Thursday, March 10, 2011

Costco membership.....is it worth it?


I get a lot of readers asking about deals at Costco. Do I shop there a lot? Do they take coupons? Is the membership worth the price? Here is my run down of Costco.

Membership:
The Gold Star basic memberships are $50 a year for 2 cards.
The executive membership is $100 a year and includes a 2% cash back per year that comes in the form of a check made payable to Costco. It also includes 2 cards.
*The 2 cards are PER HOUSEHOLD, not automatically a "spouse card".

I upgraded my basic to an executive when my father-in-law bought a lap top using our card. I figured it would be nice to get the cash back....I was wrong. It was great for that first year, but then I let the membership go for over 2 years renewing at the executive rate because I was getting cash back at the end of the year. What I didn't do is calculate the amount I was getting back against the extra $50 I was paying to have the dumb card! Needless to say, 2 days ago I came to my senses and "downgraded" my card to the basic membership.

You need to spend $2,500 a year in order to break even and get your extra $50 back that you paid to have the executive membership. So to ACTUALLY be getting "cash back" you must spend more then $2,500 in a single year and I don't believe that you get cash back with the purchase of fuel for your car.

If you have big purchases (couches, washer/dryer, trees, TONS of food, prescriptions, glasses..) then you might want to consider an Executive Membership. You can also "upgrade" at anytime so if you have an unexpected expense (like my father-in-law's laptop) you can choose to upgrade for that purchase. Overall, in my opinion for just groceries and occasional purchases a Gold Star Membership is more then sufficient.

**I'm adding this after looking into Kristy's comment. I read her comment and then contacted Costco. They DO reimburse your "cash back" checks if they are less the $50. So take in your check if it's less then $50 and they will make up the difference.
***I went to Costco today and told them I have had my Executive membership for 3 years and have never gotten a refund check that was $50. She instantly pulled up my account, wrote down the amount of all my cash back checks over the past 3 years and then handed me the difference....$84.58. WOW!! Everything was in the computer so if you are in the same situation, definitely go talk to Member Services.

Do I personally shop there a lot?

No. Next question. HA HA, just kidding. :)
I do not shop Costco a lot. I'd say it averages to once a month. That might be fairly typical, I don't know. The thing is, I don't purchase much from Costco. Over the course of a year, here is what I typically buy:
  • Kirkland batteries
  • Sunny Delight individual bottles (if they have a coupon....like they do right now)
  • Muffins from the bakery (they have these new Vanilla Chocolate Chunk that are AMAZING!)
  • Strawberries (they are usually the same price as on sale at a grocery store)
  • Lint Rollers (we adopted 2 kittens from the shelter last May, Costco has a 5 pack of rollers for under $10)
  • Tillamook pre-sliced cheese (I will splurge for Tillamook. The pre-sliced are great for burgers and sandwiches or just to eat with crackers)
  • Gum. Although I've recently been using coupons to get gum for WAY cheap, so I might not be purchasing gum from Costco anymore.
  • Finish dishwasher detergent (ONLY with coupon)
  • Prego sauce (even without the coupon it's a good price)
  • Milk if we need some and I don't want to make a second stop at Smith's
They mail out coupons for select items. I've been told by my local store that every grocery coupon in that book has the same bar code. So you really only need to scan one coupon in order to get the discount on all items that have coupons on them. Then you can keep the coupon and use them on your next visit! :)

I was at the register a few weeks ago with a few bottles of Prego that I listed above. I didn't have my coupons on me, so I asked the cashier if she had a coupon I could scan. She said "Sure" and pulled one out and scanned it for me. I've had them scan a coupon without asking, but I was at the self checkout area so I had to ask her to come over.

Besides the "Costco coupon" that come in the mail, Costco does NOT take manufacturer coupons.

  • Costco Photo is great. I've used their tire center and had a wonderful experience there too. I've heard the pharmacy is good as well as the eyeglass place, but I've never used either

Okay.....so....is it worth it???

Short answer in my opinion is YES. Here's why:

  • I buy things at Costco that I can only find at Costco
  • Their discount gas is a great deal especially when we are on vacation
  • We've used their tire bay a few times and you can get tire repairs at ANY Costco
  • We've used their discount on a car rental last summer

**If I were only using my membership for groceries,I would NOT get a membership. The discount on items is NOT worth the membership price.


