Frugal, Personal Finance, Saving Money, Shopping

How I Shop at Costco without Paying for a Membership

how to shop at Costco without a membership
There’s a false impression that in order to shop at Costco warehouses, you have to pay a membership fee. While this is the normal route for people to shop at their stores, there’s a “Costco hack” that will allow you to shop at any of their warehouses without having to purchase a membership. This hack is much more effective for people who don’t shop at Costco on a regular basis, since it does take a little bit of extra work. But absolutely anybody can do it if they are looking for a way to save $55. I know because I currently do this hack.

Let me first state that I believe Costco is a great company that treats its employees well. For this reason, I feel that anyone who saves enough to cover their membership fee should purchase one. I did for years, but recently did the calculations to find that I didn’t go to their warehouses enough to justify the cost of a membership. That didn’t mean that I didn’t ever want to go. It simply meant that it made little financial sense for me to purchase a membership since I wasn’t saving enough to cover the cost of it.

So, what was the solution to be able to shop at their stores the few times a year when I wanted to go there? At first, I tagged along with a friend who had a membership since he could have a guest accompany him, then paid him back for whatever I purchased on the trip. It was a perfectly legitimate way to shop there without buying a membership, but it was restrictive in that it was dependent on my friend’s schedule. Instead, I now buy gift cards.

Costco has a gift card which they call the Costco Cash Card. If you are in possession of one of these gift cards, you can shop at any Costco warehouse store. This card can also be used to purchase gas at their gas stations, which often have prices much less expensive than other gas stations, while still selling the same top-quality gas.

The main issue with this plan is that only members are allowed to purchase these gift cards. Since I don’t have a membership, I can’t purchase them on my own. I either have to purchase them from somebody who I know who has a membership, or purchase them on a secondary market like eBay or Craigslist. Secondary market Costco gift cards actually cost more than their face value, but still can be worth purchasing because they will be less than the membership fee if you only go a few times a year. I, personally, have a friend buy them for me.

The Costco cash cards come in denominations of $25 – $1000. If you want to use these cards to purchase gas, it makes the most sense to get a card that has a high monetary value. This is because you can only put the amount of gas into your car that’s on the card that you have. A $25 gift card might not even fill up your car’s tank.

Since I want to buy items that are in the store, I find that it is much more convenient to get a number of different gift cards with the lowest value possible. For example, instead of putting $200 on a single card, I would get eight different cards with $25 each since I can get into the warehouse no matter how much is on the card. I usually spend $100 or more each time that I go into a Costco store, so it makes more sense for me to get a $25 card, then pay any overage in cash or with my debit card. This way for a $200 investment, I can go to Costco eight times. Whereas if I put $200 on a single card, I would only be able to go to the warehouse one or two times.

Of course, if you end up purchasing a number of these cards, you need to make sure that you don’t lose any of them. If you lose them, you’re out the cash and there isn’t any way to get it back. Since I only go to Costco once every few months, four $25 cards will usually last me an entire year. While I am avoiding the membership fee, I am still spending money at Costco and they are earning a small amount off my purchases. This is more than they would get if I didn’t shop there at all, which would be the case if there wasn’t this Costco membership hack.

If you go to Costco more than a few times a year, the inconvenience of trying to obtain gift cards, and the savings that you get shopping there, usually makes it worthwhile to purchase a membership. If however, if you’re like me and only go once every few months, this can be an excellent way to take advantage of the savings that Costco offers without having to pay for a membership every year.

97 thoughts on “How I Shop at Costco without Paying for a Membership

  1. I love this. There are only a few items I occasionally get from Costco only because I can’t find them anywhere else. Everything else is overpriced and it costs me more to shop there.

    My car was broken into right in front of their entrance and they couldn’t even be bothered to show video footage. All the other shoppers there are rude entitled snobs. They will never see another $55 fee from me.

  2. I do seriously hope that all you righteous people who bashed him and others from utilizing this method of shopping without paying the $55 have NEVER taken a friend or your Mom with you shopping at Costco and let them buy using your membership! I assume that you never went with a friend prior to buying your membership.
    I have a Sam’s membership for the last few years and am fed up with the rudeness of my local club. Other than our once a month 5lb shredded cheese purchase we usually only buy sale items. If I save my $55 a year, it is cutting it close. Aldi’s has better pricing and do not charge for the privilege of shopping at their stores. Of course if you don’t mind paying an extra .40,.50 or $1 to get your groceries in restaurant quantity. Bulk should be much cheaper not more money. Some would call it being cheap; I call it being an educated consumer! Those small amounts add up to a lot over time, after all $4 a week is $208 a year, that you are overpaying on top of your membership fee!
    I found this page looking for a day pass to Costco.

