Costco, Walmart+, Amazon Prime — Which Shopping Membership Is Right for You?

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As the world's largest online retailer, Amazon is ubiquitous when it comes to shopping. Its membership program, Prime, has 200 million worldwide members — the most of any similar club. But just because it's the biggest doesn't necessarily mean it's the best. The superlative choice, quite frankly, is personal.

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For some people, especially those who shop primarily online, Amazon Prime may well be the best option thanks to its endless inventory and fast free shipping. For others, the bulk goods and warehouse experiences found at Costco or Sam's Club cannot be matched. And now that Walmart+ is in play, there are lots of factors to consider.

To help you determine the best retail subscription for you, we've compared and contrasted the four most popular offerings. May the deals be with you.

Membership price​: $12.99 per month or $119 annually

Quick stats:​ Free same-day, one-day, and two-day delivery; Prime Wardrobe; discounts online and in-store at Whole Foods; Prime Video

Full rundown​: The membership includes free same-day, one-day, and two-day delivery on millions of items. Most well-known brands sell their products on Amazon, from electronics to books to beauty, and the size of the selection is unparalleled. You can even order clothes, shoes, and jewelry to try on at home and only pay for what you want to keep through Prime Wardrobe. The company's purchase of Whole Foods Market means you get deals on groceries both in-store and online, as well as free delivery for your haul. Amazon's streaming platform, however, is what really sets it apart. Prime Video features award-winning original shows and movies, as well as tons of other content. Try it out for yourself with a 30-day free trial.

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Membership price​: $12.95 per month or $98 annually

Quick stats​: Free next-day or two-day delivery; free grocery delivery; prescription and fuel discounts

Full rundown​: Newcomer Walmart+ is designed to rival Amazon Prime. It costs about the same, with a price of $12.95 per month or $98 annually, and provides similar services. Nearly everything on Walmart.com (about 160,000 items) is available with free next-day or two-day delivery, and groceries are also delivered for free. There are also prescription and fuel discounts, as well as an easy mobile Scan & Go feature for paying at one of its 4,700 stores. The company claims that the membership will save you both time and money, estimating that you'll save an hour and a half per week by getting your groceries delivered for free and $900 per year thanks to all its deals combined. If you want to test their theory, you can sign up for a 15-day free trial.

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Membership price​: $60 annually

Quick stats​: Same-day delivery through Instacart; bulk products sold at a discount; the store's in-house brand, Kirkland Signature, offers high-quality dupes of popular name-brand products; deals on airfare, hotels, car rentals; discounted fuel prices

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Full rundown​: Costco has certainly entered the e-commerce game, offering same-day delivery through Instacart, two-day delivery on non-perishable food and household items, and standard delivery for its reasonably-priced electronics, appliances, clothing, and more. However, the $60 annual membership to Costco is best utilized and enjoyed in person. The members-only warehouses are filled with towering isles of bulk products that help you seriously save money — if you will actually use everything you buy and have space to store it. Costco says it typically carries about 4,000 products in-store, which means you usually can't go looking for one specific thing. Yes, Costco will always have plenty of toilet paper, but you might find a goldmine of your favorite socks on one day and a treasure chest of rare mustard on the next. Costco's private label, Kirkland Signature, is also a perk. The brand makes everything from Marcona almonds to men's dress shirts — all in high quality. Plus, travel deals on hotel, airfare, and car rentals are available and many locations provide fuel at discounted prices.

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Membership price​: $45 annually

Quick stats​: Bulk products sold at a discount; the store's in-house brand, Member's Mark, offers high-quality dupes of popular name-brand products, discounts on theme park tickets and car servicing

Full rundown​: Sam's Club is, believe it or not, owned by Walmart and offers the cheapest membership at $45 per year. It's comparable to Costco, with its massive warehouses, bulk goods, and private label called Member's Mark. The reasonable prices, especially on electronics, non-perishable food, and fuel, are impressive, and members receive 1% cashback on all Sam's Club purchases when they use their Sam's Club Mastercard. Discounts on theme park tickets are a plus, as are the tire and battery centers where you can get your car checked out. And don't forget to come hungry — the food court is an attraction of its own.

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Morgan Goldberg is a writer based in Los Angeles. She likes pasta, hiking, and crossword puzzles.

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