Nov 12, 2022 | Samuel Albert

Is it cheaper to buy at Costco?

The first thing that comes to one's mind when encountering a cheap deal is the question of its quality. Unfortunately, most of the time, cheap is synonymous with poor quality. But, with Costco in your vicinity, it doesn't have to be so! Not only do you get to go easy on your wallet, but you will surely be awestruck by the quality offered at Costco.


Yes, definitely. Though the customer has to buy things in bulk, a bit of planning and calculation can save the shopper a considerable amount of money at the store and on the gas. In addition, it is super cheap to shop at Costco with its membership cards and relaxed refund policy. Costco sells everything - food, electronics, daily essentials, groceries, toiletries, makeup, toys, OTC and prescription meds, home decor, kitchen appliances, gadgets, gift cards, insurance, and others. Since everything is under one roof, it saves precious time as well.


Welcome to Costco, the wonderland of every shopper, known for its plethora of knockout deals on products of top-notch grade. While shopping, customers can savor a sampling of treats of all sorts (No, no one tells you off!). Instead, the staff are more than welcome and keep replenishing the trays. Costco's super-friendly staff and management have sworn by their lives to make your shopping experience the BEST in all of the USA.


With that being said, let's look through what the memberships at Costco offer for their faithful customer base.


  1. Can you shop at Costco without a membership card?

Yes, of course! You can shop at the store and Costco.com with a Costco gift card or Costco Cash and sweep the discount deals (You DON'T need a membership card). But the catch is that you can only get the Costco gift card through a Costco member. Ask a Costco member (a friend or a relative) to pick up a Costco cash card for you at the store/online and pay them the money. With the Costco gift card in hand, you're free to purchase at the warehouse/online and enjoy the deals. Pay and request your Cosco pal to cash top up the gift card when the amount runs out.


Otherwise, shopping at Costco's warehouse without a membership card is impossible though you can shop online. (With a Costco buddy, there are a few other ways which we'll discuss below). While buying online, a surcharge of 5% will be charged over the discounted rates. Nevertheless, a quick comparison of the costs will reveal that it's still a thrifty deal to shop at Costco.com.


Costco Membership:

Okay, now that you opted to be a diehard fan of Costco and have signed up for their membership, Costco strives to give you back the best shopping experience, prices, and more. Bringing you back to its counters more often through many avenues so you make the most for the $60 you spent is their goal.


How do I sign up for my Costco Membership?

Once you've decided to sign up, signing up is easy peasy. You can sign up for your membership at the store or do it online. If you sign in online, the membership number will be mailed to you, and you can collect the physical card at your local warehouse.


Also, you can access your digital card by installing the Costco app on your mobile, keeping a close check on the go.


How much does a Costco Membership cost?

  1. Gold Star Membership for a fee of $60 per year.
  2. Executive Gold Star Membership for a fee of $120 per year.
  3. Business Membership for a fee of $60 per year. 
  4. Business Executive Membership for a fee of $120 per year.

What can you do with a Gold Star Membership?

Designed for a single household, the choice of a Gold Star Membership is an ideal option. For this card, Costco gives you a free Household Card for purchasing things for your family and home. With this card, shop at Costco.com or Costco Brick-and-Mortar store - it's your will.


Costco's bold disclaimer to refund the membership fee if the customer is dissatisfied anytime is jaw-dropping, so with no strings attached, you can give it a try.


What is your Executive Membership worth?

If you frequently visit Costco, this one is a super saver for your money. It gets you an annual reward of 2% on your qualifying purchases and a refund of up to $1000.


Executive Membership includes online and warehouse shopping and travel purchases.


The coveted reward amount will be mailed to you two months before the renewal date. After that, you can redeem your bonus in cash or kind at the warehouse. Else, transfer the fund electronically to your account or get a check. Once the reward is collected, your next reward estimate will be displayed on your account at Costco.com.


Costco goes that extra mile to compensate the higher membership fee for the executive members by giving them incredible discounts and added benefits.


To make the most of your Executive Costco Membership, you might have to spend roughly $250 per month, totaling up to $3000 per year. Make sure to exclude the food court treats, liqueur, gasoline, and gift cards from your Costco bill, as these don't come under the annual reward.


If you are a travel enthusiast, your membership will pay it off with complimentary breakfast, tour credits, and bonus Costco Shop Cards as the trips booked through Costco travel purchases count toward the yearly reward.


A refund of $1000 sounds cool, but you need to make a massive $50,000 purchase the whole year to get it.

Paid Executive Membership 2% Reward

Monthly Purchases

Yearly Purchases

Approximate Annual Reward

$250

$3,000

$60

$500

$6,000

$120

$800

$9,600

$192

$1,250

$15,000

$300

$2,500

$30,000

$600

$4,170

$50,040

$1,000 max.


What are the advantages of a Business Membership?

