Costco has quite the cult-following, and for good reason, too. The warehouse chain is known for its head-turning discounts, bulk items, and iconic bakery section — just to name a few perks. Costco also offers a variety of services that can make running errands a breeze.
However, unlike other retailers, Costco requires a membership to shop in store. (Non-members can shop online, but they have to pay a 5% surcharge.) Yet, despite Costco's popularity, we can't help but wonder: What does this membership include ... and is it truly worth it? Ahead, learn about the pros and cons of Costco memberships, plus how to decide if one is right for you.
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How much is a Costco membership?
In order to determine if a Costco membership makes sense for you, it helps to understand how much it costs — and what it actually involves.
According to the Costco website, there are two personal membership levels: Gold Star and Executive. The Gold Star membership costs $60 a year, while the Executive costs $120.
What is included in a Costco membership?
Both the Gold Star and Executive memberships grant you access to member-only perks online and in warehouses, as well as at Costco gas stations. They also include two membership cards each.
The Executive membership offers extra benefits, such as discounts on Costco services (think: rental cars and garage door installation). It also includes a 2% annual reward, up to $1,000, on certain Costco and Costco Travel purchases. This annual reward is noteworthy, because if you spend $6,000 throughout the year, you'll make back $120 — the cost of an Executive membership. Or if you spend $3,000 throughout the year, you'll make $60, which is the difference between a standard Gold Star and Executive membership.
Costco Membership Pros
Costco is the epitome of a one-stop shop retailer. That said, if you sign up for a membership, you'll be able to a enjoy a wide range of benefits:
- Variety of products at competitive prices
- Bulk goods
- Gas station
- Optical department
- Food court
- Generous return policy
- Auto, life, and pet insurance
- Car parts and repair services
- Home installation services (air conditioning, hardwood flooring, and more)
- Vacation packages, hotel booking, and rental cars through Costco Travel
- Home mortgages
- Bottled water delivery
- Identity protection
- Photo center
As you can see, Costco makes it possible to do most — if not all — your errands in one place. Seriously, where else can you buy gas, get your eyes checked, and stock up on seasonal muffins? Nowhere ... except Costco.
Costco Membership Cons
As with all good things in life, Costco memberships do have some downsides. It's important to consider these factors, as they may influence your decision:
- Paid annual membership
- Only Visa credit cards are accepted
- Locations in populated cities can get crowded
- Bulk items might be too much for some households
- Shopping at Costco takes time (the stores are big!)
- Easy to overbuy or overspend
Costco warehouses are also not as common as other retailers, like Target or Walmart. To put things into perspective, there are 573 Costco locations in the U.S. Alternatively, Target and Walmart have just over 1,900 and 4,700 stores, respectively.
In other words, you might have a hard time finding a Costco store nearby. This means you'll likely have to drive a long distance to visit a warehouse.
Is a Costco Membership Worth It?
More specifically, it depends on your situation and lifestyle. If you have a large household, space to store bulk items, and plans to use many of the membership perks — then yes, getting a Costco membership might be a good idea. The same goes if you live near a Costco warehouse and plan to spend a pretty penny.
On the flip side, if you live alone or in a small household, a Costco membership might not make sense for you. This is especially true if you don't live near a warehouse or plan to use most of the membership perks. In this case, it might be more prudent to do your errands and shopping at other local retailers.