I love Costco.
I loved it when I was living with roommates, living alone, and with a partner.
Costco is an amazing place full of quality items with decent prices. They have gas stations, car washes, seasonal gear, rotisserie chicken, their famous $1.50 hot dog and drink combo, alcohol, wine, and more.
I get tremendous value from my Costco membership. I’ve been shopping at Costco for a long time and often go every 2-3 weeks. I’ve also learned over the years about benefits some people are unaware of.
Let’s talk about the membership options, the value of a Costco membership, and whether it might be worthwhile for you to get one.
In case you are curious, this isn’t sponsored content. I truly love Costco this much.
Costco Membership Options
Lower Level Tier: Gold Star Membership – $60 Annually
The Gold Star membership is Costco’s lowest level tier membership, but don’t let that trick you. The Gold Star membership gains you access to all Costco warehouses and online at costco.com.
It includes two membership cards for you and someone else in your household.
Although I’ve never tried to use it, they also offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you are dissatisfied at any time, you can cancel, and they will refund your membership fee.
It’s wild to me a company would offer that sort of satisfaction guarantee, but it shows you how confident they are that you will love your membership. I didn’t know they offered it because I’ve never been tempted to cancel!
The Gold Star membership is a great bargain at $60 annually. I’ll explain in more detail later.
Upper Level Tier: Executive Membership – $120 Annually
The Executive membership gets you everything the Gold Star membership gets you, but also gives you a 2% annual reward, Costco services discount, and the Costco Connection magazine.
I haven’t ever heard anybody rave about the Costco Connection magazine, so I’m not sure it’s much of a benefit, but it is listed as a benefit. Anybody can view the online version, too.
It seems to act as a giant advertisement, notifies people of discounts, and has a few articles in between the ads.
It’s fine, but I wouldn’t call it much of a benefit.
The Costco services discount is also less of a benefit based on the fact I’ve never heard anybody tell me about it, and the most information I can find online is that you can receive lower prices on check printing, identity protection, and free roadside assistance if you are covered through Costco’s auto insurance program.
The real benefit of an Executive membership is the 2% annual reward.
Executive members are eligible to receive an annual 2% back on their purchases. The 2% reward is based on pre-tax purchases on most merchandise, but does not generally include the following:
- Tobacco products
- Alcoholic beverages in some states
- Postage stamps
- Costco Shop Cards
- Purchases as food courts
- Online Photo Center
- Travel surcharges, gratuities, trip protection, resort, and port charges
Are the Gold Star and Executive Costco Memberships Worth It?
Gold Star Costco Membership
For the Gold Star membership, you need to figure out if the $60 annually saves you enough money on your purchases.
When I was living alone, I easily received more than $60 in value each year. The gas alone could sometimes be close to paying for membership. When I was living in Seattle, the gas station often sold gas at 30-40 cents cheaper a gallon.
Now that I am living in Madison, WI, the gas savings are less. It might only be a few cents a gallon.
But, with great prices on food, their $5 rotisserie chicken, vacation packages, and more, it’s easy to save more than $60 per year shopping at Costco.
Executive Costco Membership
It makes sense to upgrade to the Executive Costco membership if you feel confident you will spend more than $3,000 per year at Costco on items that provide the 2% reward. This works out to approximately $250 a month.
At this point, the approximate annual reward is $60, which covers the increase in cost between the Executive and Gold Star membership.
Below is a chart to show you your approximate annual reward based on your monthly or annual spending.
|Monthly Spending||Annual Spending||Approximate Annual Reward|
Interestingly, if you sign up for a Gold Star membership and start spending more than $3,000 annually, the system will flag you. Normally, another Costco employee will come over to you while they are ringing you up to talk about the Executive membership.
I know this because it happened to me quite a bit one year when I was spending more at Costco. They explained I was spending enough that the Executive membership made more sense for me.
Although $250 a month can sound like a lot, a few large purchases or doing most of your grocery shopping at Costco can get you to that point.
Where I Get the Most Value in a Costco Membership
I used to have the Gold Star membership for many years, but during the pandemic, I found myself spending more at Costco. As I mentioned previously, if you spend enough to make the Executive membership worth it, they should let you know.
After declining it about six different times, I looked into it more.
