How much do Costco, Sam’s Club, and other warehouse store memberships cost?
People have been shopping in warehouse or wholesale clubs since the 1970s. Warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club are attractive because the goods usually cost less than what you would find elsewhere. This makes them particularly good options for more frugal or budget-conscious buyers.
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While warehouse clubs often have cheaper merchandise, many of them involve membership fees. If you’re considering becoming a Warehouse Club Membership, here’s what you need to know about the costs and how to get the biggest savings.
How much does each membership cost?
The cost of membership depends on the Warehouse Club. Some of the largest warehouse clubs – like Costco or Sam’s Club – offer memberships in a tiered system. By purchasing a membership, customers can benefit from discounts, bulk items and more.
Here’s what each membership at the most popular warehouse clubs costs, along with what’s included.
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Costco Membership Cost
Before you can enter a Costco warehouse and purchase goods, you must purchase a membership. The only exception is that non-members can get prescriptions from Costco pharmacies.
Costco offers the following three types of memberships:
Gold Star Membership: At its simplest, this membership includes a free Costco Household Card and is valid at any Costco location worldwide. It costs $60 annually.
Business Membership: Like the Gold Star tier, this option includes the household card and access to all Costco stores. This allows you to purchase items for resale. You can also add partner cardholders for $60 each. This option also costs $60 per year.
Executive Membership: This option includes everything from Gold Star membership plus 2% annual bonuses on select merchandise. It also offers the potential for additional benefits and savings on Costco services and travel products. It costs $120 per year.
As with other warehouse clubs, many items at Costco are sold in bulk. The unit price per item may be cheaper than elsewhere, but the upfront cost may be higher.
Cost of Sam’s Club membership
Unlike Costco, you don’t need a membership to join a Sam’s Club. This means you can window shop and find out about the range and cost of goods before you become a member. However, you need a membership to purchase most items.
Sam’s Club has the following two membership tiers:
Club Membership: This is the basic membership option. It comes with a Sam’s Club Mastercard that offers cash back rewards (e.g. 3% on food and travel, 5% on gas, 1% on everything else). Terms and Conditions apply to Cash Back Rewards and all other bonuses. This membership also includes fuel savings, tire and battery center access, wiper blade installation, curbside pickup and more. It costs $50 per year.
Plus Membership: The Plus membership includes everything from the first level as well as savings in the pharmacy and in the optics center. It also comes with up to 2% cashback on certain purchases (up to $500 per year). It also includes free shipping and the ability to shop early at certain locations. It comes with an annual fee of $110.
BJ Wholesale Membership Cost
Also known as BJ’s Wholesale Club, Inc., this warehouse offers three membership options:
Basic Club Card: These include exclusive coupon offers and a free membership for one household member. It costs $55 annually.
Club+ card: This option includes the same things as above plus a $0.05 rebate per gallon of BJ’s Gasoline, 2% cash back rewards, additional rewards and access to special events. It costs $110 per year.
Business Membership: This membership includes tax exemptions, resale privileges, and discounted add-on memberships. It costs $55 per year.
Amazon Prime membership cost
Amazon Prime, while not a wholesale club, is another option if you’re looking for online shopping at an affordable price. Amazon Prime costs $14.99 per month or $139 per year.
You don’t need to have a membership to shop on Amazon. However, membership comes with free, fast shipping and delivery. It also offers the ability to stream select shows and music or get early access to online deals.
If you have an Amazon Prime membership and use either the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card or the regular Amazon Prime loyalty card, you can also receive up to 5% cashback from Amazon Fresh.
Can Warehouse Clubs Save Money?
It’s possible to save money shopping at a warehouse club, but it’s not a guarantee.
Warehouse Clubs and Supercenters earned an estimated $722.3 billion in 2022. Two of the largest warehouse clubs in the United States – Sam’s Club and Costco – are the largest contributors to this revenue.
Most warehouse clubs have open concepts with wide aisles, high ceilings and shelving, and an industrial look – cement floors, strategically placed lighting, minimal decor, etc. This design helps them maintain lower overheads than traditional retail stores, which allows them to offer goods to lower prices.
But this sparse design is more strategic than you might think. Warehouse Clubs are organized to encourage impulse purchases. If you end up buying things you don’t need — or worse, don’t use — you’re not really saving any money.
Also, warehouse clubs are notorious for charging membership fees. In fact, they get most of their income from memberships. If you have a membership but rarely use it, you could be spending money without getting anything in return. Carefully weigh the benefits and savings to avoid overspending.
Here’s how to get the most out of your Warehouse Club membership
You need to be strategic if you want to take full advantage of your Warehouse Club membership and save the most money. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your membership:
Take advantage of member discounts, bonuses, special offers or exclusive events.
Enjoy some free samples while shopping at Warehouse Club.
Use the additional services of the wholesale club (e.g. pharmacy or optician), as these are often cheaper.
Buy in bulk (but only what you need and will use).
Make a list before you go and stick to it (to avoid overspending and take advantage of the best discounts).
Finally, if you have a membership that you are not using, you should cancel it. Most warehouse clubs offer free cancellation, although you may be charged for the current month or the rest of the year.
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