  3. I agree with Lynn totally. I stumbled onto this looking for a day pass also. No intention of cheating Costco. Sams has a day pass and thought maybe Costco would do the same. I cancelled my Sams membership as doesnt make sense for me to pay out when I go once a or twice year. I went to Costco once with a friend to look (I didnt purchase anything) I found a couple of things I would like to purchase but knowing if I bought a pass it would be just like Sams. Once or twice a year.

  4. There have always been managers on the floor and it has never taken more than a few seconds all the times I’ve done this.

  5. What I don’t get is, why would Costco offer gift cards of $1,000 if they only intend people to use the cards as a way to find out whether they want to become members or not? If I bought someone a $1,000 gift card, it might take them a few years to use it up. Would the cashiers and staff be rude to them for shopping that long without a membership? I sure hope not. It would be perfectly legitimate for me as a member to buy a $1,000 card for a friend. And by the way, Costco DOES discriminate against single people, since I have to pay the same amount for my single membership as others do for one for themselves and a family member. So who is ripping off whom?

  6. Wow, this posting goes so long. I think I have to reply as I am forced into the situation because I just got a cash card as gift. With so many angry members, I am not sure I will have a good shopping experience at the checkout. :).

    1. I have NEVER shopped at Costco in my life before simply because it does not make financial sense to me in my situation. This is to set the tone.
    2. As a common sense, any corporation, except non-profit ones, will make money. Not sure anyone even bothered to look, it’s share is $144,with more profit than last year. So, I have to say they are doing very well as a company.
    3. Again, as common sense, in this world, do people really be naive enough to think individuals can outsmart corporations like this? That’s Hollywood movie.the reality is that there is ALWAYS a good reason for anything company will do. They have tons of accountants and Lawyers for that. This is why when most of us shop there saving 50 cents to a dollar and fight over this “principles”, they don’t even bother counting the millions in their bank accounts.
    So, weak up, people.

  7. So you just admitted to being as cheap as the person you are accusing. Why not buy your own membership, it’s only a dollar a freaking week, jeez. The nerve of some people. Glad your moral compass is spot on. Hey cheapskate, meet cheapskate.

  8. Thank you Jeffrey for the awesome information. I will shop at Costco more often now that I know about the cash cards. In the past my purchases were limited to big ticket items and I would have a friend with a membership accompany me.

    What’s with all the greedy, selfish haters who think this is cheating? Cash cards certainly have a positive impact on Costco’s bottom line and they know that a percentage of cards will not be fully redeemed or redeemed at all, so who’s cheating who?

    A friend used to sell cash cards at his car wash here in Cali and said that as much as 30% of the cards sold were never used.

  9. SO simple….If you don’t like what Jeffrey states DONT READ IT! You want to become a member go and pay! Do not blame for what is Costco normal policy. They WIL NEVER lose money!
    Jeffrey can we do that on Sam’s also?
    Thanks for your advise!!! And forget the haters!!!!

  10. Costco made $480 million in profit last quarter. There’s 4 quarters in a year. Gonna have to raise that membership fee because BRB making too much money.

  11. Love it!! Everyone soo against this shouldn’t even be reading it or googling it RIGHT? I mean did you just stumble on this? Pull your sticks out of your ass and get over the fact he found a loop hole that is legal — oh and FYI I’m a Executive member at costco since we own dealerships ☺

  12. Dear Lord, the amount of ignorance on these posts is unbelievable!.

    From the “holier-than-thou” crusaders to the “financial experts”… the kind of comments I read is just appalling.

    #1 The writer stated CLEARLY that this article was directed towards those that WOULD NOT buy a membership to begin with, because it would not make financial sense for them. He specifically stated that if you do decide that it becomes worthy for you, then you should buy one, but if you only go so many times in a year (or you only buy $X amount on merchandise) that you don’t get those $55 worth of discounts, then this would be a viable way for you.

    #2 He said that while you can buy them at places as Ebay and Craigslist, that the best option would be to ask a friend/acquaintance to get some for you. He is NOT endorsing the secondary “black market” for them.

    #3 If the company itself allows it, then it is LEGAL. If the company itself permits this then “Jane & John Doe” the cashiers expressing their dissatisfaction here should take this to upper management to see what they have to say about this, instead of venting their frustration on the internet.
    Summarizing it: If the company allows it, then you (the cashier, the member, the stockholder, and all the other titles that have been thrown around to prove the “validity” of your posts) can’t do squat about it.

