Costco Wholesale, renowned for its wholesale deals and membership benefits, extends its cost-saving prowess to the world of travel through its dedicated service – Costco Travel. This travel agency, exclusive to Costco members, offers a unique opportunity to unlock substantial savings on airfares, hotels, rental cars, cruises, vacation packages, and more.
Let’s explore how Costco Travel works, including its membership requirements, the array of travel services it provides, and how it stacks up against other methods of booking travel.
- Costco Travel is a travel agency that you can access with a Costco membership. It offers a variety of travel packages and options. However, flights must be booked as part of a package, as standalone flight bookings are not possible.
- Costco Travel allows members to book a wide range of travel-related services. These include flights with airlines like United, hotels, rental cars that you can pick up at your destination, cruises such as Disney and Royal Caribbean, and package deals to inclusive resorts.
- With its significant buying authority, Costco Travel offers savings on travel packages. This often translates into lower prices for popular destinations across North America, including Alaska, Canada, and Mexico’s Cancun and other locations. Moreover, it also extends to sought-after destinations like Hawaii and countries in Europe, such as France, Spain, Italy, and Greece.
What is Costco Travel?
Costco Travel is an in-house travel agency run by the membership-only warehouse club, and it’s designed to provide savings specifically to Costco members.
To use Costco Travel to book some or all of your next trips, you need to be a member. There are four membership options available:
- Gold Star: $60 annually
- Gold Star Executive: $120 annually
- Business: $60 annually
- Business Executive: $120 annually
Once you’re a member, you can book flights, hotels, rental cars, cruises, vacation packages, theme parks, and select experiences. You cannot, however, book a flight on its own through the service. Your flight needs to be part of a Costco Travel package.
When booking your trip, you can run a search on the Costco Travel website just like you would with Priceline or Expedia to compare options and prices from several travel providers.
Because of Costco’s buying authority, it can manage to score savings on different aspects of your trip — or the whole thing — that you might not be able to find on your own, even with intense research.
Costco Travel packages
In September 2023, for instance, I found a Costco vacation package for eight nights in a deluxe villa at Palms at Wailea on Maui. This getaway vacation came with round flights from Tampa, Florida, as well as a full-size rental car for a total of $5,594.15.
The package also included a $116 digital Costco Shop Card and resort fees such as damage protection and cleaning fees within the total price. However, there was a cancellation fee of $200.
When I searched for the same stay at the hotel during the same period, the price tag for the stay alone was $5,561.90.
How Costco Travel compares to other booking methods
While Costco Travel can furnish discounts and savings you might not be able to find on your own, it’s still a good idea to research all of your options. That includes using other third-party travel websites such as Priceline and Expedia or booking directly with airlines, hotels, cruise lines, and so on.
Other travel websites
While Costco has the negotiating power to provide savings on its vacation packages, it’s not the only travel agency that can do that. Depending on what you’re trying to do, you may be able to find a similar package on a website like Priceline, Expedia, or Orbitz for less than what you’d pay through Costco Travel.
Also, you may find certain features on other discount travel sites that you won’t get with Costco Travel and vice versa.
For example, Priceline and Expedia allow you to book a flight without bundling it with a hotel or vacation package. You may also have a different selection of airlines, hotels, rental car companies, experiences, and more.
In contrast, one nice feature of Costco Travel is that you see the full price from the start. With some booking websites, the initial pricing may not reflect taxes and fees, which can make for an unpleasant surprise when you get to the checkout stage.
Booking directly with travel providers
While travel agency websites like Costco Travel can provide significant savings, they don’t give you access to every airline, hotel, or rental car company.
For example, Costco Travel provides rental car quotes from specific brands such as Alamo, Avis, Budget, and Enterprise. As a result, it’s essential to shop around to make sure you’re not missing out on savings Costco Travel can’t show you. Comparing car rental options on Autoslash makes it easy to check prices and make sure you're getting the best deal. If you have a favorite airline or hotel brand, you should also check with them directly to price shop.
How to save even more on Costco Travel
On its own, Costco Travel can offer incredible savings. But there are some things you can do to maximize your savings when using the website.
1. Get a Costco Executive membership
As an executive member, you’ll earn 2% cash back on every eligible purchase you make through Costco Travel, which is on top of the rewards you’d earn using your credit card. There are, however, some exclusions, such as travel purchased through a third party, trip protection, gratuities, taxes, and fees.
Also, executive members may get special perks with Costco Travel vacation packages, such as resort credits.
2. Consider using the Costco Anywhere Visa Card
You’ll earn 4% cash back on eligible gas and EV charging purchases (up to $7,000, then 1% thereafter); 3% on restaurants and eligible travel purchases; 2% on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com; and 1% on all other purchases.
If you use the Costco Anywhere Visa Card and have an Executive membership, you could earn 5% cash back on most of your purchases through Costco Travel. The only downside is that you get your rewards only once a year in the form of a certificate you can cash or use to make purchases at Costco warehouses.
3. Pay with another rewards credit card
While Costco only accepts Visa credit cards and debit cards at its warehouse clubs, you can use a Visa or Mastercard credit card to make payments through Costco Travel. Also note that if you’re booking a rental car, you can reserve your car without providing credit card information upfront.
With this in mind, you may be able to get more value out of another rewards credit card. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers 3X on other travel and dining.
Points are also worth 50% more when you redeem them for travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards. That gives you a higher possible redemption rate on travel purchases you make with Costco Travel, and you could potentially get even more value if you transfer your points to one of Chase’s travel partners.
Another option is the Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card, which also offers 3X points on travel. The card doesn’t offer bonus value when booking travel or access to transfer partners, but it doesn’t charge an annual fee and offers bonus rewards on a lot of other everyday spending categories.
Costco Travel FAQ
Can I use Costco Travel if I am not a member?
No, you can't use Costco Travel without a valid Costco membership. You can become a member by visiting the Costco website or by visiting your local Costco warehouse. The Gold Star membership costs $60 per year, while the Gold Star Executive membership costs $120 per year.
Does Costco Travel only take Visa?
Costco Travel accepts Visa and Mastercard credit and debit cards. However, it doesn't accept American Express, Discover, checks, money orders, mileage points, cryptocurrency, or any other forms of payment.
Does Costco Travel provide travel insurance?
Travel insurance is available as an add-on to any Costco Travel reservation through Cover-More Inc., a company of Zurich Insurance Group, up until 10 days prior to departure. This travel insurance might help you against sudden and unexpected changes in travel plans due to illness, medical emergencies, car accidents, and more.
Costco Travel: bottom line
Costco Travel provides access to vacation packages and other travel bookings through its members-only website. Depending on your travel plans, you may be able to score savings through Costco Travel that you can’t get anywhere else.
Before you finalize things, however, be sure to compare prices with what’s available elsewhere. Be sure to take advantage of rewards from the best travel credit cards and store cards to maximize the value you get when you book your next trip.
Earn up to 4% cash back
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Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
Receive an annual credit card reward certificate, which is redeemable for cash or merchandise at U.S. Costco warehouses, including Puerto Rico
4% cash back on eligible gas and EV charging purchases (up to $7,000, then 1% thereafter); 3% on restaurants and eligible travel purchases; 2% on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com; and 1% on all other purchases