The Inside Scoop on Costco Pricing Codes and Other Secret Sales
If you’re an avid Costco shopper, saving money while grocery shopping is probably high on your priority list. But there’s more to Costco than cheap(er) gas, and the low regular priced items displayed on the shelf.
In this article, I’ll give you the inside scoop, and let you know how to read Costo pricing codes for even better deals. I’ll also share some other tips to help you save even more money on your next Costco visit. Are you ready? Let’s get started!
How Costco Pricing Codes Work
It’s common knowledge amongst Costco fans that the prices of items on the shelves contain key information about special deals and discounts. If you know what to look for, it can help you avoid paying full price. Here are the various price codes as I understand them.
Price Ends in .97
If you notice a Costco price tag ending in .97, the item is likely on clearance. It could be a seasonal product about to be removed from shelves or one that’s not selling that well, and Costco has decided to clear it out and no longer carry it. Keep in mind that items selected for clearance vary from store to store and are often based on decisions made by individual store managers.
Price Ends in .00
It’s not a guarantee, but if you see Costco prices ending in .00, it may indicate a sale price. There are different reasons the item may be marked down, and it could be a local decision.
Before buying, ensure the item is in new condition, in case it’s a customer return that made its way back onto the shelf. Costco has arguably the most flexible return policy in the industry, so that’s always possible.
Price Ends in .88
When a Costco price tag ends in .88, a price adjustment in your favour is likely, but as with the previous example, use caution. For example, the item might be a demo product that the local Costco store is trying to move off the shelf. Depending on the product, it might have been on the shelf for an extended period and isn’t as fresh or new as you think.
Price Ends in 9
Costco price tags that end in 9 might indicate a discount, or they might not – they could be regular prices. The discount will be obvious if the original price is marked on the price signs above the lower price. If not, look closely to ensure you’re not paying too much. Not all Costco prices are a good deal.
Price Includes an Asterisk
If you notice an asterisk on the price tag, regardless of the ending number, think carefully before making your purchase. It could be there to indicate that the merchandise hasn’t sold very well and may soon be discontinued.
Costco Secret Sales
There are many other ways to save money at Costco besides figuring out the hidden codes on Costco price tags. We’ll refer to the following as Costco secret sales, though for the most part, they’re hiding in plain sight and aren’t actual sales. But they are ways to save that Costco doesn’t advertise – hence the secret part.
Understand How the Costco Return Policy Works
Costco has one of, if not the most, generous return policies in the retail industry. In most cases, if you’re unsatisfied with your purchase, they will let you return it for a full refund without any hassles. There are some exceptions – electronics returns are limited to 90 days, and other sales are final at the time of purchase.
Costco’s return policy can protect you if you find a better price elsewhere (or at Costco) after making your purchase. Simply return the item for a refund and buy it at a lower price.
Buy the Generic Brand
It has more annual sales than Hershey, Campbell Soup, or Kellogg. What is it? Kirkland Signature – Costco’s generic brand label that’s attached to hundreds of items they sell. But Kirkland Signature products aren’t just another no-name knock-off. In many cases, third-party tests have indicated that Kirkland Signature is as good or better than the name brands they compete against.
You usually save money by choosing Kirkland Signature over the name branch alternative. I recommend trying out their different products and adding your favourite ones to your regular shopping list.
Use the Costco Price Adjustment Policy
You can find deals on an even wider range of products when you shop online at Costco.ca. The best part is that if you purchase an item online and its price changes within 30 days due to a sale or price drop, Costco will refund you the difference. No need to return the item, just fill out an online form.
Look for Deals on Gift Cards
You can purchase a limited number of gift cards at Costco. Unlike most retailers, Costco will occasionally offer gift cards at a discount. For example, when I checked online while writing this article, I saw a $100 spa gift certificate on sale for $74.99!
$7.99 Rotisserie Chickens
We’ll call this a Costco “Secret Sale. After all, where else can you find fresh rotisserie chickens for $7.99? At most grocery stores, they’re priced over $10 – it’s one of the best deals Costco offers.
Turn Back Time in the Costco Food Court
About 40 years ago, chances were you could feed a family of 4 for around $15 at any fast food restaurant or shopping mall food court. At Costco, you still can. A large hot dog (and soda) is only $1.50, and you can get a large slice of pizza for around $2 (prices may vary at different locations). On many occasions, I’ve saved money treating my kids to lunch at Costco instead of taking them to a Burger King or Boston Pizza.
Become an Executive Member
There are two levels of Costco membership – Gold Star and Executive. A Gold Star membership will set you back $60 per year, while an Executive membership can be had for $120.
There’s some debate as to whether an Executive membership is worth the added cost – it boils down to how much you plan to spend at Costco every year, but if you choose to become an Executive member, you will get better deals as well as cash back on most of your purchases which can cancel out the extra cost of the membership.
Executive members get exclusive discounts, a 2% cashback up to $1000 on most items purchased, and special deals on products like pet insurance, residential telecommunications, and more. Learn more in my Costco Executive membership review.
Bonus Secret Sale: Use a Cashback Mastercard When You Shop
Unfortunately, Costco famously only accepts Mastercard as a credit card payment. But you can earn by using a cashback rewards Mastercard at Costco. CIBC offers a co-branded Costco Mastercard, and other premium Mastecards work just as well. The RBC Westjet World Elite Mastercard or BMO Cashback World Elite Mastercard are good examples.
Let’s take a closer look at the features and benefits of the CIBC Costco Mastercard:
CIBC Costco Mastercard
You must be a Costco member to apply for the CIBC Costco Mastercard. If you have an Executive membership, the cad enhances those benefits by increasing the cash back rewards you can earn. And for convenience, the card doubles as your Costco membership card.
- 3% cash back on Costco Gas and at restaurants
- 2% cash back at other gas stations and Costco.ca
- 1% cash back on all other purchases, including at Costco
- No annual fee
- No fee for additional cards (up to 3)
- Available installment plans on Costco purchases
- Cash purchase interest 19.75%
- Cash advance interest 21.49%
Where to Look for Costco Sales
I’ve already mentioned the Costco website as a great place for deals you might not find in-store. But there are other ways Costco fans can find deals specific to where they live.
The Costco West Fan Blog is a website for Costco shoppers who live in Western Canada. They regularly post updates on deals and sales at Costco stores located in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. You can follow the blog on Instagram, and its Facebook Group has more than 140,000 members.
The Costco East Fan Blog is identical to the western side, except it covers, you guessed it, Canada’s central and eastern provinces: Ontario and Quebec, and the Maritimes. They also have an Instagram account and Facebook Group with more than 64,000 members.
I wonder why their Facebook Group is smaller – do Western Canadians value discounts more than people in the east? 😉 Joking aside, by joining their social media channels, you can access the latest deals on the go without visiting the blog.
Of course, don’t forget to check out the Costco Coupons page on the company website. The deals might not always apply to your specific location, but they’re updated frequently, so you’re likely to find a special price for your area.
Lastly, check out local Costco Facebook groups in your community. There is no shortage of groups you can join that share secret deals and money-saving tips.
Final Thoughts on Costco Price Codes and Secret Deals
Most people who shop at Costco focus on the the obvious benefits such as cheaper gas and buying in bulk. But if you dig deeper, there are ways to save even more money. Manager specials, prices ending in different numbers, 1980’s food court prices, executive discounts, credit card rewards, and more – the best deals are there for the taking if you’re a savvy Costco shopper.