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20 Costco Shopping Secrets Only Die-Hard Regulars Know

Take your membership to the next level with these insider tips.

Though Costco is a treasure trove of great deals and discounts, the monstrous size of the warehouse alone is enough to overwhelm a newbie, or even a regular. But there are some helpful ways to make taking advantage of the low prices Costco offers a little easier. With the following shopping secrets, you can keep your Costco trip short and sweet, while still saving the most money possible. So, let's Cost-go, people!

Look for price tags that end in .97.

Costco .97 Price Tag {Costco Shopping Secrets}
Image via DealsPlus

At Costco, these two numbers at the end of a price signify that an item has been marked down. So when you see the big 9-7, you know it's a deal.

While you're at it, pay special attention to those items ending in .88 or .00. These are usually display items, returned items, or end-of-inventory items with a manger's discount.

Take note of the tags with asterisks.

Costco Sign with an Asterisk {Costco Shopping Secrets}

In Costco-speak, the asterisk means that product won't be getting a reorder. So when you see this symbol on the price tag of one of your favorite items, it's time to stock up!

Order ahead.

Costco Deli Counter {Costco Shopping Secrets}

If you're using Costco for all your party planning needs, take a few extra minutes to place your food order in advance. If you call the deli counter a few days before your event, they'll make sure that your food is set aside.

That'll certainly come in handy since, while things like paper plates and napkins likely won't run out, you won't get as lucky at the deli department. Once the party trays are sold out for the day, that's that.

Ask for price matching.

Cash Register {Costco Shopping Secrets}

If you happen to buy a product right before it hit Costco's clearance section, fear not: The store is happy to refund you the difference in price for any product purchased within 30 days.

In fact, you don't even have to go back to Costco to get your refund. You can simply request it via an online form.

Always opt for generic.

Kirkland Generic Costco Items {Costco Shopping Secrets}

There's a reason why Kirkland, Costco's signature brand, has such a cult following—and it's not just that it's inexpensive. It's because these generic products are just as reliable as name brands.

When Consumer Reports tested some of Costco's most popular products, they found that everything from the Kirkland laundry and dish detergents to the mayonnaise and maple syrup "kept pace" with the most popular brands out there.

Take advantage of the gift cards.

iTunes Gift Cards {Costco Shopping Secrets}

Costco is one of the best places for stocking up on gift cards since it's the rare store where you can them at a discount.

For instance, right now on Costco's website, you can buy four $25 e-cards to Build-A-Bear Workshop for $70. That's 30 percent off a total value of $100!

Look for deals on Costco memberships.

costco shopping aisle

If you're lucky, you might just come across a deal on a Costco membership on a site like Groupon or LivingSocial.

In 2018, for instance, both sites offered a special package for $60 that included a one-year Costco Gold Star membership, a $20 Costco cash card, coupons for free Kirkland products, and more. Comparatively, Costco's one-year membership alone usually retails for that same price.

Use your membership worldwide.


Once you get a deal on your membership, you can use it anywhere in the world! Even if your main Costco is in New York, you can still shop at the stores in Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Australia, and more.

Split bulk packages with friends.

Costco K-Pods {Costco Shopping Secrets}

Even Costco superfans can't always get through their bulk purchases in a timely manner. That's why it pays to split your big purchases with friends.

This way, you can take advantage of Costco's great prices without becoming overwhelmed by goods that you don't have room to store, or simply can't finish before their expiration date.

Use the Costco app.

news app millennials

Costco offers an app for both iOS and Android users that can make your shopping trip easier.

If you struggle to remember your grocery list, then you can use the app to keep track of the items you need and those you've already procured. If you prefer to take advantage of Costco's photo center, then you can upload photos directly to the app and print them from there. And that's just scratching the surface!

Scour the store's site for exclusive savings.

Costco Website {Costco Shopping Secrets}

Not all of Costco's best deals are found in store. On the store's site, you can find exclusive discounts at any given time.

Pay special attention to things like large appliances and luxury goods, many of which won't ever be made available at the warehouse.

Coupons are never necessary.

Pile of Coupons {Costco Shopping Secrets}

Though the store mails out a "coupon booklet" every month, you don't have to actually bring it in in order for the savings to be applied. The discounts show up automatically when the items are rung up.

Also, coupon kings and queens need not bring their collection of clip-outs to Costco because the store doesn't accept manufacturer coupons. No big deal though—Costco prices are the lowest of the low!

You can return almost anything at anytime.

Costco's return policy is wonderfully lenient. Aside from a few exceptions (like electronics and fine jewelry), the store offers lifetime returns on anything you buy.

If you buy a box of 100 cans of tuna and after one can, you realize that you hate it, you can just return the other 99.

And that goes for your membership, too.

Costco store
Image via Flickr/Michael Coté

Yes, you can even return your membership if you're not satisfied with your Costco experience. As the store explains, their main mission is to "guarantee your satisfaction," no matter what.

Electronics come with free tech support.

Family Buying a Television {Costco Shopping Secrets}

Any television, computer, camera, or tablet you buy at Costco comes with free tech support. All you have to do is call 1-866-861-0450 between the hours of 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. PST and someone from the tech team will help you with your issue, completely free of charge.

The store sells printer ink cartridge refills.

Printer Ink Cartridges {Costco Shopping Secrets}

Instead of throwing out your printer's ink cartridges when they run out and buying new ones, you can bring the empty ones to Costco and get them refilled for as low as $7.99. This can save you quite a bit of money, seeing as ink cartridges can cost anywhere from $16 to $110.

Shop on weekdays.

costco shopping aisle

Make your Costco shopping trip on any day other than Saturday or Sunday. As any Costco regular knows, weekends are busiest for the discount superstore, and crowded aisles make it much harder to find the best deals.

Bring your own bag.

Reusable Shopping Bags House Cleaning

Costco only has boxes on hand at checkout. Though this is great for the environment, it means that if you want to carry your groceries out conveniently, you have to remember to B.Y.O.B.

Shop earlier at a Costco Business Center.

Costco Business Center {Costco Shopping Secrets}

Though most Costco Wholesale stores don't open until 10 a.m., there is a way to shop before then. Costco Business Centers are aimed at business owners, so their hours skew on the earlier side. Despite their name, they're open to everyone.

Use Costco's prices to bargain with other stores.

Woman Talking to a Cashier {Costco Shopping Secrets}

Even when you're not shopping at Costco, you can still use the store's competitive prices to your advantage. Competitors like Target, Best Buy, and Home Depot will all match a Costco price if it's lower than their own.

All you have to do is find the item you want to buy on Costco's website, print out its product page, and ask your cashier to price match. Check out this guide from Rather Be Shopping for a comprehensive list of stores that do price matching with Costco.

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