Anyone who has listened to the How To Money podcast for any length of time knows that I’m a pretty big Costco fan. And it’s not just because the Costco food court offers the cheapest lunch option in town. There are a lot of Costco membership perks that many people don’t know about. That $60 membership fee pales in comparison to the value that most folks will get by joining the ranks of millions of other Costco members.
9 Costco Membership Perks
There are many pros and cons of warehouse clubs, but today I want to specifically look at Costco membership perks you can take advantage of if you decide to become a member. I’ve been a Costco member since 2014 so here are the best insights I’ve gleaned over the past nine years.
1. Baby essentials are great buys
If you are welcoming a baby into your home in the near future, a Costco membership is something you’ll want to consider shortly after you outfit your nursery. That’s because Kirkland Signature diapers and baby formula are incredible buys. In this phase of life, what you spend on infant products alone will more than make up for the membership fee you pay, making Costco absolutely worth it!
Kirkland Signature diapers get great reviews and are priced well. But the infant formula is where Costco really sets itself apart. The price that you’ll pay in the store is roughly half of what you’ll pay for name-brand counterparts. And since babies suck down formula faster than Usain Bolt runs a 40-yard dash, that one item could tip the scales in favor of Costco membership for you.
2. Costco’s store brand items are often better than name-brand equivalents
At most retailers, when you buy a store-brand item, you expect to get something of lower quality. But at least you saved a few bucks, right!?
Well, most Costco members actually opt for Costco’s store brand items over the name brand counterparts. Kirkland Signature items are famous for high quality at reasonable prices. In fact, when Costco decides to launch a new Kirkland Signature item, the goal is to create something that is at least 1% better than a similar name-brand item.
From my experience, they accomplish this goal regularly. Whether it’s the Kirkland Signature diapers I mentioned before or Costco’s organic peanut butter, you’re bound to find quite a few items that you like more than the name brands you are used to. And you’ll save money at the same time.
3. Costco Pharmacy has incredibly low prescription drug prices
Costco consistently offers some of the lowest prices on prescription medications, too. Perform a search on GoodRx for a medication you regularly take and you’ll likely see Costco offering a rock-bottom price – especially when compared to the major drug store chains.
And the great thing is, you don’t even need a Costco membership card to take advantage of items at the Costco Pharmacy. I know, we’re specifically talking about Costco membership benefits, but I figured that people who aren’t interested in becoming a Costco member might still want to know how they can benefit from Costco Warehouse or Online discounts without forking over $60 a year.
It’s important to note that Costco Pharmacy doesn’t always have the lowest price on prescription meds. It’s still important to shop around.
Consumer Reports found that Costco is incredibly competitive and that filling prescriptions at your local Costco could save you hundreds of dollars a year. You could also save on medication for your pet! As the vice President of Pharmacy at Costco, says, “we just price products as low as we possibly can and still make a modest profit.” Those low prices get passed on to you!
4. Costco sells a ton of excellent wine at great prices
Matt and I are, of course, craft beer guys. But we won’t refuse the occasional glass of wine. Costco’s selection and pricing of wine are unbeatable – at least from what I hear from wine aficionados. CostcoWineBlog.com is a great site where you can read independent reviews of many of the wines that Costco sells.
If you are borderline cheap, Costco sells a boxed Kirkland Signature Cabernet Sauvignon that costs $13. And although that is equivalent to the cost of a bottle of two-buck Chuck, the taste is far superior.
If your Costco has an attached liquor store you’ll be able to score deals on spirits too. You’ll find an excellent selection at prices far below what you would otherwise pay at your local bottle shop. And Costco even has a few tasty Kirkland Signature varieties that will save you even more. Some have speculated that Costco’s store-brand vodka is distilled and bottled by Grey Goose – but those rumors aren’t true as it turns out.
It’s also important to mention that many states have laws that prevent membership requirements to buy booze. So in most states, you’ll be able to purchase your bourbon or gin without becoming a Costco member. That’s another solid Costco perk available to the memberless among us!