    There was even a post from a “longtime employee” that stated that some employees would turn their noses away if they see somebody shopping there many times with gift cards.
    I have never shopped at Costco in my life, but if I was in this situation, I would LOVE to see you do this to me so I could get your ass fired on the spot. You are paid to TAKE CARE OF THE CUSTOMER AND GIVE THE BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE POSSIBLE. Start acting snarky towards your customers and very soon you will find somebody that won’t take any of your attitude, and guess what?… I’m betting that management won’t side with you on this one. And even if they do (as they could be some of those employees you mention that think like you, as being a manager doesn’t mean that they are infallible) I’m, VERY sure that your corporate office won’t.

    #4 A lot of people say that Costco is a “member’s only” club… well it is NOT. It is a “Member’s & whomever the member chooses to authorize to shop there” club, hence the availability of the GIFT CARD. If it was a Member’s Only club, then there wouldn’t be a gift card for sale.

    I even read one of the stupidest comments here from a guy stating that Gift Cards are not transferable and that is why they need to call a manager to override it at the time of purchase. DEAR LORD, so I can only buy a Gift Card for myself since I can’t give it to somebody else???.

    Logic says: If somebody has a gift card, that means a Member bought it. If a member bought it and gave it/sold it then THAT member is implicitly authorizing the gift card recipient to shop there. If the rules don’t forbid it then it is LEGAL. If you don’t like it then complaint to the company and it is in their power to do something or not. Unless they forbid it, then NONE of you can say anything about it. You are entitled to your opinion, but you can’t say that people are cheats/thieves(LOL) for making use of something that the company itself makes available.

    There is a LOT of garbage and misinformation among the comments, and as much as I would love to address all of them I will end with the last one, and this one irked me the most:

    There are people stating that Costco LOSES MONEY when people uses gift cards…. this one makes me want to bang my head to my desk….

    Since WHEN a company sells stuff in which it loses money?. Please tell me HOW a person with a gift card makes a company lose money?. Remember that this article was geared towards those persons that would NOT buy a membership as it doesn’t make financial sense to them. These are the kind of people that wouldn’t have bought anything at the store to begin with… and now they are leaving their dollars at the store, even if it is once or twice a year. To me (and anybody that has even a little knowledge of finances) this is a GAIN, not a loss.

    I will use myself as an example, and please enlighten me in how I make Costco lose money with the following statement:
    I don’t have a costco membership as the store is an hour away from my home, I have never to this day bought anything at costco. Since I have heard good things about this store, I decide to take a trip over there just to check it out. I know a friend that has a membership and ask him to buy a gift card for me (since Costco does not have day passes anymore), my friend does this for me and gives me a $25 gift card and I pay him back.
    I go to Costco, browse the store and grab a few things from the shelves. I go to the register box and my total is $75. I use the gift card and pay the balance in cash; I leave the store.
    After my reconnaissance trip, I decide that even though the store is good, it doesn’t make financial sense for me to get a membership because it is too far, but I would like to be back six months down the road to browse again (because that is how economy and capitalism works), so I call my friend again and ask him to buy me two gift cards for future purchases. End of Story.

    How did I make Costo lose money here?.

    You can’t say that I made them lose money by not buying the membership because I wouldn’t have bought it anyways as the store is too far for me. As far as I know they made $75 in sales from a guy that would have never spent a dime at their store, and they will make some more when I return to spend my remaining two cards.

    Jeffrey, thank you for the article. To my eyes, you made Costco some money by bringing in people that would have never step foot at the store, even if just to check things out. And I’m sure that even one of those will see that the membership is a good deal for them and will become regular members. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t put their brains to work before commenting and just like to spew whatever they have on their hearts at the moment. Maybe is the lack of oxygen up there for being too long on their high horses.



  13. I have a feeling all these negative comments are from bitter Costco employees and now I really don’t want to shop at your store. Costco is not a regular shopping trip, so why would I pay a full years fee to shop a few times a year? Their business model is seriously lacking and their selections suck. Really I don’t need to buy 12 pounds of Apples a month, most of it will rot.

  14. So you purchase 200 dollars worth of gift cards? The membership only costs 55 for the basic one. How did your math pan out?

    Perfectly. I bought $200 worth of items instead of $145 worth of items and a membership that has no value to me.

  15. I’m not cheating the system. I am playing fully within the rules as spelled out by Costco. For those of us who don’t shop there often, it’s a legitimate way to shop.

