September 12, 2020

Costco Membership Cost: Worth It?

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Nearly 100 million members pay to shop Costco discounts. Should you join? Read this guide before you start buying in bulk.

Costco © Mike Mozart (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

For many, flashing a Costco card is a way of life and a badge of honor. Everyone loves the perfectly seasoned $4.99 rotisserie chicken.

And there's no shortage of other fan-favorite deals. Like, the 18-inch food court pizza with everything on it. Or their selection of cheap brand-name booze. Even an 8-foot-tall plush teddy bear.

No doubt, Costco has a cult following. But is shopping at a warehouse worth the membership price? If you're on the fence, here's what you need to know about the annual cost, special perks, and, of course, how to break even.

Membership Cost

Costco currently has 105.5 million members[1]. By selling memberships, it's able to offer low, wholesale prices while making a profit. Standard membership (Gold Star) starts at $60/year. There are four membership types to choose from:

  1. Gold Star: $60 annual fee
    • One free household card
    • Valid at all Costco locations worldwide

  2. Gold Star Executive: $120 annual fee
    • One free household card
    • Valid at all Costco locations worldwide
    • Annual 2% reward on eligible Costco and Costco travel purchases
    • Extra benefits on select Costco services

  3. Business: $60 annual fee
    • One free household card
    • Valid at all Costco locations worldwide
    • Add additional people to membership ($60 each)
    • Purchase for resale

  4. Business Executive: $120 annual fee
    • One free household card
    • Valid at all Costco locations worldwide
    • Annual 2% reward on eligible Costco and Costco travel purchases
    • Extra benefits on select Costco services
    • Add additional people to membership ($60 each)
    • Purchase for resale

You can shop at for free, but you'll be hit with a 5% checkout fee. If you don't plan on shopping at Costco more than a couple times a year, it might make more sense to just buy online. It'll add up to less than the yearly cost of a membership.

Another option: Do your bulk buying on Instacart and get it delivered to your home. No Costco membership required to place an order. But keep in mind that Instacart mark ups prices on Costco items by at least 10%.

For renewals: You can easily update your membership in-person at a store or online at Just hit "Renew Membership" under My Account.

Special Perks

There's more to Costco than just the ability to buy in bulk. Take a look at their other benefits.

  1. Tires: Depending on the promotion, Costco sometimes sells certain brands for $70 to $80 off. They also offer a five-year road hazard guarantee and lifetime maintenance (includes inflation pressure checks, tire balancing, tire rotations, and flat repairs).

  2. Generous return policy: You have 90 days to return an item, no questions asked.

  3. Cheap gas: Costco is listed as a top tier gasoline retailer. Their gas is usually 20-30 cents cheaper than competitors. Just be prepared to wait in line as this is one of the store's most popular offerings.

  4. Costco Travel savings: Members get discounted rental cars, cruises, and guided group trips on domestic and international vacations. Executives get an annual 2% cash back on Costco travel.

  5. Discounted movie tickets and gift cards: This deal's availability depends on the store, but you can get discounted movie ticket packs for AMC, Regal, and Cinemark. Sometimes they sell two tickets for $18 - much cheaper than what you'd pay at the theaters.

    You can also save on theme parks, restaurants, gym memberships, and more.

  6. Pharmacy services: Anyone can fill a script at the warehouse. You can also get flu shots or ear and eye exams. You need to be a member to purchase glasses or contacts but you don't need to be a member to set an appointment with Costco's in-house optometrist.

  7. Costco Concierge services: This program extends the manufacturer's warranty to two years from the date of purchase on select items and provides free technical support for the lifetime of the product.

    So, if your appliance or electronic isn't working out for you, just call their tech-support center for help. A service representative will help you troubleshoot your problem over the phone.

Best Items to Buy

Costco has a treasure trove of warehouse deals. But there are a few standout products that always fly off the shelves.

  1. Alcohol: They have an extensive wine and beer selection. Plus, you can buy nearly every spirit under Kirkland Signature: American and French vodka, Scotch, whiskey, bourbon, rum, tequila, and gin.

  2. Food court: Grab a quick lunch or convenient dinner at Costco. Who can resist their Polish hot dogs, chicken bakes, churros, and pizza?

    In case you didn't know, Costco is America's 15th biggest pizza retailer[2]. The price tag for a slice of heaven? $1.99.

  3. Athleisure: Costco carries popular sportswear brands like Champion, Fila, Puma, and more for much cheaper than other retailers.

  4. Frozen sections: There are about 8 aisles of frozen veggies, fruits, seafood, and desserts. Shoppers swear by the Normandy Blend.

How to Break Even

Buying in bulk can save you a ton of dough. But don't shell out money to join the club just yet. Find out how much you need to buy to offset the annual fee.

To make Costco worth your while…

  • You need to spend $3,000/year or $250 per month for the $60/year Gold Star or Business memberships.
  • You need to spend $6,000/year or $500 per month for the $120/year Gold Star Executive or Business Executive memberships.

Plus, there's no cap on the annual cash-back rewards for the Costco Anywhere Visa Card. So whether it's gas, 30 rolls of toilet paper, or a two-dozen carton of eggs, you'll earn 2% on what you buy. You can also get cash for your rebate instead of store credit.

Bottom Line

It's much easier to justify the cost when you have a family or share a membership with a friend or significant other.

And if you don't live near one of Costco's 550 U.S. locations, it's definitely not worth it.

But if you're willing to brave their crowded parking lots, you can expect good customer service and high-quality products (without Whole Foods prices) on the other side of the doors.

You might even start telling people "Oh, I got it at Costco."


  1. ^ Costco Corporate Profile
  2. ^ Delish: Costco Is One of America's Largest Pizza Chains

Write to Amber K at Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts. And remember that you can listen to CreditDonkey Radio any time.

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