If you use the calculator and it shows that you’ll save money, I think it’s worthwhile getting the membership. Costco is one of the companies that actually treat their workers quite well and their membership fees are one way they are able to offer competitive prices and pay their employees well. If, on the other hand, the savings from gas won’t pay for the membership, you can still take advantage of their good gas prices. Since you wouldn’t be getting a membership anyway in this case, and the company does make some profit when you purchase from them, I think that this “Costco Hack” is okay since both you and Costco will benefit.
You can purchase gas at their stations even if you don’t have a membership if you have a Costco Cash card (their version of the gift card). Anyone who is in possession of this card can make purchases at any store even if they don’t have a membership. These cards can also be used at their gas stations even if you don’t have a membership. This is an excellent way to get inexpensive gasoline without having to pay for a $55 membership. In order to be able to do this, however, there are two obstacles you’ll need to overcome.
The first is that in order to purchase a cash card, you need to be a member. That means that if you want to obtain a card, you either have to ask somebody who is already a member to buy it for you, or go onto a site like craigslist or eBay, and purchase one on the secondary market. If you have a friend do it for you, you should be able to get the cash card at face value. If you buy on the secondary market, you will likely have to pay a minimum of a $5 premium for the card, often much more if you want a card that has several hundred dollars on it.
The second major issue is that you can only put the amount of gasoline into your car that is on the cash card that you have. The Costco gas stations won’t accept cash or another debit card along with a cash card. This means that you need to have a card with a high value if you are going to use it often at the station. If you have a lower denomination card, you will either need to get another card each time you fill up your car, or have somebody put more money on the card for you.
For these reasons, if you end up going to the warehouse gas station on a regular basis and a membership will pay for itself, the hassles involved in getting the cash card makes it worth buying a membership. However, if you don’t go frequently and you don’t mind a bit of work, you can get a friend to buy you a gift card that has a high value on it or purchase one on the secondary market. Doing either of these will allow you to take advantage of the lower gas prices that are often found at the warehouse fuel stations. This is a hack that takes a little effort on your part, but it can be an excellent way to save money on fuel, especially when gas prices are rising.