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Is the Costco Executive Membership Worth It?

Is the Costco Executive Membership Worth It?

One of the best ways to save money when shopping, especially if you buy in bulk, is to join a warehouse club. These clubs charge you an annual membership fee, and in return you get access to special deals on different products — and even some services. One of the most popular wholesale stores is Costco.  In this article, I take an in-depth look at everything Costco has to offer, to help you determine if a membership is right for you.

Many people agree that a Costco membership is worth the $60 a year.  After all, that amount can be saved in one trip alone, with some of the non-grocery items sold at Costco. For example, I’ve found products like KitchenAid mixers and Ralph Lauren dress shirts, both at half the price found in other stores.

In some cases, just buying that Ralph Lauren dress shirt is enough to justify the cost of the membership for the entire year. When you compare prices, it becomes evident that you are often ahead, depending on your family’s shopping needs.

The savings that come with a Costco membership can be significant, providing that you stick to your list, and shop carefully. Of course, this is often easier said than done.  With so many tempting items on the shelf, shoppers often end up spending on impulse purchases.

Costco is great for larger families since you can often find items to buy in bulk. Even a small family can benefit from a Costco membership since it’s possible to preserve for a later date some of the items purchased.

Regardless of your family size, it’s important to be realistic about how quickly you will go through perishables. While it’s possible to keep canned goods for a long time, and you can freeze meat and cheese items for later, produce like lettuce and bananas isn’t so easy to preserve.

In other words, make sure you don’t buy too much for your family since you don’t want to throw away half of your purchased food.

How A Costco Membership Works

Gold Star Membership

There are essentially three types of Costco membership.  It begins with the Gold Star membership, at $60/year. An additional card is available free of charge for a spouse, or another family member over 18 who is residing at the same address.

The Gold Star membership is ideal for anyone who wants access to wholesale prices, but is unsure whether they will spend enough money to benefit from a higher level of membership.

Business Membership

Costco offers a Business Membership to licensed business owners, managers, non-profit organizations and government agencies.  Like the Gold Star membership, the annual fee is $60, and a complimentary card is available.

The Costco Business Membership differs in that it makes up to 6 additional cards available at $60/each, and also allows members to purchase items for resale.  Business members do need to make Costco aware of any information regarding items they plan for resale.

Executive Membership

Executive membership offers several additional benefits, at an annual cost of $120/year.  It also includes a complimentary spousal card, and can be used by business members. Let’s take a closer look at the added benefits of the Costco Executive membership:

The Costco Executive Membership

You may be wondering whether the Costco Executive membership is worth the extra $60 a year.

Does the Executive membership really offer so much more than the regular membership, with its access to discounts on everyday products?

Here’s what the Costco Executive Membership provides:

  • 2% cash back on most of your purchases. At minimum, you’d want to at least make back the additional $60 cost you paid for the Executive level.  An even better scenario is if you can get $120 back to pay the entire cost of your Costco membership.
  • Additional savings on many Costco services. Costco offers services ranging from a real estate program to mortgages to insurance to business services.There are also some extras available to executive members, at a cost, including roadside assistance and cheaper cheque printing.
  • Exclusive offers and extra discounts. You can receive special invitations for products, as well as get a first look at promotions and discounts.

With the cash back, you will need to plan your spending if you want to make up the cost of your membership. For example, to get a $60 reward, you would need to spend at least $3,000 a year, or $250 a month.

This is relatively easy if you do most of your regular shopping Costco. Most families spend at least that much on groceries, personal care items, and clothing.  Simply make a list, and plan to shop at Costco. Not only will you benefit from discounted items, you will also get cash back and have access to a variety of other perks.

Now, if you’re hoping to pay for the entire $120 membership with your annual reward you would need to spend $6,000 a year, or $500 a month.

This amount might be more than many will spend at Costco, but it’s definitely possible to spend that much if you are doing the majority if your grocery and other shopping there. It’s even easier if you have a business and get most of your needed supplies from Costco.

Some of the top benefits of the Costco Executive membership are aimed at business members. They receive access to competitive prices on payroll services, credit card processing services, and more.

Even non-business shoppers can benefit from this membership. As long as you’re spending over $250 a month at Costco, the executive membership is probably worth the extra cost, since you can make up the added fee with your cash back.

However, you want to make sure that you are shopping according to a plan. If you pay for the membership, don’t spend just for the sake of spending, make sure that what you’re buying makes sense for your family.

Additional Costco Services

In addition to the regular warehouse, Costco offers many other services, which are definitely worth checking out.  These include photo development, a range of printing services, home and auto Insurance, life and travel Insurance, professional installation services, as well as a tire centre.

