy (bought a TV this year) it’s worth the Executive membership so that I can get the rebate at year end. Still, I appreciate this information!

  31. Gabi says

    Even some things that cost more are worth it, just because of the peace of mind, especially electronics. Some things now have a 3 months limit, like computers, TV’s, cameras, etc. But even then, what other place can you buy a computer, take it back 2 months later and not pay a restocking fee?

    I bought my Dyson at Costco. I could have gotten it on sale $30-$40 cheaper elsewhere, BUT if my $450 Dyson broke down in 1 yr (which HAS happened to me, I’m screwed – and I did try contacting their customer service numerous times and was put on infinite hold). So I was able to take it right back to Costco and get another one, a year later.

    Though usually electronics are cheaper AND better quality. Not all brands are created equally. We just got a 46″ Flat screen LCD Toshiba at Costco for $700. Not only is it an awesome deal, I can guarantee you, the quality of a Toshiba sold at Costco, is 100% better than a Toshiba sold at Walmart, it’s just not the same Toshiba, that is an industry fact.

    Because of Walmarts cut throat tactics, that leaves companies no choice but to make cuts at the production level to be able to continue selling their products there, Walmart doesn’t care about the quality of products sold in their stores.

    Whereas Costco also tries to get the best prices possible for their members, they make sure it’s not at the expense of quality. It’s a fine like that they walk. In recent years, I have noticed a big reduction of packaging on items at Costco, which is a savings right there (and better for the environment to boot).

    I *heart* Costco

  32. Anonymous says

    If you spend enough money at Costco you don’t pay for your executive membership as you get money back at the end of the year to cover your cost of the card and them some.

  33. kate says

    I was told that only members can buy Costco gift cards. If so, I still need someone with a membership to buy a card for me. Has anyone without a membership actually had success buying a card?

  34. Anonymous says

    Hey even trader joes is cheaper for some items. It really depends on what your looking for. Theres plenty of stuff at costco worth buying for the price as long as you have enough space to store the extra.

  35. Kathryn says

    I see from the comments that what I’m going to say won’t go over very well…..but it just doesn’t seem quite moral to me. If you want to shop at Costco, why should you be exempt from the membership fee? i.e., why should all the “suckers” (pardon the term) who play by the rules and buy the membership subsidize your good deals?
    Just a thought….

    • Patty says

      I agree with you, Kathryn. And I just want to add a note about how the employees can be so rude. Very rarely, have I come across an employee with even a bare minimum of customer service.

    • says

      I do see what you’re saying Kathryn but it’s set up this way by Costco and we aren’t able to participate in many of the member advantages this way either. Plus it’s not limited, as of right now anyone can shop at Costco this way. I don’t see it as a moral issue at all – Costco is the one offering a way to shop at their stores without a membership. Now if I were giving you details on how to get around the rules and also saying that Costco didn’t endorse or support it, that would be a moral issue. That is why I went to my local store to verify.

  36. Susan says

    I agree with the above poster about the membership but I’ve learned that each person has their own morality indicator and I let them do their own thing!

    We always make back what we pay for Executive Membership. Here in Phoenix we have a Business Costco which is slightly different than the regular clubs. Here you can get items for convenience stores and restaurants and it is Super Cheap! You can get 5# lettuce chopped for 2.99, at the super sale this week it’s 1.99 I think. You can get gourmet salad packs of 4 for lots less than the store…cream half gallon for 2.49, case of tomatoes for 5.99 and these are excellent looking tomatoes….We get Thrifty brand ice cream 3 gallons for $12 (have you ever had it? OMG) GALLONS, not what they sell in the grocery store!

    Liquor is way cheaper, garbage bags, etc. Meat there you can buy restaurant quality much cheaper than the store. I buy the leanest, most wonderful pork roasts for $1.99 a pound.

    So see if your area is big enough to have a Business Costco. Wow!

  37. Andrea Q says

    Interesting. It seems strange that you could purchase one of their cards without a membership, but stranger things have happened!

    I’ve found that the membership pays for itself rather quickly with the savings on organic meat, carrots, organic milk, bananas and garbage bags. I rarely get coupons for those things. I buy toilet paper there, too, because I like knowing we’re not going to run out! :)

  38. Linds says

    I’ve noticed (maybe it’s just here in HI) that the coupons don’t make it a better price even at Costco- I can get it less when it’s not in the booklet- they mark up the price when it’s in the book!

    • Anonymous says

      I agree with Linds…I’ve notice it too on some items. Retailers marked up their prices when there is a coupon or sale. I am very conscious shopper and making sure I’m getting the best deal. In addition to all the other stuff mention above, I think the refills for the Phillips sonic toothbrush is still cheaper there. Thanks for posting this info…good to know.

  39. Wendy says

    Don’t you need to scan your member card to pay like you do at Sams and BJs? How do you get around this?

  40. Kristy says

    Gabi – what you say about Walmart is right on. They do have cut throat tactics, and as women we should be more concerned about how they are treating their employees – less pay for their female employees????? Why? so we can get cheaper product, made at below standard level? Hasn’t any one ever noticed that almost everything in Walmart is made in China? How does that help our economy, and OUR pockets in the long haul????

    • Elizabeth Campbell says

      Longtime female Walmart employee and now manager for over ten years. Years ago females did get paid a lower wage just like at a lot of places WM only got a lot of bad press because of a handful of bad managers times have changed in every WM in the world they have strict pay structrues set in place and they can not be modified both sexes get paid the same for their starting rate. It’s up to the indvidual for performance levels to increase it’s pretty simple if you perform your level of pay increases.

  41. beth says

    Just so you know, you do have to be a member to purchase a cash card. I work for Costco and that is corporate policy, if the warehouse is selling cash cards to non members, that will come to a halt as soon as corporate finds out.

  42. Sandi says

    At our local COSTCO, you can only purchase gasoline after inserting your COSTCO card at pump, then debit…

  43. Jeff Dawson says

    The $50.00 Costco charges for an annual fee is worth it. You get that back quickly from the coupons they send to your home or any sizable purchase. A set of 4 tires for me was over $100 cheaper than elsewhere. Without a Membership number, you can’t shop on line either. I bought my wife, no kidding, 100 long stem roses for $80.00, delevered to our doorstep. There’s many many advantages of being a paying memmbe and even if you shop there a handful of times, you get it all back. Pay $100 a year and you get 2% back on your purchases… It takes $2500 in annual purchases though to offset the extra $50.

