6 Key Signs You’re Ready to Sign Up for Costco or Sam’s Club

Young woman with red hair doing groceries in a local supermarket, pushing a shopping cart and looking at the prices.
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Warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club are known for their large selection of goods, many of which are offered at discounted prices compared to what you can get elsewhere. But in order to be able to shop at one of these stores, you’ll need to first become a member. Membership often means you’ll have to pay a membership fee.

Depending on your goals and financial situation, becoming a member may very well be worth it for you. But if you’re on the fence about signing up, here are the top signs that now is the right time to sign up for a Costco or Sam’s Club membership.

The Savings Outweigh the Cost of Membership

At Sam’s Club, membership is either $50 or $110, depending on whether you choose the “Club” or the “Plus” option. The higher tier comes with more perks than the basic option, though both can be used for shopping purposes.

Costco has several membership options, including the Gold Star Membership and Business Membership, both of which are $60 annually. Membership comes with a household card valid at all Costco locations around the world. The main difference between these two options is that the Business tier also lets you purchase goods for resale purposes.

“With Costco, they also offer an Executive Membership tier that gives you a 2% reward on purchases,” said Jim Wang, Founder at Wallet Hacks. “The membership is $120 (vs. $60 for the standard Gold Star Membership), so you ‘earn back’ the total value of the membership after you spend $6,000 in a year or $500 a month. This is on top of any rewards you get through your credit card.”

Make Your Money Work for You

In other words, if you spend at least $500 a month at Costco, the cost of membership is essentially free. But whether the savings potential outweighs the cost of membership depends on how often you shop, what you buy, and your general needs.

“Just this year, we saved hundreds of dollars by [purchasing] an outdoor furniture set from Costco.com,” said Wang. “I compared it with prices from other retailers, like Wayfair.com, and I could get a better deal from Costco than anywhere else for the set I wanted. This even included delivery and set up on our patio.”

If you find yourself regularly shopping for the types of goods you can find at these warehouse clubs, it might be time to sign up for membership. And if you decide that it’s not for you later on, you can always cancel your membership free of charge.

You Regularly Buy In Bulk

Costco and Sam’s Club specialize in bulk products, so if you find yourself regularly buying in bulk, it could be a sign you’re ready for a membership of your own. Ask yourself if you’d benefit from bulk buys. “If you come from a large family, this might be easy to determine,” said Wang. “If you don’t, consider whether or not you have enough storage space, both in your pantry and your freezer, to store what you can’t use immediately. If you do, you will probably benefit from buying in bulk and taking advantage of what warehouse stores offer.”

Samantha Landau, consumer expert at TopCashback, added, “Consider the needs of your household. If you live alone or with a roommate, buying in bulk likely won’t be the best choice for you, making a warehouse club membership less beneficial for things like grocery shopping and stocking up on household essentials. If you’ve got a three-person household or more, bulk buying can save you money on items that are frequently repurchased. Plus, it’s less likely that grocery items will go to waste before they expire.”

Make Your Money Work for You

You’re Ready To Take Advantage of Other Discounts

Costco and Sam’s Club have more than just bulk buys to offer, meaning you could still benefit from becoming a member even if you prefer to make individual purchases.

“The primary benefit of warehouse clubs may have started with big savings when you buy in bulk, but they’ve really expanded far beyond that, given the size of their membership bases,” said Wang. “They also have a lot of other products and services that are at a discount but don’t require you to buy in bulk.”

Landau added, “Costco offers a unique program for its members, called Costco Next, that allows them to buy goods at discounted prices directly from partnered retailers like Case-Mate, Dearfoams, and Baggallini. To take advantage of these additional savings, you’ll need your Costco membership card and access to the Costco app or website. Once you’re on the Costco Next page, you’ll see a list of brands to choose from. When you find what you’re looking for, you’ll click through from Costco to that retailer’s website, and you’ll see all of the eligible items with a special ‘Costco Price.'”

You Live Nearby

Where you live and how convenient one of these warehouse clubs is to your normal travel patterns also plays an important factor in determining whether it’s time to sign up for a membership, said Wang.

“Determine your proximity to the nearest warehouse club locations,” added Landau. “This is a key first step because if you’re living over 20 minutes away from the nearest Sam’s Club or Costco, you’re less likely to actually make the most out of your annual membership.”

You Find Yourself Relying on Current Members’ Cards

A lot of people who don’t have a warehouse club membership will go shopping with a friend or family member who does have one. If this is something you frequently do, it could be another sign you’re ready to take the plunge.

Make Your Money Work for You

If you’ve never shopped at Costco or Sam’s Club, but you’re thinking about getting a membership, see if you can get a free trial first. Although not all locations will let you browse the aisles without a card, some will allow an exception so you can make an informed decision before signing up.

“If you’re able to browse for free, you will not be able to purchase anything from the store without a membership card,” said Landau. “This ‘free trial’ will allow you to take note of the prices for items you purchase often, or for big-ticket items you’re looking to save money on. When you leave the store, take your list and compare prices online or with recent receipts to determine whether you’ll actually see savings by signing up for a warehouse club membership.”

You Use Gift Cards Often

Another benefit of Costco and other warehouse clubs is that they offer discounts on gift cards. So, if you’re someone who frequently purchases gift cards, this could be a great way to offset the cost of membership while enjoying the other benefits of shopping at these retailers.

“Another small way we save is through electronic gift cards,” said Wang. “You can buy them online, they arrive by email, and you can use them immediately. Most recently, we purchased $100 in Papa John’s gift cards for $80. They have a lot of gift cards available online, all at a discount.”

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