Being a Costco member will soon become more expensive.
The wholesale club will hike the price of every membership it offers in the U.S. and Canada starting June 1. Individual, business and business add-on members will pay $60 instead of $55 per year. Executive members will pay $120 instead of $110 per year.
While an extra $5 or $10 a year might not seem like much, the pending increases make this a good time to evaluate whether a membership is truly worth its cost to you.
So we’ve rounded up seven ways that you can shop at Costco without needing a membership.
1. Shop online
Anyone can shop Costco.com, although there are two hitches for nonmembers:
- You will be charged a 5 percent surcharge, so you’ll pay 5 percent more than the product prices you see on Costco’s website. The only exception is for prescription drugs.
- You cannot redeem the “Members-Only Savings” offers — dozens of deals worth hundreds of dollars — that Costco issues each month.
Additionally, some items sold in Costco clubs — like many foods — are unavailable on Costco’s website.
Still, if you prefer to shop online or you spend less than $1,200 a year at Costco, paying the nonmember surcharge might make more sense than buying a membership. As long as you spend less than $1,200 a year on Costco’s site, the 5 percent surcharge would amount to less than the cost of a $60 annual membership.
2. Use a gift card
Costco gift cards are known as Costco Cash Cards. They have no expiration date and are available in amounts from $25 to $1,000.
Only members can buy Costco Cash Cards or add money to them, but anyone can use them as payment.
Specifically, according to the card terms, this means “… nonmembers may use the Costco Cash Cards to shop at any Costco location in the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada and online at Costco.com.” The 5 percent nonmember surcharge will still apply to online purchases, however.
If you don’t shop at Costco often, a Costco Cash Card might make more sense than a membership card. So consider asking a friend or relative who is a Costco member if they’d buy you a card if you paid them back or paid them upfront for it.
3. Go as a guest
Here’s another option for folks who want to shop in a Costco club but don’t do so often.
Costco allows members to bring up to two guests every time they visit a club. Only members can purchase items, but you could offer to pay back the member you accompany for anything you picked out.
4. Use a Household Card
If you live with a Costco member, you might be able to get a free membership card in the form of what Costco calls a “Household Card.”
Costco’s individual membership comes with one membership card for the primary member as well as one free Household Card. The latter card can be used by a spouse, domestic partner or anyone who is over the age of 18 and lives at the same address at the primary member.
Costco’s Business Membership also comes with one free Household Card for every paying member, meaning the primary member and any add-on members.
5. Use a delivery service
Some third-party delivery services, like Instacart and Google Express, will pick up what you want from Costco for you and bring it to your home. There’s no waiting in line and no membership necessary on your part.
These services aren’t available in every city and generally aren’t free, though. On top of the cost of your purchases, you’ll usually pay a delivery fee, presumably a tip and possibly an additional fee if you are not a Costco member.
6. See the optometrist
In need of an eye exam? Nonmembers can see on-site optometrists at Costco clubs.
Nonmembers cannot purchase optical items, though. So if you end up needing new glasses and don’t want to join Costco, you’ll need a Costco Cash Card or a member willing to let you pay them back for your purchase.
So, it might be wise to first check out “Lookin’ Good! How to Get a Killer Deal on Eyeglasses.”
Not all Costco clubs have optical departments. Visit the “Find a Warehouse” page to look up specific locations and click on “Store Details” to find out whether a location has an optical department.
7. Buy prescription drugs
Prescription drugs are the one exception to Costco’s 5 percent surcharge for nonmembers who order online.
Additionally, nonmembers can generally use the pharmacies in Costco clubs. Just note that this can vary from state to state due to differences in state laws. Costco states that pharmacies are open to nonmembers “where required by state law.” Also, not all Costco locations have pharmacies. So nonmembers might want to call ahead before using a brick-and-mortar Costco pharmacy for the first time.
Again, visit the “Find a Warehouse” page and click on “Store Details” to find out whether a location has a pharmacy.
If your prescription drug costs are limited to co-pays and you don’t frequent Costco, you’re probably better off using your nearest pharmacy. But if you pay out of pocket for prescriptions, compare what you currently pay to what Costco charges for your medications.
Costco pharmacies also carry pet medications.
For more tips, check out “6 Ways Warehouse Stores Get You to Spend Too Much.”
What’s your favorite way to save money at warehouse clubs? Share with us by commenting below or over on our Facebook page.
This article was originally published on MoneyTalksNews.com as '7 Ways You Can Shop at Costco Without a Membership'.