  44. Mindy says

    I have not read all the posts but I am not really sure why everyone raves and thinks Costco is so cheap . About a year ago my best friend and I got really serious about groceries and our finances. I have 2 boys ( one being a teenager ) and she has 4 kids total.
    We compared everything we bought on a weekly basis to SAMS Club as well as the grocery store and Costco was not only higher than the grocery store it was MUCH higher than Sams. Now I dont know if this depends on what area you live in . But Costco coupons or not is so much more expensive.

    • Mindy says

      I will say I agree w/ Gabi , I have heard Costco has great deals on electronics and i have heard good things about the warranties and exchange policies on the electronics .

  45. Danielle says

    Thanks for all the great info. I think price comparison (Costco v. local store) can vary from city to city or even state to state. We used to live in CA and Costco was a big help since prices in some areas are ridiculous. We then moved to Idaho and Costco only has minor savings on few items compared to the stores here. :-)

  46. Heather says

    For many of the items/brands we use, my other choice besides Costco would NOT be a regular store or Wal-Mart, but would more likely have to be Whole Paycheck. I LOVE Costco. For the past 2 years, I have lived where there was Costco, but no Sam’s Club. Now that I am back where both are available to me, I’ve been comparing the two–and Sam’s comes up WAY, WAY short. For example: if Sam’s Club has, say, a 5-pound bag of frozen corn, the 5-pound bag of frozen corn at Costco will be organic frozen corn, and the price will be the same or nearly so. Sam’s is less than a mile from me, and Costco is 25 miles, and the Costco trip is still much more worthwhile. Quality is lots, lots better.
    Don’t knock Trader Joe’s, though, either. There are quite a few things on which they are cheaper than just about anyone. One that we buy is brown rice pasta–which costs at least twice as much as anywhere else. And the TJ’s pasta still comes in 16 oz bags, where I’ve noticed that all the regular grocery store pastas (rice or otherwise) have been raising their prices by shrinking the amount in the package.
    I actually don’t do much with food coupons because I find it cheaper to shop Costco, Trader Joe’s, a bulk buying co-op (such as Azure Standard), and a farmer’s market than it is to buy the things we use with coupons at a regular grocery store. It’s also less time-consuming than still going to those places (as all have things that I would never find as cheap in a regular store) & including regular grocery stores in my shopping. I do sometimes hit a regular store if the loss leader sales are really good, but that’s about all I buy.

  47. mamacoups says

    Some issues have been brought to your attention except for the major parts….. If a supervisor/manager keeps coming over and keyin’ in a misc account so you can buy items (with a cash card/no membership) they will soon deny your shopping and ask that you get a membership card…. Costco doesnt make money off of their products, only on membership cards…

    Also about the return policy, they do not garuntee the same policy for non memebers. You are not a member so technically they dont have to take anything back from you… The satisfaction is for current costco members.

    FYI… Also non members can not redeem coupons since the coupons are only for current costco members… The coupon part even says it on the back of the actual coupon….

    Not all Regions are the same, not ALL costcos take ebt cards, wherever you are calls yours. Some Regions do and some do not.

    Not all Regions take this “one day pass”. Or even have it offered, i have heard some midwest stores have them…

    I know all this because I work for the company…

    To some people talking about prices. Look at the unit price, thats what really counts.

    • CH says

      It is not true that “Costco doesnt make money off of their products, only on membership cards…” Costco’s average gross margins are 30%. The membership card serves a few purposes: first, it is a profit center. Secondly, and more importantly, it is way to get people to buy-in and shop there more often. The members want to “get their money’s worth” and thus go out of their way to go to Costco more than they would if there was no membership. The third major benefit has to deal with Costco dealing with suppliers. Because the store is not open to the general public, they can convince some suppliers to take lower margins on specially-package (large quantity) items that make their regular-store offerings look embarrassingly overpriced.

  48. Janet says

    Before the update was posted about needing to be a member to purchase a gift card, I went over to Costco and told the girl at the entrance I needed to purchase a gift card. She told me to go into the store and go to a register. I stood in line for 20 minutes only to be told you indeed need to be a member to purchase gift cards. The cashier also spoke to me like I was a little naive to think I could do that without being a member “If everyone could do that no one would be buying memberships: that is what we do. Sell memberships.” I did think it was too good to be true though! But I thought when I read that Julia was told the “ins and outs” something like that would have been asked or told to her. It was a mistake is all. Then I thought about having a friend buy me a gift card once in a while but now after reading a couple comments, afraid they will tell via computer that I am doing that over and over and stop me. Probably not worth it for me to spend more useless time. Maybe some day I will get a membership.

    • CH says

      I have always been able to beat Costco’s CL prices by buying online. Costco’s prices are not even close.

      • Sharon says

        Costco’s contact lenses are much cheaper even than buying them online. I have two daughters that wear contacts and have definitely shopped around. If you buy the bigger package of contacts not the single boxes you can save a bundle.

  49. MaryK says

    Milk is cheaper at Aldi’s than at Costco, but the meat and cheese prices and quality are generally superior at Costco. The fruit is usually top notch, especially strawberries and most apples. We love their rotisserie chickens and whole grain artisan bread (in the paper bags). Bulk dried yeast for bread making is sold at our local Costco for about $4 a 2-lb bag-the price of a few quarter ounce envelopes at other stores. You can store dried yeast in the freezer for at least a year. For most other groceries I shop around.

  50. Nancy says

    You should also know that there is a 5% surcharge added when non-members use the gift cards.

    As for what to buy at Costco, I can’t say enough about the beef. Most markets sell Select grade beef for more than Costco sells their Choice grade beef. It may not seem that the steaks are that much cheaper based on price alone, but the quality is so much better.

  51. Carolsue says

    Interesting! I find it amusing when I drive by Costco and see cars lined up 15 deep when the gas is only 2 cents a gallon cheaper than a couple other nearby stations. Wonder how much these people spend idling their car in line for 15 minutes? I do agree the prices aren’t that great especially since you can’t use coupons. Another tip for saving $$. For those of you who have a large Oriental Market near you (we have MANY), check their prices for staples like eggs and produce. I pay between 99 cents and $1.19 for JUMBO eggs there. Produce is way cheaper. And most of the meat is cheaper and of better quality, too.

    • CH says

      Not only is Costco gas often only 2-3 cents cheaper, you can only pay with AMEX, for which I get 2% cash back. But, I have a MasterCard that gives me 5% cash back on gas. At $3.50/gal the extra 3% cash back I get on my MC saves me 10.5 cents per gallon. Thus Costco gas is never a good deal.

    • CH says

      Note that Costco produce is a great deal when the produce is not in season, or when dealing with pre-packaged items, such as organic spring greens and organic baby spinach. But, when produce is in season, it’s on sale at the local grocery stores, and the same price year-round at Costco. When blueberries are in season, for example, they can be significantly less expensive at the regular grocery store.

  52. Ashlee says

    I wish Costco or Sams Club had house brand soy formula available! It really is a TON cheaper there. Well worth a yearly membership. But both only carry regular formula. We get our olive oil from Sams Club, it is a lot cheaper. Not worth getting a membership for, but it is worth having someone you know pick it up for you.

  53. Jane says

    Does anyone know what you can get for $50.00 at Costco? I have been lookng online, as the store in my town is rather a long drive. I have a gift certificate from Christmas 2009 and still haven’t used it. It seems to me that their prices are rather steep. I don’t need to buy in bulk as my immediate family is really small. Any suggestions?

    • Ism says

      I love the Kirkland camisoles. They come in a 2 pack for about $13. You’ll want about 3 different packs for 6 different colors. They are so comfortable.

  54. Vicki says

    While you can purchase prescriptions without a membership, you will not be able to purchase any over the counter items in the pharmacy without membership or the cash card. You can also check their prescription charges at their website and they are usually less expensive than other stores. We have found that some maintenance drugs are free for a 30 day supply when you would usually have a co-pay with insurance. We sometimes pay cash rather than a co-pay because it will be less.

    If you run into a rude employee, ask for a manager, it works wonders.

  55. Luke says

    You can also access the tire center if that is available at your Costco without a card, and you can further shop there as long as you have the booklet with your tire information.

  56. Kim says

    My Costco bill has definitely decreased since couponing, but I still know that when I plan a trip to Costco, I need to be prepared to spend about $100-150 (less if I leave the husband at home). I just took a trip to Grocery Outlet last week and thought I got a great deal on cheese (both of my kids LOVE cheese). Costco was still cheeper. There are definitely items that I will buy at Costco still. Cheese being one of them. We also love their croissants for breakfast sandwiches. Their cakes, while maybe not the best, are unbeatable when it comes to price.

    I try to wait for coupons to come out on items before buying. I recently stocked up on Pullups and wipes with a recent coupon for both at Costco. I never seem to be able to buy enough of these to get me through to the next sale due to limitations. Bottom line, I still love Costco, but I definitely walk through now with more knowledge on pricing and what I could “realistically” buy things for using coupons instead thank to The Frugal Find!

  57. Heather says

    I used to think the same as you that it is better to shop at costco than to use coupons. If you really do the coupling like she shares here on this site-most items will be way cheaper at other stores than costco.

    • CH says

      All depends on how much free time you have, and how you want to balance that free time between pinching pennies and other activities…

  58. Rose says

    There is no 5% surcharge for using the giftcard. I work there and tou may be able to enter the store without a membership card to get an rx or buy liquor but that is all you will be able to buy.

  59. Maltoo says

    We have the executive membership where we get cash back on purchases Costco has saved us over and beyond the cost of membership many times over. Well worth the investment IMHO.

  60. Sara Niffenegger via Facebook says

    their return policy is very nice, i returned a lunchbox that ripped and they had no issues i also returned a 3 year old printer that i had nothing but problems with, they asked if i wanted cash or store credit! I took store credit and bought a different printer 😀

  61. Sara Niffenegger via Facebook says

    their return policy is very nice, i returned a lunchbox that ripped and they had no issues i also returned a 3 year old printer that i had nothing but problems with, they asked if i wanted cash or store credit! I took store credit and bought a different printer 😀

  62. Dale Paris via Facebook says

    Facebook has just issued a statement saying that the known issues of slowness or timeouts while using the site should be resolved shortly.

  63. Dale Paris via Facebook says

    Facebook has just issued a statement saying that the known issues of slowness or timeouts while using the site should be resolved shortly.

  64. Terry says

    After the last time I read this, I called our local Costco and they told me that I can use giftcards without a membership withoout having to pay an extra fee. We sell their giftcards thru my school’s script program so I need to try this soon!

  65. says

    We’ve spent tons of $$ at Costco for so many years. Since I started couponing a few months back, we don’t buy everything there like we use to. We are getting smarter to what is a good price for a product and what is not. We did purchase a big TV a couple of years ago that was having a slight discoloration screen problem. I couldn’t see it, but my better than 20/20 vision husband can. Since we couldn’t return it because it was over their time frame, we called their concierge line and they were able to send somebody out to our house to look at it. They ended up taking away the TV to their shop to duplicate the problem and gave us a temporary replacement. When they brought back the TV, it still wasn’t corrected, so they ended up gaving us a new one. This was all done in less than a few weeks. Now that is worth the price for a membership. I don’t believe you can get service like that anywhere else! We are highy satisfied, we just wouldn’t buy their razors!!!

  66. Brandy Ament via Facebook says

    Bought a printer back in March from Costco. It goes through ink like CRAZY (not a good buy) went back to costco yesterday (without a receipt) and they refunded my money no questions asked. I have returned Bacon (because we didn’t like the taste) no questions asked either. They really do have the best return policy and customer service.

  67. Melissa Taylor via Facebook says

    We always buy the Executive Membership and we buy enough there all year that when they send us the rebate check it has covered the membership.

  68. Melissa Taylor via Facebook says

    Just to chime back in… With the Exec. Membership if you ever book travel sometimes you get a better deal and sometimes if a Costo Cash Card.

  69. Susanna Burke via Facebook says

    I’m a diehard Costco shopper but I gotta say- the last couple years the renewal fee has hit at JUST the wrong time and right now I cannot afford the membership. I’ll get it again when I can work it into the budget but things are just too squeaky tight right now.