  16. LOL


    The heavy rant by “Jane”

    I’m a dedicated lurker but wow, had to post, this seriously made me laugh out loud.

    There’s a few worth highlighting:

    “ON TOP OF THAT the executive membership also comes with discounts such as auto and home insurance, windshield repair, brake repair, buying a car, ordering checks, mortgage refinancing…saving even more money. Do you not do any of these things yourself? So tell me your math again exactly????”

    I’m sure if he or anyone else was interested in the membership for those specific benefits ………… they’d get the membership. I couldn’t care any less what “benefits” they provide, I’m there to buy a few things instead of blowing money at the standard grocery store. Not enough to justify the membership cost, however.

    This is more for argument’s sake, but if I was only able to make it to their store once or twice in a year, spending only 40$ each time, it makes zero sense to spend 110$ on a membership. 190$ for 80$ worth of items?

    I’d rather volunteer to be a fake gorilla in a costume in africa for tourists to see on a safari.

    In no way can you or anyone else justify paying 190$ for 80$ worth of items. Even 50$ membership to only spend 80$. What a joke.

    “So if you really did your math right, you could see that this is obviously how you could get your membership cheaper rather than wasting time trying to find people to mooch off of to buy memberships. Gift cards were meant to draw people in and see what we have to offer, not continually cheat.”

    This paragraph not only made me laugh out loud but want to hit myself in the head with a hammer at the same time. It also makes ZERO sense.

    Again, 190$ + tax for 80$ worth of items?

    If you will claim even the 55$ membership to only spend 80$ in the year, 130$ total, you’d HAPPILY pay because “that’s how they pay their employees!!!” then from now on, why not start overpaying every single store you visit heavily? When they ring in their total INSIST on giving them even a small 5$ more, for no other reason than to “assist in paying their employees”

    I can guarantee you wouldn’t though as it makes zero sense. His “math” is fine, your understanding is entirely off.

    (perhaps you spent too much time volunteering in a gorilla suit in africa..?)

    There’s no “cheating” or “taking advantage” of anyone here.


    Actually, quite the opposite. By using gift cards they’re generating revenue that wouldn’t be there otherwise. If there was ZERO way to purchase anything from costco without being a member, they’d lose out on purchases that wouldn’t have been made otherwise. (Again, 130$ for an 80$ purchase, this is what you’re arguing makes financial sense)

    “And let me tell you something, we are all WELL AWARE of people like you. All employees provide great service, so don’t be surprised when we turn our noses at you when we’ve seen you for the fifth time shopping with a gift card, while everyone else follows the rules and gets a membership.”

    I didn’t read a single post where anyone was upset or surprised about employees who are so miserable that they’d look down their nose at them for using gift cards. What’s laughable about the whole thing is no matter how hot-headed people get over this, it’s entirely legitimate. There’s no “cheating” or “taking advantage” of anyone.

    To claim that they’re losing profit because of people using gift cards; do you understand how a sucessful business runs? Having even a small profit leak can impact a big company in a big way. If they were truly losing money because “people are using gift cards and paying the remaining balance in cash” then gift cards wouldn’t be available to purchase.

    If you sincerely feel violated or the need to look down on customers using gift cards who may have received them as gifts and them paying the final balance, you need to find another line of work.

    If you see them again, and again, perhaps they asked their family members for gift cards for there and received multiple with no intention of circumventing the fee? What is it to you and how is it anyone’s business? LOL

    “For God sakes, you want to talk about saving people money? We allow people with food stamps to shop, they even BUY A MEMBERSHIP. Don’t be cheap cheater!”

    You’re proud of the fact that some people need food stamps to survive but AT LEAST THEY BOUGHT A COSTCO MEMBERSHIP! Amirite??

    Elitism is great!

    “And let’s be real, in all reality, you’re taking money away from the employees who work very hard all day who deserve to be paid well for dealing with cheap assholes like you.”

    Anyone claiming that by using gift cards, employees’ pay is being affected is insanity. Have you seen someone use a gift card and pay the remaining balance on their purchase within the past month you’ve been working there? Was your pay different because of it?

    I guarantee it wasn’t. You’re just arguing for the sake of arguing.

    Ah, and namecalling, the child’s way of showing frustration. It’s laughable how worked up people get over such petty things. I don’t know how some people make it over 40 without passing on due to stress.


    We all choose our own battles, I suppose. I can tell you choose yours wisely!

