Benefits Of Shopping At Costco You Should Know Before Buying A Membership - Mashed (2024)

Grocery Stores And Chains Costco

Benefits Of Shopping At Costco You Should Know Before Buying A Membership - Mashed (1)

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ByLauren Corona/

You're considering joining up with the most iconic warehouse retailer around, but before you brush your hair and plaster on a smile for that Costco membership card photo, perhaps you want to know what you'll get for your money. Costco isn't just about giant packets of toilet paper and fantastic deals — although those are great — you might actually get more from your membership than you bargained for. In fact, there are perks that even some members don't know about.

From discounts on gas and travel to an effortless return process and a killer food court, there's a lot to love. Naturally, there are pros and cons to Costco memberships. Yes, you might sometimes have to brave long queues and it might be a bit of a drive to your nearest store. Not to mention the mammoth size might feel like you've been roaming the aisles for days. But, we think the good more than makes up for the bad. Here are 15 benefits of shopping at Costco you should know before buying a membership.

1. Groceries are great value

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We're going to start with the most obvious benefit of a Costco membership — and the one that draws most people in to start with: The groceries are great value. Where else can you buy a 10-pound bag of cane sugar for around 10 bucks? Or 16 ounces of pure vanilla for less than $17? Of course, some items give you bigger savings than others, so it might take a bit of mental math (or a few taps on your phone's calculator) to figure out what to buy from Costco.

You'll usually save more if you buy in bulk, after all, that's what Costco is known for. It can take a while to get used to shopping this way, especially if you don't have a huge household. But, there are ways you can make groceries last longer, such as by freezing excess bread and bakery products and portioning large cans into individual servings and preserving them in the freezer. Of course, like every grocery store, not everything is worth buying. For instance, there are some Costco products that don't taste like they used to. But, you can figure this all out once you have access to the hallowed ground that is Costco.

2. You can save money on gas

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Costco is best-known for its food and other household essentials, so you might not realize you can buy your gas here too — and it's usually cheaper than anywhere else. Gas prices vary, but often a gallon from Costco is 20 cents cheaper than you'd find it at other gas stations. This can lead you to some serious savings if you routinely fill up there. And, don't worry, the gas from Costco is premium stuff. Just because it's cheap, it doesn't mean the quality is affected.

The real reason Costco gas is super cheap — or part of the reason, at least — is that pricing it low encourages more people to buy Costco memberships, luring them to the store interior when they come by to fill up. While Costco doesn't lose money on gas, it likely doesn't make as much as other gas stations. This doesn't matter, though, as cheap gas acts as a kind of marketing tool for the chain at large, driving memberships and sales.

3. Costco Travel helps you save on vacations

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Another benefit of a Costco membership is that you can save money on vacations. Costco Travel is an online travel agent that offers savings on trips, plus other perks and rewards. But, not every trip is a money saver, so you might want to shop around to make sure you're getting a deal.

Costco Travel specializes in package vacations, where you get accommodation, flights, and sometimes food included. These are usually cheaper than packages bought elsewhere, but can be more expensive than trips booked separately. So, if you're someone who's happy to price up and book each element of your trip, it's worth checking what it would cost to book the hotel and flights separately and comparing it to the package cost. But, if you'd rather have the convenience of booking a package even if it costs slightly more, Costco is a good choice. Other offerings can be much cheaper, though. For instance, you can save $1,000 plus on trips to places like Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando, and cruise prices are competitive.

On top of lower prices, there are often rebates offered in the form of a Costco Shop Card. You might get as much as 5 to 7% of the value of your trip back as a store card that you can use at Costco. If you're an executive member, you also get a 2% reward. When you factor in these additional rebates, travel starts looking even cheaper.

4. Free samples are one of the best parts of the Costco shopping experience

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You're bummed out about having to go grocery shopping instead of doing something fun, but then you remember an awesome fact: free samples. All Costco members know that samples are one of the best things about shopping there, and it's not just about having a bite or two. You can genuinely leave feeling full enough to skip a meal.

Saturdays and Sundays might be the busiest times to go shopping, but it's also when you'll find the widest variety of samples. And, the great thing is there's no limit, so you're free to take more than one. Free samples can be anything from cheese or bread and butter to potstickers and sausages. You'll also find packaged options, like individually wrapped candies or granola bars. However, in some stores, unmanned free sample stations are replacing people. This might leave you with a smaller selection of samples, as it'll be pre-packaged options only instead of hot foods or anything that needs assembling or preparing.

