If you’re interested in purchasing a membership to a discount store, then you most likely want to make extra sure you’re actually getting your money’s worth. This means choosing the best, most cost effective discount store out there — and that's tough when there are so many options. If you’ve found yourself deciding between a BJ’s and Costco membership in particular (and you’ve already gone over Costco versus Sam’s Club debate), there are certainly a lot of factors to consider. Location, membership fees, offerings, and more can affect which store you choose to shop at in the end.
So whether you’re ready to pull the trigger on a first-time membership, or want to switch to a different store, here are all the pros and cons laid out in one place. After all, saving money on groceries (and gas... and vacations... and tires... and eye exams) isn’t quite as sweet if you know you could be saving more money somewhere else.
Costco and BJ’s are pretty much neck-and-neck when it comes to comparing membership fees, with a few minor differences. Costco’s standard yearly membership comes in at $60 with a special, executive version of the plan costing $120 a year. BJ's, on the other hand, costs $55 a year for a standard membership and $110 for the BJ's Perks Rewards membership — basically the equivalent of Costco’s Executive option.
The main benefit of the more expensive membership for both stores is cash back on orders. Costco, however, seems to offer slightly more perks in its executive plan, such as access to Costco stores worldwide. Costco also offers business versions of both its standard and executive plans, while BJ's offers one standard business plan for $50/month (it seems to be on sale right now).
When it comes to all of the services and deals you would expect at discount stores, Costco and BJ's deliver similar options. Both sell everything from eye exams to furniture to prescriptions at a discounted rate. Both offer in-store fast food options, although BJ's seems to have fewer options in the food court department, according to a Business Insider article. Both stores offer travel packages and vacation deals when it comes to everything from hotels to cruises.
The differences between the two stores come down less to offerings and more to small details, like discrepancies in return policies. As the same Business Insider story points out, BJ's offers a one year return policy, while Costco has no time limit on its policy, letting customers return goods after any length of time.
However, as the blog My BJ's Wholesale points out, BJ's does have specific perks that Costco does not — for example, it’s coupon book that each member receives monthly. These books are 75 pages long and offer discounts on top of the already steeply discounted prices in store.
Location may be the biggest deal breaker when it comes to choosing a store for some customers, and unlike fees or offerings, there are major discrepancies when it comes to BJ’s and Costco locations.
Costco has 770 locations across the United States as well as internationally (there are locations in Canada, Mexico, Iceland, Japan, and Australia to just name a few). BJ's, on the other hand, has 216 locations. Of those locations, all of them are on the East Coast of the United States or in Ohio. If you live anywhere west of Ohio, BJ's might not be an option for you at all, even if you’d prefer to go there for the deals.
The Bottom Line
Both BJ's and Costco have thousands of loyal shoppers who would never dream of shopping elsewhere. Both would probably say that their store of choice is better than the other. In reality, though, the two are very, very similar and offer almost identical services. The big difference? You very well may not be able to find a BJ's where you live. So the choice between the two stores may actually be much easier than you think.
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