I discovered that most travel purchases count towards the 2% annual reward and since I had just booked a vacation using Costco Travel, I could count that purchase towards the 2% annual reward if I signed up prior to the vacation.
The annual reward for the trip alone would have covered the increased cost of the Executive membership, so I decided to sign up.
I’m glad I did because I am traveling more and almost always use Costco Travel to book a rental car. They have 30% off major car rental companies, and they allow you to add an extra driver in most locations for no cost. The extra driver is often $10-15 a day if booked with the car rental company directly.
Travel is one area where I get a ton of value. To this day, I still think the best value is the car rental. It’s 30% off, and what I appreciate most is the ability to add a second driver. Although I do most of the driving, it’s a nice feeling to add my partner to the car. If I don’t want to drive, she can – without needing to worry about calling the company and increased costs.
I booked a vacation through Costco Travel recently. I had never done it before because I usually like to plan my own vacations and hunt for special experiences and places to stay.
This time around, I wanted to click a few buttons, show up, and enjoy the vacation. It was perfect!
I calculated what the trip would have cost if I hadn’t booked through Costco, and it would have been a few hundred dollars more. Plus, I received a Costco Shop Card for nearly $200 when we returned, which meant that Costco probably saved me about $500.
You can see how the membership, Gold Star or Executive, quickly pays for itself.
Bonus Tip: One thing to be aware of that was a disappointment is that when booking airfare through Costco Travel, the seats you book don’t really mean anything. We booked seats, but found out when we checked in that we didn’t have those seats. It wasn’t a big deal, but it was a negative surprise because we were stuck with the leftover seats, which were near the bathroom.
Although I don’t plan to book travel regularly through Costco Travel, it’s nice to know it’s available.
What’s there not to love about Costco food?
We regularly buy the $5 rotisserie chicken. It’s great for practically any meal.
I also get their organic greek yogurt, which is a bargain compared to the grocery store.
I buy their granola, which saves me at least a few dollars each time. I regularly get their frozen fruit blend. It’s a steal compared to other grocery store prices.
They have great spices, too.
It’s really hard to go wrong buying any of their food.
They have great produce, bakery items, prepared meals, frozen meals, and those gigantic pizzas.
If I want to host people without much effort, you can buy a couple of $10 pizzas that will feed a few people and some cookies or other sweet treats. You can also pick up alcohol, beer, wine, or other non-alcoholic beverages.
Although Costco doesn’t always carry the same thing each time, it can be fun to experience new products. Hello, pumpkin pie in the fall. Plus, they do a great job of rotating seasonal items into the store. I’m always amazed that they know what people will want a few weeks before they know themselves.
They also have great deals on meat, chicken, and seafood.
Although I mostly buy food and household products, such as laundry detergent, tissue, toilet paper, etc., they are also great for less frequently bought items.
I bought tires from Costco once, and they were much cheaper. I’ve also bought a TV from Costco. They have sales on gift cards, diamonds, washers and dryers, pots and pans, gazebos, kayaks, and more.
Can I Shop at Costco Without a Membership?
Now, you may be wondering if you can get any benefits from Costco without being a member. There are a few things you can buy at Costco without a membership.
You can buy:
- From Costco.com.
- There is a 5% surcharge added for non-members.
- Eye and hearing exams
- This is only in some states. This is likely to change, but my understanding is that those in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Texas and Vermont can buy alcohol without a membership.
- Using the Costco Shop Card
- If you are gifted a Costco Shop Card, you can use it to enter the warehouse and pay without a membership.
While you can use Costco.com to make purchases without a Costco membership and can still buy other items, most people would have a hard time buying what they want without a membership, unless they could find a member to buy them a Costco Shop Card regularly.
Summary – Final Thoughts
I love Costco. It’s where I spend lavishly.
I may sound like an advertisement for Costco. I am okay with it. They stock high-quality products at reasonable prices.
Something I love about Costco is that I don’t need to do any research about whether what I am buying is quality. Costco doesn’t stock poor-quality products, which means if I see something I think I will like, there is a good chance I will like it.
The Gold Star membership is a great introduction to Costco, and if you end up spending more, you can switch to the Executive membership to start earning a 2% reward.
Whether you need to buy food, gas, travel, household products, or a variety of other fun items, Costco probably has you covered.