If you just joined Costco, you have much to learn about the way your membership works. But even if you’ve been a member for years, you might not understand every important detail about Costco.
Here are some tips that can get you the best return on your membership, whether you'e just looking for ways to save on groceries or are in search of other bargains.
We also include a handful of things to avoid if you want the membership to pay for itself.
Earn 2% cash rewards at grocery stores and Costco
The Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card(Rates and fees) is a powerful rewards card that allows you to earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases — including on groceries, even at warehouse stores like Costco.
New cardholders can also earn a one-time cash rewards bonus — $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months!
If you’re looking for a powerful rewards card that offers an extended intro APR period, look no further, the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card checks that box too!
This card also offers an intro APR of 0% for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers (then 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable). Which is great for someone who wants a break from high interest rates, while still earning rewards.
The best part? There's no annual fee.
Cancel your membership any time for a full refund
A great Costco hack? Your membership is fully refundable at any time, for any reason.
Your membership return isn’t prorated — whether you’ve had the membership for two months or 11, you’ll get the same amount back.
Just know that you can't cancel your membership over the phone. You’ll need to call Costco’s customer service line or visit a store in person.
Workers check your receipt for a reason
While it might be frustrating to wait in line just to exit a store, bear in mind that the Costco receipt checkers at the door aren’t trying to make your life harder. They're actually ensuring that Costco can afford to keep its prices low.
How does it work? Costco tries to keep theft low, and the presence of receipt checkers helps achieve that goal.
Losing items to shoplifting is known as “retail shrink,” and the national shrink average for 2023 was 1.6%, according to the National Retail Federation. There was $112.1 billion in lost inventory nationwide last year.
However, reports say Costco’s average shrink rate is much lower. That fact gives Costco the bandwidth to charge lower prices.
Cheaper gas is worth the wait
Don’t let the lines of cars slowly snaking through Costco’s gas pumps stop you from taking advantage of Costco’s cheap fuel.
Affordable gas is arguably one of the main perks of joining Costco. That truth is clearer than ever given the surge in inflation.
Costco’s Kirkland Signature gas isn’t just cheap, it’s also high in quality. So along with money, you’re saving your car from the toll low-quality gas can take on your engine.
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Costco doesn't accept manufacturer coupons
Costco makes a point of having frequent sales and in-store coupons that maximize the amount of money you save whenever you visit a warehouse.
But because Costco already offers such deep discounts, it doesn’t accept third-party coupons, including manufacturer coupons.
It’s also worth noting that Costco negotiates directly with many manufacturers to acquire products in bulk at lower prices. For the most part, any manufacturer discounts are already applied to the base Costco price.
Costco’s return policy isn’t the same for all products
Costco is known for its generous return policy, which lets members return most items for any reason, with or without a receipt. But some products have different return policies.
For example, electronics need to be returned within 90 days of purchase. The 90-day window applies to TVs, computers, smartphones, household appliances, and more.
So, before you splurge on a big-ticket electronic item at Costco, make sure you’re comfortable with the much shorter return window.
Additionally, some Costco returns are limited by where you live. In many states, you can’t return alcohol or cigarettes once you’ve purchased them.
And while you can return jewelry any time, you won’t get a refund on diamonds of one carat or larger. Instead, your only option is store credit.
Costco sells discounted restaurant gift cards
Don’t want to pay full price for your next meal? Costco sells gift cards in bulk, often for less than the typical retail price.
The next time you want to eat out, swing by Costco first and see if it has gift cards to Olive Garden, Red Lobster, or other favorite eateries. You might be able to find a package of four $25 gift cards for $75 instead of $100, for example.
Tech support is free with most electronics
If you bought an electronic device from Costco, you don’t have to call the manufacturer about a technical issue. Call Costco instead.
Most electronic purchases come with free tech support directly from Costco itself. That means you get free, fast help setting up your new device and diagnosing problems over the phone.
Get items delivered by Instacart
Depending on where you live, you might be able to get same-day delivery on Costco groceries using Instacart. Your purchase must cost $35 or more, and due to Instacart’s service charge, you’ll pay more per item than you would if you shopped in person.
Still, nothing beats convenience. And if you have an Executive-level Costco membership, Instacart purchases still count toward your 2% cashback rewards.
The food court is a great place for a cheap meal
Even while prices soared over the summer, Costco kept many of its most famous signature items at a low cost, including most of the menu items at the food court.
For instance, a beef hot dog and 20-ounce soda combo still cost just $1.50, and a massive slice of Costco pizza is just $1.99.
Did you know if your air conditioner stops working, your homeowner’s insurance won’t cover it? Same with plumbing, electrical issues, appliances, and more.
Whether or not you’re a new homeowner, a home warranty from Choice Home Warranty could pick up the slack where insurance falls short and protect you against surprise expenses. If a covered system in your home breaks, you can call their hotline 24/7 to get it repaired.
For a limited time, you can get your first month free with a Single Payment home warranty plan.
Don’t forget to bring the right payment method
Costco accepts all Visa debit and credit card payments, along with cash and mobile payments, such as Apple Pay and Google Pay.
You can also use most PIN-based debit cards, traveler’s checks, EBT cards, and Costco Shop Cards.
Unlike some stores, Costco still accepts personal and business checks as valid forms of payment, depending on which type of membership you have.
So which payment methods can't be used at Costco? If you’re shopping in person rather than online, you can only use a Visa credit card.
If you shop online, you can pay with Visa or MasterCard. Costco Shop Cards also can be used.
At the gas pump, you can use all Visa cards, most PIN-based debit cards, and Costco Shop Cards.
Costco doesn’t accept American Express cards in stores, at the gas pump, or online.
Pro tip: Before you fill your shopping cart with dozens of discounted items, check your wallet to make sure you have one of the best credit cards for shopping at Costco.
Now that you know a little more about Costco, you can dodge some of its most annoying member pitfalls while taking advantage of the great Costco hacks that make membership worthwhile.
Take these tips with you on your next Costco trip to ensure you’re making the most of your membership.