How to Get Costco Membership at a Discount

Costco is a popular membership-only warehouse club that provides brand-named merchandise typically sold in bulk at a substantial discounted prices. They offer a large selection of products and departments in one location to make shopping cheaper and more convenient for consumers. Costco has been in business since 1976 when it started out as Price Club and operated out of a converted airplane hangar in California. It used to only provide sales to small business but soon changed protocol and began selling to the general public.

Photo by RodBegbie via Flickr

Should You Become a Costco Member?

Will a Costco membership be worth the membership fee? Will it benefit you to become a member? Well, it really depends on the individual and their shopping habits and needs. Explore the Costco website to see what kinds of products and services they offer and if there is a location convenient to you.

Costco membership comes in three flavors:

Costco Executive Member

Executive membership is the highest level a consumer can join. The cost is $110 per year. Executive members will receive in addition to access to the warehouse stores, a 2% reward on nearly all purchases made at Costco. Executive members also receive lower rates on check printing, payroll services and identity protection. Members also get an account bonus from money market and online savings accounts, roadside assistance under the Costco auto insurance plan, and additional travel benefits.

Costco Business Member

Business membership is open to any licensed business, non profit organization, government agency, farmer, and rancher for a $55 membership fee. Business members will receive one card with up to 6 additional business cards for $55 each. Business identification is required when applying for membership and provide appropriate resale information is merchandise is purchased for that reason.

Costco Gold Star Member

Gold Star membership is open to any person not qualified for a Business Membership.  Membership for individuals under the Gold Star program is $55 annually and includes one household card per membership.

For any member who is not satisfied with their membership at any time, Costco will refund your membership fee in full.

How to Get Costco Membership at a Discount

There are ways to get membership at a discounted price if you wish to join the club and are eligible for the following offers that can save you money.

  • Costco’s TrueEarnings Card (recommended) – If you are a Costco member, you can sign up for the TrueEarnings American Express Card and American Express will waive the annual membership fee (you still have to pay the Costco membership fee). With the TrueEarnings Card, you get additional cash back on purchases, gas, travel, and dining on top of your membership bonus. Every year, we earn more cash back with this card than it costs us in the membership fee — so we actually make money by being a member!
  • Direct Membership Discount – Occasionally Costco will offer special membership promotions directly to customers in-store or through their website.
  • Costco Employer Discount – If you happen to work for a company associated with Costco, you may have the opportunity to save up to $20 on your membership fee. Typically, representatives of Costco will visit affiliate companies to sign up new members who must pay full price for the membership but will receive in turn a gift card for up to $20 as a gift.
  • Costco Association Discount – As a member of some professional organizations, you may be entitled to a special discount. Costco uses this as a marketing technique for large companies and organizations to promote memberships so they do it at a reduced rate.
  • Online Coupon Codes – there are some websites that specialize in online coupons and discount codes. Costco membership is often featured on these sites and can save you a few bucks on your membership or even grant you a free membership with some deals.

About the Author

By , on Dec 6, 2010
Tisha Tolar
Tisha Tolar is a co-owner of Trifecta Strategies, LLC and the author of Gen X. When she is not busy being a fiction writer, she writes personal finance articles for several web sites, including Moolanomy.com.

Leave Your Comment (15 Comments)

  1. Sharon Jenkins says:

    Does Costco offer “free membership for the day” like its competitor? This would be ideal for empty nesters like me who are on a fixed income. Thank you so much!

  2. KATHRYN SWANK says:

    I am in my 80s and depend on someone driving me to your Costco store. I buy all my paper products, cleaning products, cereals, treats, cooking oils.a little meat, & a few other items. The person that drives me to your store buys much more, but she also comes only 3 or 4 times a year. Can I purchase one Costco membership with two cards, one in her name and one in my name.

  3. Robert says:

    I use target and have been told by several different folks that target prices are within 1 percent of Costco always found Costco way to pricey and mustn t forget to shop walmart they are always in play .

  4. larry griffith says:

    2/11/2014 we today stoped at costo to view the new store in Siou falls sd being menbers od sam’s we wanted to look around, we were greeted by a young person at the door in a wheel chair and wow was he so nice hard to believe he made us feel very comforable, we look around and were very impressed with the store. we will being buying a member ship soon.