If you own a business or are a reseller, this one is just for you. The privilege of owning this card is that you can buy products for your business, home, and resale purposes (terms and conditions apply). Cool, huh? However, Costco will need to verify your business license before issuing the Business Membership. 


Yet another perk of your Business Membership is getting additional cards by paying $60 for your employees. Consider fringe benefits!



What is a Business Executive Membership?

The classy Business Executive Membership is the highest level of membership at Costco. When you opt for a Business Executive Membership, you add the benefits of a business membership and an executive membership together. In addition to the rewards and discounts available, you get to enjoy low prices on check printing, identity protection, and free roadside assistance for vehicles covered through the auto insurance program. 


A Business Executive Member can add affiliates to their membership account by paying $60. In addition, both primary and affiliate cardholders can get a Household card for a family member at no extra cost. The only condition that applies here is that the member should be above 18 years of age and live at the same address.


The member has to provide appropriate resale information to Costco for reselling purposes.

 

Monthly Purchases

Annual Purchases

Gold Star Annual Reward

Gold Star Executive Annual Reward

Executive "Benefit" (Reward - Cost)

$125

$1,500

$0

$30

-$30

$250

$3,000

$0

$60

$0 (break even)

$500

$6,000

$0

$120

$60

$1,000

$12,000

$0

$240

$180

$4,167

$50,000

$0

$1,000 (max)

$940

You can see that the current break-even is at $3,000 in spend over your membership year.

What are my best chances of getting a $1000 cashback reward?


  1. Does it look like your calculation went wrong somewhere, and you've not spent as much at Costco?

Not a problem! You can take two guests with you every time you shop at Costco. You can put their purchases on your card, maximize the shopping expense, and make your card show the high expenditure.


  1. Don't have buddies to take along?

Shop for neighbors, friends, and family who don't own a Costco card. They get the Costco price, and you get to swoop the prize.


  1. Worried that buying in large proportions is not your cup of tea?

A clever way to solve this is to buy big at Costco, share the groceries with your kith and kin, and divide the bill amongst them.


What to do if you didn't use your Executive Membership as much as you thought you would?

If the above options didn't work out for you, never mind. Believe me! Still, there is no risk involved in trying out the Executive Membership.


At the time of renewal, Costco client service will downgrade your membership back to the Gold Star and repay your $60. The staff behind the Costco counter are angels in disguise sent from above.


On the flip side, you'll only end up losing the reward that you've earned.

  

Can you use your Costco Membership card worldwide?

Yes, of course! Whether you are on tour or visiting your extended family in another country, your membership card comes in handy. In addition, Costco has its warehouses worldwide. 


But remember, when you're traveling, you'll need your Costco card while checking in at the shop and while paying at the cash register.


Costco Citi Bank Credit Card

Your Costco credit card is a Visa credit card that can be used anywhere. On every purchase, you get cash back rewards.


What cashback rewards do I get from using a Costco Credit Card?

When you make an eligible purchase using your card,

  1. 4% on the first $7000 paid on gas, 1% after that.
  2. 3% on restaurants and travel.
  3. 2% on online and offline shopping at Costco.
  4. 1% on all other purchases.

How much does the Costco Credit Card cost?

If you are a paid member of Costco, it is FREE.


If you're a non-member, sorry, it's not for you.


What are the other advantages of having a Costco Citi Credit Card?

You can enjoy the comfort of using your credit card as a card of convenience (instead of your Membership card) to gain access to the store and at the register (it'll have your picture and membership number printed on it). 


Another added advantage is that there is no transaction fee on foreign travel purchases.


Take a close look at the table below to learn more about various membership cards vs. different purchase windows.


Description

Gold Star Executive Membership - New Member

Business Membership - New Member

Gold Star Membership - New Member

Business Executive Membership - New Member

Use at Costco Pharmacy

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Use at Costco Optical

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Use at Costco Hearing Aid Center

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Use at Costco Gas Stations

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Shop at Costco warehouses worldwide

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Shop at Costco Business Centers

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Shop Costco.com

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Resale Use

No

Purchase for business, personal and resale use (must provide Costco with the appropriate resale information)

No

Purchase for business, personal and resale use (must provide Costco with the appropriate resale information)

Membership Reward

Annual 2% Reward (up to $1,000) on qualified Costco, Costco.com, and Costco Travel purchases

No

No

Annual 2% Reward (up to $1,000) on qualified Costco, Costco.com, and Costco Travel purchases

Membership Covered by Risk-Free 100% Satisfaction Guarantee

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

One FREE Household Card

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Costco Services

Executive Members receive additional benefits and greater discounts on select Costco Services.

Yes

Yes

Executive Members receive additional benefits and greater discounts on select Costco Services.

Annual Fee (plus sales tax where applicable)

Gold Star Membership plus additional $60 upgrade fee

$60

$60

Business Membership plus additional $60 upgrade fee

Additional Cardholders

No

Additional cardholders ($60 each) may be added.