  70. Susanna Burke says

    To update- I recently had a very thoughtful friend give me a couple of Costco cash cards because she knew I had to let my membership go. Turns out you can only get a minimum $25 card, not $10, which might be a new rule- BUT, it does work to shop with just the cash card and no membership! It was no problem at all. When I’m able to afford the membership again I will renew, but until then, this is a great option for me to still be able to buy those items that are just unbeatable deals at Costco!

  71. Lucy says

    While it’s always nice to pick up tricks to save money, please keep in mind that “gaming” the system just makes the system more expensive for others. Costco can offer the kind of discount they do because of the membership numbers and the associated fee.

    • tessa says

      I fail to find any kind of “discounts” at Costco on most of their products. If there happens to be a coupon for an item, the price still stings. just a little less.

  72. Kim says

    It should also be noted that while you don’t need a membership to fill your prescription at Costco if you do have one, your prescription will be even cheaper! You just have to fill out a card at the pharmacy and it’s on file…no extra card to carry around. :)

  73. says

    You can order a cash card online. Select the cash card amount of your choice. Click add to cart.
    Go to checkout. You will be asked to register. You do not have to join. In small writing is the following sentence:

    Note: Non-members pay an additional surcharge.

    You will be charged the surcharge which is about 5%. So a $25 cash card will cost you $26.25. Still a bargain over the $55 membership fee.

  74. Carolsue says

    What I find amusing is to drive by Costco and see cars lined up 10 deep for gas — I had checked the price of gas when I was in Costco so I know what the Arco down the street was only 2 cents more a gallon. Ok you save 25-50 cents if you do that, but how much have you spent sitting in line letting your car run for 10 minutes or more?

    I don’t really find Costco a big saver either, especially with just the two of us. But they do have some things I like so maybe I should consider the gift card option — I found about that myself when I asked if my husband could use my card to shop with (I gave my second card to my daughter.) She said, No, that I had to be there to pay since the card was in my name, but explained the gift card thing then. He also ordered glasses there and saved quite a bit and never had to show my card.

  75. Jeff says

    I will never purchase a membership (a.k.a. “the right to shop here”) so that I can spend my own money in their store. Costco’s products are not superior and most everything has been frozen for shipping. As far as electronics go, they do not carry high end models.

  76. Paul says

    I can’t understand why many of you think it’s okay to pay a store for the privelege of shopping in it. Some of the things you mention (price, quality of food, customer service) are, of course, important; however, that should be the case for most places that offer their services in exchange for your money. They should be priveleged by your custom, not the other way around.

  77. george says

    I agree with Paul.

    It’s just plain stupid to pay a corporation for the privilege of giving them your money.

    Support the local farmers and small mom and pop businesses that made America great. These greedy corporations are thriving because of stupid Americans that don’t truly care about the country or the people. Support people, not corporations. Save your silly membership fee and use that money locally.

    • Shane says

      The reason for the “silly membership fee” is because Costco on average only markes their products up 10-13% so they make moste of their profits off of the fees. As for supporting the small business and helping the local guy. I for one have rarely seen a family owned grocery store. And when I do they often offer sub par products at high prices. The only people who benefit from this small business is the owner and their family. As their employees often make minimum wage and many are part timed to avoid health care costs. Costco does order local products in huge quantities by the truck load where as the local guy may order one or two pallets….So who helps out the local businesses more? Furthermore the “greedy corporation” that is Costco employs over 177,000 people. These employees, even part timers get great health care coverage, free executive membership, paid holidays off, time and a half on Sundays, 5 weeks of paid vacation a year, and earn an average of 20$ and hour…..so who is helping the economy more?…So who cares about the county or people? I think Costco does

    • Namma says

      Greedy? No, sorry, It is the small “mom & pop’s” who end up being greedy.

      Here’s an example. Our area has maybe 5-6 places you can buy vitamins and natural/organic products. IF they all got together and pooled their purchasing/renting a warehouse they could get deep, deep discounts on what they buy/sell and offer better prices to the consumer.

      But, they are GREEDY. It’s not like I would ever go to the health food store that’s 22 miles away, BUT, the small business owner is TERRIFIED of the other stores getting ANY business.

      Stupid and self-defeating.

      Similarly larger families ALSO could get together, pool resources, get a vendor license under a family limited partnership (or similar structure) and get products ordered in much cheaper. (Which is, essentially, how Costco got started).

      Blaming Costco for the bad business decisions of the local small businesses is just venal and trite.

    • Lovina rodriguez says

      I agree , I used to be a member in Cosco but its been expired because I don’t go there all the time so I didn’t renewed my card. One time I went there and I bought a gift card to use it because I don’t want to spend fifty dollars to renew my membership for just thirty dollars amount what I want from there, the supervisor name Marco was so rude and loud telling me by the register that I cannot buy a gift card and used it( embarrassede the hell out me) I know they have policy but , these people should learned a respect and a costumer service as well, very bad experienced from there employee I hope the management inBridgewater cosco will check their employee once while for their costumer service.

      • Namma says

        That was at that ONE store and not the policy of Costco.

        Of course you can do it and of course that supervisor was wrong.

        Don’t blame the entire idea because a few people are less than intelligent or they want to grief on people.

      • Richard says

        These people are lowlifes. I don’t know your economic status but I find the Latino people are not lowlifes. The people who run Costco are. That is really all I know about it. I don’t know why, I just know wherever you go, the Costco people are the worst.

    • Lovina rodriguez says

      I agree , I used to be a member in Cosco but its been expired because I don’t go there all the time so I didn’t renew my card. One time I went there and I bought a gift card to use it because I don’t want to spend fifty dollars to renew my membership for just thirty dollars amount what I want from there, the supervisor name Marco was so rude and loud telling me by the register that I cannot buy a gift card and used it( embarrassed the hell out of me) I know they have policy but , these people should learned a respect and a costumer service as well, very bad experienced from their employee I hope the management inBridgeWater Cosco will check their employee once while for their costumer service.