    “You know what…you’re right, the Costco membership doesn’t make sense for you. It doesn’t make sense to have a cheater in the building taking advantage of our products or services. And it certainly doesn’t make sense for you to take advantage of the wonderful employees and their services, including myself. We don’t need your business, and the paying members certainly don’t want you in there for being the reason why prices go up. This is a Fortune 500 company, we can survive without you.”

    This is too much arrogance and ego in one paragraph.

    After seeing your childish namecalling and easy frustration, it wouldn’t take too much to have you lash out in some sort of tantrum.

    The only true statement in Jane’s entire post is: “You know what…you’re right, the Costco membership doesn’t make sense for you.”


    It makes ZERO sense finacially to spend so much on the membership fee when you don’t spend NEAR enough to justify the cost. I’ll actually continue this further and say a big thanks to him for not just keeping this to himself but for posting it, I’ll be sure to advertise this post on my social media end. This doesn’t include the people I’ve already recommended read it for just the responses alone.

    My 2c.

  17. Wow, a lot of people complaining about something Costco allows and encourages. They make money on the cash cards or they wouldn’t sell them. I have a membership, but I don’t see anything wrong with people doing this if the membership doesn’t benefit them.

  18. Low markups? Really? Then why is Costco so much more expensive than Sam’s for the same items. Get over it people. She isn’t screwing some little company. It don’t for a second believe that they make 80% profits from memberships. Their prices are high and that why we switched to Sam’s.

  19. Why all the hostility for something that is legal according even to Costco. Are you just angry because you didn’t think of it yourselves? Costco shoppers seem to think they are somehow better than everyone else. It’s sad.

  20. Jeff is not cheating Costco out of any money. He did say if he was a more frequent shopper at Costco he would purchase the membership. Even at the low markup price that Costco offers, it still makes a profit whether a person pays with cash, Amex card, debit card, gift card, or foodstamp (not yet available in my area). Costco can offer great discounts such as on insurances, travel packages, buying a car, ect. because it can negotiate great deal with such companies, not because it uses the profits from sale of memberships. How do I know this? Because if the savings from being a member exceeded the cost of annual membership (according to your math), then wouldn’t Costco being out of business already? As Jeff said, he choses to give Costco a little profit (not as much as a member) rather than none. I doubt that infrequent non-member shoppers would cause Costco any loss. After all, those gift cards were sold to members only. Why would anyone who is a member buy the gift cards if they cannot give them to someone like Jeff? Since Costco is an employee-own company, it’s understandable why its employees are offended (but not rightfully so). I know how hard you work, but also know how well-paid you are. I am however really disappointed to see such judgmental, condescending, and discriminating comments from a CURRENT Costco employee. It is obvious you are in need of professional training more than Jeff needs to be a member. Maybe Costco should fire you so you wouldn’t be so concern about your wages being affected by the selling of its gift cards. And so you know, I am CURRENTLY an executive member and I do buy Costco gift cards for my families and friends. They should not be discriminated by Costco employees just because they are not members at the time. Keep your nose up and cost Costco a number of potential members. If you truly think I am wrong in defending Jeff, then give me the Costco location where you work, your supervisor’s name; and I will call him/her for a professional discussion.

  21. All I want to do is try shopping at Costco. They don’t offer a free one day trial, so how else am I supposed to try it to see if it’s worth it?

  22. People want to know the prices BEFORE they pay for membership. Its common sense. Gift card makes total sense. Actually being able to visit and see prices without being allowed to purchase seems most fair but since Costco doesn’t allow this common sense approach the gift card do suffice.

    Personally I had a membership for a few years and unless you need 10 loaves of bread and 5 giant ketchups at a time its mostly useless.

  23. You people getting so irate really don’t get that for some ppl, membership is not worthwhile. And if Costco wants to keep selling gift cards that non-Members can use to shop at Costco, you should be yelling at Costco to stop this policy, not the non-members trying to use Costco’s own policy.

    It really was and still is not worth it for me to buy a Membership at Costco and when I do go with a family member to Costco once every two or more years, Costco definitely makes money off of me and I lose money…which is why I don’t buy a Membership. How? I’m a single person who lives in an apt. I don’t grocery shop much. If I go to Costco, I get excited and buy a bunch of meat and frozen foods and things I would never buy, but the price is so great so I buy it. I freeze the meat and don’t use most of it or even all of it and then I throw it out. I don’t want things in bulk. I don’t have a house. After I figured out that I waste money when I do go to Costco, I realized to never buy a Membership.

