Costco's New Policy Is Cracking Down on Membership Sharing

The company is adding an extra step at the self-checkout line.

You can save a lot of money at wholesale clubs like Sam's Club, BJ's, or Costco—as long as you're willing to shell out for an annual membership. These coveted cards let you buy in bulk and find great savings with warehouse pricing. But while Costco memberships aren't exorbitantly priced, starting at $60 for the year, some shoppers still put off securing a card of their own. If you have a habit of snagging a friend's card as a way around becoming a member yourself, be warned that Costco is now cracking down on membership sharing. Read on to find out more about the wholesaler's new policy.

READ THIS NEXT: Shoppers Are Turning Away From Lowe's and Costco, Data Shows—Here's Why.

Self-checkout is at the root of the issue.

Self checkout lanes in a Costco Wholesale store in Tigard, a southwestern suburb within the Portland metro area. Staff uniform is seen advertising Costco App.
Shutterstock

As The Dallas Morning News reported, Costco is taking action after noticing that non-members were using self-checkout as a workaround.

A Costco spokesperson told Best Life that the company's membership policy itself hasn't changed, as members are always asked to present their membership cards—with their photos on them—at the register when checking out. However, the retailer is now also doing this at self-checkout.

"Our membership policy states that our membership cards are not transferable and since expanding our self-service checkout, we've noticed that non-member shoppers have been using membership cards that do not belong to them," the spokesperson said. "We don't feel it's right that non members receive the same benefits and pricing as our members. As we already ask for the membership card at checkout, we are now asking to see their membership card with their photo at our self-service checkout registers."

Shoppers say they've seen this new policy in action.

pushing shopping cart at costco
Macky Albor / Shutterstock

On Reddit, a Costco shopper in Livonia, Michigan, posted a photo of a sign at their local warehouse, which outlines "a reminder to our members." The Redditor added that the sign was affixed near self-checkout specifically.

"Members are required to show their membership card when entering any Costco warehouse and when checking out at a register," the sign reads. "Membership cards are not transferable. Only paid members are allowed to shop."

One shopper wrote that they've already seen this policy enforced at their Costco, when a shopper presented what he said was his wife's membership card.

"They were cracking down at my local store 2 days ago as well," the comment reads. "[He was using] self checkout and his face didn't match the photo. Said it was his wife's card and he's on the account. They went to look it up and verify. I was done and gone before it was squared away."

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Shoppers at some Costco warehouses have been asked to show their driver's licenses.

The exterior of a Costco store
Shutterstock

Costco membership cards are required to have photos on them, per Costco's policies, which "acts as an extra security measure should your card ever get lost or stolen." But Reddit users have pointed out that the photo quality isn't always the best on membership cards—and some insisted their cards don't have photos at all.

Other shoppers on Reddit chimed in to say that the retailer makes them "jump through hoops" to prove they're a member, especially if an older Costco photo doesn't reflect what they look like now.

This was true in Texas, as Costco employees are reportedly taking the identification process a step further. According to The Dallas Morning News, employees at Costco clubs in Rockwall and Dallas, Texas, were also asking shoppers for photo identification, like driver's licenses.

Other membership services have taken similar steps to reduce sharing.

A person sitting on a couch watching Netflix on their TV and tablet
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In the statement to Best Life, the company spokesperson said, "Costco is able to keep our prices as low as possible because our membership fees help offset our operational expenses, making our membership fee and structure important to us."

But Costco is not the only company taking steps to eliminate membership sharing due to its effect on their business model.

Netflix recently caught flak after it did away with password-sharing outside of people who live together. While many said they would boycott the streaming service, CNBC reported earlier this month that Netflix did end up with an uptick in subscribers.

According to a report from Antenna, since Netflix sent an email to customers about the change, the number of average daily signups reached 73,000—a 102 percent increase compared with the previous 60-day average.

Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more
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