Costco Online Shopping

Costco makes shopping even easier by making a large selection of products and services available for purchase online.  Costco’s online shopping experience is similar to that of most other online retailers.

Prior to placing your first order, you’ll need to take a moment to register, at which point your Costco membership will be connected to your online account.  Shipping is available to most areas, with the exception of a few, very remote locations.

Costco Travel

A somewhat lesser known fact about Costco is that they offer a full slate of travel booking services to members.  In fact, they just may be the place to go, to book your next all-inclusive vacation, cruise, or car rental.

Make sure you shop around before booking, however.  While it’s true that Costco Travel has established a strong reputation based on service and value, online travel websites are very competitive, so there’s no guarantee that any single provider will always have the best deal.

Costco Gasoline

If you live reasonably close to a Costco location, you can take advantage of reduced prices at the gas pump.  Gasoline is available at all Costco locations, and is often priced 6 or 7 cents/litre below leading gasoline retailers.  Depending on how often you fuel up, this discount alone may be worth the cost of membership.

Costco Optical

Most Costco locations feature a full service optical department.  They accept current prescriptions from licensed doctors, optometrists or ophthalmologists, and you don’t require an eye exam from a Costco location in order to purchase eyewear products.  That said, Costco does offer full eye exams at most locations, completed by independent Doctors of Optometry.

Costco Pharmacy

Most Costco locations come equipped with a full service pharmacy, and can be a great way to obtain competitive prices on a wide range of health related products and services.

For added convenience, Costco Members in all provinces, with the exception of Quebec and Prince Edward Island, can now order prescriptions online and have them delivered directly to their home address.

Costco Credit Card

It’s important to understand what credit cards are accepted at Costco Warehouse locations.

Currently, Costco Canada only accepts Mastercard branded credit cards.  In the past, they had a relationship with American Express, but that ended in 2016.

Capital One offers a Costco Mastercard exclusive to members.  It’s a no-annual fee card, which offers 3% cash back at restaurants, 2% on gasoline purchases, and 1% on all other purchases, once you reach $3000 in annual spending.  The first $3000 of regular purchases is set at .50% cash back.

Other benefits of this Costco-branded Capital One Mastercard include Purchase Assurance, Extended Warranty and Auto Rental Insurance.

Helpful Hint:  Costco Visa Card Hack

While it’s true that Costco does not accept Visa credit cards for purchases, it does allow you to use your Visa card to purchase Costco Cash Cards, otherwise known as gift cards, online.

This makes it possible for Visa Card Holders to collect reward points while using the cards to shop at Costco locations.

How to Shop at Costco Without a Membership

If you’re still not sold on becoming a Costco member, there are ways that you can benefit from their wholesale prices without a membership.

A Costco Cash Card (gift card) will get you in the door, can be used by non-members, and can be purchased with a minimum balance of $10.

There is one caveat. Once the card balance has been used up, it must be reloaded, or another one purchased by a Costco member.  In other words, you need to rely on a Costco member to help you out, which may be inconvenient for either party.

For U.S. shoppers, Google Express is now offering shoppers access to Costco products, without requiring a Costco membership.  Additionally, shipping is free for orders over $25.  Unfortunately, this service is not yet available to Canadian residents.

Costco Return Policy

Costco’s return policy has become a thing of legend. In fact, a simple Google search will reveal some downright impressive Costco return stories, with items sometimes being accepted back years after the initial date of purchase.

Simply put, Costco guarantees client satisfaction with every purchase, and will offer full refunds upon return of an item.  There are a few exceptions. Most electronics, for example, are limited to a 90-day return policy, and items that have a limited useful life expectancy, such as batteries or tires, may be subject to a product-specific limited warranty.

And their return policy isn’t limited to their products.  Costco will also refund memberships in full to any customer who isn’t satisfied with their shopping experience.

Summary – Costco Membership Recap

Let’s face it, there are a few irritants to shopping at Costco.  For starters, it always seems to be incredibly busy, and simply finding a parking spot can be a chore in and of itself.  For the fee averse, the idea of ponying up the cost of an annual membership can be annoying.

But irritants aside, the money saving opportunities may be too great to ignore.  As a reminder, here’s a list of my favourite reasons for buying a Costco membership.

  • Leading prices on consumer staples, such as milk & bread.
  • Wholesale savings from buying items in bulk.
  • A near legendary return policy.
  • Regular gasoline discounts for members.
  • A focus on high quality products, from food to clothing.
  • A wide range of additional services, including, travel, optical, and pharmacy.

