Warehouse clubs have for a number of years faced increasingly tough competition for your shopping dollars from online retailers.
The most notable competitor is Amazon, which boasts a market value of around $600 billion. That’s more than the market values of Wal-Mart Stores, Costco Wholesale Corp. and BJ’s Wholesale Club combined.
Given Amazon’s tremendous recent growth — and continued expansion of Amazon Prime benefits — it’s a good time to compare the value of a traditional warehouse club membership with that of a Prime membership.
So, that’s exactly what we’re going to do. We will focus on one warehouse club in this article, Sam’s Club, for the sake of comparison.
To compare “apples to apples” as much as possible, we will examine the $100-per-year Sam’s Plus membership. It’s the more expensive Sam’s Club membership option — the other is only $45 — but it’s just a buck more expensive than the $99 annual Amazon Prime membership.
Sam’s Club has the immediate and obvious advantage over Amazon of offering both brick-and-mortar stores and online shopping. There are now more than a dozen Amazon Books locations, but that pales in comparison with the number of Sam’s Club warehouses.
Even accounting for the 63 club closures that Sam’s Club recently announced, there are 597 clubs in the U.S. So, if you are near any one of those locations, Sam’s Club has the advantage of in-person shopping.
Warehouse clubs like Sam’s Club are best known for offering competitive prices on a variety of household items. But there are a lot of lesser-known benefits of a Sam’s Club membership.
Here are a few of the other things you get when you sign up for a Sam’s Plus membership:
- Cash back: $10 for every $500 spent in qualifying purchases — up to $500 annually.
- Extra discounts on select prescription drugs: These discounts include five prescriptions available for free, more than 200 prescriptions available for $4 and more than 400 prescriptions available for $10.
- Extra optical discounts: You get $40 off one pair of prescription eyeglasses when you buy two complete pairs at the regular prices. You also get $50 off your first complete pair of glasses with the purchase of a year’s supply of contact lenses.
- Sam’s Club MasterCard: This credit card provides 5 percent cash back at gas stations, including Sam’s Club gas stations, as well as 3 percent cash back on dining and travel. It offers 1 percent cash back on other purchases.
- Instant Savings: These are additional discounts on certain Sam’s Club items. They’re akin to sale prices, basically. To view the current Instant Savings offers, visit the Instant Savings webpage.
- Tire and car battery services: You get flat tires repaired for free, regardless of where they were purchased. You also get free battery testing and free wiper-blade installation. With the purchase of a Premium Tire Installation package, you get free emergency tire changing.
For more shopping tips, check out “10 Great Ways to Save More at Sam’s Club.”
Alternatively, if you decide a Sam’s Club membership isn’t right for you, you might be interested in “6 Ways You Can Shop at Sam’s Club Without a Membership.”
Amazon Prime also includes a lot of benefits, although many of them relate to getting free digital content, rather than discounts.
Here are a few highlights:
- Free shipping: Amazon offers unlimited free two-day shipping on a more than 100 million items.
- Amazon Family: Sign up for this free program for Prime members, and you’ll get 20 percent off diaper and baby food subscriptions and 15 percent off certain items from a baby registry, among other perks.
- Prime Video: Access thousands of movies and TV shows at no extra cost.
- Early access to hot deals: Prime members can take advantage of Lightning Deals 30 minutes before non-members can. Lightning Deals are steep discounts that are limited in quantity and duration.
- Prime Rewards Visa: This credit card offers 5 percent cash back at Amazon and 2 percent at gas stations, restaurants and drugstores. It offers 1 percent cash back on other purchases.
- Discounts on video games: The perks of Twitch Prime, a service targeted at gamers, include a discount on prerelease video games.
- Prime Music: You can stream more than 2 million songs ad-free and cost-free. You can also get a discounted rate on an Amazon Music Unlimited subscription, which has a catalog of tens of millions of songs.
For more Prime perks, check out “8 Big Freebies and Price Breaks You Get With Amazon Prime.”
For more ways to lower costs on Amazon, check out “8 Strategies to Save Big Bucks on Amazon.”
Why not both?
The great thing about getting both Sam’s Club and Amazon Prime memberships is that they are complementary.
If you’re a big consumer of digital content — music, video and e-books — and you shop Amazon regularly anyway, a Prime membership makes sense. It may not take you long to recoup the cost of your Prime membership in savings, as you may no longer need to pay for other music or video services.
Meanwhile, Sam’s Club provides discounts on everyday items, including perishable groceries. You could recoup the cost of the $100 annual membership in savings on food alone.
If you’re unsure whether a Sam’s Club membership is worth it for you, print a guest membership pass, which will enable you to explore your local club and scout out prices on the items you’d buy there. Then, compare those prices with those you pay wherever you currently shop for groceries or other items available at Sam’s Club.
Do you have a favorite discount warehouse or online shopping membership? Share how it saves you money below or on our Facebook page.