  78. marie-claire says

    I agree that:
    1. it simply is not cheaper at Costco, even when you are buying in bulk..
    2. Why would a company make you pay to shop in their store, most stores would pay you to shop there.
    3. If you buy from them online, ask a friend for their membership number then go ahead and make your purchase in your name, using your own credit card and your own address. Shows they really don’t care, the membership is just a marketing tool, to make customers feel they are privilidged.

    I have a friend who would go there to look around, she would walk in near a man who was going in by himself….saying married people usually walk in apart from each other anyways, so they looked like they were a couple.

    • JulieDB says

      You can shop online without a membership. You will pay a slightly higher price. I think 5% more. You can use a credit card like Visa which you can not use in the store. The only credit card they take there is American Express.

      If you do get the gold membership, you will get a percentage back in the form of a check. We buy enough there that it pays for us to do this. We get it all back plus a little more.

        • Namma says

          It takes about $5500 or $105 a week to get enough of a rebate back to cover the $110 Executive membership. ANYONE can get an Executive membership you are not required to be a business or business owner/executive to purchase one.

          Since we buy a LOT of meat, eggs, cheese, coconut water (best price in town by about $1.50 a liter), salad fixings, maple syrup, vinegar (white, apple and balsamic), olive oil, baking soda, laundry soap (their Free version is the best I’ve ever used in 40 yrs of laundry), dishwasher and dish soap, and other things in bulk we easily spend that – not to mention things like Michelin tires for the hubby’s truck (saved about $210 at the cash register and got a Michelin $70 rebate on top of it).

          We bought leather euro-loungers this year when they went on sale for $399 each. We had been waiting for that sale and had saved up for it. Beautiful sturdy leather couches that double as sleepers for visitors.

          It’s like anything else. You HAVE to plan your trip. You HAVE to read the magazine/online site for what’s new in-store, look through the Costco coupon mailer (you don’t even have to clip them they are applied automatically) and MUST plan your expenditures for the next few weeks to a month (which is budgeting and should be done anyways).

          So, in theory, if you’re diligent and do your homework you could not only save tons over the local grocery and quick-stop store, you could get the some or all of the cost of membership back in a rebate check at the end of the membership year.

          Sister and brothers can go in for a card together since at the Executive level you can get cards for family members. You can combine purchasing for several families in one trip.

    • Read up people says

      You cannot shop online at Costco.com with someone else’s membership, the order will be canceled.

  79. Mona says

    Just got back from Costco empty handed..Ran in to buy a $5 cooked chicken after work. Waited on line because they never have an express checkout ( at least in the Marlboro,NJ store), to be told that my membership expired 1 week ago. In order to get the chicken I would have to renew for $55 on the spot. I asked if I could renew next time and was told NO..Even paying taxes in NJ has a 10 day grace period! I have been trying to decide if Costco is important when it is just 2 people in household now..Picked up large blueberries afew weeks ago and they were awful..Well thanks Costco for making my decision for me! Terrible customer appreciation…

    • joe says

      Its a year membership. Not a year and “whenever I want to pay again” membership. If that’s the reason you dont like costco then you have no respect for any business big OR small. You CAN return food and anything else including memberships 364 days of a full year. (gold /executive) and get your money back. That includes keeping your rewards check from Exec Membership. Wich you can cash out. That’s part of them taking care of thier members. 100% satisfaction garanteed.

  80. Dona says

    I purchased a Costco membership once and never renewed it! There is not much worth paying a large corporation for the priveledge of shopping there. I believe we all stop paying these large corporations for this “so called” privelidge”. They are not out there to help struggling families make ends meet by offering high priced bulk items. Some people think that becuase it is COSTCO, it must be inexpensive: compare prices and you will see that they are not offering a discount that you are paying for.

    • Namma says

      High priced bulk is a misconception.

      The ONLY way to figure out if there is a savings or not is by unit. Ounces or pieces. How much per ounce of cheese? How much per egg?

      If YOU want to pay an additional $.05 to $.25 per ounce/piece/unit on all of your products over the course of a year – then by all means – do so.

      Those of us who shop at warehouse stores know that all those pennies add up to paying off a big bill, or are savings towards vacation, or … but we do not waste our money.

      Paying more at the local grocery is STILL making someone else rich. Buying at the warehouse store is keeping more of your money in your pocket.

        • James says

          I agree… It is MUCH cheaper if you are smart and put in the effort to coupon. I would much rather pay 20%-30% of the item’s shelf price using a coupon than having to pay more and end up throwing out a portion of that expired bulk stuff. I don’t mind having to go to 3-4 different stores to get almost everything super cheap, or even FREE most of the time. All it takes is smart shopping. Warehouse stores are a complete ripoff compared to smart couponing.

  81. Whitney says

    People pay the membership fee because unlike most stores that can mark their products up to 35% above wholesale, costco can only mark theirs up 14%. So you are only paying 14% more then they paid for it. The membership fee is also to help with the overhead associated with them. Costco employees are union employees and paid well.

    • Namma says

      Not only that, but it’s a price-point negotiating tool.

      If Costco can show the numbers that may buy a product because they will shop there due to membership – it’s better than any of the other loyalty programs that make big bucks selling the marketing information and don’t offer many deals at all.

      Costco get better deals because they can prove the numbers through memberships.

  82. WendyB says

    Hugely helpful, as I often have relatives and friends who want me to add them to my membership, which costs $$$. Thanks!

  83. Eddie says

    This is not correct at all. I was excited when I learned about it but most locations will not and are not allowed to give cash cards to Non-Members. Only members can purchase them as apparently a membership is required to begin Any transaction.

    • Polina says

      Eddie, this is exactly what she was talking about under Update: It’s been brought to my attention that you must be a Costco member to purchase a cash card… so read carefully! :)

    • Tpol says

      B.S. Membership is not “required to begin Any [sic] transaction.”

      Federal law requires Costco to sell prescriptions to everyone at the same price, membership card or not. If they refuse, they will be fined. In some states (TN), they aren’t allowed to charge more to non-members for gasoline.

      • Mark says

        Federal law however does not require Costco to give access to anyone. They are a membership only club. There are no separate “members” and “non-members” prices because they only allow those who are authorized to access their private facility.

        The Tennessee law is meaningless because members and non-members might be charged the same for gas but non-members aren’t allowed access to the gas period. It is entirely legal for them do prohibit access without membership or other authorization.