If you haven’t yet taken the plunge and become a Costco member, it’s definitely a step worth considering.

Comments

  1. mewithoutdebt

    I transferred from regular to executive membership 2 years ago and I usually get back 100 (which is all) or 100+ every year.

  2. Tom Drake

    mewithoutdebt,
    Yeah, it’s pretty easy to go there once a week and spend over $100… I go in for a few groceries and walk out with a lot more non-grocery items than I planned!

  3. Adeem Zafar

    I am not sure you are aware but the Membership Services rep told me that if I didn’t earn the $45 extra paid back, that I would be refunded the $45 back.

    • lisa

      I don’t believe that is the case… I just received a 29 cheque I am wondering if I shoulld inquire… it may be that they only do it if you ask… no ask no give? Lol anyone know if this is the case?

      • Charlie C

        Lisa, the $55 extra you pay for your executive membership is guaranteed. They are supposed “top up” your 2% refund if it falls short of $55. I would most def inquire.

        • Schultzter

          I remember that, but I think that’s only the first year, or else it was a limited time promotion.

        • Dan

          This is no longer the case and that policy has been discontinued

          • Cathy

            I was told on Saturday I would receive the difference back if I did not spend enough by the end of my 1 year.

      • Frances Young

        They will refund the difference if you don’t get the extra $55.00 it costs for Exex Membership. I found this out today from thr Costco help desk.

  4. Richard Rinyai

    I find that Costco is good, but they don’t carry “no name” type of items, which can be costly. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to go to a grocery store that carries these types of items?

    Thanks,

    Richard

    • Elaine

      They have Kirkland brand as their no name. Always great products.

  5. Frank

    Don’t forget that Costco sometimes carries unique items that other stores don’t have. Does anyone remember Cape Cod Kettle Cooked potato chips. You can’t find those anywhere in California because they stopped distributing them. You can only order them in bulk from their website $20+ BUT they have them from time to time at Costco for less than $5-6 family size. You just have to call in to check if they have inventory. It’s almost like an event shopping there. You know you’re going to get a good deal and if you have any issues you know their customer service with take care of you. Even their tire center is great with lifetime balancing and rotation for the tires that you buy there!

  6. Jeff

    I love wholesales, on the long term it does save a lot of money!

  7. Jeff

    Warehouserival.com offers great wholesale prices on 1.000.000+ products! No min. order quantity!

  8. Monica McNally

    I have lost my card. Could I have a new card sent to me as the closest store is over 300 km. away. Thanks

    • sylvia

      Next time u go in.. just go to membership desk & they’ll get u a new card.. doesn’t matter which store u go to.. I am a costco employee ?

  9. Mildred Carroll

    Why mess with Costco in the first place? I shop wholesale for my household consumables. My membership cost me $29 11 years ago and I have spent $16CDN/$12US to renew it each year. Right now, in March 2012 you can get a 1-year membership for only $1.00 (yep, that’s ONE DOLLAR). And you get Free products for 5 months for shopping every month, plus loyalty dollars to spend on more free stuff every month thereafter. Plus discounts for shopping online at other stores – the benefits are endless. Not to mention that this is a totally ‘green’ store so you’re eliminating the toxins from your home, reducing toxic waste in the environment, and improving your family’s health and safety. Request info at http://www.mom2six.com and I can show you how to set up your wholesale account. (Don’t worry, you don’t have to do a business, thought the business is a fun benefit!)
    Admittedly, if you need a lot of big ticket items like TVs or a ton of paper products (how much bathroom tissue can you use?) a membership might make sense, but I prefer shopping green for my normal household needs.

  10. Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle

    The gas bar is worth the price of membership. I get 2% on back on my executive membership on gas and 2% from Amex because I charge the gas.

    There are line ups for gas but I often go at 8:30pm on a Monday or Tuesday night on my way home it is usually pretty quiet.

    • Dave M.

      Personally, I like to gas up at Superstore using my PC debit or Mastercard. I usually get a $4.50 Superbucks coupon on $70 worth of gas (reward is 7 cents a litre). That’s over 6% back, and I can then use the coupon on any in-store purchase at Superstore. Even if one does not back with PC Financial, there is a 3.5 cent per litre reward toward Superstore purchases (with no annual membership fee).

      • Dave M.

        *bank* with PC Financial…

        Also, I should mention that we have been Costco members in the past and did not find it worth the membership fee. However, if one is already getting good value from the membership I can see where the 2% back on gas would be the icing on the cake 🙂

        • According to the Costco website[N.Am.], gas doesn’t get a membership reward.Only through the Visa/ Mastercard. When I needed gas,I thought I would get the gas reward too.

