Americans love Costco. The warehouse chain has more than 94 million card-carrying members.
A membership with Costco costs money, but here’s a little secret: It turns out you can enjoy some aspects of Costco without paying for a membership.
Consider some of these methods that allow anyone to shop at Costco:
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 “non-members 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 at 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 pick out.