  84. ANNA says

    I love Costco! Yes definately some things you might as well not buy from Costco and you can find a better deal at somewhere else. However, I live in Southern California so the stores here DO NOT double coupons and some stores LIMIT the number to 5 like coupons in one trip. Gift cards to the movies, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Jamba Juice, are always available and are 20% off regular price. I gain my membership dues back alone in just those. Also, they have an awesome store return policy. You can return just about anything, anytime! You don’t need to keep your receipt, they just look it up by your mbrshp #.

  85. Teresa says

    Some of he comments above are just not true. We save a bundle at Costco. Having an exc membership (cost $100) we get at least $300 back in a rebate check every spring. Some of the things are the same, in bigger bulk. Some are Kirkland brand, which is store brand. But the Kirkland items are premium items, better than you can get at the reg stores. Produce isn’t really saving$, but you again get high quality. We never plan a Costco trip without planning time take care of the food when we return home, such as rewrapping meat in dinner size portions and freezing for each meal. Along with other items

    • Anonymous says

      Did you know that the kirkland brand isn’t really Kirkland at all! They don’t sit there and make all of these products! They have a contract with one of the other companies that makes them and partners with them. Then they just stick the Kirkland Brand on it! The toilet paper over here is currently Charmin! I have a friend that works with that.

      • Namma says

        Quote: “Did you know that the kirkland brand isn’t really Kirkland at all! They don’t sit there and make all of these products! They have a contract with one of the other companies that makes them and partners with them. Then they just stick the Kirkland Brand on it! ”

        So? ALL store brands do this now. It’s just disingenuous to suggest that Costco is the only one.

        However, I can say that Costco doesn’t simply slap a name on it. They go visit the factory, make a deal for a specific quality of product and only then will they close the deal.

        They do not put their name on garbage products or bad quality.

    • sean says

      $300 cash back..? IIRC, the cash back is like, 2%. So, you spend $6000 EVERY year at Costco? Obviously most people are not going to have the same Costco experience as you, seeing that you are clearly far above the average income level..

  86. Bella says

    Costco has great saving all the time especially when combined with the clip out coupons they have or the instant rebates. You just have to buy at the right time when the item is the lowest possible price. For example i bought a brita pitcher which is regularly priced at 37.99 (Target) , i saw it at costco for 27.99 but when i actually went to buy it the next week it was 19.99 :) awesome saving ! As for the membership fee it pays for it self if you go often. what i do is i split the cost of the membership with my sister so we each are able to go with our families and only pay 27.50$

    • Samantha says

      I tried doing that with my mom and the last two times we’ve been told it’s no longer allowed, I MUST have a membership! Doesn’t help that the two cashiers that continually say this are the ones I almost always try to avoid! (I think most people have those at select stores!) I may have to look into the cash card thing and see if I can just give my mom money to buy some. Think of it as “gifting”! Maybe :-/

      • Michael says

        What she means is to have one of them be the primary and have the other get the 2nd card, not go in at the same time and share and split the membership that way. Then her family goes anytime they want and her sister’s family goes. I did this with my brother-in-law.

  87. Alex says

    I love Costco. I don’t mind the membership fee because it keeps out all the riff-raff with attitudes like the sulky people commenting on here. It’s like paying for a gym more expensive than 24-hour fitness. The equipment is the same, but the clientele is not. Worth every penny. Plus, alcohol, olive oil and batteries by themselves more than pay for the membership.

  88. RT says

    You CAN purchase Costco gas with an American Express credit card – no membership needed. They also allow some ‘DEBIT’ cards (the ones you have to use with PINS), but not sure which ones – without a Costco membership. No cash accepted, at least at my NJ one.

  89. Bharri says

    I have Costco cash card with me with a very little balance.I am not a member.Can I still purchase at Costco and pay the rest with my debit card or cash?

  90. Teresa says

    Is this really true about just using gift cards w/ no membership? According to their website giftcards are $25 increments. Plus I just called a store in IL and they laughed when I asked this question.

  91. Stephanie says

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE Costco! I don’t mind paying the membership fee. I get my monies worth between clothes, books, sunscreen, sunwear that is much cheaper there and food. As a former Costco employee spouse, they do take care of their employees and families. Employees work hard and are rewarded for it as it shows most times in the overall happyvibe there.

  92. Susan says

    My son sent me a Costco gift card so I could purchase over the counter medication. My local Costco (Sample and Powerline in Pompano Beach) would not allow me to use it. I had to send it back to my son in Calif and he made the purchase and shipped it to me! So I beg to differ and please check your local store before investing in a gift card.

    • Misty says

      I would of went to the manager, it’s clear on their own website that a non member can use the card (Just a member has to fill it) it also does not say that it’s based by store, so the store would of had to accept the card. Sounds like an employee was not properly trained about these cards IMO.

  93. Tamara says

    I don’t buy a ton of items at Cost-Co, but the ones I do I typically buy when they rotate onto the coupon book with the special savings…and I don’t believe if you’re shopping with a cash/gift card you would get those special prices. At least that is what my parents have told me, because they shop with Gift Cards purchased by myself or my sister since they don’t buy enough annual to justify a membership.

  94. Debbie says

    I have been a Costco member for years. I have an executive membership and use their American Express card for ALL purchases at establishments taking AE, including travel, educational costs for my daughter’s college expenses, gas for both cars, and my work related costs including continuing education courses and professional membership costs. I get back 1% on all purchases, 2% on restaurant and travel expenses, and 3% on gas. PLUS the 2% cash back on the executive membership. Not only do I get back the $100.00 annual fee in my executive membership rebate, but I get a VERY substantial amount in cash back from the AE account. Just think for a minute……Most executive cards have an annual fee and offer the same type of rebate. With Costco you get the benefit of the rebate plus the savings of the items they sell. This year I got $536.00 back with the card alone, then got a rebate check for $103.00 ( 2% back for the executive membership purchases). I have a friend who purchased medical equipment for his office using the Costco AE card. He got back over $12,000. Another friend paid for his daughter’s college tuition and other expenses and got a fat rebate check as well. Of course, these 2 examples were people with awesome credit and the means to have a higher credit limit, but it certainly pays for itself if used appropriately. It amazes me to see people walk up with their checks and they have to call management to go to the safe or cut a check for the bank. That means they have such a high rebate, they don’t keep that kind of cash in the drawer!! Tip: Take the checks to the Costco membership desk and ask for the cash. Do NOT put it on a Costco cash card. You want to take advantage of every purchase made at Costco with your AE card so you get the cash back the following year. Most people make the mistake of having them put the rebate on a Costco cash card and don’t realize they can cash out the check. I look forward every year to getting those rebate checks! This year, I put my youngest daughter on my account with her Social security number and specific instructions on its use. (Must be 18 years old) I get her rebate and I can check her purchases on line to keep her in check. She is building her credit with this card as well. And for the people who don’t think purchasing a membership is worth it, awesome! Stay out. You’ll only clog the isles even more. LOL all the way to the bank.

