15 Reasons Costco is So Much More Popular Than Sam’s Club

Trying to decide on which warehouse retailer deserves your membership fees? Here are some reasons why more people prefer Costco.

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Updated July 18, 2024
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If you’re looking to join Costco or Sam’s Club, it may be hard to know which one has better deals and benefits, especially if you’re trying to save more money shopping.

Even though both warehouse retailers look similar on paper, Costco comes out ahead as the more popular of the two. Here are some reasons why.

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Better quality

mandritoiu/Adobe fresh produce cold room in a Costco store

Both stores offer quality goods, but Costco has the edge over Sam’s Club in this category.

Nothing exemplifies Costco's superior quality more than its bakery and produce sections. The quality of Costco’s fresh produce is often heralded, as is the taste of its baked goods, such as cakes and cookies.

In-store brands

scandamerican/Adobe Costco store display of bags of Kirkland House Blend coffee

Costco offers its Kirkland Signature brand for many items in its stores, from alcohol to paper goods. You may be surprised to find that some of the items are just as good or better than their name-brand counterparts.

Sam’s Club also has an in-store brand called Member’s Mark, but it doesn’t have the same reputation for quality as the Kirkland brand.

Return policy

Prostock-studio/Adobe teenager watching football game and eating unhealthy food

Both Costco and Sam’s Club offer generous return policies, but Costco's policy is the most lenient. The store even lets you return opened food products.

Did you buy a new flavor of chip in a crunch, then find the taste unsatisfying? Your Costco could let you return it for a full refund.

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Employee benefits

trongnguyen/Adobe meat department and sample stand at Costco

Costco is known for treating its employees well, and this includes good pay and benefits, which may be important to some members.

Indeed.com found that employees prefer Costco, ranking them above Sam’s Club in compensation, benefits, job security, management, and culture.

Happy employees can mean happy customers and a good shopping experience at Costco.

Better selection of everyday items

Tada Images/Adobe a  masked customer loads his car after shopping in Costco

Check the aisles of your local Costco and compare them to Sam’s Club. You may find that your local Costco has a better selection of the items you use every day — particularly condiments, frozen foods, and cereals.

Travel services

Игорь Головнёв/Adobe costco travel logo is displayed on a smartphone screen

Some members may not know that both Costco and Sam’s Club offer deals on vacations and other travel options for their members.

But Costco’s selection of destinations — particularly international trips — exceeds what Sam’s Club provides its members.

Food court

Courtesy of Costco Costco food court pizza

Both Costco and Sam’s Club have food courts, but the big test may be the quality of the hot dogs each offer in their cafe.

Although Sam’s Club currently charges less than Costco for its hot-dog-and-a-drink combo, Costco’s famous $1.50 frank and soft drink is hard to beat in terms of value.

Different brands

Sarah Rypma/Adobe Grocery cart with toliet paper and supplies at Costco

Costco often offers a wider selection of brands compared to Sam’s Club, giving you more shopping options.

Compare the two online or in-person to see if your local Costco offers a better section of the brands you prefer.

Not connected to Walmart

None What Is Walmart Plus? I Tried it and Here’s What I Learned

Sam’s Club is owned by Walmart, and some shoppers find that an automatic turn-off when deciding which retailer to choose.

These shoppers may not like Walmart’s effect on mom-and-pop stores in smaller towns across the U.S. — or their lower employee reviews on Indeed.

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Seasonal options

Photographee.eu/Adobe woman and man sitting on deckchairs and flirting during afternoon yard party

One of the biggest money-makers for warehouse retailers is the different seasonal options. These include holiday decorations, outdoor furniture for the spring, and beach summer toys.

Costco often offers a wider selection of seasonal options with better quality. That means the outdoor items you buy may last longer.

Better shopping experience

mandritoiu/Adobe bakery aisle in a Costco store

Costco shoppers find that their local stores are more open with higher ceilings and better lighting compared to Sam’s Club stores. There is also more space for navigating aisles and finding additional items.

In general, Sam’s Clubs tend to be a bit smaller, with an average of 134,000 square feet. Costco’s stores, meanwhile, are an average of 146,000 square feet.

Credit cards

ViDi Studio/Adobe woman in red shirt  holding a credit bank card

Costco and Sam’s Club offer some of the best credit cards for groceries, but it’s a good idea to compare the benefits before deciding which membership you want to invest in.

Costco tends to offer more opportunities to earn cash back to its customers, so check both to see which is better for your budget.


dennizn/Adobe costco receipt and executive membership card

At first glance, it appears these stores are dead, even when it comes to locations.

Both stores have nearly 600 locations in the United States; add in their international locations, and both retailers boast about 800 stores.

However, Costco has stores in 14 countries, including Canada, France, Taiwan, and Australia. Sam's Club only operates in four countries (the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, and China). You may have better luck with a Costco membership overseas.

Home improvement

Andrei/Adobe woman choosing wood laminated flooring in shop

If you’re looking to upgrade the flooring in your home or remodel a bathroom, Costco (through outside companies) often offers better options at more affordable prices.

Costco also offers a wide range of installation services. Their partners install flooring, roofing, solar panels, generators, and garage doors. Some of these purchases can earn you great Costco perks, like store credit.

Bottom line

denis_vermenko/Adobe young man thinking while holding smartphone

If you’re trying to choose between Costco and Sam’s Club, factor in different options that may be best for your particular needs.

You may also want to check with your local warehouse retailer to see if they offer trial memberships so you can get a better feel for each store before you make your decision.

If you do choose Costco, be a savvy shopper by taking the best Costco credit cards with you on your next shopping trip.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen

Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.