  11. David

    I recently wrote about getting a Costco membership for free on my blog. I liked your post a lot and wanted to share mine with you. http://financialnerd.com/get-paid-to-join-costco/

  12. LoonieLover

    To follow up on what Adeem said, we opted for the executive membership one year, and did NOT earn the money back. Costco sent us (i.e. we didn’t have to ask for it) a voucher worth the amount of money that we had “wasted” by not earning the whole amount of cost of the executive membership back. The only conditions, as I recall, were that we had to use the voucher at Costco (not a big deal) and that we had, I believe, one year to use it.
    When we were signing up, after listening to the guy’s pitch, I asked if I understood it right that basically, worst case scenario was that we were giving Costco an interest-free loan. He though about it for a minute and then said that he had never thought of it that way before, but that yes, that was essentially what we were doing if we didn’t “earn back” the cost of the additional membership fee.
    All this to say, if you think this deal might work for you, go for it; you don’t have anything to lose by trying.

    • Dave

      I am to understand there is really no cash back but rather vouchers that must be used at Costco,
      also when you look at it yes we are giving Costco interest free loans, imagine the interest they must be making on this membership

  13. Smart

    It’s not worth it; if you were smart, you would:

    Buy a normal membership – buy gift cards online with a 2% reward credit card.

    • Smart

      And use those gift cards in store for your purchases. Zing: 2% cash back without the cost.

      • Smarter

        Why not use the 2% reward credit card at costco with your executive membership and earn a total of 4%?

        • Raj

          Gift cards are not eligible…See below..

          Executive Membership 2% Rewards Exclusions List
          Items that fall into the following categories are not eligible for the 2% Reward.

          In all provinces:
          prescription drugs
          all tobacco products (including: cigarette paper, lighters, matches and tubes)
          all food court items
          all bottle deposits and refunds
          all taxes and levies
          all Costco Services (click here for a complete list)
          eye examinations
          tire disposal fees (where applicable)
          tire mounting and balancing, and stud installation fees
          gift certificates and Costco Cash electronic gift cards
          membership fees
          oil disposal fees (where applicable)
          home delivery charges
          administration fees
          gasoline
          charitable donations
          third party insurance payments
          postage stamps
          environmental fees, deposits or levies
          other items, products and services specified as exclusions from time to time

  14. General Merchandise

    Hi! I just would like to give you a huge thumbs up for the
    great info you have got here on this post. I will be coming back to your blog for more soon.

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  16. BeSmartRich

    I do have the executive membership but I do not think it was worth it. If what Smart said works then his method would be the best way to take advantage on it.

    BSR

  17. Mi AM

    I had Costco executive membership for about 3 years and finally decided to give up. Pricing is quite of a game and they are not really better but worse than others. They keep models that are not available in other places most time and spec wise these models are poorer.

    Their groceries are always over frozen, most times having freezer burn and while brought home would not last as long. Their business strategy is quite deceiving.

  18. John Kinslow

    I have been at the “Executive Level” for close to a year and have not received any type of cash back. I will be going back to their regular membership when it is time to renew again.

  19. Mike

    We’ve had an Executive membership for many years. There’s some fine print that says if you don’t make enough in cash back they will refund you the difference in price between the executive and regular membership. The key is that you have to remember to go ask for that refund. What this means is that at worst you’re paying for a regular membership in a given year but at best you get it for significantly less, even free if you spend enough.

    This year, for example, our cash back cheque was only $16 because we haven’t bought much at Costco this year. The next time we go in we simply go to the customer service desk and they will refund the difference (55 – 16 = $39) and give us the money right there! So at worst, the membership will still have only cost us $55.

    Inconvenient? sure. But you never know in advance how much you’ll spend there in the next year so why not take the chance in paying less overall? There’s really no downside. And who know, maybe you’ll end up springing for that shed or trampoline or you’ll buy lots of gas and end up having the membership paid for and then some?!?

    Also, I don’t work for Costco or anything, I just thought people ought to know about that little Executive perk.

  20. Earl

    The Costco membership saved me $1000 on my last Ford vehicle purchase.

  21. garry self

    If you don’t earn enough cashback to cover the difference, you have to go and ask for it back at membership services. They will refund the difference and then downgrade you to a regular membwrship. You can’t keep the exec membership if you request a refund of the difference. And in my case, the tax on the difference wasn’t refunded – I had to complain further to get it back.

