I’m a Spending Coach: 6 Ways To Get the Most for Your Money at Costco

A Costco Wholesale store in West Palm Beach, Florida, USA.
NoDerog / Getty Images

Shopping regularly at Costco and buying in bulk can save you a lot of money over the course of a year. While your savings will vary depending on what you buy, how often you actually go, and where else you’re buying your groceries and other household essentials, it’s no wonder that Costco is such a hit with so many people.

Despite the popularity of Costco and the savings potential of shopping there, it’s still possible that you’re not getting the most out of your membership. If you’re looking for new ways to save even more and get the most back whenever you shop at this warehouse club, you might be overlooking a few key strategies.

Financial experts and spending coaches, Samantha Landau and Todd Stearn weighed in with their top suggestions for how to shop smart and get the most for your money at Costco. Here’s what they said.

Buy Costco Gas

If you’re a Costco member or have a Costco Shop Card, you can buy the retailer’s gasoline at lower prices than what you’d typically find elsewhere.

“When shopping at Costco, filling up your car’s gas tank can be a great way to get the most bang for your buck,” said Samantha Landau, Consumer Expert at TopCashback USA. “The club offers competitive low gas prices for members, and if you’re already at the club shopping, it’s a no-brainer to save some extra cash.”

Make Your Money Work for You

Purchase Gift Cards

If you’re a frequent shopper and you haven’t been buying Costco’s gift cards, this is another missed savings opportunity.

“Costco offers gift cards to many stores and restaurants at a cheaper price than face value for members. This can be a great way to save money, especially if Costco has gift cards for places you already regularly shop at,” said Landau. “For example, Costco offers a $500 Southwest Airlines E-Gift Card for $449.99. That’s $50 saved when using a Costco membership.”

Besides gift cards to well-known airline companies, you can also find ones for popular streaming services — like Netflix –, online gaming subscriptions, and movie theaters. What’s even better is that you can either use these gift cards for yourself, or you can gift them to other people while saving money.

Use Costco for Your Travel Purchases

As a Costco member, you can also take advantage of Costco Travel. This service offers savings on various aspects of your trip, including hotels and cruises. You can even purchase entire vacation packages, including specialty vacations like an African safari or a trip to Disney, through this site.

Not only that, but many of the available options are through high-quality brand names. For example, you could book your accommodations through the Hyatt. Or you could buy tickets for a cruise through Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, or Carnival Cruise Line.

And if you have the Executive Membership, you can see even more savings.

“If you have a Costco Executive Membership, you’ll get 2% cash back on Costco travel purchases,” said Landau. “Using this service can make booking a vacation smooth, saving you time and money as opposed to booking flights and hotels separately.”

Make Your Money Work for You

Todd Stearn, Founder and CEO of The Money Manual, also suggested using Costco Travel for rental cars. They work with Alamo, Budget, Avis, and Enterprise. The process of reserving and renting a vehicle is similar to how it is when you go through a dedicated car rental site. The difference is that it’s more streamlined and can be paired with other aspects of your trip more easily.

Keep in mind that Costco Travel is only available to members based in the United States.

Get the Costco Credit Card

Costco has two major cash back rewards credit cards for personal and business use. They are the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi and the Costco Anywhere Visa Business Card by Citi. Both cards are exclusive to current Costco members.

“You can use Costco’s credit card to save 4% on gas at Costco and 2% on other Costco purchases,” said Stearn. “There’s no annual fee for this card when you have a Costco membership.”

You can also earn up to 3% cash back on eligible travel purchases and restaurants. You can even use the card outside of Costco to earn 1% cash back on all other purchases. Plus, the card acts as your Costco membership ID, meaning you don’t need to bring both with you when you shop in stores.

Upgrade to Executive Membership

Costco has three membership tiers: Gold Star Membership for $60, Business Membership for $60, and Executive Membership for $120. All membership costs are an annual charge.

If you don’t often shop at Costco, you might want to stick with the Gold Star or Business Membership. But if you’re a more frequent shopper, you could see even more savings by upgrading to an Executive Membership.

“The Costco Executive Membership is another way to save at Costco. It’s absolutely worth it for anyone who spends $500 per month or $6,000 per year at Costco. The Executive Membership gives you 2% back so that $120 effectively erases the $120 annual fee. It’s like a free Costco membership,” said Stearn. “People who really don’t spend much at Costco don’t need the Executive Membership.”

Stick to a List and Budget

Last but not least, it’s important to shop with a list and a solid budget.

“As with any store, remember to stick to your budget,” said Stearn.

Having a budget can give you a clearer picture of how much money you’re willing to spend. It can also keep you from spending more than you have. It might also motivate you to shop for additional deals or discounts at Costco, which can save you even more money.

While you’re at it, make sure you have a list before heading to the store. With a list, it’s easier to avoid impulse purchases or overspending. It’s also easier to get everything you need without missing something and having to go back to the store later. This can also save you time during the day or week.

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