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Americans love Costco. It has dominated the American Consumer Satisfaction Index for three years running, outranking not only other warehouse clubs but other retailers in general as well.
Perhaps it’s no wonder the chain has more than 92 million card-carrying members. Still, Costco memberships have become more expensive in the past year — and it turns out you can enjoy some aspects of Costco without a membership anyway.
So, if you let your membership lapse or are unsure whether it’s worth joining Costco, consider some of these methods for shopping the beloved wholesale chain without paying for a membership:
1. Shop online
Anyone can shop Costco.com, although there are two hitches for nonmembers:
- You will be charged a 5 percent surcharge, so you’ll pay 5 percent more than the product prices you see on Costco’s website. The only exception is for prescription drugs.
- You cannot redeem the “Members-Only Savings” offers.
Additionally, some items sold in Costco clubs — like many foods — are unavailable on Costco’s website.
Still, if you prefer to shop online or you spend less than $1,200 a year at Costco, paying the nonmember surcharge might make more sense than buying a membership. As long as you spend less than $1,200 a year on Costco’s site, the 5 percent surcharge would amount to less than the cost of a $60 annual membership.
2. Use a gift card
Costco gift cards are known as Costco Cash Cards. They have no expiration date and are available in amounts from $25 to $1,000.
Only members can buy Costco Cash Cards or add money to them, but anyone can use them as payment.
Specifically, according to the card terms, this means “nonmembers may use the Costco Cash Cards to shop at any Costco location in the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada and online.” The 5 percent nonmember surcharge will still apply to online purchases, however.
If you don’t shop at Costco often, a Costco Cash Card might make more sense than a membership card. So, consider asking a friend or relative who is a Costco member if they’d buy you a card and let you pay them back or pay them upfront for it.
3. Go as a guest
Here’s another option for folks who want to shop in a Costco club but won’t do so often.
Costco allows members to bring up to two guests every time they visit a club. Only members can purchase items, but you could offer to pay back the member you accompany for anything you picked out.
4. Use a Household Card
If you live with a Costco member, you might be able to get a free membership card in the form of what Costco calls a “Household Card.”
Costco’s individual membership comes with one membership card for the primary member as well as one free Household Card. The latter card can be used by anyone who is over the age of 18 and lives at the same address as the primary member.
Costco’s Business Membership also comes with one free Household Card for every paying member, meaning the primary member and any add-on members (aka affiliates).