5. There's so much more than just food to buy at Costco

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You might think of Costco as a place to shop for your groceries, but there's way more in these giant stores than just food. Need some new luggage? Head to Costco. Want to upgrade your TV? You'll find a selection there. How about kitchen appliances? Yup, Costco again. In fact, it seems like there are few things you can't buy at this miraculous store. Now it makes sense why it's so enormous.

Aside from the amazing deals, what's cool about Costco having so much to offer is that you don't have to trawl several stores to get what you need. You can get food, vitamins, electronics, pet beds, toys, and so much more under a single roof. Sure, you might feel like you've walked a marathon when you're done, but it's worth it to avoid running all over town to get what you need.

6. It's easy to get refunds on products you aren't happy with

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People make all kinds of mistakes when shopping at Costco — and one of them is not making the most of the generous return policy. If you're not happy with what you've bought, you can return it basically any timewith no need to prove there's something wrong with the product, or even much of a reason for your return at all. Just waltz up to customer services and ask for a refund. In many cases, you don't even need your receipt.

People have successfully returned some absolutely wild things to Costco. The list includes — but certainly isn't limited to — a dead Christmas tree (in January), a used cat litter box complete with litter, years-old pillows, and a broken A/C unit that was four years old. We're not suggesting you be as bold about the refund policy, but you can definitely get your money back for anything that breaks before you think it should or items you generally aren't happy with. There are some products with a tighter return policy though, such as electronics and diamond jewelry.

7. If the price of an item you bought falls, you can ask for a price adjustment

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There are few things more frustrating than shelling out for an item, only to see the price drop significantly just a few days later. Even though you were willing to pay the original cost, it now feels a bit like you were ripped off. Luckily, Costco has a policy known as a price adjustment, which can help you out in this kind of circ*mstance.

But, when can you ask for a price adjustment at Costco and what exactly is it in the first place? This is when the store gives you a refund for the difference between the price you paid and the current cost of the item. For example, if you bought a blender for $50 and then Costco reduced it to $30, you could get a $20 refund. You can ask for it within 30 days of purchase, but only at the store at which you bought the item. This is another great benefit of Costco, helping you save money and avoid buyer's remorse.

8. Costco has an excellent organic range

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For some, avoiding pesticides in foods is important. You might think that shopping at Costco means waving goodbye to organic produce, but you'd be wrong. The big box retailer actually has an excellent organic range. Yes, you can find organic fruit and veggies, but there's so much more than produce. Its organic offerings include pasta, flour, maple syrup, honey, juice, snacks, and peanut butter, to name just a few.

Not only can you buy a selection of organic products, but they're usually much cheaper, pound-for-pound, than what you would pay at other supermarkets. This is especially true of grocery stores that traditionally sell a lot of organic items, such as Whole Foods. Look out for the USDA certification and you can be sure that the food you're choosing has been grown according to organic principles. You might end up buying in bulk, but you'll save money overall.

9. You can get affordable glasses from Costco

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Some people refuse to shop at Costco because of the membership fee, but for many, the benefits are worth the cost. One perk that helps make it worthwhile is the range ofoptical services. You can get a wide selection of prescription glasses from Costco at a fraction of the cost you'd find elsewhere — and the quality is great, too. You'll often get free coatings on the lenses, whereas at other optometrists, the cost of these extras can add up.

If you've had an eye exam recently, you can just take your prescription to Costco and get them to make glasses to these specifications. You can also buy contact lenses and prescription sunglasses. What's more, Costco accepts most vision insurance plans, so the costs might be covered. Don't want to go to the store? There's a virtual try-on option so you can see how your new glasses might look on you.

10. Executive members get a 2% reward

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When most people join Costco, they opt for the Gold Star Membership. This is the standard membership tier, which costs $60 a year. However, there's also a more expensive $120 Executive Membership. One of the main benefits of this is the 2% reward, which is given back to you as a voucher to spend at Costco.

It's natural to be drawn toward the cheaper option, but it can be worthwhile to level up. Yes, Executive Membership costs $60 more each year, but the 2% reward will offset this difference if you spend at least $3,000 each year. If you spend over this amount at Costco, you'll get back more than the price difference between tiers, which makes sense for people who do a lot of their shopping at the retailer or who buy all their fuel or book travel with Costco. Plus, Executive members get lower prices on insurance policies and better deals on travel packages, along with other perks.

11. There's a pharmacy at Costco where you can save money on prescription medication

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Did you know there's a pharmacy at Costco with cheaper prescription drugs? Because it attempts to negotiate the lowest pricing from drug manufacturers and then passes those savings on to customers, you'll usually save more money filling a prescription at Costco than at a traditional pharmacy. Some meds cost at least 10 timesless at Costco than at the most standard pharmacies, such as CVS.