5. Costco gas can save you meaningful money
Costco’s fuel prices are often $0.25 a gallon cheaper than other gas stations in the area. Studies show that the average American driver would save over $100 in gas each year, fully covering the $60 membership fee (and more!). Costco is worth it if you buy only gas!
Sadly, my nearest Costco is 20 minutes away. I don’t drive much either as I prefer to bike whenever possible. My dad, on the other hand, drives a ton! He has to for work. And since he passes a Costco frequently, filling up there really leads to some serious savings.
And it’s not just that the gas at Costco is cheap, which it is. Costco is also a top-tier gas retailer, which means that the fuel you are putting in your vehicle is formulated to clean engine components and reduce harmful deposits and emissions. Top-tier gas is often more expensive, but AAA finds that it’s often worth it to spend more and put the best gas into your car. But at Costco, you get the best for less. That’s just how they roll.
6. Costco Auto Program and cheap tires!
We just got done discussing the gas you put in your car. Now let’s talk about where the rubber meets the road – literally. The Costco Tire Center has deals that will snag you a new set of tires at a great price. If you buy a set of 4 tires you can save up to $150 off Costco’s normal low price – if you buy during a promotional period that is.
I purchased a set of Michelin tires from Costco a few years back during one of these sales. The manufacturer was offering a sweet discount and Costco threw in free installation. In addition to getting a great price on your tires, you’ll receive free inflation pressure checks, tire balancing, tire rotations, and flat repairs.
The Costco Auto Program offers members discounts on new and used cars, as well as parts and repair services. While I personally haven’t purchased a car from Costco, they have great reviews and reputation.
7. Costco’s unbeatable return policy
Costco members can feel pretty confident when they spend money at the warehouse giant because the retailer offers top-tier customer service in addition to top-tier gasoline.
Part of that robust customer service is a customer-centric return policy that stands out like a rose amongst thorns in the current retail environment. The risk-free 100% satisfaction guarantee is something that Costco takes very seriously. And the lack of a limited return timeframe makes this return policy even more generous… and rare!
Members know that they can return items that they no longer want or need without any hassle. That being said, there are a few eligible purchases that Costco has limited to a 90-day return window. You can check out Costco’s website for specifics on its return policy and the Costco purchase that you won’t be able to return after that 90 days have passed.
Something else worth mentioning about Costco’s return policy is that you can cancel your membership at any time and for any reason and your membership fee will be refunded to you. Whether you decide that you hate shopping in a retail environment with concrete floors or if you just realize that the nearest Costco is a pain to get to, you can easily cancel your membership and get your money back. You can’t lose by giving Costco membership a shot!
8. Executive membership offers additional benefits
A regular Costco Gold Star membership comes with a $60 annual fee. And even though you can cancel your membership and get a full refund, it’s important to weigh the benefits before you make the commitment. But for many members, it makes sense to pay Costco even more money every year for membership! A $120 Executive membership makes the most sense for many Costco shoppers.
That’s because Executive members get a 2% reward on all Costco purchases – up to $1,000 a year. This includes purchases you make when you book travel through Costco. A good rule of thumb is that if you typically spend $250 or more each month, or $3,000 a year, at Costco, the benefits of becoming an Executive member outweigh the additional membership cost.
Also, if you opt for an Executive membership and the rewards you receive don’t make up for the additional cost, Costco will make up that difference by giving you cash.
**Note: Costco discontinued their Mortgage Service Program in May 2022.
Executive Membership vs. Gold Star Membership
Gold Star Membership: $60 per year, includes 1 household card, available for use at all worldwide locations
Gold Star Executive: $120 per year, includes 1 household card, 2% cash back reward on eligible purchases, extra benefits on Costco Travel, extra savings on Costco Services.
9. Costco Anywhere VISA Card leads to even greater rewards
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. That’s because you’ll get an additional 2% cashback on every purchase that you make at Costco.
On top of that, you’ll get 4% back on fuel that you purchase at gas stations, making those low Costco fuel prices even more enticing.
