I love Costco. My wife and I have been members since 2014, and over the years we’ve learned a bunch of little Costco hacks that save us time, money, and keep us having fun while shopping!
Whether you’re a Costco aficionado or a newbie still learning all the Costco membership perks, you’ll enjoy these little tips and tricks to try at your next trip to Costco!
12 Sneaky Costco Hacks:
1. You Don’t Have To Be a Costco Member
Probably the biggest Costco secret that most people don’t know is… You don’t have to be a Costco member to shop there! There are a handful of ways you can shop at Costco without a Costco membership. Here they are:
Buy Alcohol. Due to state laws for liquor licenses, many states prevent alcohol to be exclusive to members only. So Costco (and any other big box membership club) must allow alcohol sales to the general public! This includes their awesome deals on Kirkland brand Costco liquor.
Costco Pharmacy. You can pick up prescriptions at Costco if you are not a Costco member, and take advantage of their great prices. (Be sure to also use GoodRX for free codes to reduce prices even further). Health screenings, eye exams, and flu shots are all available to nonmembers as well.
Instacart Orders: Anyone without a Costco membership can still buy groceries (and more) via Instacart. You will pay a small premium on the prices that members pay in-store, but still you’ll have access to all the great Kirkland brand products and bulk Costco items.
Costco Shop Card: A Costco shop card is like a prepaid gift card, specifically for shopping at Costco. Shop Cards (sometimes called Costco Cash Card) must be initially purchased by a member, and loaded with “credit” up to $1000. But once it’s active, it can be used by non-members for any items they want. This includes purchases at Costco.com and fuel at Costco Gas stations!
2. Price Tag Codes:
Confirmed by many current and ex-employees, Costco uses secret price tag numbers and codes to label special items. Here’s what to look out for:
- Price tags ending in .99: This means the item is Costco’s standard price. For example, something that’s $2.99 or $12.99 is the normal everyday retail price.
- Price tags ending in 97: These items are marked down and on SALE!! It’s a smart idea to stock up if you notice anything Costco prices with .97 at the end.
- Price tags with 00 or 88: When Costco has a manager’s special, they round to the nearest dollar so all the price tags end in .00. Also sometimes .88 is another code for manager specials and items they want to get rid of ASAP. Items priced this way are usually a great deal!
- Any tag with *asterisks*: You’ll find this in the top right hand corner of the price tag… If you see an asterisk “*” it means the item is soon to be discontinued at Costco and won’t be returning after it’s sold out. So if you see this on the tag of a favorite item, stock up while you have the chance!
3. Skip the Food Court Line:
Did you know that you can skip the long line at Costco food courts!? All you do is place your order inside, while you are checking out after shopping.
While the cashier is ringing up and boxing up items in your shopping cart, ask them to add a few hot dogs and pizzas to your bill. They’ll put everything into 1 credit card purchase, and then you can take that receipt right up to the To-Go window of the food court.
The touchscreen kiosks make ordering that slice of pizza, hot dog, or chicken bake a whole lot easier as well.
For all you non-members: Years ago Costco used to allow non-members to shop at their outside food courts. Sadly, this isn’t the case anymore. You need to show your Costco membership card at the food courts.
4. Free Sample Tips
Costco free samples are back! They stopped for a while because of Covid, but food and drink samples are starting to return to stores all across the country.
Here are some firsthand tips from people working the sample booths:
- Saturdays and Sundays have the best and most abundant free samples. Costco and their suppliers plan this because of the higher foot traffic that takes place on weekends.
- Specifically, around 1 or 2 PM is when all of the food sample shifts will be out at the same time.
- Stay and chat with the sample representatives! They like it when you ask questions and learn about their product, and don’t mind if you try more.
- Ask for seconds (and thirds!) if you like something. The employees prefer it vs. awkwardly trying to come back and hope they didn’t remember the first time. Seriously, just ask for more and they’ll happily oblige.
5. Best times to shop at Costco:
Fighting crowds can be the difference between a pleasant shopping experience and a horrible one. Every location may be a little different, but here are the common themes on the best and worst times to shop at Costco.
- Best times to shop: Immediately when Costco opens, or the final hour before they close. Many expert shoppers report that Tuesday afternoons and Friday afternoons have fairly light traffic as well.
- Worst times to shop: Weekends, lunch time, and in the heart of the Holiday season. Avoid Black Friday, obviously!
December is always a busy month, but going first thing in the morning the day after Christmas can be a smart move. Shoppers can usually nab deals on holiday items that Costco needs to get rid of!
6. Costco Concierge Service
Costco offers free technical support for members when they purchase a wide variety of electronics and home products. These include computers, televisions, projectors, and even major appliances and water heaters!
