Big box stores like Costco have many advantages, from bulk sizes to fantastic store brands, but the $50 membership fee isn’t one of them!
While I know several people who split the membership cost with family members, neighbors, roommates and friends, it’s still nice to avoid the extra cost. And you can -- if you use these strategies to shop at Costco without a membership.
Here are eight clever ways to enjoy all the benefits of Costco without paying for an annual membership.
1. Use a Costco Cash Card
Here’s a big secret Costco probably doesn’t want you to know: You can shop without a membership as long as you have a Costco Cash Card.
"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," says Costco's website.
Only members can buy Costco Cash Card from the store’s website, but that’s OK. Use this trick to save even more money: Buy your Cash Card from a discounted gift card site or from eBay.
It doesn’t matter how much is on the card; even a card with $2 left on it will get you in the door and pay for part of your purchase. Then you can use cash, a debit card or an American Express credit card to pay for the rest.
2. Visit the Pharmacy
Prescriptions can be really expensive. You can fill new prescriptions, refill existing prescriptions, or transfer prescriptions at the Costco Pharmacy. Plus, did you know you can order online at Costco Pharmacy services? Your medication can be delivered for free via standard USPS within 6 to 14 days.
You might have already heard you can score cheaper prescription medications at Costco. But did you know you don’t have to be a member?
3. Hearing and Optical Services
Did you know at most Costco stores you can buy glasses and hearing aids? They have special events a few times a year, sometimes with free samples. Keep in mind that while you can go in and see what they offer, you do need a membership to buy glasses, contact lenses, or hearing aid equipment. One trick to get around the membership is to load a Costco card with $20, then pay the difference in cash. From their web site: 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.
4. Price Comparing at Costco
Do you like to shop around for the absolute best price? Costco is a great place for that. Just ask customer service for more info about membership. They will give you an application. Browse around the store before making up your mind and check out the prices.
5. Food Court Treats
Their pizza is so good!! You will definitely want to try a slice for only $1.99. Plus their $1.50 for hot dog and soda combo are a great, cheap lunch. You can also pick up a large pizza for only $9.99, which is enough to feed an army. We’ve gotten a few of these for birthday parties in the past, they are perfect for feeding a crowd. FYI, food courts only take cash as well.
6. Costco Deals Online
Say you are looking for the best deal on a TV or iPad. You can look for your item at Costco.com and get the deal Costco members get! The advantage of buying online is that you can use non-American Express credit cards, which are not accepted at Costco warehouses. FYI, the website does state “Non-members may be assessed an additional surcharge. The surcharge does not apply to prescription items.”
7. Get the American Express True Earnings Costco cash card
Let’s say you open the card, and during the year you use it to purchase $1,500 in gas, $1,000 on eating out/travel and $3,000 in other purchases. You earn $45 + $20 + $30 in cash back rewards, which gives you $95. If you have a $55 Gold Star membership, you’ve paid for your membership renewal and you’ve made $40! If you’re a $110 Executive Gold Star member then you’ll only have to pay an extra $15 for your membership renewal.
This card has no annual fees for Costco members and offers cash back. How you earn: 3% back on gas (up to $4,000/year), 2% back on U.S. restaurants and eligible travel, and 1% back on other purchases. Your cash back comes once per year in the form of a rewards coupon, which you can redeem at Costco for cash.
More Costco Secrets!
- You can stack Costco coupons with rebate apps like Ibotta, Checkout51 and Snap.
- The delicious Costco made to order cake is only $18, while at the grocery store it is over $20.
- Some of the worst buys at Costco are razors and shampoo. I typically tend to avoid the health and beauty section for that reason.
- No more having to clip out coupons! They are now automatically applied to your card, which makes it much easier to get deals.
- Kirkland batteries are identical to Duracell batteries.
- Need ink for your printer? Costco ink cartridges are only $7.49.
- Watch Groupon or Zulily for membership deals. Recently Zulily offered a free rotisserie chicken, free Kirkland products and more with membership.