  5. Jessica Flax says:

    We are senior citizens, that live on a very tight budget and find that the $50.00 membedrship fee does not fit into our budget. Why dont you give a senior discount or a aarp discount, or any other civic organizational discounts??? I would hate to not have the use of my Costco American Express card

    • Steven Hurdle says:

      I know lots of people who aren’t senior citizens who live on very tight budgets as well. Without dismissing your financial concerns, I’m curious on what basis you feel all senior citizens (some of whom are on small budgets, some of whom are extremely wealth, many of whom are somewhere in-between) deserve a discount?

      Costco exists on extremely tight margins. So much so, in fact, that over 50% of Costco’s profits now come from selling memberships. If I were in their shoes, I doubt I would discount. I think Costco would argue that the discount comes from them (typically, so they say) being cheaper than the competition.

      • Diane Kruse says:

        I like Costco products. However, I am an empty nester and do not need to buy large quantities of things. I find that I go to Costco three, maybe four times a year, which makes membership pretty expensive. Why not consider a cash admission program. Charge people like me $8 to get in. That way, Costco gets my $24 or $32 cash for the three or four times I visit per year, PLUS whatever profit Costco makes off my purchases. Without a program like this, Costco risks losing me as a member…which means no $55 membership fee plus the loss of profit on whatever I would purchase (which is usually a lot of meat).

        While I have your attention, while I love Costco products, I absolutely HATE that I have to show my card to both enter and leave. Why would I come into Costco if I didn’t have a card? I wouldn’t be able to purchase anything. And having to show my card on the way out tells me I am a thief until proven innocent; the explanation that you offer – “we want to ensure that everything your purchased is in fact in your cart” is baloney, since no actual checking is done. This whole card business puts a really bad taste in my mouth. No warm fuzzy feelings of membership there, for sure. Think about it.

      • observer59 says:

        @Diane
        No proof of membership? Can you imagine how many times a day an uninformed person would see the store, walk in, fill a cart and at checkout say, ‘What membership? You won’t take my money, credit/debit card without it?’ and then walk away? Now all that stuff has to be returned to the shelves.

  6. Jon says:

    I am planning on buying the Motorola Atrix and found that I can get a $50 membership at Costco and get the phone from Costco at a discounted price… for a total of $180 which is $20 cheaper than if I were to walk into an AT&T store.

    Bottom line: Phone I want, “free” Costco membership, and $20 extra $$$. Find something that makes the membership worth it, then the rest of the year you can save a lot on stuff you would buy anyway.

  7. Bernz says:

    We have been a Costco regular shoppers for years. We are executive members who pays $100/year. We also get cash back for every purchase and we pretty much get the membership fee back every year. We are a family of four and we buy most of our home supplies from Costco plus other stuffs. We love Costco but you have to know what you are buying. If you do not have to buy a certain items in bulk then don’t, buy it somewhere else.

  8. Robert says:

    The Costco Executive Membership costs you $100 per year, but you get 2% back on purchases. But like James said, they guarantee you $50 minimum in cash back.

    Also, it is a Costco cash check they send you, but you can take it to any Costco cashier and they will cash it out for you.

  9. David says:

    Hmmm. Will have to do a price comparison. A challenge my readers might enjoy.

  10. James says:

    As a Costco Executive member, I have to say that in many cases Costco saves money. Milk is $2.79/gallon and much of the produce is about 40% less than the grocery store. Those two things alone save us enough to pay for the membership. There is a risk of overbuying since much of it comes in bulk. Also, you might be able to do better on some things by clipping coupons and tracking sales at other stores, but that was something we just don’t wish to spend our time doing, so I feel like it saves us money.

    One note about the Executive membership. You pay a $50 premium over a standard membership, but you get 2% of your purchased in cash back at the end of the year. (Sort-of cash back, since you have to use it at Costco) They guarantee this check to be at least $50 regardless of you spending so you get the $50 premium back at the end of the year anyway. We have always exceeded the $50 minimum. Costco gets a lot of our money.

  11. David says:

    Even if the membership comes at a discount, if you end up paying more overall than at the “regular” stores, is there any real savings?

    So, the bottom line question is: Does Costco help a family’s household budget save money?

    David

  12. Thanks for the post. Discount cards can be used well if only we spend well too. Well, is it a lifetime membership?

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