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Is a Costco Membership Worth the Price?

Costco Doesn't Give Out Promo Codes. Here's How You Can Still Save Big On Membership (and more)

9.1.2020 | Costco Savings Guide

costco membership savings

If you were designing a Disneyland for adults, it would probably look a lot like Costco. Where else can you order a piping-hot pizza, gaze into the technicolor hyperreality of the latest Ultra-HDTV, and plan your next vacation—all while saving money and snacking on free samples? There's only one catch: the up-front membership fee of $60. Naturally, if you're interested in joining a wholesale club, you're probably a pretty savvy shopper to begin with (You've come to the right place!), so it makes sense that you'd look for ways to save on the membership fees. 

Groupon Coupons is here to help! First, it's going to save you a ton of time knowing that Costco never discounts memberships or issues promo codes for membership. We know because we asked them personally! Instead, Costco works with organizations, such as teacher's unions and the AARP, and reputable deal sites (*ahem*) to basically discount memberships by tossing in free Costco gift cards and other perks.

But what if you're not a teacher, student, or member of the military? Glad you asked! There are still a ton of ways to save on membership if you know where to look! In this article, we'll break down how to save on Membership (we even found you an deal for a free $10 gift card with membership), but we'll also share tons of hidden ways you can save once you become a Costco member.

 


Membership  |  Travel  |  Rental Car  |  Gas  |  Tires  |  Pharmacy  | Costco Credit Card  |  Non-Member Savings


 

Costco Membership

First things first: a Costco membership costs $60 (Gold Star) or $120 (Gold Star Executive) and lasts for 12 months. That means Gold Star members need to save $1.15 per week and Gold Star Executives need to save $2.30 to make the membership worth the price. Between groceries and gas alone, trust us, that is really easy to do (we'll break it down in a second). Besides discounted rates on all types of insurance: home, health, car, life, dental, and vision, Costco members can also really pile on the savings with special Costco programs like financing a mortgage and buying a car with special club pricing. 

[Quick side note: we kind of assumed the car-buying site would be... a little janky? We weren't only wrong, we were spectacularly wrong! On the contrary, the site is honestly borderline addictive, letting you choose and customize just about any model you can imagine. We strongly recommend taking a whirl.]

Having a Gold Star membership will get you in the door, but the extra $60 per year for a Gold Star Executive membership opens up an absolute boatload of extra perks. The biggest benefit of the Gold Star Executive membership is the 2% cash-back bonus on all eligible Costco purchases (up to $1,000 per year). To make up for the extra upfront cost, Gold Star Executive members need to spend $3,000 a year. It sounds like a lot, but the average American already spends more than $2,600 on groceries and $1,500 on gas every year. Add in the Costco savings and the cash-back bonus, and a Gold Star Executive membership has already paid for itself.

 


CURRENT COSTCO DEAL: Get A Free $10 Or $20 When You Sign Up For Gold Star Or Gold Star Executive Membership


 

Costco Travel Benefits

You really can buy anything, including your next vacation, at Costco. Since 2000, Costco has had an in-house travel agency that works just like every other part of the wholesale business. Costco Travel gets great rates on hotels, resorts, cruises, and car rental companies because of its millions-strong customer base. In turn, those savings are passed onto members who book a vacation through Costco Travel.

It’s hard to estimate just how much you can save with Costco Travel. Pricing in the travel industry fluctuates significantly based on a number of factors. But it’s a great place to start your search for a great deal on travel to the Caribbean, Hawaii, or beyond—especially if you're planning to live it up on a budget. Business Insider estimates Costco members can save 10% to 30% on luxury hotel stays

It used to be that Costco Travel only offered vacation packages, so you’d need to book a 7-day cruise or DisneyWorld vacation to take advantage of the savings. Costco heard the feedback, and now you can book individual hotel rooms or hotel and flight packages. But insiders say one of the best ways to save on travel is using Costco to rent a car. 


Executive Member Perk: Save an extra 2% on travel, including flights, hotels, and car rentals. 


 

Costco Rental Cars

Imagine if Hotwire not only found you the cheapest prices but also automatically snatched the best promo codes and applied them to your rental car. That, folks, is precisely what Costco's Costco Travel Low Price Finder does. Thanks to the collective bargaining power of millions of Costco members, Costco is able to partner with major rental car companies—Alamo, Avis, Budget, and Enterprise—to offer legitimately exclusive discounts to members. Costco members also do get to add an additional driver for free, even if the additional driver isn’t a Costco member.

Shoppers also really like the Low Price Finder and other Costco Travel tools because all taxes and fees are included up front, so the price you’re quoted is the final price. No surprise add-ons ever!

Costco Gas

Besides buying in bulk, Costco is probably most famous for its gas. Which makes sense because Costco members can save an average of 21 cents per gallon! We did the math to find that the average American can save $137 every year at Costco on gas alone. Not only are the savings great, but so is the gasoline itself. 

