Is Costco Elite Membership Worth the Cost?

by Travis Pizel · 306 comments

Last weekend, my wife and I stopped by the local Costco to renew our membership, which expired at the end of March. As expected, they asked us if we wanted the Goldstar Membership for $55, or the Elite Membership for $110, with which members get 2% cash back on purchases.

The customer service representative sensed our hesitation, and reminded us that if we didn’t earn the $55 price difference in cash back rewards, Costco would make up the difference themselves. That’s what happened last year, as we only earned $23 in rewards.

With this guarantee in place, as long as you follow through on getting a refund, there’s no way you could lose money on the upgraded membership.

We signed up for the Elite membership, and are determined to make it work in our favor this time. In order to just break even and earn $55 in rewards, we’d have to spend $2,750 at Costco in the next year. That works out to $230 per month, or about one third of our overall budget for groceries and household items.

The key is to buy things at Costco we’ve been buying elsewhere — not to increase our overall spending.

When we got home, I started compiling a list of things that we’ll now buy from Costco, along with an estimated amount spent per month.

  • Toilet paper: $20
  • Cat food: $25
  • Laundry detergent: $15
  • Meat (beef, chicken, pork): $120
  • Produce: $80
  • Snacks: $80
  • Soda/water: $40

Total: $380

This list is by no means complete, but I wanted to quickly see how feasible it would be to earn my $55 back with the 2% cash back rewards. If I could buy $380 of products from Costco each month, my total amount spent for the year would be $4,560, earning $91.20 in rewards.

My ultimate goal, however, is to earn enough cash back to pay for my membership next year. To do that, I’d have to spend $5,500 in a year, or about $460 per month. I love a good challenge, so I’m going to give it the old college try and start looking for other things in our monthly spending that I could get at Costco.

If we don’t earn back at least the membership price difference this year, we’ll just go with the basic membership next year.

Do you have a Costco Elite membership? Do you earn enough cash back to make it worth it?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • magicdragon says:

    My wife and I buy a lot at Costco. We are on a fixed income and have an Executive membership. We go about three times a month. Cheese, cream cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, Parmesan cheese, coffee, paper products, vitamins, garlic, pineapples, dried fruit, nuts, batteries, light bulbs, socks, beer, photo paper, breads, soups and other items are less expensive at Costco here in Montana than any where else. Fresh fruit is usually comparable unless stores have it on sale. We bought our last couch there as it was half the price of a leather couch anywhere else.

    A cooked chicken is $5.00. The last one we bought made two sandwiches, enchiladas for two meals and chicken and dumplings for six. They even feed you if you go at the right time. By the way, I got back $230 this year and am still waiting for my credit card rebate.

  • HWand says:

    The Statement: “The customer service representative sensed our hesitation, and reminded us that if we didn’t earn the $55 price difference in cash back rewards, Costco would make up the difference themselves. That’s what happened last year, as we only earned $23 in rewards.” is incorrect because we’ve paid the $110.00 for years but usually only get $25.00 to $35.00 back which doesn’t pay the difference. Costco did guarantee us the $55.00 but simply hasn’t fulfilled it for several years now. Will check with them this year when I renew in March.

  • Ahmed says:

    I find only some of the items at costco worth the deal. Their Apple pies or Kirkland products are good. But I wouldn’t pay 55$ to go to a very far supermarket to shop. I hope they end this membership only system. Not efficient.

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