Costco Membership Benefits — Are They Worth the Annual Fee?

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Feb. 8 2022, Published 1:26 p.m. ET

Since most families like to save money, the prospect of a membership that could automatically save money on common purchases sounds appealing. Is a Costco membership worth it nowadays for the average household? Generally, the answer depends on your family’s needs.

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Rather than clip coupons or search for deals online, some consumers prefer to shop in one place where low prices are more or less guaranteed. What are the benefits of a Costco membership?

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Costco memberships range from $60 to $120 annually.

Costco memberships—with a fee—are required in order to shop in a Costco store. Statista research showed that there were 795 Costco locations globally by the end of 2020. The main membership tiers are Gold Star and Gold Star Executive. The company also offers business memberships at the same levels.

Gold Star, the basic membership level, is $60 per year and offers the privilege of shopping at Costco stores at low prices. It also gives members the ability to take advantage of optical services, gas stations, hearing aid centers, and other services.

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At the $120 Gold Star Executive level, members have the basic benefits plus 2 percent rewards of up to $1,000 on qualified Costco purchases. As Wirecutter points out, if you spend $250 per month ($3,000 per year), you’ll make back $60, which makes the Executive membership equal in cost to a basic Gold Star membership.

There are key reasons to become a Costco member.

For some people, the fee is worth it for a Costco membership. A Costco membership makes sense if:

  • You often buy groceries and household goods in bulk

  • Your home is near enough to a Costco location to shop frequently

  • You’ll buy items that offer the steepest discounts at Costco

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One of Costco’s hallmarks is its lower bulk pricing on grocery and household items. Therefore, people with large families often choose Costco for their grocery needs. But if you won’t buy in bulk or can't use up bulk items before they expire, a Costco membership won’t benefit you as much.

What special items can members save on at Costco?

Certain purchases might make a Costco membership worth it, even if you aren't a frequent shopper. Wholesale tires at Costco could be worth the price of membership, especially since tire installation comes with lifetime maintenance. Big-ticket appliance purchases make the membership appealing as well.

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According to Clark.com, movie tickets, baby formula, luggage, and gasoline purchases are a few of the items that might save you more than enough money to make up the cost of membership. Buying eyeglasses or contact lenses from Costco Optical could also be a money-saver.

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How can I shop at Costco without a membership?

Non-members can shop online at Costco.com. However, they will pay a 5 percent fee at checkout. Shipping fees might apply as well.

Without a membership, you can also tag along with a member and reimburse them for any purchases they make for you. This might be a good option if you want to save money, but you don't plan to shop at Costco often.

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