Stop any four shoppers on the street, and there is a chance one of them is heading to Costco. More than 88 million people – a number roughly equivalent to one-quarter of the U.S. population – belong to the warehouse club, according to the company.
Costco is filled with ways to save, but it is easy to overlook some of the less obvious perks.
So, if you are thinking about joining Costco — or if you are a member who simply isn’t versed in the lesser-known bargains to be found there — here is how to get more from your membership:
1. Fill your prescriptions
First off, note that you don’t have to be a member to use Costco pharmacies — see “7 Ways You Can Shop at Costco Without a Membership.”
Then check out the cost of your medications at the Costco Drug Directory or call your nearest Costco pharmacy. The chances are good that you’ll find lower prices than your local pharmacy chain store offers for the same medications.
If you take generics, you might find that Costco’s prices for certain generic medications are even cheaper than your copay.
2. Get discounted tickets and gift cards
Deals at Costco aren’t limited to buying in bulk. Take their gift card aisle or Costco.com’s gift card webpage. They offer a swarm of savings on everything from movie tickets and restaurant meals to theme park admission.
For example, I’ve paid $79.99 for four $25 Build-A-Bear Workshop gift cards. That savings roughly amounts to one extra Build-A-Bear stuffed animal or a complete ensemble for a stuffed animal.
3. Feed your family dinner on the cheap
The Costco food court is a great place to grab an inexpensive bite to eat. Where else can you get a ballpark-worthy hotdog and refillable soda for a mere $1.50? My family of four likes to head there on Friday nights to enjoy a large pizza — it’s only $10.
Don’t want to dish out any dough for dinner? Stock up on free food samples instead.
4. Book a vacation
Saving on a vacation makes the trip even sweeter. Costco members can rack up savings when they book their getaway through Costco Travel. Go to CostcoTravel.com to find deep discounts on hotels, rental cars and even cruises.
Costco Executive Members can save even more. They now earn an annual reward of 2 percent on Costco Travel purchases. This is a new perk — purchases for travel departing prior to Sept. 1 are not eligible.
5. Buy booze
Buying liquor at Costco or most any other wholesale club is generally a great way to save money. Booze is item No. 1 in “18 Best Buys at Warehouse Stores.”
As we point out in “5 Smart Ways to Save on Wine, Beer and Spirits,” many people believe the savings on alcohol are among the best reasons to purchase memberships at warehouse clubs.
6. Get free health care screenings
Costco offers free health care screenings to make sure your family remains in tip-top condition. Available screenings include:
- Osteoporosis (uses ultrasound technology to assess a member’s risk for the condition)
- Heart health (assesses risk for heart disease and includes a finger-stick lipid profile test and blood pressure check)
- Diabetes (screens members through an A1C test)
7. Buy lower-priced gas
Being a Costco member also pays at the pump. Many locations have gas stations that offer competitive prices. Some people buy a Costco membership for the gas savings alone, which can more than offset the membership cost.
8. Purchase new tires
My family buys all of our tires at Costco, and we love that they throw in free balancing and rotation. Plus, instead of drinking stale coffee while waiting in a stuffy room for our cars to be serviced, we can grab a cheap bite to eat and cross several items off our shopping list.
What’s your best tip for saving money at Costco? Let us know below or on our Facebook page.
How to find cheaper car insurance in minutes
Getting a better deal on car insurance doesn't have to be hard. You can have The Zebra, an insurance comparison site compare quotes in just a few minutes and find you the best rates. Consumers save an average of $368 per year, according to the site, so if you're ready to secure your new rate, get started now.
Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.