    I can just go with a family member once every two years when I want a huge box of garbage bag, toothbrush heads, or contact solution that’s on sale. Ever thing else, I prefer buying at Target, even toilet paper. I realized not to even buy chicken at Costco to freeze because it will have freezer burn and will sit in my freezer for 2 years before getting thrown away.

    So, I’ve figured out those are the only 3 items that I want at Costco, but I can’t help buying other stuff that I don’t use or throw away because I can’t help myself, so Costco will make money off me when I go in another 2 years to get these. I’ll see other things and end up buying them.

    I thought I wanted to use this gift card method to get cat litter for my new cat so I got 10 cash cards, but forget it. I didn’t know the
    cash card needs a manager override and that some Costcos will treat you like a criminal for using a gift card. Some will only let you spend what is on the cash card as I was told this morning. “You can only spend the $10 you have on the card and then we’ll cash it out.” The truth is I wanted those cards to buy a rotisserie chicken and cat litter sometimes. Is going to Costco to buy a rotisserie chicken once a month worth a $55 membership? No, so I’ll get the rotisserie chicken at Vons or Ralphs and I just figured out last night that the Costco cat litter is bad anyway. Would I buy other things while inside Costco while going for one rotisserie chicken? Probably. It would be 95% items I would be buying because the deal was good, but I wouldn’t use the items or I’d throw it away. I almost bought a special $40 pillow I wasn’t looking for and would have not used because it looked cool and I pulled out my phone to Google it and it was $60 cheaper than Macy’s. I almost wanted to buy some $100 cushion thing that would be used once a year just because it looked good. For people like me, Costco is a total waste of money when you add up the savings and then the money wasted. Yay, I saved $5!! But, wait, I just spent $150 on crap. Shit!!!

    For the small subset like me, Costco makes money off of us, even if the profit is $2-$10 per visit depending on how much crap we buy. If Costco allowed one day passes, I know I’d go in and buy a bunch of fruit I’d end up throwing away, cart full of stuff I don’t need and wasn’t looking for just because it’s a good deal or looks nice, so I’m actually thankful now that they don’t have one day passes.

    But don’t sell gift cards that non-members can use and then make them feel like criminals for using it. It’s not like there’s a limit on how many gift cards can be purchased or spent. I’m actually glad now that I was only allowed to spend the $10 because I would have ran up and down each aisle buying crap when all I wanted was 1) one rotisserie chicken & 2) bag of mandarin oranges, which I was going to give half to my parents because I can’t finish a bag. Forgot Costco unless I ever get a spouse and live in a house.

  24. It is pretty amazing how many people have pointed out what a cheap mooch of a person you are, and how you’re abusing what is supposed to be a nice gesture by Costco.. and you try and defend yourself to every comment. Look, you’re a cheap person, at least own up to it. No rationalization on your part changes that. If you don’t shop at Costco enough to justify their membership, don’t shop there. Pretty simple.

  25. Ha! I came here as I was trying to find out if Costco has a day pass so I could see if I liked it. I just stopped my Sam’s membership after many years since I was laid off and it did not seem worth it.

    If these are the types of people that work there and shop there, well you have concluded that I will not take a shot at an annual membership.

    I never saw this diatribe on a Sam’s Club posts.

    Yes, they make $ off of Jeffrey still. Do you folks think you are someone special? I have plenty of $ to get a membership but I am still looking to save until my new business venture.

    I am not cheap, either. I would have liked to just get an idea of what’s in the club and the pricing since I left Sam’s. These ignorant comments have kept me from wasting my time.

    I’d rather overpay at a supermarket than be associated with the likes of these people with their defensive and negative remarks. You folks are seriously uninformed and hope your whole life is not life that. Just wow…

    Let the negative chime in’s begin again…

  26. I don’t get why everyone is mad at this author. It reminds me of how people get mad at people who travel to Africa and hunt animals that would be considered illegal here – if it’s legal (in this case, Costco policy allows for it), then there should be no debate. For myself, I stumbled upon this article because I want to purchase a phone there and will never ever shop at Costco for anything else. We had a membership a while back, but we now shop at Sam’s Club because the employees at our Costco are horrible. They once gave my mom a hard time about something she bought (I think it was a shirt or something) and she didn’t want it after all and they said, and I quote, “well, make sure you like it next time before you buy it *snappy tone*.” We didn’t renew our membership that year because that was the last straw after multiple other occurrences. For some reason, Sam’s Club doesn’t have the phone I want for AT&T, and only for Verizon, so for this one and only time that I will ever shop at Costco, it doesn’t make sense to buy a membership.