Costco doesn’t disclose the name of its gasoline provider, but it is listed as a TOP TIER–licensed brand, which means the gasoline meets quality standards set forth by auto manufacturers and EPA guidelines. Costco’s own materials say that its regular unleaded- and premium-grade gasoline contain five times the EPA detergent requirement, which helps maintain good engine function and protects against declines in miles per gallon consumption.

 


How to Get Anything At Costco (Including Gas) Without a Membership:

Advanced Savings Tactic: Get your hands on a gift card! Anyone with a Costco gift card can buy gas or anything else (even without a membership).

The Catch: It can be tricky to find a Costco gift card since you need to be a member to buy one from Costco.

The Solution(s):

  • Ask a friend or family member to pick up some gift cards on their next Costco run
  • You can also sometimes find Costco gift cards on Amazon or eBay, though our personal favorite is Raise (a business that buys and sells gift cards... genius!)
  • Instacart: You pay a little extra in delivery fees, but shopping through Instacart is by far the easiest way to get your hands on metric tons of cheesy poofs without a membership. [Check out the latest Instacart promo codes & deals at our Groupon Coupons page.]

 

Costco Tires

Buying your tires at Costco might not actually be the cheapest option. Oftentimes you can find a slightly better price online at TireRack.com. Don’t forget to factor in additional costs like installation and disposal of your old tires (usually around $20 per tire). Once those costs are considered, Costco usually comes out on top. Costco tire installation also comes with free five-year road hazard and maintenance services. That includes free tire rotations and balancing and flat repairs for the life of the tires. 

One thing to note though, Costco will not do wheel alignments when you get a new set of tires. It’s not a crucial service, but mechanics strongly recommend it to get the most out of your investment.

Costco Pharmacy

A recent Consumer Reports study found Costco Pharmacy prices are among the best. In fact, it was rated the best for pricing among walk-in pharmacies. You can potentially save a little more if you order online, but then you have to wait for your prescription to arrive via mail.

Costco’s Pharmacy is a perk for members and non-members alike. Whether you pay for the membership or not, the pharmacy at Costco works exactly the same. When you need a prescription filled, have your doctor call it in to a Costco pharmacy or just bring in the slip yourself. The price will be the same no matter your status. 

More Ways to Save at Costco

Costco Citi Card

If you really want to rack up the savings, you can double your cash-back rewards with a Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi. You’ll earn 4% cash back rewards on gas for the first $7,000 you spend (it drops to 1% after that), 3% on restaurants and eligible travel, 2% on all other Costco purchases, and 1% on everything else.

 

Costco Gift Cards

Don’t want to get a membership for yourself? Non-members can still take advantage of many of Costco’s savings with a Costco Shop Card. Essentially a gift card to Costco, anyone (including non-members) can use a Costco Shop Card to stock up on groceries, gas, and more. The only caveat is that Costco members are the only ones who can purchase and load money onto a Shop Card ($25–$1,000). So you’ll have to rely on a friend or family member with a membership to get you in the door. 

Non-Members Can Still Save at Costco

 

  • Costco alcohol: It’s not true in all states, but in 14 states, you can buy booze at Costco without a membership. The price club has its own Kirkland Signature private-label spirits, which are offered at 20% to 40% less than top-shelf brands and experts have a hard time telling the difference. Check out this article to learn more about the best Kirkland Signature wines and spirits.
  • Fill prescriptions: You can fill a prescription at a Costco pharmacy just like a member would. The non-member pricing is exactly the same, and frankly, the savings are almost literally unbelievable. And the savings really start to add up if you start buying pet meds, which cost up to 75% less at Costco.
  • Eye Exams: Costco Optical has a great deal for non-members, especially those without vision insurance. You can make an appointment with a Costco optometrist for an eye exam and it will only cost you $60, no membership required. But you have to be a member (or have a Costco Cash Card) to buy contacts or glasses.
  • Eat in the Food Court: We’ve all heard about Costco’s $1.50 hot dog and soda meal, but you can also get a fully-cooked pizza for just $10! You don’t need a membership to eat at the food court, but you will have to enter through the exit because of how Costco stores are set up.

 

Costco Hours

Costco hours vary based on store location. Find a warehouse store near you.

Coronavirus Hours

As of May 4, 2020, nearly all Costco locations are operating at regular store hours with the exception of special senior hours in some places (set aside for vulnerable members).

  • Massachusetts: Senior Shopping Hours are 8:30–9:30 a.m., daily
  • Oregon: Senior Shopping Hours are 8:30–9:30 a.m., Monday through Friday
  • Brooklyn, NY: Senior Shopping Hours are 8–9 a.m., Monday through Friday
  • Westbury, NY: Senior Shopping Hours are 7–9 a.m., Monday through Friday

Costco Holiday Hours

Costco warehouses in the United States are closed on the following holidays:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Easter
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas