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 }

  • Louise says:

    I’d rather be around good-hearted overweight people in Walmart or Costco than a mean-hearted person making fun of people because of their weight.

  • Steve Johnson says:

    Costco. Home of the overweight dumbed down cart pushers. You know the ones that are stuffing their faces with GMO laced poison food samples with high fructose corn syrup. The ones buying TVs bigger than your bath. Buying Chinese sweat shop junk they don’t really need. Supporting a company that provides no pension to its workers yet perpetuates the myth that Costco is a great place to work. The company that rarely hires full time workers. Instead mostly temporary jobs with 23 hours a week. The company that purchases E. Cold laced meats. The company that helps the Big Pharma get their next cancer patients… Go ahead keep shopping and eating their junk there and enjoy your extermination from this planet.

    • CJ says:

      LMAO. do you shop get your facts at the same place you shop?? More than half of their employees are full time, off 401ks and great benefits. Sells TONS of organic and no gmo options. I think maybe your privilege and judgmental mentality are fogging up your brain a bit

  • Louise says:

    I saw on msn tonight “7 reasons why some people don’t like Costco.” Of course they had a come back for every dislike, but I just realized I just like to go to a store like Walmart that has good prices. I don’t want to pay to become a member, I don’t want to deal with rebates or any thing else you have to do. I just want to go in the store and see low prices. Recently I’ve been doing the Just for U thing at Safeway, where you get ten cents off a gallon of gas if you spend $1oo dollars in a month, but I decided I’m probably not saving anything if I buy any items regular price, but I may continue that one because I do like to shop other stores besides Walmart,
    because they may carry something I can’t find at Walmart, but I don’t believe I will shop a store that I have to pay to join. Oh I did pay $3.00, about 30 years ago to join a Bi-Mart store in our area. You pay that just one time to become a member.

  • Sy says:

    The executive member only pays off if you spent over $5500/year. Say If you spend $2000 you’ll get $20 rewards with regular vs $40 for executive member. So with executive member even if Costco pay the difference you still pay $110-$40(rewards)-$15(diff. that Costco pay)=$55 while with regular membership you pay $55-$20=$35.
    Only when you spend $5500 the membership break even and past $5500 you’d better off with executive member. Costco must be making lots of money, or I should say saving money for not having to pay for rewards for many of the executive members with <$5500 spend.

    • Dave says:


      The “regular” Gold membership doesn’t give you any rebate or cash back at all. If you want a Costco membership, you pay $55 regardless.

      So if you spend $2500 at 2% back, you’ve basically paid for the Executive membership. If you spend more than that, you start to “pay for” your regular Gold membership fee as well.

      Costco’s credit card (Citi as of 2016, formerly Amex) also gives cash back. But you earn that on top of your membership rebate.

  • bevy says:

    I shop at Fred Meyers and can pay a discount of up to $1.00 off per gallon of gas. I call that way better than 2% from Costco. My Costco shopping is for essentials and nothing fancy. Even Costco can’t beat Freddys 3 cents off per gallon on gas.

  • Raul says:

    Elite membership paid off for us this past year, just got a Costco $79.34 reward check which we used to pay this years membership.

  • John Anderson says:

    Using the Costco American Express Card (to be Costco Visa next year), you not only get 2% back from Costco, but you also get 2% back from AmEx for Costco purchases and restaurant meals, 3% on gas, and 1% on everything else.

  • Gigi says:

    With a three person household (including 14 month old baby) I spend a min of $600/month at Costco($15o/week min), excluding gas… Yea the Execmembership is definitely worth it for us.

  • Scott says:

    Costco elite membership is a joke. First of all, many other markets are cheaper than Costco. When I look at Smart N Final and Winco, I see greater savings. Also, American Express will be dropping Costco next year. Home improvement items I see cheaper at Home Depot than Costco. In all, there are very few products or advantages to shopping at Costco anymore.

    • Travis @enemyofdebt says:

      It may depend upon where you live…..I don’t have Smart N Final OR Winco. Actually, it’s Costco that’s dropping Amex…but I’d bet they replace it with a different card.

  • Jeff says:

    The thing I am going to say first is that the name of the plan is actually “Executive Membership”. I’ve been a member since the early days when you had to be a member of a credit union before you could even be eligible for membership. I’ve seen a lot of changes, most for the best. The Executive Membership doesn’t just get you a 2% rebate, but you can also get haggle free deals with buying cars, homes, and insurance. Those are just a few examples of benefits of the program. There are many other things as well. The whole thing with the membership, regardless of which card you have is giving the buyers the opportunity to work with the supplier to buy in bulk, and to make Costco exclusive packagepackages that aren’t in the retail stores. It also allows for a small markup. Overall it doesn’t matter if you get the $55 difference back from the rebate, because you get it back in the lower overall cost of the items you buy. You have to remember that $300 worth of Costco “beans” is $600 worth of “beans” at the local grocery store. You have to factor in all of the various reasons in your decision, but for me and my family, it’s very easy to make the choice of Executive Membership.

    • Travis @enemyofdebt says:

      Yeah, several commenters have mentioned the mis-name, but thanks for pointing it out. I agree with you that there are certainly other benefits from the membership, but….you’d get the same lower overall cost on the day to day good whether you get the executive membership or not. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts!

  • Larry says:

    Still have my first Costco card from 1983. I’ve never regretted doing business with this company, though it took a long time to eat that ten pound sack of split peas. Wish they still had ’em. What a great business plan; get the best stuff to sell you can find, sell it at a very competitive price, and pay your employees enough to keep them well trained, motivated, and with good morale.

  • Fred says:

    The Executive Membership is definitely worth it. Worst case you are guaranteed to get back the extra $55 you put into it. If you use Costco Services the Executive Membership saves you tons compared to the Gold Membership. They have many different services that you would not think of like water delivery, check printing, home loans/refinance, auto buying, and much more!

  • Kim says:

    I might add, I’ve had both Costco and Sam’s club memberships. I prefer Costco any day.

    • Travis says:

      I agree, Kim. I’ve got both right now….but this will be my last go round with Sam’s.

  • Kim says:

    I have an executive membership. Last year, I earned around $75 in rewards. This year I earned $94.13 in rewards. Pretty good! I buy my detergent,coffee, paper goods and even some clothing there.
    Their brand is high quality,so that is a plus as well.

  • Chris says:

    Actually I used to be an elite member before moving away and not being located near a costco.

    Best advice is for new parents, if you are going to use disposable diapers and wipes, the elite membership is paid for with just those purchases. Add some animals and you’ll earn back the additional $55 the Elite costs easily and save money on the diapers.

    • Travis says:

      My kids are way past that stage, but I remember how much we spent each week on diapers! Thanks for the tip, Chris!

  • Angela says:

    I’ve been a member of Costco for the last ten years. They have saved us SO much money. What is rarely mentioned in comments or the article is the fact that you can purchase Homeowners and Car insurance (and it is sound insurance) and pay less than some Gecko or apron wearing company can give you. Not only do we pay under $100 a month for our two vehicles policy holders also get January and July skipped. I’d been with Allstate previously and it was $200/ month alone. Our homeowners helped us tremendously as well. With 2 kids and a hard working husband, there are many other benefits we reap as well: paper products, detergents, etc. We don’t buy anything other than what we need and I coupon and shop other places for better deals. Costco can’t beat “free” or “nearly free” items in the grocery store! Let’s not forget the gas: $2.59 vs. $2.31, for example. If you still use checks, you can get 2 boxes of checks for WELL under the cost of what the bank charges! Yes, you can find better bargains or better deals at other places sometimes, but with what I save on car insurance alone each year? It pays for the cost of the Executive membership several times over.

    • Travis says:

      Great examples, Angela…I actually wrote a different post listing other less-known money saving programs from Costco – you’ve touched on a lot of them!

    • Chadbag says:

      We use the gecko insurance for our car and in our case, the Costco car insurance can’t get anywhere near it. We pay about $440 every six months on two 2013 cars, two drivers, 1M/1M/500K limits, $500 on comp and collision, extra medical, towing, and even the mechanical breakdown insurance (like extended warranty more or less) on both. Everyone else including Ameriprise quoted a lot more (usually in the 600-700$ range) for half the limits and no mechanical breakdown. My point is not to push the gecko / cavemen company but to point out that with insurance you have to shop around, negotiate, play offers off one another, and because one person gets a great deal at one place, your great deal may be at a totally different place due to your circumstance, history, their underwriting rules, etc.

  • John fox says:

    We certainly did last year. I had checks totalling about $400. But i drive alot half the year, 200 miles a day and always bought costco gas. This was the best year, but my wide lost her job so we cut costco completely as i am only driving 14 miles now a day.

    • Travis says:

      Thanks for sharing your story, John…….sorry your wife lost her job. Sounds like you might be saving quite a bit of money by not having to drive as much though!

  • Helen says:

    This is so dumb, I can’t believe I bothered to read it. Why would you knock yourself out spending twice your usual amount to get $55 back from Costco????? Idiotic!!!

    • Travis says:

      Hmmm, I humbly suggest you go back and read the post again, Helen – I’m afraid you’ve missed the point. The point is to SWITCH my purchases from other stores, to buying at Costco instead. The analysis was to determine whether by doing so, and ensuring that we didn’t spend any more than we do right now, whether we’d earn enough cashback to make it worth our while.

  • Mia says:

    The thought crossed my mind to get the Amex/Costco card and I was almost convinced. I read an article recently that Costco will not renew the contract with Amex due to fees. Amex will no loger be accepted at Costco at all. They stopped in Canada last year. Visa will take the place of Amex on April 1, 2016. One of the issues not worked out yet is if the rewards will convert over to the Visa/Costco card.

  • Sarah says:

    I shop at Costco as well as some small grocery chains in our area! I avoid Walmart at all costs!!! It has by far the cheapest products available but requires manufactures to make products of cheaper quality to put in their store. If they want to sell at Walmart then they have to meet the price point that is set for them- this forcing them to cut corners on quality! I, and my family choose to eat and use products that are of quality measure. If I buy a cheap product and it breaks, then I need to buy another to replace it! The problem with our country is too many people spend beyond their means! If you buy what you use and use what you buy all is good. I have a family of five plus a nanny and constant company! We are always well stocked but everything we do is cash! No credit cards…that is also a plus about Costco, you can’t over spend what you don’t have! If you don’t have an AmEx you are forced to use cash, check or debit! I earned over $190 back and we are not over spending! Groceries, diapers, toiletries, vitamins…these all add up! I personally think the selection at Costco is amazing! If they don’t have it, we either go without or buy from another store…no big deal!!!

    • Travis says:

      That’s an interesting thought, Sara, but I don’t agree with it. Food products are food products. Toiletries are toiletries…they don’t make them special for Walmart. I’m sure you’re right on some fronts though….all 60inch TVs are not created equal, and the ones at Walmart are likely versions without all the bells and whistles. Customers have to be smart and investigate what it is they’re buying. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • Peter says:

    WOW, you use like 40 rolls of toilet paper a month??? Either you take a lot of dumps, or have a very large family.

    Surprising that you can do about 100-120 loads of laundry per month too!

    I guess munching on $120 of snacks and sodas could cause a lot of dumps and laundry if you spilled it all over yourself. =)

    • Travis says:

      Well, Peter, the package of toilet paper that I buy has 36 rolls in it…and it actually lasted just over 5 weeks. That’s about a roll a day – for a family of 4 (2 of which are female), I don’t think that’s over the top. Although I have to admit that I don’t really think about toilet paper conservation when I’m using it – it’s one of those things in life that I consider it worth the cost to use however much product it takes to get the job done. πŸ˜‰ As for the $120 in snacks…….I have one teenager, and I’m about 3 weeks away from having my daughter enter her teenage years as well. If you’ve ever seen teenagers eat, $120 in snacks for a month is getting of pretty easy.

  • Mi AM says:

    I had Costco executive membership for about 3 years and finally decided to give up. Pricing is quite of a game and they are not really better but worse than others. They keep models that are not available in other places most time and spec wise these models are poorer.

    Their groceries are always over frozen, most times having freezer burn and while brought home would not last as long. Their business strategy is quite deceiving.

    • Travis says:

      Thanks for sharing, Mi AM….I can’t say that I’ve had that same experience – although I haven’t purchased anything electronically that I’d compare specs with. Checking the price per unit is certainly something that everyone should do to make sure they’re getting a good deal – i do find that their produce is very fresh and better than any grocery store in my area. Thanks for commenting and sharing your experiences!

  • Scott V says:

    We’ve been Costco Elite members for over a decade. We’ve gotten more than our fee back every year…and by using the American Express Costco card we’ve doubled that savings every year. Pretty much a no-brainer, if you ask me.

  • Wayne says:

    Just a few comments.

    There is no such thing as Costco Gas. Costco buys gas just like all chain stores do by getting wholesalers to bid on how cheap they will furnish gas to them. All Costco stores do not get gas from the same wholesaler.

    As for some cars getting better or worse mileage or some have problems with their gas and some don’t, the reason is almost certainly that some engines need higher octane than other engines. Not everyone reads the manual that came with their cars, but you should. You should also not buy your gas when the tank truck is unloading gas because it stirs up the water in the bottom of the tank and mixes it with the fuel you’re pumping into your car.

    In my area only the yuppies shop at Costco and they wouldn’t be seen dead at WalMart or Sam’s.

    I personally shop mostly at my local grocery store but I do shop for my Mother’s medications at Sam’s because they will blister package them free, Costco will not even blister pack them for a fee. My Mother is in assisted living and everything has to be blister packaged to go on the medcart so it’s easy to inventory. I save $500 to $700 a month on her meds compared to the on site pharmacy at assisted living. I have to make a 70 mile round trip several times a month but if I’m going to visit her then I’m going anyhow.

    I do buy some products while I’m in Sam’s but you have to know your local prices or you’ll get burned. This past week Sam’s had some personal watermelons at $3.98 each when Foodlion had them at 2 for $4.99 plus 50 cents off each one on the loyalty card. That made them $2.00 each…

    Big Box stores normally don’t work for me, particularly Sam’s or Costco because I’m divorced and live alone. Buying in bulk really just costs me more money because some of it always gets thrown out.

    I know this is not all on topic but I think enough was to make important.

    • Travis says:

      Thanks for sharing, Wayne! Good point about the gasoline…there’s no “Costco oil company” so they certainly have to get it from somewhere……where that is exactly would be interesting to know!

      • Jeff says:

        It depends on the region. Gas is subject to were the distribution center is. Costco has their own tanker trailers so they can have the local refinery process the oil to their specific needs (additives, octane, etc), and pick it up to deliver. They aren’t marked with any company name.

  • beth says:

    Reference: “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. ” I just went to get my rewards check cashed 3 weeks ago and the customer service desk person said they no longer make up the difference to earn back the $55. . . .so if your rewards check is $3.52 that is all you get now. . . .

    • Travis says:

      Hmmmm, that would be a bummer if that’s true…something to make sure we all understand before signing up again!

      • Edward S says:

        I asked at my Costco today and the rep said that is nonsense.

        • Travis says:

          Good to hear, Thanks for checking!

          • tc says:

            Went into my local Costco this past Thursday to receive a refund (approximately $31) of the executive membership (only accrued $24 in rebates the past year). Been doing this for five years or so. While they did refund the $31 as promised, they indicated that corporate was ending that benefit in the future. Accordingly, I downgraded to the basic $55 membership. Not happy to do so, but we generally do not spend the $2,750 per year to make it worthwhile to continue with the Executive membership. We are located in Boise, ID – are others running into the same situation at your local Costco? Thanks.

  • ImeldaTheHon says:

    In addition to the great pharmacy prices, Costco has amazing optical prices, I buy frames I like online, or from optical stores, and take them to Costco to have the lenses put in. I have a very complicated and expensive prescription with progressive bifocals and astigmatism, and my lenses would cost $700 or more if I bought them from my eye doctor, but at Costco they are less than $225.

    Even with vision insurance the copay is higher than what Costco charges!

    I also love Costco for treating their employees well and paying them a living wage. I’ve been a member for 20+ years and consider the executive membership very worthwhile even if only for the optical department.

    • Travis says:

      Sounds like you found a great deal with the optical department…..that wouldn’t work for us since our eye care insurance isn’t taken there, and it’s cheaper to go elsewhere. but your example shows that sometimes it pays to shop around. Thanks for sharing!

      • ImeldaTheHon says:

        I’m sorry if I was unclear. Costco doesn’t take ANY insurance. You pay Costco directly and then submit the claim for reimbursement, either from your vision insurance plan or from your flexible spending account. I’m surprised to hear that you have found it “cheaper to go elsewhere,” but I know I have an exceptionally expensive prescription, so that’s certainly possible.

        • Travis says:

          Unfortunately, the reason that it’s cheaper for me elsewhere is because my insurance will not reimburse me for going to Costco…it’s not “in my network.” πŸ™

  • Pedro says:

    The articile didn’t mention that a Costco membership entitles the member to two cards. In my case, I have a card for my family and another card for my parents. With the executive card we get about $200 back every year both a single account with two cards, we use the check to renew our subscription and end up with a few extra dollars. We buy almost exclusively at Costco because the markup is not as much as other retailers and I can buy in bulk. The quality of their products is much better than other places because they have a group of employees who’s sole job is to look for quality products that are worthy of their shelves. There is an intersting documentary on Netflix about how Costco chooses their products with wine being an example. I don’t work for Costco but I’ve bought there for the last fifteen years and their return policy is the best I have seen.

    • Travis @enemyofdebt says:

      Good point, Pedro….thanks for mentioning that. For my wife and I, she has one card, and I have the other. The family members we would give the other card to would be out of town, and they just wouldn’t go often enough (they don’t have a costco) to make it worth it to give to them. So, my wife has a card and I have one…and if anyone comes to town and wants to go, we simply just take them.

  • jackeeno says:

    Was so shocked to read the other day that Costco will be cancelling its business relationship with American Express come 2016—supposedly they are still looking to partner with another card company

    • Travis @enemyofdebt says:

      Yeah, I would guess that would mean the cash back AMEX would be going through some changes too….we’ll have to see!

  • Robert says:

    We have been shopping at Costco when it was price club. For us the executive membership is a good deal as we always get enough back to pay the membership. Our kids are married with kids but often come with us to shop as they do not have membership so they pay us to buy the items on our card. We live in California but have a home with plenty of storage space in the pantry and basement. We get our medications there as they are much less. We like their toilet paper and paper towels and always have at least two packages each. We have a chest freezer for bulk items and rarely have to toss anything. We also like the return policy and extended warranty. The gas lines are too long for me so I never get gas there. My wife buys See’s discount cards every time we go. Food court is cheap and handy. Since Costco has limited selection we also shop at Walmart, Trader Joes and Pavilions. I have Amazon Prime too for the two day shipping, music and movies on the fire stick. I thought when the kids left the nest we would not need the Costco executive membership but with them using our membership and bringing the grandkids to our home often we find executive membership is a great deal for us.

    • Travis @enemyofdebt says:

      It helps a lot when you have other people that do not have a Costco membership that you can take there and buy stuff for them (being re-reimbursed of course). We always tell my mother-in-law -“Costco is a great place to spend your afternoon!”

  • Waruihito says:

    When I went to Costco to renew my membership, check from the previous year in hand, and pointed out that I only received $29 back for a $55 membership upgrade, the person at the customer service desk said to me, “Well, we’ll just set that equal to $55.” and gave me my Executive upgrade for the next year for free. Maybe I won’t ever ultimately come out ahead on my 2% rebate, but for this year, the enhanced membership doesn’t cost me anything.

    • Travis @enemyofdebt says:

      Exactly, they have a “money back guarantee” on the difference between the two memberships – thus it’s always worth it to give it a shot!

  • Louise says:

    Thanks, Angela for letting us know we don’t have to eat all 24 eggs at once, guess that’s why I’ve been putting on weight lately. Sorry, but I think everyone knows that, but by the time we would finish 24 eggs they might be getting a little old. I buy a dozen or even half a dozen some times at Walmart, so that way we will be eating fresher eggs. And to Drew S I’m really happy people like you seem to like Costco so much because I don’t like running into people like you in Walmart–looking down their noses at all the riff raff as you called them. Believe me I am not riff raff, I would not stand out in the Costco crowd at all, I could fit right in as far as the way I dress and conduct myself. Comments made by people just prove what I’ve said before–some people just think they are just too good to shop at Walmart. By the way most of the people at Walmart seem like nice people. I like going to a store where I can buy one jar of peanut butter and when I run out I can go buy another jar that is probably from a new batch so it is fresher as things do go pretty fast in Walmart, and I don’t think the lines are so short at Costco or at least they weren’t the last time I was there which was probably over ten years ago. I don’t miss the crowd there at all–everybody rushing in and rushing out–gotta get out and stuff all these big packs in my SUV and take it home to my big house where I have a special room to store all my purchases from Costco.

    • Travis Pizel says:

      Shoppping experiences are very subjective……and obviously vary store to store, and even day to day. The point of this article is whether paying the extra money for the executive membership to get the 2% savings is worth it. I think some of the comments here are getting a bit off track. Thanks for reading!

  • Manas says:

    I use Costco executive membership as well as Fidelity Amex (investment cash rewards card). Costco gives back 2% and Fidelity gives back another 2% and that mostly covers my Costco membership of $110. The 3% cash back using Costco Amex is additional bonus.

    While saving $50 using rewards card, (without much effort), doesn’t make a big saving overall, every buck is important. Anyway all these cashbacks finally go from our pocket and so why not take our share.

  • Mike B says:

    My first few years as a Costco member, I stuck with the gold membership. Then an associate asked if I wanted to see my actual spending history to see if it was worth it. I had no idea I was spending enough to not only pay for my membership but get a few bucks back as well. It’s been that way ever since. I have told people to not bother with the sales pitch and just ask to see their purchase history. Nice and simple.

    • Travis Pizel says:

      Good suggestion, Mike….AND you can call during the year and find out how much cash back you’ve earned when you have the executive membership to see if you’re on track or not to make it worth it.

  • Donna Jene says:

    We’ve had an executive membership for about 8-10 years and it has always paid for our renewal. Besides the obvious paper products and pet food (we have 2 Golden Retrievers and a cat) my husband loves Kirkland jeans, we buy coffee, milk (much cheaper!) tires, many gifts at Christmas, small appliances, bedding….. Plus, I have Celiac and our local Costco is constantly expanding the choices in gluten free foods! Plus they always make us feel welcome!

    • Travis Pizel says:

      I agree that they make you feel welcome, Donna Jene….I’ve gotten stuck having a conversation with the cashiers more than once!

  • Wine Guy says:

    If I didn’t buy gas there, it wouldn’t be worth it. Since I do, it is. And Sue, please don’t shout.

    • Travis Pizel says:

      The gas doesn’t go towards our 2% executive membership perk in Minnesota…maybe that’s different where you are? Unless you’re talking about the lower price of gas at costco…but then again you get that with the “normal” membership too.

  • yasha says:

    I believe you are misinterpreting the added value… The price for the executive membership PLUS the gold star comes to 110 dollars, since you are ALREADY spending the 55 dollars to be a member any rebate check over 55 dollars is money you are saving on your initial membership fee. For example; you pay for your gold star at 55 dollars and then your executive at an aditional 55 dollars then receive a 80 dollar rebate check and renew at 110 again. That means your out of pocket renewal fee is 30 dollars instead of 55 if you were still a gold star level member.

  • sue gold says:


    • Travis Pizel says:

      I agree Sue….assuming that the prices are lower is a trap – shoppers should always do the price comparison to make sure they’re getting the best deal possible!

  • Yoma says:

    I have had Costco exec membership for over 5 years. Like someone mentioned above I save a bunch on auto and home insurance. I also have an Amex, which I used only at Costco until last year. My cash back was always around 55-70. But now that I use the Amex everywhere (and of course pay off every month) , I am looking at over $350 in cash back this year. I am a savvy shopper, if I may say so myself and compare prices of everything in Costco vs Walmart, and costco comes way ahead in more than 90% of the things.

    • Travis @enemyofdebt says:

      That’s some sweet cash back, Yoma – as long as you keep paying it off each month and don’t pay interest! Stay disciplined, and thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • Mary Ann says:

    In my previous comment I didn’t mention the fact that we DO pay off our AmEx card each month. Several years ago we got ourselves in a difficult financial position due to overuse of credit cards and took measures to pay them all off. We now hold just 2, the American Express card and one other that we sometimes make small online purchases or donations on. We pay each of these off every month and do not carry a balance. We do get all of our gas at Costco except when out of town and Costco not available. Our prices at Costco for gas are generally at least 5-10 cents cheaper per gallon than other stations in town and we do receive the 3% rebate on top of that.

    I call Costco “my favorite store” and often utilize it for gift items as well. One gift item that our kids sometimes now give to us, since we are seniors and it is difficult to find appropriate gifts, is the gift of Costco Gift Cards – always welcome and used!

    • Travis @enemyofdebt says:

      Good call on paying off the AMEX each month, mary Ann – if you pay one cent in interest, you’re paying too much!

  • Dorkus Maximus says:

    I’m a single guy living alone. Aside from occasionally buying paper towels and stuff for a friend, everything I buy is for me. This year my Elite membership refund was $79.

  • Cam says:

    I think that the way of looking at Elite Membership in the terms of recouping the entire 110 dollars is wrong. If you were going to buy a basic membership for 55 already which gets you 0 cash back, then really all that you would need to earn on your 2% is 55 dollars back. If you make anything above that its a win. That’s how I look at it at least.

    • Travis @enemyofdebt says:

      That’s a fair point, Cam…for every penny earned over $55, it’s a penny that we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. But it would be sweet to earn enough to make our Costco membership free year to year. πŸ™‚

  • Susan says:

    I tried Costco but found it so miserable to shop there that I couldn’t do it. Having to wait in a line 10 people long just to LEAVE the store made me so mad… especially since the lack of trust the store is showing in their customers by having to check receipts before you could leave was the cause of the hold up. The prices there were terrible compared to my local Walmart, and at Walmart even though I pay less I don’t have to buy large quantities. I felt like the produce at Costco was industrial and just nasty. I think people who just compare Costco to high end grocery store prices miss the point and think it’s cheap only because they don’t really shop around.

    • mark says:

      Your choice, and I understand some of the frustration, but Costco pays their employees a living wage. Walmart has a history of trying to screw their employees any way they can, up to and including teaching their employees what PUBLIC entitlements they can take advantage of because of their low pay.

      I understand, we all want low prices, but.. I don’t want them THAT badly. Just my opinion.

      • Travis @Debtchronicles says:

        I still believe, Mark, that costco offers competitive prices (even with Walmart) with a better business model such as how costco operates. Thanks for your comment!

    • Travis @Debtchronicles says:

      Interestingly, my experience has been the complete opposite. There’s hardly ever a line to have the receipt checked, the produce is hands down better than any grocery store in my area, and the price comparison between Walmart (or any other grocery store) needs to be done on an item by item basis. Some items are cheaper at Costco, some are not. I actually wrote a blog post (on a different website) doing exactly that – comparing Walmart to Costco – and found both places have their advantages. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Susan!

  • Joscar says:

    My company has an Executive Membership. I used to have the regular and then they were up-selling and showed me how much i would have gotten back the previous 2 years and it made sense to pay the additional $50. We usually get back over $500 per year for in-store and on-line purchases.

    If someone is not already spending enough for the rebate to cover the additional cost then it wouldn’t make sense to upgrade. The exception would be if you knew you were going to make some major purchase in the coming year at Costco like electronics, appliances, tires, etc..

  • Greg says:

    I have the Executive membership for several years now. We made the limit only a couple of times; BUT we always reach the point where it pays for itself plus the basic membership fee. And if you make the occasional large purchase such as 60″ LED TV, it really becomes worth it.

    • Travis says:

      Those big purchases do help, Greg….we had originally planned to buy a patio furniture set which would have helped immensely – but they were sold out of it by the time we got around to buying it. πŸ™ Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  • Cindy says:

    Actually it’s well worth it – my husband and I have been Executive/Elite members for at least three years and we more than pay for our membership fees every year in cash back rewards- the key is our gas purchases added on to our groceries to meet the spending limits. Plus Costco gas is usually at least 10% cheaper (and better quality I might add) than Sheetz or WaWa stores. So filling up two cars on a regular basis adds up to savings!

    • Travis @Debtchronicles says:

      Good for you Cindy – I’m glad it’s working out for you! Costco gas is about 5-8 cents a gallon cheaper in my area (Minnesota), but hey every little bit helps, right!?!

  • Robert says:

    I had upgraded to the elite membership a few years ago. The first year it paid off. The second year it didn’t. I requested a refund of the difference from the 800 membership line and was told that the guarantee was no longer valid. Every time I go to Costco they try to get me to upgrade saying it is guaranteed. I tell them that is was not true, and explain what happened. They still insist it is guaranteed. I just say NO!
    If you are looking into it, I would be sure to get the guarantee in writing; but as most T & C’s they are subject to change.

    • Travis @Debtchronicles says:

      Hmmm, interesting Robert – last year I did exactly that and got my refund. We’ll see what happens this year. Glad you shared your experience!

  • Mahesh says:

    The Executive membership works to my advantage. I purchase gas predominantly at Costco and that turns out to be deal maker. Moreover, wherever else I use my Costco-Amex card for gas, I get 2% cash back on that as well. While I do not overspend just to get even with the annual fee, I purchase regular groceries like milk, cheese, juices, sugar, rice, some produce (veggies & fruits) in addition to some supplements, cookies/biscuits, chips, etc. and I get more back than my annual membership fee.

    • Travis @Debtchronicles says:

      Sounds like you’re executing exactly the kind of plan I want, Mahesh. I just struggle to drive by other places to buy stuff to get to Costco at this point. Thanks for sharing!

  • Keenan says:

    Seriously, it’s geared towards women to shop. I think Costco is expensive compared to other places. My wife likes to go there so I concede. I wouldn’t personally go if it weren’t for her. She buys cake, cookies, and other things just because it was on sale. ???? Go figure. $20 for a bottle of shampoo. Oh, but it’s really good and it’s the same as the salon stuff. I’m struggling to pay bills with nothing left over at the end of the month and she buys crap that is on sale.

    Our elite membership is paid for every year from our purchases which equates to just about what our membership costs. So the savings just pays for the membership. She’s happy, so I let it ride, otherwise Costco would have one less customer. It’s like an Amway setup where membership is the pyramid structure where everyone buys to support the top guy. I don’t see any savings on any item especially when buying in bulk. It’s the same price per item. Do the math and you’ll see but there’s the problem. No one does the math except guys like me.

    I tried to give them a fair shake. I went to check on tires. I have 4 vehicles with different tires sizes for each. They didn’t have any sizes for 2 vehicles and the others were priced $35 over Discount Tires with no roadside hazard warranty. That’s $140 more per vehicle. 2% does not cover that spread.

    • Travis @Debtchronicles says:

      I disagree, Keenan, there are products that are cheaper for the simple fact that you are buying in bulk. One example is meat – if you compare the cost of steak, chicken or hamburger per pound, Costco is cheaper than anywhere I’ve compared them to. Not all products are big savers (and some don’t save you money at all) – so you are definitely right that you have to do the math and determine which products are worth buying at Costco. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • Ken Kumpula says:

    I have the Executive Membership and did not go with it until I did a quick averging of spending. I receive a refund back each year that pays for my renewal at Costco…. and at Sams Club.

    • Travis @Debtchronicles says:

      I think it’s funny that you use your cash back you earned from Costco to buy a Sams Club membership. πŸ™‚

  • staci says:

    And to the author: why do you insist on calling it the “Elite” membership? There is no such thing.

    • Travis @Debtchronicles says:

      There are a lot of comments here, Staci, and you probably didn’t read them all. Someone else mentioned this as well – and I admitted I used the wrong term. The correct term is “executive” membership. My apologies again.

  • Neal Kluge says:

    To do that, I’d have to spend $5,500 in a year, or about $460 per month.

    If one gets AMEX COSTCO CARD and get addition 2% back, one has to buy only $ 230 per month – to break even.

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      Of course that means you have to be disciplined with your credit card usage and pay off the balance each and every month because paying interest on your balance will offset the cashback earned. Not everyone has that kind of discipline. Thanks for your thoughts, Neal!

  • Louise says:

    I agree Safeway is higher than Costco. But I still say Costco won’t beat Walmart or Winco and you don’t have to pay a membership fee.

    • Travis @Debtchronicles says:

      You have to do your homework, but there are products where Costco will beat Walmart in price per item. BUT, you do have to have the funds to buy it in bulk, and the space to store it. Thanks for your input, Louise!

    • Jeff says:

      Louise I’d like to point out that Walmart is a subsidiary of Sam’s club and that is how they are able to beat some prices, on some things, some of the time. Those items are usually what is called a lost leader. In case you aren’t familiar with the term, it’s selling a popular item at, or below cost to get you in the store with the idea that once you are there, you’ll be buying other items that are marked up 100 – 200 % (or more) above cost. Sam’s does creative book keeping that allows them to funnel funds to Walmart so that it appears that you’re getting this great deal. Why don’t they funnel the same money to the employee for a livable wage? Oh yeah, “it’s the money”.
      Also, usually items you get from Costco are of better quality (non food), or have “extra’s” such as higher quantity of an item for the same price, or less (food items).

      I have nothing against Winco, other than when shopping there you need to double check expiration dates. Every time I have been there I see outdated or close to the expiration date items on the shelf.

  • Diamond Jim says:

    If you are not going to spend enough to recoup the cost of the “upgraded” membership, why bother? All you are doing is tying up an extra $55.00, for which Costco pays you nothing, then you have to go to the hassle of applying for the refund. And….if you read the mouse type carefully, you will discover that there are many things they sell, INCLUDING GASOLINE, that you get no rebate on unless you have one of their American Express cards. The disadvantages to using any kind of credit card at a place like Costco are…or should be…very obvious for a big percentage of shoppers who find it too easy to flash plastic. I have a membership there, buy lots of stuff, but pay for it with a debit card. If I cannot pay for it, I don’t buy it!

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      I agree, Jim, if we’re not going to spend enough to recoup the cost, then it’s not worth it. The article does point out that my plan is to recoup the cost of my *entire* membership, and formulates a plan of action of what products (all of which are eligible for the 2% cash back) I can buy there that I need to buy anyway that will help me achieve that goal – and of course along with that, to not spend more just to get the cash back. Sounds like we agree fully!

  • Shailesh says:

    I am an executive membership holder. Costco does mess up my refunds. One interesting advantage we just discovered for my medial practice. We are required to have safe transactions based equipment for the credit card users. The terminal was only $99 due to my membership, my current vendor wanted $199. Almost all the service charges, and the fees were few cents to as much as 50 cents cheaper than 2 vendors. My calculations were minimum $50 saved/ month. Additionally the vendor would also process AMEX charges. We just signed up, I will find out how good is this benefit in few months( monthly CC charges about $4k).

    • Travis @Debtchronicles says:

      I had read about some of these benefits as well, Shailesh….but since they didn’t apply to me I didn’t mention them. I’m glad that you are able to take to take advantage of them as a business owner….thanks for sharing!

  • dar says:

    here in hawaii we have high prices on everything. a gallon of milk is typically $7 – $9 at safeway, so $5 at costco is cheap for us (i know that is still high compared to mainland prices). gas at costco is usually .20 -.30 cheaper than anywhere else. meat can be gotten slightly cheaper if you watch for sales but then you are usually giving up on the quality for minimal savings. many, if not most basic items cost less than they would at the grocery store when not on sale. as you stated, you just have to do your homework and watch the sales. also, NEVER go to costco hungry without a list! πŸ™‚ did i mention that we have 7 kids? so shopping at costco is pretty much a necessity. and, i feel it IS important how a company treats their employees and costco has a good reputation for that.

    • Travis Pizel says:

      Whoah, dar….if there was ever a perfect fit for shopping at a place like Costco, it’s a family with seven kids!!! I agree with not going to Costco without a list or while hungry….you’re just BEGGING to go over budget!!

  • Brien Holehouse says:

    Costco has been in Sarasota for approx. one year. I have started to use it more and more. I have been a big supporter of Costco shopping and have encouraged many of my friends but ever since they pulled all the books off the shelf of D’Sousa’s
    “America” and reflecting their bias view I will need to reconsider. Yesterday I contacted them by phone and was only able to leave a message which they have not returned. The movie “America” was very educational for all political persuasions.

    • Travis @Debtchronicles says:

      As I mentioned above, I think we if we looked deep enough at any company, we’d find some practice or political belief we don’t agree with….so while I may not agree with the pulling of the book, my main concern with my shopping is to get the most for my money for the good of my own personal family.

    • Luba says:

      Costco is not a bookstore–it has limited space for books, and only sells a few best sellers. It’s not Barnes and Noble. When I’ve shopped there, though, I’ve noticed no lack of right wing books.

      D’Souza’s book was not a bestseller, but his publicist claimed political discrimination and got Costco to restock it just to avoid claims of discrimination. So Brien can go buy his copy there now.

      This is America, though, land of private enterprise. No single author has a “right” to have his or her books sold in any given store, and stores can use whatever criteria they want to stock books.

      • Travis @Debtchronicles says:

        Agree, Luba, a store as the right to carry, or not carry any book they choose. The book selection at Costco is nowhere near a real bookstore – there’s LOTS of books missing!

      • Dorkus Maximus says:

        Despite being somewhat more “progressive” in the way it treats its employees, Costco has always been politically neutral in its merchandise. I’ve seen books from both ends of the political spectrum being sold there. The common denominator is that they sell. Costco is not in the habit of dedicating store space for merchandise that doesn’t sell. If those right-wing books don’t sell, Costco can’t pay its employees their living wage.

  • John says:

    Costco is our store of choice. If their price is equal to others we will make our purchase at Costco. Their return policy is the best. Our 11 month old Logitech remote had one key fail. We returned it for a full refund with no questions asked and since they were still selling the same remote we purchased it again for about $20 less than the first time. If you buy something and just don’t like it after you get it home you can return it. They also treat their employees well. We earn enough cash back with their American express card to pay for the membership.

    • Travis @Debtchronicles says:

      I like their return policy as well, John….we recently purchased to blow up Eurobeds for about $130 a piece. We ended up only needing one, and they took back the other no questions asked. Thanks for sharing!

  • Karen says:

    We get about $450 a year back in rebates, combining both the Costco rebate, and the American Express Costco card rebate. Is it worth it? You’d better believe it! If Costco doesn’t sell it, we don’t need it. We make it a point to buy as much of our gas as we can there, too. Sure, it takes some effort to plan purchases and be sure to make them there if we can.

    • Travis @Debtchronicles says:

      Wow, that’s a lot of rebate, Karen! We’re making a point to buy as much as we can at Costco as well – hopefully we can earn back as much as you do. I’ve said this in earlier comments, but I’ll mention it again – I think I’ll have to do a followup post in the future as to how much we’re earning!

  • Ibrahim says:

    I like COSTCO products but they are way overpriced compared to other grocery stores like Ralph’s or Safeway. I just use COSTCO card for buying Gas or Banana or sometime few items on sale that’s it. I don’t mind COSTCO being overpriced but deceiving customers and leading customers to believe that they are saving money is scam.

    Also, I don’t care how COSTCO treat there employees what I need is good price not tricks, they are rude anyway.

    • Travis @Debtchronicles says:

      Interestingly enough Ibrahim, I find Safeway very expensive compared to Costco. But who knows, things may vary by region too. Your comment is a reminder that we all need to do our own price comparisons!

  • Jo says:

    It’s called an executive membership, not an elite membership. Why can’t this reporter get his/her terms straight?

    • Travis Pizel says:

      You’re absolutely correct, Jo….not sure why I had Elite in my head during the writing of the article. My membership card clearly states “Executive Member.” Thanks for pointing out the mistake!

  • Akhi Sharma says:

    What an article !!! If you are a costco member nothing seems to make sense except for the title. Elite membership is not that good. You can take basic membership with AMEX card. On Costco gas itself you will save much more than what the membership costs.

    • Travis Pizel says:

      But, with the executive membership you save an additional percentage for all your purchases at Costco….if you can recoup the membership cost it works in your favor – check it out, Akhi!

  • Tomman says:

    Sometimes Costco isn’t the best value, especially with groceries. Many stores have Buy One Get One Free specials. Costco never has this. Some stores have much better fruit and vegetable prices. Other stores issue and accept or even double coupons. So that $110 membership or even $55 fee for the right to shop at Costco certainly isn’t for everyone.

    • Travis Pizel says:

      You certainly have to perform due diligence to make sure what you’re buying is actually cheaper at costco vs somewhere else. When I go grocery shopping I actually have three lists: costco, Walmart, and grocery store (which carries a handful of items that Costco and Walmart do not). Thanks for reading!

  • Robert Johnson says:

    Break-even on a Costco Elite Membership isn’t that much. There’s $55 you have to offset over a standard membership. At 2%, it’s $229 per month. If you spend that much per month, you’ll break even. If you getthe American Express card, it’s only $159. With the American Express, you have to be disciplined and pay it off. Also the check comes at a different time than the Costco rebate. It’s attatched to the statement. If you accidently throw it away, just call them and they’ll send it in your next statement.

    • Travis Pizel says:

      Good to know about the lost statement, Robert…..I can see myself chucking it the garbage and thinking I lost it forever!

  • Hunt says:

    If you are not going to spend the amount naturally, don’t get the elite. But we bought tires, fridge, electronics, that add up quickly to the requisite yearly amount. So i get two checks, one for regular shopping, and then the return on the credit card. The checks more than cover the cost of the card, meaning I get discounts for free. A bottle of wine that I like there is $9.99. At the regular stores the same bottle is $14.99, but on sale for $12.99, sometimes $10.99. On most items you are saving 2-3 dollars, and that has to be factored into the equation. Costco pays better so employees last, not like the meth mites they have at Sam’s.

    • Travis Pizel says:

      That’s the goal, Hunt….spending more to save more isn’t really saving money. We’re sticking to our budget and tracking to see if we earn back the membership price or not!

  • Bea says:

    I have been an executive membership card holder for well over a decade. My household only consist of myself, spouse and dog. Unfortunately, I can’t get my dog food from Costco. Buy their other products is worth the visit that my spouse does weekly, We buy all our gas there as well, now I am looking into the AMEX card to get gas refund. All of my friends took our advise and shop there as well, when we travel to other States we go to COSTCO. Trust me that came in handy in Hawaii, where Safeway were more expensive.

    • Travis Pizel says:

      I’m surprised they don’t sell dog food, Bea….I wonder if you asked a manager if they would rotate it in if they would do it to please a customer???

      • Mary Ann says:

        Costco definitely does sell dog food. Perhaps Bea’s dog is on some special variety that may even have to be purchased at a Veterinarian.

        We are an elderly couple, living alone, and we have been Costco customers since 1992, executive members for at least 15 years, maybe more. We do get our membership fees back.

        We try to always have a list of items when we shop or else we are “window shopping” and get things we don’t need. I agree on the toilet paper, which we try to only purchase when we have the monthly coupon book that gives you dollars off their normal shelf price. We don’t always find products/brands that we prefer each month but other times there are several for additional savings. These coupon books come to your mailbox and oftentimes they also have extra ones at the Customer Service counter. Like others have mentioned, these packages of toilet paper have 30 rolls in them and when our preferred brand is on sale we try to purchase 2 packages within the sale dates and those will last approximately 9 months and the price per package is less than $20.00. I purchase quality toilet tissue rather than single ply that is so thin that it is unsanitary and you just have to use more.

        We purchase hamburger there and have found in the past 2 or 3 years that the leanest and most efficient is the frozen chub, packaged in 1 pound units, so I don’t have to repackage, just put it in the freezer. We do purchase some other meat/fish items when they have specials and then repackage into meal size packages at home.

        We purchase big ticket items (computers/printers) there and always put them on the AmEx credit card to get the extra year warranty at no charge. If we have any items that fail or don’t meet expectations, we return for refund with their very user friendly return policy, no questions asked.

        We tend to only shop once or twice a month and stick to our grocery list. We too, by our own personal preference, do not shop at Wal-Mart as we feel we can do better at Costco and another store we have locally called WinCo. We shop these 2 stores usually on the same day and complete our needs. We do not purchase milk at Costco because I do not like the bulky containers – they don’t pour well. The brown eggs we used to purchase at Costco have increased in size of container so we purchase them at WinCo as well.

        One thing that has not been mentioned in my reading here is the fact of purchasing unneeded/wanted items on “spur of the moment” if you shop weekly and you may spend more money and get unneeded items.

        We have always been extremely satisfied with the products and employees of Costco and do love the fact that they voluntarily pay their employees a living wage – unlike WalMart who would only pay their employees more if they were forced to by a law. This is all happening when the Walton family is the richest family in America, increasing leaps and bounds every year, while we all help to care for their underpaid employees for food stamps and health care.

  • wward says:

    I think Elite level could only benefit a large family or organization, not a couple. And I don’t appreciate an employee coming over to solicit me about this while I’m trying to checkout.
    Also want to comment regarding the RIP OFF contractor services –
    We bought a house and had to replace the 20yo furnace/AC. We went with a company we had done business with before and were pleased with. Only this time they were in the Costco program and had to raise their prices Significantly to participate in the gimmicks. And the cobbled together workmanship was so much poorer than our previous experience.
    Tried the auto option. Same thing. The dealer said he’d have to charge 3K more for the Costco connection. Glad I found out about that by phone.

    • Travis Pizel says:

      I’m not a fan of being solicited for membership services either (they currently have Directv people in the store…..). I can’t say they ever approached me about upgrading but I’m not surprised it happens. Thanks for sharing your experience with the contractor and auto services…..things to keep your eye out for and fully investigate before using!

  • ModernMarvelFan says:

    It is a no brainer if you plan to make a large ticket purchase such as TV, tablet computer, bikes, furniture or anything in $500 or above range. That would easily boost your “average” monthly spending to make the 2% rebates easily justifed…

    • Travis Pizel says:

      Good point, ModernMarvel Fan – we originally were looking at purchasing a deck furniture set which would have definitely helped towards earning our membership price back. Unfortunately, they sold out of the set we wanted….but I’m still confident we can meet our goal!

  • Vivean says:

    We have an elite membership, why only cause it was free our daughter works there….

  • Louise says:

    I really wish we would have been able to shop at Walmart when we were first married. We had very little money and I know coming up with the joining fee at Costco would have been out of the question. I know there are still a lot of people out there in the same boat, just making it from paycheck to paycheck and I’m sure a store like Walmart works out much better for them. Sure it would be nice if there employees were paid more but that would mean a lot of poor people out there would have to pay more for their necessities. Like I said when we were newlyweds (over forty years ago), we hadn’t even heard of Walmart or Costco, and I tell my husband how nice it would have been to have a Walmart store to shop in. Costco would have been out of the question, we couldn’t afford to buy large quantities and we couldn’t afford the joining fee.

    • Ray says:

      Louise – what is your point? When I was younger, I, like most people, did not have much money either. Hopefully, over the years, your skills and income have increased, so that you now can afford to shop at Costco, which really is not a big expense. I couldn’t afford a new car with I was 25, but now, 20+ years later, I can. Same goes for Costco. If you’re single, or just married, Costco may not be the best place to shop. However, I think that by signing up for the Executive Membership at Costco to get the extra 2% back and getting the no annual fee Amex card to get an additional 1% at Costco you really shouldn’t need to worry about the cost of shopping at Costco. Using the Amex card while getting gasoline for your car will alone save you a bundle each year. Gas at low prices, plus 3% back from AMEX.

      Walmart is inexpensive, but their products, for the most part, are cheap (in terms of quality). Shopping at Costco for only what you need (which requires shopping discipline) will not only save you a bundle, but will allow you to purchase quality products.


      • Travis Pizel says:

        I think her point, Ray, is that stores are not a “one size fits all,” and bulk purchasing may just not fit everyone’s lifestyle. Thanks for your continuing to share your thoughts!

    • Travis Pizel says:

      I agree there are reason where shopping at Costco maybe prohibitive….the joiners fee may be more than some people can afford to plunk down at once. Also, the purchasing of bulk products as well as even storing them may be an issue. Shopping at a “club store” isn’t for everyone, but it’s feasible, a person can save quite a bit of money on the right items.

      • Jeff says:

        It’s a good point that not everyone can use the large quantities that you get. In the Asian Costco’s you see 3 or 4 families sitting outside in the parking lot dividing up the purchases. It’s really something to see. If there’s something we don’t think we’ll be able to get through, we’ll call a family member or friends and see if they want to go in on it. Every one wins.

  • Robert Johnson says:

    My wife and I make up for the entire membership cost using the Costco Executive card. I also signed up for the American Express Costco card and get an additional rebate of 1%. We haven’t paid for our Costco membership since we started it.

  • denise says:

    when we signed up for our original membership in 2003, we were told that you would get a refund of the difference from your reward and the additional cost of the executive membership.
    My mother’s late husband liked to go to Costco and when he passed away, she couldn’t handle going there by herself. We went with her one day to cancel her membership and get a refund of the difference she hadn’t used to date. Without asking, they refunded her ENTIRE MEMBERSHIP FEE for the year! When we pointed this out, they were most gracious and explained they were happy to have had her as a customer and were so sorry for her loss. CUSTOMERS FOR LIFE!

  • Robert says:

    I once applied to Costco for employment long ago, I was offered the job but they would not offer me full time so I refused. At the time I felt dissed and told them, look, if you will take me seriously and offer me full time I will accept. They refused. I see it differently now and realize they were probably trying to weed out the bad vs good people so they could offer full time to the people that were worth it. So my life went in a different but good direction. We shop at Costco now (have a business membership for my business) though we are not executive members. I do like Costco products for the most part and I do appreciate the fact they do pay their employees well. I do think Costco carefully packages their product so you mostly do end up buying more then you need but if it is not a perishable product that is fine. Their butcher department usually has great cuts of meat though not cheap. I do have to get on my wife some times for coming home with a 5 yr supply of something we don’t use that much. Now after all these yrs she is better about that. Bought plenty of tires there over the years also, chk prices and Costco usually has name brands at very good prices.

    Bottom line for me Costco = Good.

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      Your comment about buying a 5 year supply of something cracked me up, Robert, lol. Not everything is cheaper at Costco, so you have to do the work to price compare, but the savings are definitely out there!

  • Louise says:

    I shop other stores besides Walmart, but mainly for their sales. I can’t believe people that do all their shopping at the high priced stores, I think they must think they’re too good to shop at Walmart. Costco may have lower prices too, but I just don’t like buying in large quantities. I don’t have that much storage room, and I don’t like to pay them to be able to shop at their store. Also Costco was one of the main reasons stores are allowed to sell hard liquor in this state now. I believe they spent millions on that. That has caused some problem, but who cares, they’re able to sell the liquor now and fill their pockets. I also have always liked Walmart because they seem like a more family oriented store.

    • Ray says:

      “I also have always liked Walmart because they seem like a more family oriented store.”
      You do realize that Walmart pays it’s employees crap, while Costco pays it’s employees very well and they receive very good medical benefits. Costco appears to be much more family oriented to me!!

      • Travis @debtchronicles says:

        The more I read about costco’s business model, the more I like the store, Ray – somehow they’re able to pay a great wage, AND have great prices!

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      Not having the space to store bulk purchases certainly is real problem to shopping at places like Costco. I have to be careful about which products I buy too….some things I just don’t use that much of!

  • orca says:

    We have dropped our Costco membership entirely. Twice we were sold on the Executive membership, with Costco telling us that had we been members the previous year we would have gotten X dollars back. Funny, we never seemed to reach anywhere near that level of payout either time, with no change in our spending habits (in fact, one of those years our spending went up substantially, since out daughter and two children were living with us). We got a check for less than $30 that year.

    Basically, I believe that Costco lied to us to get the double membership fee up front.

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      That’s unfortunate that you feel you were given incomplete or incorrect information – it’s kind of like those high pressure sales people – it’s up to us to make sure what they’re telling us is REAL!

  • Richard says:

    My wife and I are a family of two – so it didn’t seem to make sense to use to become Costco members. But after a trial experience at BJs (another type of member warehouse club), I decided to give Costco a try. The promise to pay back the difference between regular and executive won me over, even though I went in with the intention not to get it.

    We are not employed by Costco, so what I say now is not biased towards a paycheck.

    Before I got married, I spent a lot of time at Walmart. It was easy and it was cheap and I laughed at the fools that went to Publix or other expensive places. I waited through hours upon hours of lines just to order a few supplies. I subjected myself to abuse and long waits and inferior foods, all in the name of saving a buck.

    Then I married my wife who hates Walmart, hates the unclean stores and the long lines. She would rather spend more money at a clean store with friendly employees and less wait time.

    With Costco, we found the perfect compromise. We pretty much do all of our shopping there, adjusted our purchasing habits to find like products and have actually improved our diet because we cook healthy food at home a lot more (when buying from Costco, you better be ready to cook because their food has less preservatives and you get a TON). I didn’t do a single thing to intentionally get my 2% back, and since there are just two of us – we didn’t spend outrageously. It takes me about 10 minutes more to reach Costco than my normal Walmart. But in reality my overall expenditures went down. I have saved about 200 dollars a month in my budget since switching to Costco and year 1 of the Costco test went spectacular. We got back exactly the amount that we needed to get our second year of Costco membership for free…. and I was going to get it anyways because of how much of a difference it made in our budget.

    And just think, I haven’t even begun to explore all of the other services offered by Costco! This was just from my normal food and household item purchases.

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      Thanks for your comment, Richard. You mention the key in your comment….spending more to save more isn’t really saving money – you gotta stick to your budget!

    • Donna Jene says:

      And the checkout process was probably much faster at Costco!

  • Louise says:

    Thank you Marianne. I couldn’t believe all these people loving Costco so much. I’ll take Walmart, where I don’t have to pay them to let me shop in their store and I don’t have to buy their huge quantities of toilet paper or whatever. Everybody rushing around grabbing stuff off the shelves, getting in some long line, rushing out to stuff it all in their cars. I like to shop where I can take my time be a little more laid back. And another reason we like to shop Walmart is that they are pretty good on returns also. I guess I just don’t like paying any store for the “privilege” of shopping in their store.

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      I actually shop at both, Louise – but we’re getting a little off course here. The subject at hand is, is getting the elite membership worth the cost. It’s not about liking Walmart more or less – it’s whether a person could save enough money with the executive membership to make it worth it. The discussion here is about ways to save money at Costco to earn enough rewards. The truth is, if you use the membership right, you don’t have to pay for the privilege of shopping there, it will pay for itself!

    • Mark says:

      Walmart is great if all you care about is low price. I prefer costco because they pay their employees much better and treat them with dignity and respect. Walmart?? Not so much.

      I won’t step foot into a Walmart unless there was no alternative.

      • Travis @Debtchronicles says:

        I admire you for shopping with your convictions, Mark….my own internal struggle with that sort of thing is that if you look deep enough, I would bet that you could find *something* that you disagree with regarding any company. There’s some practice of your favorite chip manufacturer that you wouldn’t like, or there’s some political belief on which you would staunchly disagree with the CEO of Costco. If we really boycotted every product and store that we had some disconnect with, I think we’d likely be living off the land. πŸ™‚

      • Luba says:

        I agree with Mark. Sure, you can find things to disagree about with most companies, but adults can prioritize–some such disagreements are quibbles, while others go against deeply held beliefs. I will not set foot in a Walmart because they refuse to pay their emloyees a living wage, and thus expect the government (i.e. us, the taxpayers) to subsidize them via Medicaid and food stamps. All this while the Walton family are multi-billionaires.

        • Travis @Debtchronicles says:

          I respect your opinion, Luba, but (in my opinion) it’s not Walmart’s fault that the minimum wage is where it’s at. Wages are set by the supply and demand curve for the skill it takes to do the job – capped on the low end by the minimum wage. If the minimum wage is supposed to guarantee that someone can live above the poverty line with a 40 hour work week, then it’s our d0-nothing congress’s fault that they haven’t implemented their imaginary line correctly.

  • Marianne Holme says:

    This article is full of Costco employee’s It’s just so one sided it’s a joke.

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      Well, Marianne, if you have some constructive feedback to offer to the readers as to what to watch out for at Costco, or reasoning behind why getting a membership there is a bad idea, I’m sure everyone would be all ears. Here at MoneyNing we value the respectful sharing of ideas and tips to get the most out of our money. So, please, feel more than welcome to chime in with yours – I look forward to hearing them!

    • David Ning says:

      We would be delighted if you chime in with your experience to narrow the gap.

  • Ronda says:

    I especially love Costco’s Travel and car buying program. We used Costco Travel to book our honeymoon to Jamaica. Not only did we get a killer deal, but the cost included an automatic upgrade. I also like the fact that Costco pays its worker’s a living wage.

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      I don’t know that my Costco has a travel service…is that online only, or does yours have a travel dept within the store, Ronda?

  • Tony says:

    Just an additional note. Anyone can use the Costco pharmacy (in-store or on-line). By federal law, Costco can’t require a membership to use the pharmacy. However, if you don’t have prescription insurance, Costco members can join a special program that gives discount pricing.

    Although I have medical insurance, Costco’s regular “cash” price on my prescriptions is much less ($13) than the $40 that I would have to pay with my insurance.

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      Thanks for the info, Tony….is this special program something in addition to the Costco membership, and if so, does it cost anything to join?

  • Robert Ryndress says:

    I am so old that I live in a retrnment home. Food is furnished so my need to buy is limited. The reason I joined was the price of hearing aids. Their highest price was $2800 Aginist $7000 at some of the highly advertised sources. I did have to buy the executive membership. the only negative when I realized I didn’t need them They wouldn’t give my rewards unless I was a member. I rejoins al the lowest costs and got my rewards. By the way you can use the mail order pharmcy without joining and their prices are good.

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      That’s quite a difference in hearing aid prices, Robert – and great tip on the mail order pharmacy. Thanks for sharing!!!

  • jackeeno says:

    Cannot think of a single bad thing about Costco–have been an Executive member now for years–have 2 checks right now totaling $171 from Costco and Amex that more than pays for my Exec. member fee–also use their Ameriprise insurance for my car insurance whose premium no one else can match with similar coverage; the ONLY place to buy a computer is Costco too–no other store has a return policy of 90 days like Costco does (have often wondered why the big box stores can’t be as generous with return policies as Costco has, especially that wealthy, greedy monster from Bentonville, Arkansas whose stores I refuse to patronize); all in all, in my opinion Costco is perhaps one of the best stores out there and I make it a point to do most of my shopping there.

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      Glad to hear you have had great experiences, Jackeeno….hope it continues to work out for you. Thanks for sharing!!

  • Terry says:

    Aloha, Costco has been our favorite for years in MN and now on Maui it is a godsend (gasoline is $.19 – $.40/gal cheaper). We are a family of 2 and plan our shopping at Costco. We have the Executive membership via the Costco AMEX card and we get two checks a year both about $13o.

    Most of this thread is about getting enough money back to pay for the executive membership and not including how much money you save by shopping there too!! Since this topic is about Shopping Smart I think it should be included.

    I had an ongoing debate with an old neighbor in MN about joining Costco just for buying gasoline as he would clip coupons and drive out of his way to use them. Costco was almost always as cheap as cutting coupons plus 3% cash back and it was the closest place to get gasoline to our neighborhood. Because AMEX will give you reports on what you spend I found out we spent $980 last year on gasoline. Just that alone I figure we save almost $90 ($59 less than paying elsewhere and $27 from our 3% cashback.) We have had no problems ever with their gasoline and as we get great MPGs. I suspect driving habits and traffic effect MPGs more than anything else.

    How about the extended warranty on everything – 2 years!! Sure they don’t have everything but if you buy a Big screen TV or computer somewhere else they try to sell an extended warranty for $99 and up! What’s up with that?

    So to be a Smart Shopper, I think, one has to look at the cost of everything and shop accordingly. Is Costco the cheapest on everything? No, but one has to consider making the extra trip for your time and gasoline wasted as well going somewhere else.

    Bottom line I suspect I save hundreds of $$$ in them having the lowest price on most things. Another example is an item we buy every year -TurboTax and it is consistently $25-$40 cheaper.


    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      You’re right Terry, this thread is more about earning money back….how to save money at Costco is a whole different post. πŸ™‚ I’m glad you mentioned that not everything is cheaper at Costco and you do have to weigh in time and gas to go somewhere else. For my family, I drive right by my grocery store to get to Costco…so if there’s something cheaper at the grocery store, I can easily stop there without wasting any additional gas or time. Thanks reading and commenting!

  • EX-New-yorker says:

    I can’t believe what some people will do to save a few dollars when shopping.
    If this post annoys you, please go to another website.
    I have been a regular Costco member for over 10 years, and can’t find a
    better place ( overall) to shop.
    I’m going to list some of the reasons I write this ;
    The people who work for Costco are probably some of the nicest & smartest
    people you will come across in similar retail businesses.
    There is NOTHING wrong with COSTCO gas, it’s usually 5 to 10 cents cheaper
    than other brands, and you get a 2% rebate on your purchase.
    I have never been insulted or pressured to buy anything I did not want.
    I’m a family of 2, so I know to buy only the regular membership.
    I did try one year with the upgraded membership and was also told if I did not
    make the number I would get a refund.
    True to their word, I received back my money with a smile and no problem.
    As far as returns go, I have taken back a few things, and never had a question asked of me.
    They have a history of your account going back to day one, so all you have to do is bring the item back & ask for your refund.
    How come nobody mentions Costco food court where you can buy a BIG slice of pizza for $2-, a hot dog & a drink for $1.50, and other good clean food products for a very cheap price.
    I could go on with many more examples, but it’s not worth my time trying to
    explain this to some of you who really have a warped sense of real value.
    Please NRW from the public.
    Thank you !

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      There are certainly a lot of things that people (including myself) love about Costco. I am very glad that you’ve had a very positive experience with costco, Ex-New-Yorker, but we have to be very careful to not fall into the “it didn’t happen to me, so it can’t happen” trap. Just because you haven’t had a bad experience at Costco doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen to someone else. We’re just sharing ideas, experiences and thoughts, and letting the readers make their own educated decisions. Thanks for sharing yours!

  • AMY LEASURE says:

    I was suckered in on this upgrade to Elite scam. While I was in line to check out, a clerk scanned my basket with her handheld reader and then proceeded to upsell my membership. She told me that I would get $90.00 back at the end of membership because that was what was already showing on my purchases. She said that it would more than pay for my upgrade. When I got the check, it was $17.00. I complained to Costco and was told that the $90.00 was probably just and estimate based on my buying habit. I realized I was suckered in with Costco’s deceptive practice of up selling memberships. Since then I gone back to a regular membership.

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      Ah, the upsell….I can see your perspective, Amy. I’ve learned the hard way (through experiences like this) that I should never buy something like that in haste. That’s why my wife and I went to the service counter, took our time, and asked all kinds of questions to know exactly what we were getting into. Sorry to hear you had a bad experience!

    • staci says:

      In what universe is this a scam? If you don’t reach the minimum, you GET THE MEMBERSHIP REFUNDED. No loss to you whatsoever.

      • Travis @Debtchronicles says:

        Scam probably isn’t the best word to use…..although if there are checkout employees upselling based upon incorrect info, that’s a questionable practice. I didn’t have that experience, although as mentioned, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen to someone else. Thanks for reading, Staci!

  • Seattle49er says:

    The cost for Costco elite membership renewal has been, at most, $10 per year for both my spouse and I for many years. However, we are blessed with living an equal distance from a Business Center Costco as well as a Wholesale Costco. As such, we take advantage of best pricing and knowing how to keep foods at home in bulk.
    To begin, the wholesale and business Costco store inventories are different and their monthly “sales” are totally different in product in any month since they operate independent of each other. As such, we price check against each store for items and have benefitted from this.
    Second, using a vacuum seal system, and a good set of cutting knives, we cut and trim bulk meat purchases into our freezer, such as with prime rib, chicken, salmon and flank steak. Not even the best sale price from supermarkets come close to the bulk meat and seafood prices at business Costco centers.
    We also use the ‘screw’ type of Ziploc plastic containers to freeze and store grated cheese, tuna, ketchup and other perishable items. This allows us to purchase the bulk items found only in the business center Costco and still have them fresh to use three months later. We use vacuum containers to keep things like nuts, sugars and raisins fresher and longer and still easy to retrieve.
    Finally, the optical and the pharmacy departments have been cited for their excellent products so there has been little reason to look else where since my insurance reimburses for my optical and pharmacy purchases.

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      I’ve never heard of a business Center Costco…what kind of differences are there in inventory? It sounds like you know how to maximize the savings from using your membership for sure! I like the idea of ziplocking and freezing bulk meats – we’ve done that as well. Bulk Hamburger is cheap, and we weigh and freeze one pound packages. Thanks for sharing!

  • Jerry says:

    Ah, the problem with your whole ‘post’ is that you fail to examine whether what you buy at Costco is a ‘bargain’ worthy of your dollars. Lets take your $20 for Toilet Paper. I submit that you can walk into CVS almost any day of any week and leave with similar qty of TP but for $10-$12 total. They run rolling sales weekly on different brands and products and usually these items are GREAT Buys and NEED Items.

    You seem more fixated on getting near zero return on your Costco Membership than whether you are actually saving money overall. Think your priorities need re-examination.

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      You bring up a great point, Jerry, however I have indeed investigated which items would save me money (or at least be equal in price) by purchasing at costco vs where we buy them now. While I may be able to purchase “similar” quality toilet paper (or other items) someplace else (by the way, I don’t have a CVS in my city) the name of the game here is the brand I actually use.

      Everyone needs to make the decision as to what items they are comfortable going a bit cheaper on and picking a store brand or a less expensive brand. That choice is independent of the choice of where to buy it, and is a different post for a different time. πŸ™‚

      I promise you that I am certainly interested in saving money overall, and what brands I use is under constant evaluation. However the point of this post is, if I can buy at Costco, can I earn enough in cash back rewards to pay for my membership. Thanks for your thoughts!

      • BruiserB says:

        Actually you can buy 30 rolls of Toilet Paper at Costco for $14.99 and they have over 400 sheets per roll and it’s good 2 ply stuff. So I find it hard to believe you’d spend $20 a month on Toilet Paper. I buy one pack and it lasts about a year. I don’t have kids, but still I can’t believe any household uses more than 30 rolls a month!

        • Travis @debtchronicles says:

          My family of four uses 12 rolls of Charmin Extra Strong every two weeks. The package says they’re double rolls (so technically I guess it’s 24 “regular rolls” – so I think the term “roll” needs to be defined when comparing here). That package of toilet paper costs $6.95 so I probably only spend about $14 a month in toilet paper. I believe my estimation (note in my post I say “estimate”) I added an extra package just to be safe (sometimes we have guests which raises our use each month).

  • Kris says:

    I have had the Elite membership for years. And every year, I have made enough back to pay for my yearly membership. Now, granted, I have become an empty nester this year, so I have no idea what will be happening when I get my rebate back in the fall. But, I still buy dog food, toilet paper, paper towels, all my meat, veggies and even clothes for my new grandbabies. I don’t feel like I think “I have to spend more to get more back” It never enters my mind. I have bought things for college kids there, towels, blankets, etc. I am never disappointed in the quality or the price.
    So, I will see this year if I need to downgrade to the regular membership. But, now, I prefer Costco for 90% of my grocery needs.

    • Travis Pizel says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Kris…I’d be interested to year if you still earn back enough to pay for the higher priced membership as an empty nester!

  • Tami Eaton says:

    I have kept my Costco Executive Membership because of the 15% off of parts and labor on our car service. We have 3 cars and save on a average of $150 on regular maintenance a year per car. I will say that last time we had a retail clerks strike at the grocery store, and we shopped only at Costco, we reduced our month spending by $100 a month. I only do part of my shopping at Costco as I prefer the variety in brands and produce in the local store. I hate throwing away bulk produce when it goes bad and we haven’t eaten all of it.

    • Travis Pizel says:

      Is that 15% off the parts/labor if you have your car serviced at Costco, Tami? I don’t know that my Costco has a full automotive department…I know they do sell and install tires but I guess I’m not sure if they do more.

      • Marilyn says:

        The 15% off parts and labor is at a Costco approved auto dealer service shop. You request a coupon via email from Costco and it will be sent to your inbox.
        As I recall, Costco looks for a dealer close to you but you can request a different location if you find that to be more convenient (we made a specific request via phone but it had to be a Costco approved dealer). To be certain that your coupon will be honored call ahead to the dealer before you have repairs done.

    • David Ning says:

      You can always donate the leftovers Tami. Don’t wait until the food is completely spoiled obviously but I’m sure there are plenty places that takes food you know you won’t be able to finish!

  • Troy says:

    I’m surprised no one’s mentioned it, but the main reason I retain my Executive Membership with Costco is because of their home/auto insurance. I save over $400/yr. compared to other providers, and it comes with roadside assistance and home window replacement. In addition, you only pay 10 out of 12 months a year. Everyone I’ve referred to their insurance, with an Executive Membership, has saved at least $300./yr. Thanks for the great posts!

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      Thanks for the tip, Troy….I had no idea that I could get home or auto insurance with that membership – I’ll have to look into that. Maybe the subject matter for another post!

      • Abhijit says:

        If I recall correctly, insurance service is available to regular members as well. But there are some benefits that are extended to executive members (without any additional cost) which are not available for regular members under that policy plan. For example, locksmith assistance for home insurance, roadside assistance for auto insurance etc. Roadside assistance works well in big cities not sure about small towns. I cancelled my AAA membership after upgrading to executive membership. Also auto insurance policy has additional discounts if you happen to have executive membership. In California where I stay Costco gas stations are at least 20-30 cents per gallon cheaper compared to regular gas stations like Shel / Chevron. They have their own disadvantages though – long queue of cars in front of their gas stations except during early morning hours of weekends.

        • Travis @Debtchronicles says:

          Wow, Abhijit, the difference in MN is only about 5-6 cents per gallon. We also don’t have long lines at our costco…but then again maybe there would be if the difference was that big! Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  • Kesha says:

    I’ve been a Costco executive member since they were Price Club- a long time ago. If you normally buy off-brand grocery items or wait for a sale, you won’t save at Costco. But if you buy only name brands (sale or no sale) like I do, generally you will save especially on things you probably shouldn’t eat like dessert, snacks, bread and bagels. As far as organic food, they seem to be about the same price as Whole Foods (my fav. grocery store) so I just pick it up at Costco too.

    I also like to buy big ticket items there like jewelry, TVs, stereo equipment, x-mas trees, gazebos, printers, outdoor furniture, plants, etc. Yes, you’ll still pay $200 for a x-mas tree there but it will be built better and have more lights than another $200 tree. When you compare their quality and the warranties, you’ll see the true Costco difference.

    Plus you can bring things back whenever, if you don’t like it…even food. I’ve taken back crabmeat that tasted off. I’ve also taken back things six months later with no receipt and gotten a refund.

    Before we sold our house and moved to a condo, it was easy to get our membership fee back since a house always seems to need something. Now that we’re in a condo, it doesn’t quite need as much so our refunds are only about $72. It’s a little shy of full membership but you get the coupons mailed to us so I can plan our trip and earlier shopping hours. I figure that counts for something too. πŸ™‚

    • David Ning says:

      I am surprised Costco prices are at Whole Foods levels, but different areas have different prices so I am just not familiar with your neck of the woods to comment further.

      Costco’s return policy IS awesome, and it gives customers so much confidence before buying something. But some people do abuse it, like a family I saw who tried to get a refund on a cake after eating more than half of it saying they didn’t like the taste.

    • Travis Pizel says:

      I have to tell a quick story about their return policy….my wife and I just recently bought an Aerobed as our air mattress we use when we have a lot of guests stay at our house recently broke. We read some reviews say it was the best bed ever…and some that said it leaked air after only a few uses. We called Costco and asked what their return policy was. They responded that we can bring it back anytime no questions asked….they even said they had someone return something similar after a year because they had only used it a few times and it leaked. That’s a great return policy!

  • Travis @debtchronicles says:

    We don’t have a foodmax…but we do have a safeway. I walked in there once just to check it out shortly after it opened and you’re right……crazy expensive compared to shopping at many other places!

  • Joe says:

    Costco is mostly a ripoff because the majority of the products and foods there can be found cheaper somewhere else. We manage to save money there by buying only the items that are reasonably priced and by spending fewer than $60 on each shopping trip. It is simply ghastly how so many people spending 3 times what we do really have few items that are worth what they paid for them. If the item is not cheaper per ounce or pound than the cheapest supermarker or other store, we do not buy it. Our membership is also shared with a friend who gets to save money.

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      Yeah, you definitely have to compare prices and figure out which items are equal or less expensive. If they’re equal it pays to buy them there because of the discount of the executive membership. Many people do assume that *everything* is cheaper at a club stores, but as you mention, that’s not true. Thanks for your thoughts, Joe!

    • David Ning says:

      Good point Joe. And even if it’s cheaper per ounce/pound, many people can still save because they won’t waste as much food if they buy a smaller container.

      As with anything, everybody should sit down and think through how they are spending their hard earned cash!

  • Gwen says:

    It really depends on your shopping habits, but I find the membership pays for itself. And, with the lowest gasoline prices plus rebate, that’s hard to beat. I live three blocks from a Costco, so I can easily fill the car with gasoline and shop during off hours without making a special trip. Standing/sitting in line is an expense that isn’t always counted, but that is a consideration for me.

    I share my card with another household, so making the minimum required purchases to pay for the membership is easy.

    • David Ning says:

      Gwen, do you get a 2% rebate on top of whatever cash back/reward with the payment card you use? I wonder if you can get an AMEX business membership credit card for 4% gas rebate + 2% executive rebate to get 6%.

      • Travis @debtchronicles says:

        Unfortunately, the 2% executive cash rebate doesn’t apply to gasoline purchases at Costco gas stations, so the most you could earn is 4% on gas using the business AMEX. The good news is that you don’t have to buy your gas at Costco – you get the 4% at any gas station. Of course, you will save more if you buy at costco because their gas prices are cheaper, but if you’re out of town and not near a costco, you can still earn the 4%.

        • David Ning says:

          I’ll definitely have to look into this. An extra 2% is still a good chunk of change!

        • SG says:

          We have a separate cash/credit price in NJ. Cash is pretty much 3% less than credit price. So, not much of a difference in places where there is a cash/ credit card differential.

        • RKW says:

          Don’t fall for that AmEx ripoff claiming a 4% discount. You do get the 3% at Costco, but the 4% is ONLY at GAS Stations (NOT Convenience Markets). Personally, other that Costco Gas, I haven’t seen a Gas Station in years. And AmEx is not “merchant friendly”. They charged a higher surcharge than your bank (Visa/Master Charge) to clear transactions and there was a greater delay before the funds are available.

  • Dan @ Our Big Fat Wallet says:

    I didn’t know Costco guaranteed to make up the difference between the two memberships if it isn’t earned in rewards. Is this a new policy? If they guarantee the difference then it would absolutely make sense to get the executive membership

    • David Ning says:

      I was surprised to hear about this too, but it could be that Travis was just saying he could refund the membership or something. I’ll let Travis chime in on the details.

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      I don’t know if it’s a new policy (we’ve only been members for a year), but it’s true. We only earned $27 in rewards (received as a check in the mail), so we walked into Costco the month our membership expired and they gave us $28 in cash. As long as you go in and ask for the refund, there’s no way you can lose money on the executive membership!

      • David Ning says:

        Wow. I didn’t know that. Maybe that’s why there’s always such a long lineup at the service desk! πŸ™‚

        • Joyce says:

          It’s not new, I have been doing it for years, if I don’t get enough I just plan on going to the service desk to get the difference when I renew my membership. I don’t go out of my way to buy more stuff just to make the difference. Just buy what you need.

  • lana says:

    I think it’s not worth it, because when I did have the membership we all ate more! I was constantly having a difficult time finding space for all the items and I always spent more than was in my budget. I ended up buying books, clothes, alcohol, office supplies etc that I didn’t “need”. It is easier to go in and out of my small local store. Nothing goes to waste that way.

    • David Ning says:

      I suspect many people end up buying more but now there’s someone who actually experiences (and recognizes) it. Thanks for providing the other side!

      I heard before that the food America throws away can end world hunger immediately, which is shocking. I wonder how much does Costco’s super size packs contribute to that.

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      That’s how I have been grocery shopping for the last 4 years, Lana…and it’s worked very well. I can see the “consuming more because we have more” syndrome kicking in….but maybe we could defend ourselves against it through strict meal planning and sticking to our list. I’ve become very good at those things too. πŸ™‚

      • violets are blue says:

        for my husband and my self and 2 adult daughters, I keep food waste down by applying the rule of ONE. Previously when Costco was an out of the way trip I had to stock up every 3 months or so. However IF your Costco or other warehouse store is as close as your usual supermarket, you can still enjoy the warehouse savings without excessive waste by restricting your purchases to $80 once a week and buying only one item from a food group as needed. This keeps spoilage and space use to a minimum and ensures a variety of healthy fresh foods. It allows you to use up what is in your pantry and freezer without succumbing to “clutter blindness”. You can tailor this to your needs. It also keeps impulse buying to a minimum.
        1 berry or grape carton,
        one lunchbox fruit,
        one leafy green or spinach,
        1 package of tomato cuke OR avocado.
        1 meat or fish
        1 milk or eggs
        1 cheese
        1 cereal
        1 dried fruit
        1 canned goods
        1 paper product
        1 dry goods (pasta rice sugar etc)

        • Travis Pizel says:

          That’s a great suggestion, violets are Blue. We have switched to getting all our fruit from Costco as their produce is spectacular. We usually get one of their large containers of strawberries, and one of their grapes. That, combined with a bunch of bananas we get from the supermarket and we’re set for the week! Thanks for the suggestion of the “rule of one!”

    • Liz says:

      1. Vacuum Seal stuff makes food last much longer. Saw a Foodsaver brand sealer at Costco for only $55. It pays for itself quickly. You can also buy a used one on ebay for less. 2. Or split cost and items with a relative, friend or neighbor.

  • Jan says:

    I have had it for several years. We get groceries, all TV’s, cellphones, computers, (all with 2yr warranty), gas, pharmacy, propane refill, ink cartridge refill, landscaping materials and plants, flea and tick med for cats, litter, and cat food, office suppies for our business, tires, books, clothes, underwear, …. Have always gotten about $200 plus every Nov. Nice timing for Christmas, but usually save it for a fun treat. Got my tablet one year, this year, trees and shrubs for the year. Plus usually use Amer. Express so get membership miles. Pharmacy cheapest. Gas was 12 cents cheaper than others. You save more than just the rebate amount! Just use common sense and buy only what you need and will use. It adds up. And is so worth it. Plus there is so much online.

    • David Ning says:

      I didn’t think of pharmacy, so thanks for the reminder. I wish they would start accepting VISA though, because I could then use my 2% cash back card for a total of 4% back on all Costco purchases!

      • Ray says:

        David – you can use your Visa. Go to the website (which accepts Visa) and purchase Costco gift cards for yourself. Then, use the gift cards at Costco for your everyday items (food, drinks, pharmacy, etc.), but continue to use your Amex for items you’d like to have the Amex extra year warranty (laptops, cameras, etc.). When you pay for items at checkout with your gift cards, you show the cashier your Costco card so that the purchases apply to your yearly 2% cash back as an Executive member.

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      It will certainly be interesting to see how much we can earn back this year…..maybe a periodic update would make for a good post. πŸ™‚

    • Vic Blu says:

      I agree Jan, I shudder when I shop at a regular grocery store for thing’s I can get at Costco in bulk and cheaper. I buy thing’s my family uses regularly. There are some things I don’t even consider buying at Costco but I might as well make money back on what I’m going to spend anyway on the groceries we need.

  • Phil says:

    I listen to Dave Ramsey on a regular basis, and while I am not quick to jump on a the band wagon based on others’ experiences with a certain company, I believe AmEx is a bad company. People who have fallen on hard times and are not able to pay their bills in a timely manner have been treated very poorly by AmEx. Much worse than other companies. So I will not use them for that reason.

    • David Ning says:

      Could you elaborate? How does AMEX treat non-paying customers badly?

      • Bill says:

        I used to have a non-Costco AMEX and got shafted by them once some of the new credit card regulations were coming into effect (a few years ago now – look up the Credit Card Act of 2009). Despite never missing a single payment and always paying significantly more than whatever the minimum payment was, they took it upon themselves to hike my rate almost 10 percentage points for no other reason than because they could and wanted to make more money off my relatively high balance at that time (just got married and put much of the related expenses on it). They also wanted to do so before the aforementioned CC Act of ’09 went into effect and barred them from doing exactly what they had just done.

        I had been a customer of theirs for several years to that point yet that made no difference whatsoever. They were completely unwilling to drop the rate back down to where it was before (~ 11.5%) and wholly uninterested in hearing my displeasure or retaining my business. Needless to say, that card was immediately canceled and I transferred the balance and paid it off.

        My wife and I got a Costco AMEX a while back and I was really reluctant with doing so given my previous experience. I’ve not had any issues thus far but still have the bitter feeling of resentment and distrust firmly in my mind. If it weren’t for the fact that we get a 3% bonus on fuel or the fact that Costco will not accept any other credit cards other than AMEX due to a partnership, I’d still say to hell with AMEX and call it good.

        • Chadbag says:

          Strange. I’ve had various AMEX cards and even when I had both pretty much maxed out they left rate, etc. as is (2009+ time frame). I was a little late once on my AMEX charge card, which was paid off every month, and they halted all charging privileges on all cards, but I got that paid and they opened everything back up. They’ve been as fair to me as any bank type card has been, and they have been much better in terms of backing me up when I have a dispute with a merchant.

          • Bill says:

            As I said, once the new regulations came into effect after 2009, credit card companies are not legally able to alter your interest rate no matter what the balance may be. If you show a pattern of delinquency, that’s entirely different.

            Once Costco switches over to Visa (which will be soon), this new AMEX we have will be gone immediately.

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      I know that they would not participate in my debt management program….they said they had their own hardship program. Of course it was only 12 months in length and didn’t give me enough time to pay off my balance in full. It actually has me motivated to really think about using the card….and paying the balance off each month earning my rewards and ensuring not ONE PENNY of mine goes to their revenue. Of course, they make something off of each transaction (paid by the merchant), so…there is that.

      • Joscar says:

        I’m sorry to hear about your situation but I don’t believe any of the credit/charge card companies are required to participate in debt management programs, either outside ones or their own.

        If your Amex was a regular charge card they issued it with the expectation you would pay it off every 30 days. Giving someone 12 months to pay a balance in this case seems reasonable.

        If it was an actual Amex Credit card or you had the pay over time option then 12 months may not be as reasonable, depending on the original terms.

        • Travis @Debtchronicles says:

          That’s right, Joscar, they are not required to participate. It was a “regular” charge card, and while they would not accept it into the DMP, we have since paid it off.

  • Celecel says:

    I have the Costco “executive” membership in which I was issued an American Express card as my Costco card. I can use the Amex card as a regular credit card outside of Costco and still rack up reward points. In the 6+ years that I’ve had it I have regularly received over $400 every February, and another rebate for a lesser amount in December. This past Dec. it was $70. I pay my card balance in full each month, so these checks are basically free money for me. I’ve been a Costco member for over 30 yrs and have been a widow for the last 4 yrs, yet I continue to buy gas and household purchases in bulk at Costco. I recommend it for those of you who are ok with charging your purchases to a credit card and are able to pay it off each month.

    • David Ning says:

      Good suggestion Celecel.

      The Costco AMEX card is a good deal. 3% cash back on Costco gas (plus cheaper prices at Costco gas stations) is worth the price of membership already, and you still get 2% back on Costco purchases.

    • Travis Pizel says:

      I’ve been thinking about getting the AMEX……but I’m very credit card shy still at this point. I did ask some questions, and as a blogger I’m a technically a small business owner so they would let me transfer my membership to a “business” membership, and apply for the business AMEX card – which would give me 4% back on gas. David…you may want to investigate that as well. πŸ˜‰

      • David Ning says:

        I should really add up all our gas receipts and then see if it’s turns out better. An extra 3% off on gas is no joke!

      • Dotty says:

        Check out the AMEX extended warranty – it’s the best I’ve found. AMEX will extend the warranty by one year on many – but not all – items. I used it to by hearing aids – normally a very expensive item but at COSTCO they were 50% less and a very good product.

        • Travis Pizel says:

          Wow, Dotty, I’m learning all kinds of things about the Executive membership as well as the AMEX card. They should really tell you these things when you sign up!!!!

      • Cam Jones says:

        One thing to consider – Costco gas, while cheaper than regular gas stations is not the greatest gas. You hear complaints from Costco customers about their cars having noticeable performance issues like misfires, loss of power (poor acceleration) and reduced gas mileage.

        • Travis @debtchronicles says:

          Hmm…I hadn’t heard of that Cam – but I always monitor my gas mileage each tank and if it starts decreasing I may have to reconsider. Thanks for the heads up!

          • PWS says:

            We have the elite card and I calculated, including the cashback feature, that we save about $5k/year over buying the same/similar items elsewhere.

        • Raju says:

          I disagree. Using Costco gas since last 6 years and have no complain with my car. No difference in quality from any other gas station. In my perception, Costco is not place for lowest price. It’s for good quality product at a medium price.

          This place works for some and may not work for some. There is no point single solution.

          • J-dizzy says:

            I can definitely confirm Cam’s comment. I have tested (not scientifically) with three different vehicles comparing between Shell, Chevron, & Costco. However, I did not experience any performance issues I did notice a loss in MPG. At a minimum of 3 miles to the gallon consistently. That’s roughly another gallon lost per purchase of Costco gas. I have seen a difference of over 7 miles on previous comparisons. To sum up, Costco has always been at least 3 mpg below my lowest using either Shell or Chevron. I work for Costco and still refuse to buy their gas. My most recent test was earlier this year. Confirmed my previous expectation yet again. I want to like Costco gas but not for me and my cars…

          • Travis @debtchronicles says:

            This could certainly be subjective to the vehicle a person has OR even the area of the country. I think the best thing a person can do – whether it’s Costco OR any gas retailer is to closely monitor your vehicle’s MPG and if it drops, do some investigating. Could be an easy fix (fuel injectors need cleaning)…or it could be something more serious that would cause a person to take their business elsewhere.

        • JD says:

          Not true. The quality of the gas is as good or better than what you can get at chevron or Shell. It is basically in the additives. A recent issue of the costco connection went into great detail explaining what goes into making their gas on par with Chevron or Shell. I have never had any issues using Costco gas.

          • JJB says:

            When I fill up with Costco gas in metro Atlanta Ga., I can go about three weeks, before refilling. Using, other name brands Citgo, Exxon, Valero, Race-Track, I’m refilling up in about two weeks. I drive two Buick Lacrosses, 2006 and 2011, Costco gas is top tier, and cheaper.

          • Chadbag says:

            I stopped buying gas at Costco (when I drove a gasoline car though our new Costco has Diesel as well) after I started to notice a drop in MPG. I did some (non scientific tests, filling up a few times at Costco, switching to Chevron for a few tanks, and then back to Costco, and then back to Chevron. The MPG went down at Costco, up at Chevron, down at Costco, back up at Chevron. This was buying Premium in both cases (VW). I did not notice performance problems, just the MPG. Costco was consistently 2-2.5 MPG less. (It was not always like that but about 4 years ago started and stayed). I wonder if there 5x the detergent actually lowers the energy level of the gas since that extra detergent displaces gas in terms of the volume. I then moved from Chevron to alcohol-free gas (found through an app that lists stations that sell alcohol free gas) and the MPG went up again 1-2 MPG higher than Chevron. Our local new Costco also carries diesel, and our current cars are both diesel VWs. When they first opened, I bought diesel there several times and the MPG was the same as elsewhere, but after a few months, the MPG went down and stayed down over several tanks and went back up when I went back to Exxon or Chevron and back down when I went to Costco. I still occasionally get Diesel at Costco if I need it and am there, but usually go elsewhere. I’ll try and test again once summer comes.

          • Chadbag says:

            Of course Costco does not have their own refineries, and buys their gas from other sources. (The pumps in our area say Hess on them but that does not mean the gas comes from Hess). But Costco buys the raw gas and puts in their own mix of detergents and other additives. Our local Costco closed their gas station for a week or two a few years ago. I went and asked a guy working there after it reopened what they did to it in those closed days. He said they added an automatic detergent dispenser. Previously they had added it by hand — truck came and filled tank and they dumped X bags in. Now it was all done at the push of the button the guy said. I wonder if the 5x detergent that Costco adds changes the gas enough to lower MPG, as that detergent will displace actual gas in a given volume. I did not notice any performance issues my self but did notice a drop in MPG with Costco gas before I stopped buying it.

        • Angela says:

          I have been using gas from Costco for years along with gas from other places on occasion. No misfires, excellent mileage excellent power. I get better mileage than the manufacturer boasts of. What actually make a difference is regular maintenance of the car. I will admit I change my oil every 2500 miles. I have a new Honda that averages 4 mpg better than I was told it would when I bought it 41 mpg, a 12 year old Ford 150 van that is getting 23 mpg and a 28 year old Geo Metro that gets 40 mpg. Maintain the car properly and none of those things happen.

          • Jeremy H. says:

            Costco gas is either shell, chevron, or tesoro. Costco contracts with these three companies to run these stations. Have you ever seen a Costco refinery? Alsoany of these chevron or she’ll stations you go to are owned by other companies, most shell stations in California are owned by Tesoro. So unless you’re visiting some shady mom and pop station you’re getting the same gas they all sell to each other. I work in a refinery and see all three of those trucks picking up gas everyday.

          • Wayne says:

            Your gas mileage has nothing to do with Costco gas and everything to do with how, and where, you drive your vehicle. The gas mileage figures that the manufacturer places on their vehicles are based on EPA tests the manufacturers have to do and that mileage figure is for the average driver. Half will get better mileage and half will get worse mileage.

            As for changing your oil every 2500 miles, you’re wasting money. I’ve got a new GMC truck and GM says every 5,000 miles but even that may or may not be necessary, depending upon the way you drive the vehicle and where you drive the vehicle.

            @Jeremy H said that all Costco gas came from Shell or a couple of other companies and that’s not true either. Costco said on their website that they buy gas in different areas from different distributors and since all gas must meet the same standards nationwide, who they buy gas from is based on who gives them the best price. Costco is like any other business, they are there to make money, not to save you money.

            The prices that Costco has on brand name household products are not generally any better than other big box stores because they all buy the same products from the same manufacturers and the more they buy at a time the better price they get but none of them can get any better price than the WalMart empire does. That doesn’t mean that WalMart necessarily sells everything for less, just that they might be making more profit on some items at various times than the others do.

            None of the big box stores manufacture the products they sell which means they all buy from the same manufacturers, no matter what the product is. Some products are bought regionally but most products are the same nationwide.

            The people who religiously shop only at Costco in my area do so because few minorities go there. It’s just another form of racism and I suspect that’s true in most places.

            The fact that you can earn cash back simply means the products are overpriced. It’s like people who think because they get money back at tax time it’s a windfall but if they had paid the correct tax all along that they owed, that extra money could have been in the bank earning interest, albeit not that much interest in today’s economy but a few dollars does still add up.

            Generally speaking, buying from any big box store only makes sense when you buy in bulk and get a considerable price reduction. However, just because it’s in bulk does not automatically mean it is cheaper. Many products are cheaper per unit of measure in standard size than they are in king size. You have to know the prices in other stores before you can really save money.

            I buy medications at Sam’s for my mother who is in assisted living and spend on average about $500 per month. The price is similar at Costco but Costco will not blister pack them while Sam’s blister packs them free. The cost if I use the pharmacy on the campus of the assisted living facility would be over $2,000 per month.

            I’m divorced and shopping big box stores doesn’t make economic sense to me. I can buy gas cheaper at independent stations and it’s exactly the same gas, by federal law. I rarely buy anything in bulk because it will go bad before I can use it all. There was a time when it would have made economic sense for me but that time is in the past.

      • Bob Stokem says:

        I just saw in the news today (March 3, 2015) that Costco will be dropping American Express in favor of Visa as the exclusive credit card company they will use. I believe the ‘changeover’ will occur next year.

        • Travis says:

          I heard that as well, Bob….I wonder if they will change customers over to the new credit card or if we will have to do it ourselves?

    • Neal Kluge says:

      Celecel, U R Right. We get about $1,000 back every February with the Amex statement. 4% cash back not just from Costco but everywhere else!!
      CAN’T BE BEAT.

      • Travis says:

        That’s great Neal…the AMEX card is an extra – but separate benefit from the 2% cash back from the executive membership though. Thanks for sharing – and GREAT work!

    • patrick says:

      all though I use Sam’s club. I’m on food stamps it does save me about 30% a month which is huge. I use Sam for over 90% of the items I need. I must say that you do need a deep freeze to make it work out

  • Phil says:

    I don’t know…my time and effort and brain power is not worth 2%. To spend effort to buy cat food at Costco instead of Walmart seems like a waste.

    I use Costco on a regular basis. The $55 fee is perfectly fine. I am afraid if I buy into the 2% back plan that I will be buying things I don’t need to get my 2% back. And since Costco doesn’t have a large enough selection to avoid going to Walmart, well it is not worth my time.

    A little off topic, but we tried Amazon Pantry last week. It was interesting, as the package seemed to get lost, Amazon gave us our money back, and then the package arrived (Amazon told us if it ever arrives to keep our refund). We got $100 in free groceries. I call that the 100% cash back reward. And because of Amazon’s amazing customer service, I will be a Prime member for life.

    • David Ning says:

      100% cash back can’t be beat! And Amazon prime is a nice perk, though it’s not quite worth the cost for our household right at the moment.

      And btw, do you know if the extra 2% applies to gas as well? If so, then I can easily meet the $5,500 number that Travis is shooting for.

      • rkt88edmo says:

        2% doesn’t apply to gas, but if you get the Amex Costco Exec card it replaces your membership card and does give additional rewards plus some reward on gas.

        • Travis Pizel says:

          That’s right, rkt88edmo, the AMEX card will give you 3% back on gas. If a person is able to get the business membership, then the AMEX gives you 4% back on gas!

          • anil patel says:

            Please always check your Costco American Express Statement and calculate, does it give you 2% rebate? I think it does not.

          • Edward S says:

            I have a Costco Business Card with the Amex Card–it has a 4% cash back on gas, 2% on restaurants and “eligible travel,” 1% on other eligible purchases (such as what you buy at Costco). And you get the 4% on gas even when purchased at other gas stations.

      • JaiK says:

        As clearly mentioned, the 2% DOES NOT apply to gas purchases. 90 plus percent of Costco’s 70 Million members are actually Executive members, and this is a great healthy bottomline add (Costco’s Profit).

        I have been a Costco member for 15 years and this year downgraded to a regular member.. Main reason being the Costco psychology is to have people “buy more” to make up for the annual fee. I am spending close to $400 per month, but a majority of it is in Gas.

        • Travis @Debtchronicles says:

          It would be easy, JaiK, to fall into that trap of spending more to save more. My goal is to stay within my grocery budget (ie, not spend any more than I would have without a costco membership) and still earn my membership fee back. Only time will tell whether I’m successful – look for an update soon!

          • rlj says:

            Why would anyone spend more to make the 2% cover the difference – they give it back to you anyway.

    • Travis Pizel says:

      I believe it’s only going to cost me the time up front, Phil… we drive right by Costco every day so it’s not like it’s out of our way. It’s just a permanent shift in shopping location for certain items. Thanks for sharing your story about Amazon Pantry…I’ve never heard of that..maybe I need to look into it!

      • Phil says:

        Amazon Pantry is very new. Additionally, it is not easy to find! I have to Google it!

        Many consider it a “threat” to Costco (this surprises me). I must say, some of the prices on there are very competitive, if not cheaper than Costco. It should be noted though, that it is for Prime members only, and still costs $5.99 to have a box shipped to you. But I can’t drive to the store for less than $6.00 in gas and that doesn’t include wear and tear on the car.

        My favorite feature…every time you add something to the “box” it tells you what percentage of the box it has filled. My least favorite feature…lack of selection (just like Costco).

        • David Ning says:

          That fill-up feature is pretty awesome! Amazon continues to amaze me with all kinds of innovation!

        • Travis @debtchronicles says:

          Cool, Phil, thanks for the links….having all these options to save money allows people to evaluate all of them and make the best choice for them!

        • Randi says:

          No one should ever be paying full price for toiletries, detergent, and paper products. Its called ” couponing”. I save at least 50% and I am by no means an “extreme couponer”. I tend to stick to one store( Target) and use a target coupon stacked with a manufacturer’s coupon along with other specials. 2 weeks ago, I got 15.00 worth of products for 2.00 each. I got deodorant, hair care, and oral products. Everything I will use and what I can’t use, I donate to a food pantry. Check out for the different deals they offer. You will also save another 5% with the Target debit card and another 5% with the cartwheel app.

        • robert says:

          If it takes $6 in gas to go to the store… you should definitely be buying in bulk. If you get 10 mpg that’s 30 miles.

    • Donna Jene says:

      We have almost stopped going to Walmart! Their selection has dwindled and the lines are forever long! Besides, Costco employees (at least in our area) seem to love their jobs, unlike Walmart people!

      • Travis says:

        I don’t notice the lines when I go to Walmart…..I use the self checkout lanes exclusively. πŸ™‚

    • Randy says:

      It is ALWAYS worth shopping at Costco over Walmart. Walmart pays its employees as little as possible and gives next to no benefits. Compare that to what Costco does for its employees and you would be FAR better off supporting a company like Costco over Walmart. I try to not to shop at Walmart if can.

      • Travis says:

        My first and foremost obligation is to put my family in the best possible financial place – if that means shopping at Walmart, I’ll do it in a heartbeat. I go where the products I want are the cheapest.

        • mel says:

          Cheap does not always mean better. I don’t shop at Walmart anymore I end up returning 50% of the stuff because it’s broken. My in law still do and when we get gifts from there a lot of times they’re broken. Not worth my time to have to return junk. that may not apply to groceries as much but still such a waste of time

          • Eve says:

            I don’t know what you are purchasing, or getting as gifts, but I shop at Walmart and have never had anything broke. If something is broken, can’t you see it with your eyes? Unless you are talking about electronics? I don’t buy it. I can’t think of one item, out of everything in my 15 years of being an adult shopper that was “broken”. Also, they have a great return policy. (Costco does too.) I couldn’t stand when Target had a million rules for exchanging or returning. I wouldn’t go there just because of that. I recently heard that it has changed, but before they treated anyone with a return as if they were a criminal. I’m sorry that I don’t always feel like trying on a t-shirt in the store and may have to exchange it.

  • John @ Sprout Wealth says:

    We actually made the same decision a few months back. They’ve been hawking it at us for several years and I never wanted to do it because I didn’t like the idea of running into the issue of spending more just to get it back. But, we’ve shifted the large majority of our shopping there as we’ve added a ton more fruits & veggies to our diet so it made sense to give it a try now. Like you said, if we don’t earn enough back then we can just go back to the normal membership.

    • David Ning says:

      I hesitate every time the other party pushes a product to me because I feel like there must be something I’m not seeing yet. In this case, I’m sure Costco realizes that the elite members spend way more than other members, so much so that it’s worth more than 2% of the purchase price to them.

      Just make sure you really were going to eat the super sized portions Costco offers before you give it a try!

      • Drew S says:

        I think you’re misinformed on the Supersizing..that’s not an accurate statement with the exception of paper products and some other supplies. At anyrate, wife and i do about 85% of our shopping there and save some $ and probably pay the same at a comparable grocery store in our area. To me, the biggest benefit of shopping there is you arent surrounded by riff-raff…

      • Angela says:

        What supersized portions? You do not have to eat all 24 eggs at once ( they cost about the same as a dozen at my local Safeway) You are not required to eat all rib eye steaks in a package of 4 in one sitting. You are not even required to print 6 reams worth of paper in one pass. For perishable things like meat you are buying portions for about 4 meals for the price of three. Yes you buy a 6 pack of Stewed tomatoes rather than one can at a time, however canned things keep for months. You are not required to use anything they sell all in one sitting. We have been shopping there for about 20 years. We went to the executive membership. Most years we get back about $130.00 in a check . It pays for our membership and a little more. If we buy something like furniture, a large TV, a computer. in the year it is even more. We don’t buy anything we do not need and use and we are way ahead.

        • Travis Pizel says:

          Yes, you’re right, Angela, you don’t have to eat all 24eggs at once. BUT, you do have to eat them all before they expire. Some items are used enough that there’s no problem using a large quantity before the expiration data. That does not hold true for all product for all people, however. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

          • patrick says:

            wipe your eggs with food grade mineral oil and your eyes will keep up to a year +. The oil blocks out the air from getting in. I brought my oil from my local big box grocery store.

          • Chadbag says:

            No you don’t have to eat all before expiration. Eggs will last a lot longer refrigerated than is listed in the Sell By date.

            Most things will last a lot longer than the Sell By date.

            We usually get $100-$120 back every year from our Executive Membership at Costco without even trying. I never buy extra just to try and meet the amount to get my money back. We just do our normal shopping and it usually comes back in that range. Last year was actually more, about $134, but we ended up buying our first TV (since we got married in 2000, having used a computer monitor on a computer with USB tuner previously) which padded the amount by $20.

      • rlj says:

        You get a refund for the difference between what you pay extra for the elite membership and your cash back, so it is always worth it. If you buy things you don’t need just to cover the difference regardless of the fact that you get it back anyway, then you are wasting money. I don’t get why anyone would try to do that.

        • Travis says:

          Exactly, RLJ – the goal would be to buy only what you usually buy…but to buy as much of it as possible at costco!

    • Travis Pizel says:

      I’m glad you also mentioned (as I did in the post) that we need to avoid the issue of spending more to get it back. We need to stick to that budget! If we can stick to our budget AND get cash back, then it’s a WIN. Otherwise, it’s not worth it….

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