  95. Robert says

    If you have a family member or friend that would like to buy gas at Costco, you can buy them a gift card. The gas attendant at my local Costco said that they can use the card there but must ask the attendant to swipe their employee card first before using the gift card. That way, you don’t have to “loan” out your membership card to others.
    Check your local Costco to see if they also do this the next time you purchase gas.

  96. Anonymous says

    This company is the best for returns….years after you purchase it and they barely ask you any questions regarding your returns……which you make 2 percent cash back on your executive membership if you are too CHEAP to buy it. You can actually make money shopping there with this upgraded membership which pays for your membership and you can receive even more money on top of the FREE membership you just got with the difference. Costco will fight for you to have a lower price than anyone and stop carrying the product untill it gets the price lowered again so these monopolies and oligopolies don’t take advantage of us consumers. Stop being sooooo cheap peeps!

    • plooopue says

      Nearly every credit card today has rewards and cash back. My Amazon visa has 3%. And amazon doesn’t charge sales tax or shipping. So I “make” 9 1/2% on every Amazon purchase. How does your crappy 2% sound now?

      • Namma says

        My 2% sounds pretty good considering it’s on the MEMBERSHIP card and not a credit card.

        You are mistaking the cash back from Membership – WHICH IS SEPARATE from the cash back from using the Costco American Express Card.

        Therefore Costco members who ALSO use the AE credit card are rebating more than you.

        How do you like your 3% now?

  97. MikeW says

    I have been a Costco member for a long time. Over twenty years. I find the service ok. There are policies that are really annoying. Like making a primary card holder the only one able to cash a rebate check. Rude staff members. Pushy staff asking for Amex card signups and upgrading cards to Executive memember levels.

    Like everything you have to know your prices.
    The membership fees keeps a lot of control on thief so it keeps costs lower for the chain and the members.

    Not perfect, but acceptable.

    • Costco Employee says

      Just put ” NO EXEC” on the back of your card, so when the member service goes to scan your card to see if you wish to upgrade, they see that and immediately know. I’m sorry they’ve been pushy. I tell that to everyone when the prompt comes up, and let them know that if they wish to have more information at a later time, to stop by membership desk.

  98. Don says

    No teenage kids with attitudes working there. Best return policy ever. ( I believe that Costco will only sell for companies that will agree to eat the returns with no questions asked which is why there is NO hassle ), I always get more in the annual rebate then I spend on membership, cheap lunch, cheapest gas in town and I like a previous comment that mentioned that the class of customers is way above the Wal-Mart brand. That in itself is worth the annual fee. BTW – if you don’t like Costco don’t go. You are one less person I need to stand behind in line.

  99. CHILL says

    I use the military commisary…LAFB, Fort Sam Houston etc..they don’t have a membership fee..just a small surcharge..no tax…..luv it…never been to Costco and never will go…

    • Costco Employee says

      Since the government shutdown, Costco is offering FREE shopping for our military. Just stop by membership desk and show your Military ID. :) Just a small way to say THANK YOU for serving our country.

  100. Sal says

    I just walked into Costco and this rude Asian lady tells me I can not come in without a Costco card, I’ve been a member for some time and can’t even go in there to buy an item. You don’t see Kroger asking for membership cards and regulating who may come in and who can’t!

    • Danielle says

      you should have gone into customer service, even if you forget your card they just print you a paper one to use for the day.

  101. kat says

    They should give me an incentive to get me as their customer, not the other way around.
    It’s stupid to pay when it’s actually Costco the one that has the privilege of having us as as customers. Unless they waive the membership fees I will continue buying somewhere else where I do not have to beg for getting in.

    • cc says

      The incentive is a lower mark up, but I agree, dont shop there if you dont like their fee, sorry about $5 bucks or so a month to save about 20% off the average markup, I’m all for it..

  102. Donald Moor says

    Tried to get one day pass to Costco here in New Orleans and was told that the fire marshall would only allow members only in. WHAT A CROCK OF ****. As if the fire marshall care whether or not the bodycount is a member or not. I for one plan on test driving this car before I buy it.

  103. kmull says

    I do not have a membership but have seen and priced hearing aids for my Father there. They were the best in testing, diagnosis and fit, price and extras than Sam’s Club, or Miracle Ear. My question is: If I purchase these for my Father , does he have to be a member to take advantage of the services (repeat visits to adjust and update any of the equipment) or any warranties?

  104. Costco Employee says

    Did you know that vast majority of my income comes from people paying memberships? I am grateful every day that I work for Costco. I don’t have to kill myself trying to make ends meet like I did at previous jobs, and my benefits are amazing, that I don’t have to see most my check go to.

    @Kat – The incentive of having a membership here is that you’re not paying outrageous prices like you would at normal retailers.

    Pharmacy is free to all. You can go in and buy alcohol without a membership, you just need to stop at the Membership desk and state you’re just buying alcohol.
    I have let several in without a membership, because they just wanted to “look around” to see if they wanted to start a membership, and after comparing prices, 9/10 wound up getting a membership at Costco.
    So to all those that want to “shop for free” think about all the employees, like myself who LOVE their careers/jobs at Costco. Because of PAYING members, we have stable jobs, lower prices for our members.
    One last thing, NON-members can only pay with Costco Cash Card or cash ONLY. NO debit, NO check, NO American Express. Costco card holders are the only one that can pay with all forms of payment accepted at Costco. If you are a PAYING member, and have a guest, they can either have their purchases subtotaled with your purchase, and you pay the full amount and/or they pay CASH only. In other words, if your name is on the card, YOU have to buy it. The guest is allowed to pay with cash only, to the cashier. It’s so we don’t have to charge a debit fee. We have that deal worked out with MasterCard and Visa debit.