Costco trivia tid-bit:
*Did you know that the "free samples" are on items that are nearing their expiration date? I was told by one of the sample ladies that it's basically their way of getting you to try their product so you will buy it and help them clearance that item out.
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19 comments:

  1. Here's how I always got around paying for a Costco membership: have someone with a card buy you a Costco Cash Card. It gets you in the door, and you don't have to have a membership when you check out! So you could kick in some money to help cover your friend's membership, and then just shop using the Cash Cards. May not be honest to some, but when I only shop there a few times a year, it is the only way they will get my business.

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  2. I have never thought about that! Question is, do you have to pay the 10% non-member fee when you check out?

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  3. FYI: They do reimburse the difference if you do not get back "enough" from the executive membership. I was just told this, though if you do not make the big purchases I still recommend the basic.

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  4. I am in shock. I called my local Costco and asked about the reimbursement. She said "We sure do. Just bring in your check and if it's less the $50 we will make up the difference." HOLY COW!!! Of course as soon as I get the checks I take them in and use them so I no longer have them to get the reimbursement.(their intent I'm sure)Wish I would have known this sooner!
    I'm with you Kristy, the basic is the better option for most.

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  5. Michelle they can still look it up, call customer service. I did it this year, and then downgraded.

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  6. no Michelle, you do not have to pay the non-member fee if you have a Cash Card

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  7. Costco is for the 80s. Amazon ships directly to your door and no tax. If you are Amazon Mom, even the shipping is free.

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    1. That may work for you but I would rather see, what I am buying.
      Also sometimes just the trip to find something is more interactive.

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  8. LOL, I've never heard it put like that before! ha ha Now if we can get Amazon to ship milk and muffins to our doors and give us discounted gas across the nation I'd be set for life! :)

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  9. Amazon Mom only lasts for 1 yr. I just received my notice that I'd need to upgrade to Amazon Prime to continue my 2day/free shipping....nice while it lasted!

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  10. That is true. Amazon mom only lasts a year. You can find a free prime account deal every now and then. And Amazon Student also allows free 2 day shipping.

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  11. We updated to Prime after our amazon mom ran out. Can't beat the included streaming of movies and TV shows.

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  12. "I don't see an answer to the original question in the headline. Costco membership, "Is it worth it?" Is it or isn't it? Are the prices discounted sufficiently to justify a membership fee of ANY amount?

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  13. Thanks Tomas. I just added the following. Okay.....so....is it worth it???

    Short answer in my opinion is YES. Here's why:

    I buy things at Costco that I can only find at Costco
    Their discount gas is a great deal especially when we are on vacation
    We've used their tire bay a few times and you can get tire repairs at ANY Costco
    We've used their discount on a car rental last summer
    If I were only using my membership for groceries,I would NOT get a membership. The discount on items is NOT worth the membership price.
    Hope that helps! :)

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  14. My mother-in-law and I share our executive Membership at Costco. As one family I don't think it would necessarily pay for itself but as two families using one membership it works well. My husband doesn't care to go there by himself and my father-in-law doesn't either. We have used our membership this way for almost 10 years. When I get the check at the end of the year I immediately use it to pay for my membership and then we split the amount left on the check. So if you have two families (they don't have to be related) who would want to split a membership you would get a card for one person in each family and that could save you some money on the membership. Two families who have several children can easily spend the amount necessary to get cash back. My main concern is that we get our membership for FREE. We haven't paid for our membership in the last 10 years:)

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  15. Great comment wildermommy! My sister and I do the same thing. Thanks!

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  16. If the choice is between the Gold Star Membership for $50 and the Executive Membership for $100, and, one way or another you get at least $50 back at the end of the Executive membership year, what is the point of NOT getting an Executive card?

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  17. Money up front. It's not worth it to me to try to remember how much I've put into my Executive card to make sure I hit the $100 mark. That's just my opinion.

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  18. I can't believe there has been all this discussion about Costco being worth it or not, and no one has mentioned the Costco Amercian Express?? This is by far the way to go. First you earn cash back on ALL purchased, inside Costco, and otherwise. AND to your INCORRECT point above, with the Costco credit card, you earn 3% cash back on gas (any gas station). 2% on restaurants and 1% everywhere else. Anyone that knows Costco also knows its a pain that they don't accept Visa, Mastercard etc, unless they are debit, but now with the Costco American Express you can use credit. The cash back is amazing, and you don't need an executive membership to get the 1,2,3% cash back. I earned $400 in cash back last year. They send you a voucher (redeemable at Costco) for your cash back amount. READ ON.... most people get this check and think that they have to use it AT Costco, this is false. You can take your voucher to the customer service desk and get actual cash, you do NOT have to spend it at Costco. Answer to main question... Costco membership, 100% worth it. Hope this helps...

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