In fact, depending on your personal situation, there are a number of reasons why you might not want to fork over a minimum of $60 per year for a membership.
Personally, I’m a Costco fan, but I wouldn’t push it on everyone. One of my sisters, for example, lives alone and just doesn’t need the bulk purchasing option that’s such a big part of Costco’s draw. And another lives on a farm that is a real journey from the nearest Costco.
Here are several reasons why a Costco membership might just not be right for you, either.
A price hike is likely soon
Costco hasn’t hiked its membership fees since 2017, but that’s liable to change in 2024. Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said during a recent quarterly earnings call that a price hike is essentially inevitable. It’s a question of when, not if.
The cheapest annual membership for individuals right now is the Gold Star membership at $60. (An Executive membership, which comes with an annual 2% reward on purchases, is currently $120.) If you don’t want to pay higher fees than those, the apparently imminent price hike might discourage you from joining in 2024.
It’s getting harder to share a membership
Costco is a membership-only store, meaning you need to show your membership card when you shop there. And in 2023, Costco started cracking down on violations of this policy. Shoppers need to show their card both at entry and when paying. And now, staff members also ask to see your membership card with photo even at self-checkouts. So, even though members can bring up to two guests, the payment has to come from the member.
This may not be enough to dissuade shoppers from joining Costco, but it’s worth noting.
You can shop without a membership
There are still ways you can shop Costco without a membership.
One well-known way is shopping online. You’ll pay more than members due to a 5% non-member surcharge, but as we detail in “7 Ways to Shop at Costco Without a Membership,” paying the surcharge might make sense if you spend less than $1,200 per year on Costco’s site.
And as mentioned, two non-members can shop with Costco members. But you’ll have to work out among yourselves how to reimburse the member, since your own credit card won’t be accepted if you’re not a member yourself.
You can get a growing number of Costco-like benefits elsewhere
Of course, Costco isn’t the only membership store out there. Sam's Club is a division of Walmart Inc. and, depending on where you live, could be a better option for you. If you live east of the Mississippi River, BJ’s Wholesale Club might be an option too.
There is also a growing number of non-warehouse-club retailers offering memberships, including Amazon and Walmart. If you don’t buy many groceries in bulk, if you prefer shopping online or if you would use the many other benefits of a Prime or Walmart+ membership, it might make more sense to buy that type of membership instead of a warehouse club membership.
In fact, one recently added Costco perk — a health care benefit through Sesame — has some competition. Amazon is now offering its Prime members a similar benefit through One Medical, a company Amazon recently purchased.
You moved recently
Costco has hundreds of U.S. locations. But they’re not near everyone. Wyoming and Rhode Island don’t have a single Costco, and other states only have one. Some shoppers may not mind turning a Costco excursion into a bit of a journey, but others just won’t shop there if the distance is too far.
If you no longer live near a store, and don’t find the website a good substitute, it might be time to end your membership. Same for if you’ve downsized to a smaller home or a community living facility. Not everyone has the room to store 24 cans of chicken broth at one time.
You live alone now
Your family size and personal needs change over the years, of course. Costco sells its products mostly in giant sizes. You can’t even purchase some baked goods in single packages — you have to buy two. And while some products can be frozen or will last a long time on pantry shelves, others tend to go bad if not consumed quickly.
If you recently separated or lost a partner or your children are now on their own, you may not have need for enough Costco-sized purchases anymore to make the membership cost worthwhile.