How to Get the Most Out of Your Costco Membership

Budgeting Tips, Costco, Finances, Food

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!

Everything you need to know about shopping at Costco - Tips from Fun Cheap or Free

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!

*Note: When you click the links in this post, we may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

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?!


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.


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…


woman counting cash, from Fun Cheap or Free

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.


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. 🙂


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.


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!


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?


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!


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!


Jordan Page with Costco haul, from Fun Cheap or Free

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!


Heads up! These tips are ones that will save you a boatload of money at Costco. You are SO welcome, my friend!


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!


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!

Image with text that reads, "get the most out of your costco membership", from Fun Cheap Free

Want to learn how to shop and save at other stores, too?

Happy saving!

Jordan Page Signature from Fun Cheap or Free


  1. Patty

    OK, something is not adding up for me. What am I missing. If you got $250 back or 2% most items then you spent $12500 for the year. If you do half your shopping at Costco then you have spent $2600 there (52 X 100 / 2). Where does the other $10000 go? Do some items pay back considerably more than 2%? Maybe that is gas money? I figure you need to spend $2750 for the upgrade to be worth it without the AMEX card. What else are you buying that makes it worth this much to you.

    • Nancy

      My name is Nancy, 35 y/o single mother of 3 and I love to shop at Costco. I have the executive membership not only because I get a check at the end of the year, but there are some savings that ONLY apply to executive members. You DON’T get cash back on items that are on sale. I don’t get a lot of money back at the end of the year, but I do get at least a minimum of $50 back which I usually put down for my next years membership. In essence, I’m paying out of my own pocket about $50 a year for my membership. I get only items on sale except for all my fruits and veggies. The sales are fantastic! 🙂

  2. Lynn

    No, the corrected it,t hey only received a rebate of $130 from Costco (not $250 – $250 was Am Ex) So that means they spent $6,500 at Costco. Paid $110 for the membership, so in reality, they only received a rebate of $20 net in the end.

  3. funcheaporfree

    Yes, that may be true. But you have to have the executive membership in order to have the AMEX at Costco, and we got $220+ in addition to the $130, so if you include the AMEX benefits then it's a great deal for us!

  4. Kathleen Bennett

    How do you become a member and where are the costco store located around Dayton or Cincinnati, Ohio

  5. shanna

    not true. I work there and yiu DO NOT have to gave the exec membership for the amex card.

  6. Shannon Walkley

    Part of the AMEX rebate can come from non-Costco purchases. So if you use your card for gas purchases at non-costco gas stations, you still get a percentage back…as well as other types of purchases. The Costco membership rebate is strickly for Costco purchases. Sounds like if you have the Executive membership and the Card, you will get a lot of bang for the buck! I have the AMEX but not the Executive Membership…kinda wish I did.

  7. birthtoashes

    I just now ran across your blog on Pinterest and I wanted to say a big THANK YOU! This is very inspirational. I am currently trying to implement a budget due to some financial changes in the family and your blog has been very helpful! Thank you so much! 🙂

  8. Claire

    I came across this from a pin on Pinterest. We do the Dave Ramsey envelope system, so once we switched to that I started tracking what I was spending by item at Costco. I didn't want to get up there to pay and realize I'd gone way over. I keep my list in a note on my phone and as I go through the store I record the price next to each item to make sure I stay on track with my budget. Since I write down the price every time, it's really interesting to see how the prices can change.

  9. funcheaporfree

    I'm so glad, thanks for sharing!! Let me know if you have any questions 🙂

  10. Beth Bisch

    There is a really nice/big one on Gemini pl just outside Columbus, Ohio…I live in Medina and go there every couple months as they have things there that the Strongsville store doesn't.

  11. flaglady

    This is a great idea..thanks

  12. Bonnie

    Awesome tips and advice…thanks so much for all of your efforts and for sharing!

  13. Valerie K

    I personally have found that the cheapest diapers are the Parent’s choice brand from Wal-Mart. For the size 3 diapers they are about 13.5 cents per diaper as opposed to 18.5 cents each at costco. Also I have noticed that at my local costco they actually RAISE the prices of the diapers when there are coupons in the coupon book. They used to be $38.99 at regular price, then the $7 off coupons came out in the coupon book, and bam, the listed price is $46.99, so with $7 off, the price actually comes to $39.99 per box, which is more than the $38.99 regular price! I was so devastated. I like the quality of the Kirkland and Huggies brand at Costco, but for something that just gets pooped in and thrown away, the 13.5 cents each diapers at Wal-mart are a better deal and save me 28% on my diaper bill. Maybe with the new year costco is just raising the regular price of diapers, but for now, I’m buying mine at Wal-Mart.

  14. Nancy Nanni

    What to do with costco/amex rebate when there are no costco’s in my new area

  15. Mitch Walsh


  16. Ronny Dunn

    Why don’t you guys tell us which gas stations give the max rebate? I keep getting less for my purchases from you. I am confused regarding who you honor and who you don’t. Some purchases I don’t get any rebate..

  17. Norma

    Just have a question really quick. I got my amex or American Express and head to my Costco, to find out they don’t do Amex anymore, yikes! Did you stick to their new credit card ?

  18. Erin

    I shop frequently at Costco and so I’m really interested in how you budget for it. I have clicked on the link that is suppose to send me to how you budget for Costco and it isn’t there. I’ve spent some time searching this site for it and was wondering if yojust could give me an updated link. Thanks so much for all your knowledge and experience. I was so excited when I watched your video on the I am mom summit!!

    • FunCheapOrFree

      Yes I will work on fixing the links right away, thanks for letting me know!

  19. Heather B

    I had no idea you could return your membership! Not that I’d ever want to, though! Costco is life hahaha.

  20. Chelsey Hackleman

    I love Costco…but it’s amazing how one trip can get out of hand in spending hahaha. This is awesome because it really can be worth it if you’re smart!

  21. Krista Sidhu

    Why don’t they tell us at Costco that we can get refunded if we don’t make money upgrading our card!? Totally going to upgrade now!



  1. How to Cook Delicious Meals on a Budget • Amber Kristine - […] How to Get the Most out of Your Costco Membership […]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *