- A Costco membership can give you access to a bevy of deals and perks, from gas to cheap alcohol.
- But some potential pitfalls, like impulse shopping and food waste, can drain your wallet instead of saving you money.
- Here’s how to determine whether a Costco membership is worth it for you.
Costco has a reputation as a paradise for thrifty and bulk-size shoppers, but having a Costco card won’t pay off for every person.
Though the cheap gas, booze, and deals on bulk items can seem promising, if you’re prone to impulse shopping and wasting food, for example, a membership might not be worth it for you.
Here’s how to tell if you should get a Costco membership.
What are the different types of Costco memberships?
The Gold Star membership is $60 a year, and the Gold Star Executive membership is $120 a year, which includes an annual 2% reward on Costco purchases and cheaper car rentals and hotel stays through Costco Travel.
You can buy from Costco online without a membership, but members get 5% off each purchase. So if you spend over $1,200 on Costco.com without a membership, you’re losing money.
What are the pros of a Costco membership?
Costco can be a one-stop shop for errands, since members can access the store’s gas station, food court, optical department, and pharmacy, on top of the huge variety of goods offered in the store. Aine Cain, a senior retail reporter at Insider who goes to Costco at least twice a month, makes use of all the stores services — especially the gas, which she said is cheaper than other gas stations near her.
The store’s bundling of different services into one also made it an attractive destination for consumers looking to cut down on shopping trips during the pandemic.
The store also has unique items that shoppers aren’t able to find elsewhere.
“For a while, we were grabbing box after box of Mexican Cokes,” Cain said. “We were walking out with cart-loads of Mexican Cokes. We looked unwell, but we didn’t care, because the product is terrific.”
Though that product has since disappeared, her other Costco favorites are Kirkland-brand seltzer water, clothes, and decaf coffee.
The store can also be a good deal for people who split their memberships with others or have large households.
Mary Meisenzahl, a retail reporter with Insider who splits Costco purchases between herself, her boyfriend, and her parents, buys bulk-sizes of frequently used items, like oat milk and dog treats.
When a Costco membership might not be worth it for you
Costco is known for bulk sizes, which translate to higher prices, so you can rack up a long and pricey receipt if you have a tendency to impulse shop.
“We usually have a specific plan going into Costco, but there’s plenty of room for impulse buying once you’re wandering around the warehouse,” Cain said. “I feel like I’m the type of person who shouldn’t be allowed to shop at Costco if I’m having a bad or stressful day, because I’d really go wild with my purchases.”
If you’re far away from one of Costco’s 813 locations, you might be wasting more money on gas driving to the store than you’re saving. Plus, if you have to make a long drive to get there, you might not be shopping there enough to make the cost of a membership worth it.
Costco’s whole appeal is bulk buying, so unless you’re shopping for a lot of people or if you know you’re going to be using it up fast, buying produce or meat in bulk won’t save you money unless you can eat it before it expires.
Costco has a reputation for bargains, but not all Costco deals are as thrifty as you might think — items like pasta and name-brand cereal are usually cheaper at regular grocery stores.