  22. John Appleseed

    Ordered an item for a birthday, delivery was set to take place by Friday latest as per the notifications from Costco and UPS – UPS Driver just kept going did a drive by and didn’t stop, didn’t call. After repeated calls throughout the day to UPS and Costco they said they couldn’t locate the item and I wouldn’t receive it until the following week.

    Results: Birthday ruined, 2 days off work waiting for UPS – lost salary & obvious financial hardship
    Costco’s answer: Here’s 25 bucks. Sorry we treated you like dirt and don’t value you.
    Membership – cancelled! I recommend you do your shopping elsewhere if you actually want to receive your goods on time as promised and if you enjoy a respectful shopping experience where you are valued – Costco does not value you. Costco does not respect you or your time.

  23. David Seligman

    I am out of the country most of the year and for some reason, Costco and their affiliation with the Heat Pump / Air Conditioning company ( name escapes me – probably because I’m frustrated with two times having been assured someone would contact me and still waiting a month later!!!!) –
    Has seriously dropped the ball on my request to have a heat pump installed on Bainbridge Island in our home there.

    I hope this letter gets a response so we can discuss unit, cost, and reimbursement I can count on. I needed this already 2 months ago.

  24. Happy to see an updated Costco value review.I am a fan,and wouldn’t be surprised if Costco hits their $21B revenue in 2017 [read forecast in a 2013/2014 grocery magazine]. However,the executive membership no longer works.I found my spending has changed because of a lifestyle change.I now drive a plugin car,and I go where I can plugin.Costco got rid of their EV chargers [L2]in the U.S.,none in Canada. Also,I order more online,and want more environmentally friendly options.Examples: for 3 years,my area warehouses haven’t carried Tom’s deodorant;2 years,no wool t-shirts[great for heat]; executive coupons are mainly P&G products. In 2016, Costco Black friday didn’t offer the same level of 4K, TV[SUHD/OLED], or a 4k compatible soundbar with more than 2 HDMI connections during boxing week.My 2016 executive refund reflects the choices I’ve made.

  25. henry

    So today (middle of March) I get a reward coupon for my membership that I started last May. I was suckered into buying the Executive card because I would be guaranteed to get a minimum of 50% back on the renewal fee. The card cost $120 plus HST for a total of $135.60 so I was expecting a rebate of approx $68.00 So why are they only calculating my rebate on 9 months of purchases? They advertise a convenient chart on how much to spend each month to get back at lease the minimum 50%. So I looked up the fine print and sure enough they say the first year rebate is only calculated on 9 months. The next 3 months will be added to next years rebate. What bullshit! So now I hear only the $60 dollars will be rebated and not the tax. I didn’t want the Executive card in the first place, but was suckered into getting it by the sales rep. So caution. Whatever they say you need to spend per month in the first year, increase that by 33% to reflect they are only using 9 months. And the extra HST that you paid you can kiss that goodbye.

  26. Amy Acosta

    Today I found out that when you purchase from Costco directly through the instacart app, YOU DO NOT GET YOUR 2% CASHBACK FOR EXECUTIVE MEMBERSHIP FROM COSTCO. I have been a Costco member for more than 20 years, and started shopping from Costco through instacart around a year ago. Originally, when I signed up for instacart from the Costco website, it stated that I will get all my Executive Membership points (2% cashback) credited to my account. I put in my membership number in my instacart profile. This month when I got back my 2% cashback check, I realized that it was very small. Today when I got my instacart delivery the receipt was in the box from Costco with a membership number that was not mine. So I called Costco customer service. I was on the phone for a while and the first representative said all she can do is offer me a $5 gift card. The supervisor that I was transferred to said that there is no way they can calculate the 2% because instacart is a third part app, yet they have a complete record of everything I have ordered through instacart. I offered to send them a complete record of all my purchases through instacart, so they can give me the 2% credit, but she said no. She offered me a $20 giftcard for my troubles! She said that if I go to Costco.com and then click on the sameday delivery that gets you to order from instacart, then you will get the 2% back, but if you order directly starting at the instacart app you won’t get the 2%!!!! I was never informed of this rule beforehand. Were you? I was told the first time to enter my membership number and all will be taken care of. Since you never get a statement of the shopping details from Costco to calculate the 2%, now I’m wondering what else may not be credited. Let me know what you think.

  27. GJ

    I am not sure where the author is writing from. We have the Costco branded Citi Bank Visa that is exclusive to members (can be used as the membership card) and not a Mastercard.

    • Tom Drake

      Hi GJ, I’m guessing you’re in the U.S.? Here in Canada, we went to a Mastercard deal after the American Express partnership ended.

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