  27. You people are ridiculous. This is a completely valid way of shopping at Costco. If their policies allow someone to enter the store and make purchases with a gift card, then why not? He’s not breaking any rules. Costco is even making money off his transactions. They would make nothing off him if he did not shop there at all. The fact that all of you lack the intelligence to recognize this is astounding. Costco obviously does not care that this is happening. They have the ability to easily change their policies at any time, and they DON’T. So calm down. The man wrote a good article about a legitimate and useful hack.

  28. Wow! i just read the Costco Annual Report for 2013. As there is zero Costco’s near me and I have found a large product they offer, i have called upon a friend of mine to escort me to a Costco that is 70 miles from my residence. I do not feel bad about this at all. Sam’s Club has built near me, they offer day passes to entice people to see what their business is about and I shop there often. As an MBA I have to dispute the earlier comment about Costco’s 80% profit being membership fees. This is clearly incorrect information. I could see that the $55.00 fee is 80% profit for them but not 80% of their total corporate profit. The annual reports just doesn’t support that. More like 2.20% of all combined net sales are in the form of Membership Fees. if this was any different the company would not be in business today. I find it refreshing that people are so passionate about their status in the world. As if a membership at a Wholesaler, a gym, or Chuck E Cheese for that matter is a status symbol. If this is how many of you gauge your lives, you need to get out more. This company will survive with or without you. And it will survive if I go in on a member purchased gift card or with a family member or friend. That is a fact. DO they want my $800.00 purchase or not?

  29. I hope you had the sense to look at the user name and realize that the post above you was not the author. I posted it because that is how I feel about Costco and not the author defending himself after each unjustified angry comment. After reading the last comment about membership fees not equaling 80% of Costco’s profits, that makes a lot of sense as that was hard to believe. That means with each trip to Costco (once every 1-3 years), Costco probably made much more like $20 to $50 profit off me while I threw away a lot of the stuff afterwards. I’d rather shop on Amazon or Target.

  30. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. For this great tip! What a good way to be able to test-drive a Costco without wasting $55. All you Costco Kool-Aid drinkers, get back to work stocking those shelves at Costco.

  31. Actually, look at what I just read: the Costco rotisserie chicken sales strategy! They already know they can entice people like me into their humungous warehouses via their $4.99 rotisserie chicken…and then make LOTS of $$$ from the other stuff the rotisserie chicken shoppers buy. This is exactly me! The only other thing I might want from time to time really is a huge bag of frozen fruit…that’s it. Anything else I buy is usually superfluous and I will waste it or not use it because I wasn’t even looking for it. I think Costco should offer one free day pass to each person each year. If you want to shop at Costco more than that, then they can get you to buy a Membership.|main5|dl19|sec1_lnk2%26pLid%3D-477417606

  32. Costco could eliminate part of the problem by offering a limited visitor pass. I’ve had a Sam’s Club membership for years because it is closer to my home and for a long time it’s all we had (originally it was called Pace). But I’d consider switching if I could go to Costco shopping a time or two just to compare what is available at the one nearest me (I’ve seen ppl post that different ones around the country don’t carry same things). So for all you Costco employees who are made about this to, please consider that it could work out that some folks might make the switch if there was an easy way to comparison shop. I know Sam’s used to offer Visitor passes (no clue if they still do or not).

  33. This comment about being able to ask for a refund of your membership at any time is bull. Just like the employees show up in this comments to defend the membership, the service desk employees are as aggressive defending the membership and denying the refund when you didn’t make your fee on the 2% super cashback thing.

    I went to a store once and asked for a refund of my membership and after arguing AND showing them their own contract and policies, they simply refused and kept acting as if I was an asshole and making a spectacle of myself.

    I understand the business model, but the attitude of Costco employees is disgusting. I have since stopped going to Costco and wouldn’t go there for any reason. They count every time you go in and check your stuff every time you go out as if you were stealing from them. Their entitlement attitude is terrible and customer service comes a distant 10th place if you happen to challenge their HOLY MEMBERSHIP fee.

    Basically its like this. Employees are sold the idea that they can be paid well thanks to the memberships. More memberships, better salaries (which are good to begin with). SOOOOO, just like teachers in a union, they care little for the people they serve and their service mission and a LOT about their own income and benefits.

    In the end, no power on earth made those service clerks and managers allow the refund. I simply had to cancel and didn’t get ANY of my money back. So no, you cannot under any circumstance get your fee back, they simply won’t return it or honour their refund policy.

