6 Ways You Can Shop at Sam’s Club Without a Membership

You don't have to join Sam's Club to shop its warehouses or website. Consider these alternatives before you buy or renew a membership.

6 Ways You Can Shop at Sam’s Club Without a Membership Photo by Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock.com

With Costco’s membership price hike recently going into effect, perhaps you’ve considered switching to Sam’s Club. Its memberships are cheaper, even when you compare them with Costco’s old prices.

Sam’s Club charges $45 for its cheapest memberships, for example, while Costco now charges $60 for its cheapest options, up by $5. But you don’t have to buy a Sam’s Club membership to shop at Sam’s Club — just as you don’t need a Costco membership to shop there.

We’ve rounded up six ways you can shop at Sam’s Club without needing a membership.

1. Shop online

Anyone can shop at SamsClub.com, although nonmembers will be charged a 10 percent service fee — except in California, South Carolina and Elmsford, New York. So unless you live in one of those places, you’ll pay 10 percent more than the product prices you see online.

Additionally, some items sold in Sam’s Club warehouses, like some foods, are unavailable on the website.

Still, if you prefer to shop online or you spend less than $450 a year at Sam’s Club, paying the nonmember surcharge might make more sense than buying a membership. As long as you spend less than $450 a year online, the 10 percent surcharge would amount to less than the cost of a $45 Sam’s Savings annual membership.

2. Use the pharmacy

Anyone can buy prescription medications from Sam’s Club pharmacies, according to its website.

Prescription drugs are also exempt from the nonmember surcharge. So you’ll enjoy the same low prices that Sam’s Savings members pay. Sam’s Plus memberships (which cost $100 per year rather than $45) feature extra discounts on certain drugs — including some free drugs. Those discounts are unavailable to folks with a Sam’s Savings membership or no membership.

Not all Sam’s Club locations have pharmacies. To find out whether a location has a pharmacy, search for a club. Once you select a location, you will see the word “Pharmacy” in the “Services at your club” section if that location has a pharmacy.

3. See the optometrist

In need of an eye exam? You do not have to be a member to see an optometrist at a Sam’s Club optical center, according to the retailer’s website.

Nonmembers cannot purchase optical items, however. So, it might be wise to first check out “Lookin’ Good! How to Get a Killer Deal on Eyeglasses.”

On the Sam’s Club’s website, locations with an optical center will have the words “Optical Center” in the “Services at your club” section.

4. Buy alcohol

You do not need a membership to buy wine, beer or spirits at a Sam’s Club. Alcohol is also exempt from the nonmember surcharge, so you’ll enjoy the same low prices as members.

Nonmembers just can’t use the Club Pickup feature, which enables you to order alcohol online and pick it up at a warehouse.

On the Sam’s Club’s website, locations that sell alcohol will have the word “Liquor” in the “Services at your club” section.

5. Be a guest

Members are allowed to bring up to two guests. Only members can purchase items, but you could offer to pay back the member you accompany for anything you picked out. That inconvenience might be worth avoiding the 10 percent nonmember surcharge.

This might be an on option for folks who want to shop in a Sam’s Club warehouse rather than online, but they don’t need to shop there often.

6. Use a household card

If you live with a Sam’s Club member, you might be able to get a free membership card in the form of what Sam’s Club calls a “household card” or “complimentary card.”

Sam’s Club’s memberships come with one membership card for the primary member as well as one free membership card. The latter card can be used by a spouse, domestic partner or someone else in the primary member’s household who is at least 18.

If after reading this list, you still think you’d be better off with a paid membership, be sure to read our story “Amazon Prime versus Sam’s Club: Which Membership Offers the Most?

What’s your favorite way to save money at warehouse clubs? Share with us by commenting below or over on our Facebook page.

Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More

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