Is Costco Elite Membership Worth the Cost?

by Travis Pizel · 312 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 }

  • richard zucaro says:

    My wife bought the elite membership without discussing it with me. We went there today and I was amazed to see so many people with full carts of food and merchandise. I immediately started to look around and compare prices to walmart , smiths and albertsons/vons , where we usually shop. I could not find a single item that was even the same price as where we usually shop, all were higher, some a lot higher. Just the other day I purchased a oster table top convection oven at walmart, the exact same oven at cosco was $15 more. Every food staple I checked such as eggs, butter, bread, meat and many more that I positively know the price of since I shop with my wife, and I had this weeks sale papers from all the supermarkets, was higher priced. How can so many people be fooled into paying $120 a year to travel a considerable distance to a cosco to pay more for everything? I know about the cash back 2% and the discounts if you use their credit card for entertainment and such. Considering how much you overpay at cosco I think you would be lucky to just get back your membership cost if you used as many of their cash back promotions as possible. Now you are driving all the way to the nearest cosco so you can pay more for everything. ( Maybe not EVERYTHING) If I’m wrong, show me! Doesn”t anyone else price check? I showed all of this to my wife, she agreed, felt foolish for not running this by me before she acted. She said she assumed it was a good thing since so many other people are doing it. Another example of the herd mentality. I told her I loved her anyway. I said she could shop there if she wanted to, but she said no, I”ll go back to the grocery stores. She said she was embarassed to ask for a refund since we haven”t bought anything there yet. She would have to admit she didn”t do any comparisons before falling for their deal. It all sounded so good when the representative explained it. Buyer beware!

    • CJ says:

      Eggs, rice, milk, a lot of produce items, toilet paper, water, frozen foods, OTC drugs, meats, household items are A LOT cheaper than Walmart/target/grocery stories, not sure where you shop and my luckily costco is 5 miles away.

  • phil says:

    amazon prime is a far better deal all the way around so I can see the Costco membership falling as we speak

  • 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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