Today I'm dishing out all the Costco membership secrets you need to know! Find out which membership is worth the cost and how to get the most out of your Costco membership. If you love Costco as much as I do, you'll want to tune in for these fun, cheap, and free tips!
Alright! We all know that I'm a BIG fan of Costco… as long as you shop Costco wisely, that is! If you're smart, you can buy bulk and stock up on quality items that are good to keep on hand so that you can shelf cook like a #BossBabe! However, there is an art (if you will) to shopping at Costco!
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I have become somewhat of a Costco pro over the years (if you haven't noticed by my Costco page!). So I thought I'd share my inside scoop on saving money at Costco, what to buy and what to avoid, what membership is worth the money, and inside details about the new Costco + Visa relationship!
I'm about to give you the 411. Are you on the edge of your seats yet?!
WHICH COSTCO MEMBERSHIP IS RIGHT FOR ME?
Did you know that depending on your membership, you can get cashback for shopping at Costco? That's right, folks, real-deal-moola. There are basically two options. Let's break it down real quick!
- Gold Star Costco Membership – This is your basic membership for $60 buckeroos! It doesn't really have any additional benefits besides the ability to shop at the greatest store on earth…
- Gold Star Executive Costco Membership – Here is where the benefits kick in! This membership costs $120, but there are some serious perks. With the Executive Membership, you get 2% cash-back on most purchases made at Costco. So you can pretty much earn the membership cost back by the end of the year! #Winning! Your rebate comes back to you in the form of a rebate check.
- Business Costco Membership – Just a heads up, there is also a business membership option that allows you to add additional people for $60 each! However, most families won't need this option.
My hubby and I have opted for the Gold Star Executive Costco Membership vs. the Gold Star membership. Yes, it costs more ($120 per year vs. $60), but with the cashback option, it's a no-brainer! We stock up on more than just food here, and we save a lot of money doing it.
IS THE EXECUTIVE COSTCO MEMBERSHIP WORTH IT?
Have no fear. You actually have nothing to lose by upgrading to the Executive Membership! At the end of the year, if you haven't earned at least the money you spent on the Executive Membership, they will refund you the difference between the Executive and Standard memberships (about $60) and downgrade you to the Standard Membership retroactively. Just another reason I love me some Costco…
COSTCO MEMBERSHIP HACKS
After choosing your membership, make sure you're aware of what you're spending and when your rewards are due! Here are the best ways to get the most out of your Costco membership.
PLAN FOR YOUR REWARD
Anticipate that the reward is coming, and make a plan for it in advance so you're not tempted to sprint to the electronics aisle and spend your hard-earned rewards on an impulse buy! Of course, I recommend putting the cash toward debt or savings, but more on that in a minute. 🙂
CASH YOUR REWARD
You can use the rebate you get right at Costco, or, even better, you can go to the customer service desk and redeem that for cold, hard CASH! For a family like mine who only shops at Walmart and Costco, this is a huge benefit that really pays off.
I highly suggest you cash your reward in full at the membership desk. Oh, and did you know that you DON'T have to spend your Costco reward at Costco? They would like you to, of course, but you don't have to!
Use the cash wisely. The ideal situation would be to cash out your reward and stick it directly toward debt or put it into savings (or your Slush Fund). If you need to use the reward, try to use only part of it. See how we organize our money into our bank accounts HERE.
STOCK UP WITH YOUR REWARD
If you really need to stock up on a few things, this is a great time to do it! Anticipate your needs and only purchase items you know you will use. This may help if you have a need in your budget!
Try not to use all of your rewards on stocking up! Budget your reward money… but then use your credit card to make the purchases so you get still get 2% cash-back! Take all the cash, put it toward your credit card bill or some other debt or savings! Now all of a sudden you're ahead of the game in more than one way. Thank you, Costco!
STACK YOUR REWARDS
As you know, I believe in using credit cards. You can use ANY Visa card at Costco, not just the Costco-branded one. Since many of us have Visa cards in our wallets already, this is fabulous news. The even better news? In the kingdom of retail, Costco is KING; and with that kind of power, they have the ability to pull off some incredible deals. This new Visa + Costco relationship is no exception. Costco has negotiated awesome kickbacks that allow you to stack your rewards like never before.