    Good for your hack man, if you really want to go in once or twice a year and can get those gift cards, power to you and all the Costco employees can jump off a bridge for all I care.

  34. You can walk into Sam’s & Costco without a membership and buy alcohol without a membership. At least that has been the case for me since I’ve lived in Cali, Ariz, & VA. I think it has to do with the laws associated with the bureau of alcohol tobacco and firearms. Just FYI

  35. First off Thank you for the “hack”. We just had a Costco open in our area and I want to try it out before I buy a membership. I pay over a $100 a year for my Sam’s membership and spend around $300 a month in Sam’s. However before I buy a Costco membership I want to see if they have the products my family uses. If their prices beat Sam’s and most of all if I like Costco better than Sam’s. So for that purpose I may try the “hack” especially since when I called and asked if I could pay for a one day pass I was told very rudely NO!

  36. I tried this and got $25 gift card, but I could not buy over the gift card amount. After finally taking off most of items in the cart they did let me go over couple of cents

  37. I would write a complaint to Costco Headquarters — they aren’t supposed to limit your purchases like that.

  38. While I’m not likely to use this hack, it amuses me that the people who complain here about this ‘hack’ being immoral and damaging to the company ignore that it’s the company that made this an acceptable policy and therefore are themselves immoral and damaging to themselves. The reason BEHIND the policy has zero importance, the practice and allowance of this, is. You remind me of religious people that give non-religious people grief because they don’t have faith or want to deny non-religious people of freedoms because THEY are offended by them, but holy crap if you try to deny that religious person of their religious freedom…

    The argument against this “hack” is irrelevant. It’s a legitimate practice (or loophole, if you want to argue semantics) that is allowed by the very company itself. Complain to your company rather than those who choose to use the allowed practice.

  39. Honestly, I don’t think the few people who will go through all this to shop only a couple times a year will have any impact on Costcos profits. If Costco was worried about money they probably wouldn’t be donating large amounts of $$$$$ to the liberal political candidates. Stupid liberals are all about wealth distribution so there you have it – I say good for you to show Costco up! I have a membership so maybe I will buy some cash cards and resell sell them for more than face value! This is why we live in America- capitalism!!!!!

  40. I honestly can’t believe how many people are so concerned with the ethics of Costco membership shopping — REALLY??

    If I am a single guy who visits Costco twice a year to pick up a handful of items and infrequent purchases then isn’t Costco taking advantage of my infrequent shopping behavior to pad their profits? That is money directly out of my pocket.

    If I spend $150 in two visits purchasing their goods at store price they are still recouping a margin on those goods however small they may be. The loss of membership fee is not a direct loss, and in fact I can argue they would never receive those margins from my purchase otherwise because I would simply elect to spend the $150 elsewhere. I would hardly call that “cheating” the company.

    Costco could offer non-members the option to shop for items in their store at a surcharge as they do online if they were extremely concerned about non-members using gift cards. As consumers we shop for value and if I had a family the membership would pay itself out as a superior value, but this is not the case.

    We are talking about a large corporation here with people hired to oversee these policies, lets not get crazy with our character attacks on poor Jeff people, he is still buying goods at store price fair and square.

  41. This is a terrible example. First of all, you don’t purchase items when you go to the gym, the gym is itself the product. It would be more like if you went to the gym with someone else’s membership, then paid to attend a yoga class.

    Secondly, the whole gym business model is based around the expectation that most members pay the full fees but underutilize their membership benefits. Last time I checked, 24 Hour Fitness is not sending me a refund for all the hours I did not use their facility.

  42. Geez, the haters on here are going crazy! Thanks for this tip – I wanted to check out Costco and see if the prices would make the cost of a membership worth it, so this is perfect. If Costco didn’t want non-members in their store they wouldn’t let non-members in, even WITH a gift card. Costco is ALLOWING this, so it’s not “immoral”. Costco isn’t some poor grandma trying to sell her stuff at a garage sale so she can keep her house – it’s a large and successful business. You have to think they’ve factored this into their business model. And if they haven’t, that’s their problem.

    My scenario will probably turn out like this: 1) Without a gift card I will not buy a membership. Costco will get no money from me. 2) With a gift card I will go, buy some items, check out the prices, end up buying a membership and keep spending my money there. Yes, I will go in once without a membership but they will continue to get lots of my money for a long time to come. So…… Sounds like a good deal for them.

    Stop hating. Leave this guy alone.

  43. I agree. A large business like Costco knows what they are doing. They don’t need people patrolling their policies. If they found that much abuse, they will close the program.

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