Americans may be irreconcilably divided when it comes to politics; but we are united when it comes to our love of Costco.
There are 591 locations in 46 U.S. states and Puerto Rico. But it’s not just the U.S. that’s fallen hard for Costco; it’s much more of the globe, too. There are Costcos in the UK, Mexico, Taiwan, Iceland, the list goes on. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Costco has 124.7 million members as of May 7.
Clearly many of us understand that Costco offers deals and savings that you just can’t find elsewhere, but what exactly can we do to maximize our memberships? GOBankingRates asked deals and budgets experts, along with a Costco superfan to find out.
Shop With a Plan
No matter the retail store you’re in, it’s important to shop with a plan. This approach is especially important with Costco, a gigantic beast of a store where distractions and temptations (that could lead to impulse buys) are all too easy to come by.
“You can easily and quickly lose money when you walk into Costco without a shopping plan or list and end up buying things you don’t need,” said Andrea Woroch, a budgeting expert. “Make sure you thoroughly plan out your purchases, thinking about everything you need in terms of groceries as well as any home goods or personal care items you need.”
Stock Up on Sale Items
If you happen on one of your most beloved retail products at Costco and it’s on sale, stock up! It may not be on sale the next time you visit.
“When I find my favorite face lotion or body wash on sale, I snag a few extra and stock up so I can wait until it’s on sale again,” Woroch said.
“While the original prices offered by Costco are much better than you’d get at a big box store or other retailer for any item they sell, it’s a much better deal when you can get an additional discount on the purchase in the form of an ‘instant savings’ so look out for these before buying.”
The Best In-Store Deals Tend To Not Be in the Front
Not sure where to find the best of the best in terms of sales? Make haste to the back and the sides of the store, where the most deeply discounted items are usually hiding.
“Make a beeline for the back and work your way up,” said John Cooper, a “hardcore Costco fan” and a sommelier at Cooper & Co Wine Advisory. “Since the registers are at the front of the store it makes sense to start at the back but often there is a glut of shoppers at the front which leaves plenty of deals in the back for those of us savvy shoppers.”
Take Advantage of Travel Deals
You know by now that Costco is the go-to spot for many household essentials and groceries, but did you also know you can potentially save on travel via its online travel portal? Yup!
“They typically offer the most competitive prices on car rentals, and you can find many deals on travel packages, hotel stays and cruise bookings,” Woroch said. “I recently scored a $700 Costco ShopCard with a Disney cruise booking. It was the same price as offered through Disney. but the shop card was an added bonus.”
Woroch also saved substantially on a trip to Hawaii through Costco.
“We got a better price for a hotel with a bundled car rental that was $50 per day cheaper than the going rate on the island, our resort fee was waived and we received a $230 Costco shop card that we used to buy groceries and sunscreen and a few other items we were planning to purchase anyway on our trip so it saved us even more,” Woroch said.
Get Your Prescriptions Filled There
You can often get your prescriptions filled for less at Costco’s pharmacy than at other pharmacies.
“As a person suffering from asthma, having prescriptions filled at Costco instead of another pharmacy has saved my prescription bills as much as 30%-40%,” Cooper said. Plus, “the lines tend to be shorter, and the customer service is outstanding.”
At Costco, gasoline is as much as 30 cents cheaper than at traditional gas stations. It’s a smart move to fuel up there — though it may take a while to get to the pump if you don’t schedule an off-peak-hours visit.
“Lines are long,” Woroch said. “You can usually beat the crowd by going early in the morning or late evening.”
Use the Right Credit Card
If you’re in a position to use a credit card, make sure to use one that has perks for Costco shoppers. This may or may not be the Costco Anywhere Visa card by Citi.
“While there are many great grocery reward cards, most do not offer bonus rewards for purchases made at Costco or other big box retailers so pay attention to which card you’re paying with,” Woroch said.
“While the Costco credit card offers many reward perks, you’re often limited to how you use your rewards; for example, the Costco Anywhere Citi Visa offers an unlimited 2% on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com, but only 1% back at other stores. If you shop at other retailers, then you are better off opting for a flat-rate cash back card like the Bread Cashback American Express card which gives you 2% back on every purchase at every store with no spending cap.”
Go for the Gift Cards
Most big box retailers sell gift cards, but Costco has an edge in the space that members should exploit.
“Costco offers gift cards to many stores and restaurants at a cheaper price than face value for members,” said Samantha Landau, consumer expert at TopCashback USA.
“This can be a great way to save money, especially if Costco has gift cards for places you already regularly shop at. For example, Costco offers a four-pack of $25 Domino’s Pizza gift cards for $79.99 ($100 value). That’s $20 saved when using a Costco membership. They also offer gift cards for movie theaters, online gaming, streaming services and more.”
Scan Costco Receipts Using Fetch for Redeemable Points
Download receipt scanning apps including Fetch, which can offer cashback for purchases made at Costco.
“For example, you can get 3,750 points when you buy a 3-pack of Dove Body Wash at Costco through [Fetch],” Woroch said. “That’s like getting $3.75 back for your purchase. You can also earn 4,500 points when you buy the SheaMoisture Natural Infusions Shampoo or Conditioner at Costco (like getting $4.50 back!). Those points can then be redeemed for free gift cards to a variety of retailers to offset future purchases.”
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