While you can sometimes get better prices ordering your prescriptions online, Costco tends to top the list of the cheapest brick-and-mortar pharmacies. Ordering drugs over the internet isn't a choice for everyone — and sometimes you need medication quicker than online shopping allows.

Costco pharmacies often operate with fewer frills and less billing staff than standalone pharmacies, with processes that have been streamlined to be more efficient and less costly. Prices are sometimes less than insurance co-pays, which can be a (literal) lifesaver for folks with no insurance or high co-pays. If you take regular medications, the savings in prescription drugs alone may be greater than the cost of membership.

12. Wine is cheap — and good — at Costco

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If you need yet another reason to march yourself down to Costco and buy a membership, it's lurking in the alcohol aisle. Costco's wine offerings include plenty of cheap bottles, and a lot of them are quite delicious too. You can find everything from fruity pinot noirs for under $10 to a $5 pinot grigio that's perfect for summer.

What's cool for wine lovers is that the retailer doesn't just sell cheap bottles. It also has higher-end wines that are on the pricey side. You could pick up something that's good enough to bring to a wine snob's dinner party just as easily as you could find a cheap bottle worthy of a weeknight cookout at home. Sure, not every option is a winner, but that can be said for the selection at any supermarket or liquor store. Plus, the thing about wine is that it's mostly about personal preference. Some wine is objectively bad, but most is either to your taste or not. So, if you know what you like, you can probably find it at Costco.

13. The Costco Auto Program offers car-related savings

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The Costco Auto Program is yet another benefit of being a warehouse member. It offers prearranged pricing on various new and pre-owned vehicles, plus special deals on parts, servicing, and more. Just visit the website and search for the type of vehicle you're interested in to see what's available. Costco negotiates with dealerships to provide special pricing, so members can get great deals without the need for haggling.

Cars, trucks, SUVs, and motorcycles are among the vehicles included in the program. Costco partners with a network of authorized dealerships that adhere to the program's standards and pricing agreements, so you know you're getting a fair price. There are also options to lease vehicles if you don't want to buy outright. What's more, the program gives you discounts on parts and maintenance services through participating garages. If you're worried that you don't know enough about cars to avoid getting ripped off, it's great to have this peace of mind. Plus, there are even more deals, rebates, and incentives to make it worth your while.

14. Costco sells discounted gift cards

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When you pick up a $100 gift card, you expect it to cost $100. At Costco that's not the case. The retailer sells gift cards at a discounted price, which means you're basically getting free cash if you're planning to buy something from the gift card retailer anyway. Prices and discounts vary, but previous offers include $449.99 for a Southwest Airlines gift card worth $500, $79.99 for Papa John's gift cards with $100, and $47.99 for $60 worth of gift cards from Cold Stone Creamery.

We're particularly taken with the airline vouchers, since it's a quick and easy way to save money on your vacation. But, you can choose all kinds of gift cards, including ones for theaters, Uber, Xbox, and Instacart. It's also a great way to cut back costs when Christmas and birthdays come around. When you shop in-store, discounts and availability can change depending on your location. However, you can buy a wide range of discounted gift cards online using your membership number. It's not just vouchers, either; you can also get discounted tickets for some sporting events, concerts, and theater performances.

15. The Costco food court — need we say more?

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Last, but most certainly not least, on this list of Costco perks is the food court. Should you expect gourmet options? Absolutely not. Nothing's coming on sourdough and there's not a preserved lemon in sight. But, it's iconic in its own way and people love it. If you want to dine at this exclusive eatery, you're going to need a membership — and it might be worth the $60 alone.

You might have already heard about the legendary hot dog and soda combo. It costs just $1.50 for a hot dog and a soda. So little, in fact, that it probably won't surprise you that the price hasn't risen since 1985. The reason for this is that it was an absolute non-negotiable for Costco co-founder Jim Sinegal. In fact, he threatened to kill CEO W. Craig Jelinek if he raised the price. So, it's likely to stay at $1.50 forever.

Aside from this famous combo, the store's food court menu includes pizza, a turkey Swiss sandwich, a rotisserie chicken Caesar salad, a chocolate chip cookie, and an ice cream truck. So, chances are there's an option to appeal to most people. Just don't get too full on free samples first.

Benefits Of Shopping At Costco You Should Know Before Buying A Membership - Mashed (2024)
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