No

Additional cardholders ($60 each) may be added.


Now, let us compare Costco with other biggies in the retail store industry.


Costco Vs. Walmart:

Staff Wages and Client Service: Pinching pennies do count here. Walmart pays $11 per hour, while Costco recently raised the wages to $16 per hour. In return, happy employees offer genuinely friendly customer service. Costco's customer-first culture is a plus compared to the not-so-friendly Walmart's customer support. 


Membership:  While Costco requires you to have a minimum membership of $60 to enjoy the display prices, you can walk into Walmart and buy anything you want on any good day for the stated price.


Return Policy: Walmart has a 90-day return policy, no receipt, for a store credit. Costco takes back goods sold anytime, except for personalized items and some rare justifiable exceptions. So, return policy abusers, beware! Unless you're genuine, you rub off the wrong way. Even Costco keeps track of your returns, and if they find you manipulating their leniency, they might refuse to repay you. And no exchange, only a refund or a gift card.   


Additional Services: Both offer services in-store. Walmart has garages near their stores for oil changes and tire services (so you can do all your shopping and car service simultaneously). Costco offers services like medical shopping, banking, opticals, and photoshops. In addition, they offer contracted services at discounted rates, namely car stalls, home improvement services, and others.


Supplies: While you might need to buy in large quantities at Costco and may have to compromise with the brand names (Costco doesn't step down on the quality, though!), Walmart gives you the liberty to shop for your favorite brands and buy things in small portions.


Costco Vs. Amazon: Amazon is primarily an online shopping portal. Costco gives you the same privilege; you can easily log on to Costco.com and shop for a lesser price.


Membership:  Amazon charges a hefty $119 for its membership compared to Costco. If you are a non-member and still want to shop at Costco.com, you'll be charged a 5% surcharge on the stated prices. Nevertheless, it is a steal compared to Amazon prices.  


Return Policy: Costco remains the unconquered king in return policy comparable to the online shopping giant Amazon because of its flexibility and relaxed nature. Amazon has specified in its product details whether the product is returnable or not and doesn't refund the money for any unreturnable product. As a result, the dissatisfied customer will never take chances to buy an unreturnable product, thus curbing sales.


Additional Services: Amazon offers home services like assembly, home theater, and appliance installation services which Costco also does for its customers. Apart from this, Amazon provides digital services like Amazon Prime, Kindle, cloud computing, and others. 


Supplies: Amazon is an online portal that gives you the freedom to shop the label of your choice and the liberty to choose the amount. They are soon starting their in-store Amazon 4-Star and making their physical presence known in the American neighborhood.


Costco's toilet paper deals and Amazon's diaper deals are unbeatable and worth mentioning here.


Costco Vs. Target: Costco and Target are similar, the similarity being the discount pricing that both offer. Both shops have offline and online shops.


Staff Wages and Client Service: Target and Costco are sailing in the same boat regarding the salaries and taking care of their employees well. The peak holiday season pay at Target is a sweet amount of $17 per hour; it pays $15 otherwise.


While Target's customer service is good, Target focuses on a better customer experience by analyzing data collected through shopper satisfaction surveys and reward strategies.


Membership:  Target membership costs nothing while Costco's cost $60. REDcard enables you to shop with a 5% discount both at the store and Target.com. You get three cards in total, two REDcard credit cards and a REDcard debit card. 


Return Policy: As we know, Costco's return policy is very lenient. Target allows a return window of 90 days for a new or unopened item. They need a receipt, but if you don't have one, the staff at Target will do the favor of finding it for you using your REDcard or your card history. However, if you are not a regular customer with a missing receipt, and the product is opened, damaged, or paid in cash, they might not refund the money. 


A 14-day return window is set for electronics like drones.


A 30-day return window for electronics and recreation items for noncard holders extends further to an unbelievable 120 days for REDcard holders.


More astonishingly, Target-based products get a return of up to a year.


They even take back items sold on Black Friday or Cyber Monday and those sold on clearance sales. Isn't that cool?

 

While they seem to have a relaxed refund policy, they have their own rules and regulations for opened things to put away return policy abusers.


Additional Services: Home improvement services, pharmacy, and Shipt are some of Target's services. With convenience becoming a necessity these days, Shipt helps with same-day delivery and even one-hour delivery.


Supplies: While Costco has Kirkland products, Target's brand line is Good & Gather. Target banks on selling heavily discounted products targeting (oops!) the people of the local neighborhood or community. They give discounts for birthday purchases making a personal connection with the people.


Conclusion:  Costco came to the rescue of the American population during the pandemic crisis when even a frugal buyer conceded hoarding as perfectly acceptable. Buying in large quantities suited both sides, and Costco's sales skyrocketed. Even without a membership, some great bargains are just a click away on some products and non-member items. But for cost-saving purposes and a one-stop regular shopping experience, membership at Costco is the way to go.


Happy shopping at Costco!

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