The downsides of being a Costco member
Becoming a Costco member isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Here are some of the cons of Costco membership:
Sparse locations: Because Costco builds enormous stores, there aren’t all that many of them. You might not even live in the vicinity of a Costco!
Parking & busy times: The act of finding a parking space at your local Costco can be nightmarish and the crowds can be overwhelming – especially on the weekends.
Buying in bulk: People that live alone or families that live in tight living quarters might also find it more difficult to realize the benefits of a Costco membership. Buying in bulk brings down the cost, but it still costs you more if you can’t use all of what you bought! If it will take you years to use what you’ve bought or if you don’t have the ability to store the things you purchase at Costco, becoming a member doesn’t make much sense.
Some prices are higher: Costco doesn’t offer rock-bottom prices for everything. If you’re looking to get the absolute lowest price on everything you buy, you’ll want to shop elsewhere in many cases. Costco specializes in providing value, not dirt-cheap goods.
Only accept VISA: Costco Warehouse and Online Stores only accept Visa credit cards when you check out. Most people should have a few credit cards in their possession and you likely have a Visa card if you do. But if you don’t, you’ll need to remedy that in order to even make a purchase.
Costco Membership Perks FAQ:
Here are the most common questions people ask about Costco membership perks. Again, we cover a lot of this stuff in our episode about pros and cons of warehouse clubs.
Do you need a membership for Costco?
Yes, for most things at Costco you must have a membership.
However, the Costco Pharmacy is available for both members and non-members. Also, if you purchase groceries via a delivery app like InstaCart, you can buy items without being a member (but it’ll cost a higher price)
How much is Costco membership?
It’s $60 per year for Gold Star Membership, and $120 per year for Gold Star Executive Membership. (Compared to $50 per year for Sams Club, and $110 for the higher tier)
Can I share my Costco membership?
Yes, and there are 2 main ways:
- In addition to the primary member’s Costco card, each membership comes with a free household card which can be assigned to a different family member.
- Anyone with a Costco card can bring 2 friends to the Costco Warehouse for shopping. However, purchases have to be made by the member, so you need to all check out together and pay with the member’s card.
What are the Costco Credit Card Benefits?
Costco partners with Citi Bank and offers a reward card called the Costco Anywhere Visa. Here’s a summary of the benefits:
- 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
Also check out: Our favorite credit cards for how you spend and top travel rewards credit cards.
How do I cancel my Costco membership?
Just call the Member Services Center at 1-800-774-2678. Or, you can go physically to a Costco Warehouse to cancel. Costco Membership cannot be cancelled online.
Can I return diapers from Costco?
Yep! Diapers are included in Costco’s 100% satisfaction guarantee. You can return open packets of diapers (unused, of course) to the warehouse in person or via USPS/UPS shipping.
Is Costco Worth It?
Long story short, yes. That’s why my family, along with ~120 million other people, have a Costco membership — because often the perks out-weight the small annual fee.
Here’s a fun post for all you math nerds, calculating 5 scenarios where Costco membership is worth the cost‘.
The things I listed in this article don’t even tell the full story of what you get when you become a Costco member. You’ll find all sorts of other perks if you give it a try – like the ability to buy discounted life insurance policies or get free technical support if you need troubleshooting help after purchasing electronics there.
If any of the above offerings resonate with you and there’s a Costco in your vicinity, it might make sense to purchase a membership and check out your local Costco before renouncing the idea altogether. Keep track of the savings you rack up throughout the year to see if that $60 or $120 membership fee is worth it. And if not, don’t hesitate to ask for a refund.
You might also like:
- Best Costco Hacks and Secrets!
- Is Costco Membership worth it?
- How to Save Money on Travel (Costco Travel has awesome packages!)
- Pros & Cons of Warehouse Clubs
I’ve been going to Costco for many years and as such I agree with most of what this article says. However, the part that said “Costco also only accepts Visa credit cards when you check out online or in a physical store… – But if you don’t [have one], you’ll need to remedy that in order to even make a purchase.” is only 50% correct. When shopping in a brick & mortar store you can also use cash if you find yourself with the need to. I have used cash there on many occasions.