- 4% on Gas (Amex was only 3%)
- 3% on Travel & Restaurants (Amex was 2%)
- 2% on ANYTHING at Costco (Amex was 1%)
- 1% on anything else, ANYWHERE
So when I shop at Costco, I get cash from Costco, AND rewards from my Visa card, too. Pretty slick, eh?
IS THE COSTCO VISA WORTH IT?
That's a tough question. I'm not one to endorse running out and applying for credit cards, because it dings your credit when you do. And credit cards aren't for the faint of heart. You gotta know what you're doing!
Our credit scores are high in the 800's so we don't feel like it's a huge risk for our family. And since Costco is the only place we shop for all of our businesses AND one of two places we shop for our own family, the cashback through Costco and Visa really adds up. Just make an educated decision about what's best for your family!
RETURN YOUR COSTCO MEMBERSHIP
If you aren't satisfied with the membership…return it! Hands down one of the best things about Costco (aside from the $1.50 hot dog and drink combo…) is the incredible return policy. You can return just about anything, at any time, including your membership. You can use it for 364 days and if on the last day of the year you decide you didn't get your money's worth, they will give you a full refund.
Please do NOT abuse their return policy (because it only increases prices for the rest of us), but don't feel guilty using it legitimately!
TIPS FOR BUYING BULK AT COSTCO
Pop quiz time! True or false: everything at Costco is a fantastic deal. That would be a big FALSE. I am the world's biggest Costco fan, and yes, they do have fantastic deals, but not everything will save you money. Check out my big list of what to buy and what to avoid at Costco, and head on over to my all things Costco page for more tips as well. In the meantime, here are a few super quick tips to get you started!
- Make a Plan – Don't go overboard! If buying in bulk will push you over your budget, don't do it. Make sure to work it into your budget. See how I make a budget for Costco, so I never go overboard!
- Buy Only the Best Deals – Here's the harsh reality. If you're not careful, you can LOSE more money than you save. Want to know how I scout out the best deals when I'm grocery shopping? Check out my best grocery shopping tips! Hint: never shop at eye-level.
- Learn Prices – Hands-down, this is the best way to save you money – in anything you do – always. I carry a Price Notebook around with me to help with this, and if I ever see a crazy good deal, I jot it down. That way, I know for sure if a price is reasonable, a good deal, or just “meh.”
- Share in the Savings – Not sure you'll use twelve tubes of toothpaste but want to cash in on the bulk pricing? Split the costs with a friend or family member. You'll both save, so it's a win-win!
COSTCO MEMBERSHIP TIPS
Heads up! These tips are ones that will save you a boatload of money at Costco. You are SO welcome, my friend!
HOW TO SPOT A KILLER DEAL AT COSTCO
If you see an asterisk (you know, one of these: *) on a price tag at Costco, take note! It means they will NOT be restocking that item and when it's gone, it's gone. If the price tag ends in .97, that product's price has been marked down. If you find a golden goose with BOTH an asterisk and a price ending in .97, might just be a killer deal you should take advantage of!
COSTCO HONORS SALE PRICES WITHIN 30 DAYS
This is one of my best-kept secrets. If you buy something at Costco and you see it go on sale within the next 30 days, you can go to the customer service desk and they will refund you the difference! Rumor has it some stores require you to have your receipt, so hold onto those just in case. I've never had that issue though, they have always been able to look up my purchases on their computer. Either way, that's pretty dang sweet and something you should know for sure!
So there you go! Those are the ways that we really stretch our membership dollars.
How do YOU stretch your dollar at Costco? I'd love to hear all about it, so please leave a comment below!
Want to learn how to shop and save at other stores, too?
- Check out our guide to online shopping!
- Find out which stores have the best (and worst) return policy.
- Learn how to navigate the sales cycle so you can get the most bang for your buck!