Another cool thing – Costco offers an extended warranty on select products for 2 years. Check the Costco Concierge Service website for a full list of eligible products and more deets.
7. Costco Same Day Grocery Delivery:
When most people think of Costco they picture a 2 to 3 hour shopping trip to load up the entire car with bulk items.
But thanks to modern grocery delivery apps and technology, you can get other people to shop Costco for you and deliver stuff to your house. Here are a few methods:
- Costco SameDay: Costco members in qualifying ZIP Codes can order groceries and other perishables to be delivered same-day. Here’s the website to check your address and order same day delivery.
- Instacart: As we mentioned earlier, Instacart can help both Costco members and nonmembers get grocery delivery in as little as 1-hour!
- Shipt: Another option is using Shipt, who has worked with Costco for about five years delivering groceries and other Costco items.
8. Costco Bakery Hack:
There are a handful of items at the Costco Bakery that you can actually buy frozen at a cheaper price, in bulk. You can store them at home in your freezer, then thaw out and bake fresh when you are ready.
This Costco hack came from an ex employee who worked there and shared on Reddit:
“[Cookies] come raw and we bake them and package them. But you can buy the whole base box if you want for a comparably cheap price as mentioned above. It’s all listed on the “Bakery by the case” boards you’ll see on a wall somewhere near the bakery. Most people never notice them for some reason. The meat and deli sections also do similar deals for some of their items”
We do bake plenty of stuff from scratch (the “Birthday” cakes, apple pies, pumpkin pies etc) but some items are brought in from outside and just thawed and packaged or baked and packaged.”
Definitely something to check out next time you’re at the Costco bakery!
9. Rotisserie Chicken Hacks:
Costco is famous for their rotisserie chicken deal, having not increased their prices since 2009! It’s one of the deals that makes Costco membership worth the cost!
Fun fact: It only takes 17 chickens to save enough money to pay for your entire $60 membership.
But here’s a couple things you might not know about the chickens at Costco…
Listen for a bell ringing: Right when a fresh batch of Chickens is ready, the deli will ring a loud bell across the whole Costco store. When you hear that Bell, that’s your chance to pick up the freshest and hottest rotisserie chicken!
Ask to cut it in half: If you don’t want to buy an entire chicken, you can ask an employee in the poultry section to cut it in half (or in quarters!) for you. You might not be charged exactly half price (Costco charge a little bit for their labor).
Pick the biggest chicken: While Costco tries to make each chicken exactly the same size, (3lbs fully cooked), some end up bigger than others. And since they all cost the same, grabbing the biggest one will give you more bang for your buck.
10. Costco Return Policy
There are very few exceptions to Costco’s 100% Satisfaction Guarantee Policy. You can bring pretty much anything back to a Costco Warehouse, and they’ll give you a full refund. Having your receipt on hand makes returns quicker, but it’s not necessary.
Lastly, if you’re not seeing value from all the Costco membership perks, you can get a refund for your entire membership! Honestly, not many folks take advantage of this perk. That’s because most Costco shoppers see value instantly – that’s why they have 120 MILLION members!
11. Costco Anywhere VISA
If you’re a Costco shopper and you aren’t using the Costco Rewards credit card, what are you doing!? It’s the next credit card you should get. Here are the main highlights…
- No annual fee
- 2% cash back on Costco and Costco.com purchases
- 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases
- 4% cash back at Costco Gas, and EV charging
- Additional 2-year warranty on top of manufacturers warranty.
The additional 2-year warranty you get when buying electronics at Costco w/ the card is pretty clutch. Often, instead of just that 2-year manufacturer’s warranty on a fridge or a laptop, you’ll get 4 years of coverage for no additional cost! **warranty extension doesn’t cover cars or tires!!**
12. Discounted Gift Cards (& Movie Tickets!)
Costco sell gift cards to other retailers and select brands. But often times they’ll offer discounted gift cards, so you’ll receive MORE credit than what your actually paying for.
For example, you might be able to snag a $100 X-Box gift card for $90, or a $100 Nutrisystem gift card for $80! (We recommend only buying discounted gift cards if you plan to spend that money anyway!!)
Another cool hack is buying movie tickets at discount prices. Costco sell tickets to most cinema chains like Regal and AMC, and offer prices cheaper than if you were to buy online or at the movie theatre directly.
Even More Costco Hacks:
Want to learn even more Costco secrets? Get a part time job there! There’s no better way to know Costco like the back of your hand than by joining the 200,000+ Costco employee workforce.
Costco offers killer benefits to both part time and full time employees. They are notorious for having an excellent and happy work culture.
Welp, that’s it for now! Hope you learned something new and have a few tricks up your sleeve to try the next time you’re at Costco. And if you’re not a member, check out these scenarios that explain why Costco membership is definitely worth it!