    So in the end, think of all the people you’re potentially screwing over just to shop for free.

    Here’s a bit more information.

    • Anonymous says

      How is it free if you’re paying for items? I would like to purchase some items once in a while at Costco but the $55 membership fee doesn’t make sense for me. I’m not a family of 4. If there was a 1% markup for non-members I would be OK with that. I don’t buy enough to make up the $55.

  105. Costco Executive Member says

    IT IS WRONG of Costco to provide these dam Cash Cards/Gift Card usage to non-members and to people not related to members. Extremely bad people are coming into Costco. Gang members, and low class trouble makers. Seen non-members cause problems and threaten members at Costco. Absolutely unacceptable! Why should any of us pay the membership fees when anyone can get the same benefits. The miscellaneous benefits are used by few, and do not make up for the membership fee for most. Very disappointed in Costco.

  106. Bryan Smith says

    As a Costco employee since 2008, I can tell you that (in the store) a membership card must be scanned at the register before it will even allow us to ring items. A cash card only works as a form of payment, not a membership. We have membership fees so that costco can make a profit and continue to provide quality products at (for the most part) unbeatable prices and pay a good wage to employees (keeping them happy enough to provide excellent member service). The executive level membership card we offer has benefits that pretty much make the membership fee obsolete as you are sure to earn all of that back and more. If you want to shop at Costco, you should just buy the executive membership (100$), if you are not satisfied with the savings at the end of the year, you will be refunded 50$ down to the gold star membership.

  107. Penni says

    I recently started getting my prescriptions @COSTCO, this is after trying to get affordable medication for my 97yr old grandfather.
    A very common medication was costing $98 @ Walgreen, $62 @Wal-Mart, and as a non-member the same prescription cost him $14.
    If he was a member, the cost would have been $8.
    .So I then took him for hearing aides, I priced around and he got a pair of hearing aides with the 2yr COSTCO warranty for $1600. The exact same pair at a local hearing aide center with a 1yr manufacturer warranty on parts only was $3700.
    That’s pretty significant on a social security income.
    He didn’t need to be a member to use the services, they just used my membership number to place the order, but used his debit card to purchase.
    COSTCO has always stood behind the products they sold and will let you know up front if its not COSTCO warranted.
    I also get the 2% rebate at the end of the year, its just like a DISCOVER card.

  108. Michael Duran says

    I just went into a Costco with a gift card, went to the self checkout and the CSRep, provided an override on the membership scan, put the gift card back in my wallet, with the money that was originally on it intact, and paid with my debit card. No problem!

    This totally does work!

  109. Brett says

    So I have read your article and while you have definatly found a way to ship as Costco without a membership you fail to inform on the benefits to the membership. I have been an executive member for about 10 years and receive more back annually than it costs for the memberhsip. We were a family of 3 now that my child is in college thre are only 2 of us. Additionally I signed up for hte American Express card through Costco and get even more back. I average $500+ in rebates annually between the executive memberhip and the AmEx benefits, which means that Costco is paying me to sop there.. Who’s more frugal now?

    • Maria says

      You make a great point! The article Julia wrote is intended for those people who can truly not afford to shop at Costco on a regular basis, much less pay for a membership. There are definitely great reasons to shop at Costco and if you do a search of our articles, you will find that we write about these things too! Thanks for your input :)

  110. says

    Looks like another one of those stupid work around things that you spend all this energy doing so you can feel good bout cheating someone out of something. Kind of like the scammers that spend all their energy ripping people off, but if they applied that effort to make a honest living, they would do pretty good.

    • Maria says

      Bill, the spirit of this post is not intended to promote any sort of cheating. Julia (the person who originally posted this article) has her own membership and has also written about the benefits of having one.

  111. To says

    I love Costco too! I especially love the exercise I get walking 3 miles to the front door. I love their samples of fake meat and other savory fair. I love the exercise I get in the store walking around aimlessly trying to find a product that I found last week but is no longer anywhere near the location I found it in before and that I can walk for miles trying to find someone to help me find that item. I love lugging around 50 pounds of hamburger that I saved (or did I save?) ten cents a pound on. But at least I saved money on those Michelins I bought that no one else sells (hmm I wonder why). Well anyway I’ve done my part in supporting big business since I know they have my best interest as their primary objective. So thanks Costco for the brain implant you’ve given me and seemingly all your loyal customers and employees.

  112. sukaina says

    I wanted to know if I use the costco gift card being a non member given to me by a member. Can I purchase items which have manufacturers instant rebate. would I be able to get that rebate if I use the costco gift card? would I get the member discount on items???

  113. Sarah says

    To all you sourpusses who won’t pay the membership fee, I have a great store for you. It’s called Walmart!

  114. canrockies says

    I like to go to shop at Costco but not all the time I like to see what they have but for myself I don’t want to buy lots of stuff, like to much, wholesale stuff. why would I pay membership fees if I don’t shop all the time if I don’t buy to much stuff? and they say you have to be member in that store to shop, that just ridiculous

    • Anonymous says

      No you don’t… I’ve been to the liquor department in the Costco by us and they have on more than one occasion stated that you don’t. Even on the outside it says it is open to the public. That’s part of the reason it is separate from the main store.

  115. says

    Hi maria, I would like to clear up a thing about costco, bc I do work there and I have for over 10 years.just so you know , if you are not a costco member, you are not able to return any products.Since you dont have a costco account , with a membership number , we cant verify , that u have purchased that item from us.when you are a member of costco, we look up your returns with or without a receipt in your shopping history.From there , we can tell everything . What you have purchased, returned, how much you paid , etc..and that is how it works.

    • maria says

      Thanks, Lindsay. I have never had an issue with returns because I do have a membership. However, if you have a receipt wouldn’t this be proof that the item was bought at Costco? I looked online for the answer but found conflicting information …

  116. says

    Maybe some of you didn’t know that Costco also got provide mortgage loans for their members. You can search for their site for the offering rates and if it matches your requirement, you can direct apply from there.


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