30 Amazing Secrets Costco Managers Don’t Want You to Know
Yes, it's possible to go big and go home.
Where would savvy shoppers be without Costco? The wholesale warehouse club offers everything from televisions to turkey breasts under the same roof. And with competitive price points that most retailers can’t beat—not to mention portion sizes large enough to serve a small army—it’s easy to understand why the company’s revenue in 2017 was $129 billion.
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But get this: at Costco, you can get even more bang for your buck. Despite the fact that prices are already practically at the market’s nadir, you can still score some criminally good deals, all by deploying a few secret tricks. Don’t worry—it might feel like you’re committing robbery, but each and every one of these hacks is entirely above-board.
Non-members can buy certain things at Costco.
Even if you don’t see yourself shopping at Costco enough to justify the $60 annual membership fee, not all hope is lost. Depending on what state you’re in, you might have access to some of the store’s coveted sections—even as a non-member. For instance: In certain states like California and Connecticut, non-members can shop the store’s notoriously cheap alcohol section, and residents in any of the 50 states can easily head to the pharmacy to pick up their prescriptions.
And they can shop normally using a Costco Cash Card.
Want to go on an all-out Costco shopping spree sans membership? Ask a friend with a Costco card to help you out. If they buy you a Costco Cash Card (which can be loaded up with any amount from $25 to $1,000), then you can shop at the store just like any member would and use the gift card to pay for your purchase. Non-members can only use a Cash Card two times annually, though, so choose when to make your shopping trips wisely.
The store is disorganized on purpose.
Customers might not understand the reasoning behind Costco’s seemingly disorganized displays, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any. The company frequently refers to their store layout as a “treasure hunt,” explaining that they group things at random on purpose in order to force customers to spend more time in the store and hopefully make more impulse purchases.
The edges of the store have the best bargains.
Want to score the absolute best deals that Costco has to offer? Stick to the edges and the back of the store and steer clear of the center. Evidently, shelf space on the edges is high in demand, and companies are willing to keep their prices competitive just to stay there.
The company can help you plan your next vacation.
Costco is so much more than just your regular grocery store and retail chain. For members, one of the many surprising services that the store offers is Costco Travel, a discount travel site that will find exclusive offers on everything from flights to rental cars.
Costco offers discount auto insurance.
Yet another perk of a Costco membership is that members enjoy exclusive access to home and auto insurance with Ameriprise at discounted rates. If you’re looking for ways to save money, then it’s definitely worth checking out whether using the company’s discounted policies could save you a few extra dollars every month.
Don’t bother cutting coupons.
There’s no need to waste time cutting coupons before your next Costco trip. Recently, the chain debuted a new feature where all discounts featured in the store’s monthly coupon booklet are automatically applied at checkout, so all you have to do is ring up your item to receive the deal—no coupon required.
You can shop at Costco on Instacart without a membership.
For non-members, shopping Costco’s offerings via Instacart is always an option. All you have to do is fill your virtual grocery cart with the items you want and schedule a drop-off time, and all of your Costco goods will be delivered straight to your door! Though delivery isn’t free and some of the prices online are slightly higher than those found in the store, this is a great option for those who don’t want to pay the annual membership fee.
Avoid buying things in bulk that can expire.
Don’t let the allure of discounted goods trick you into buying things you don’t need, especially when they come with an expiration date. Unless you have a good reason to purchase 3 pounds of apples and know that you’re going to eat your fresh produce before it expires, it’s better to just opt for smaller quantities sans savings.
Not all deals at Costco are necessarily good.
Though the prices at Costco are certainly competitive, they’re not always the best ones out there. When it comes to purchasing items like electronics and furniture, it’s always wise to check the prices at other stores like, Best Buy or Macy’s, before committing to a purchase, as these stores often feature seasonal discounts that trump those of Costco.
You can score discounted movie tickets.
Nowadays, movie tickets are expensive (especially if you live in a big city like New York or Los Angeles, where prices can approach $20 at chain theaters). But if you’re a Costco member, you can save a significant amount of money on movie tickets by buying the store’s ticket bundles and movie theatre gift cards. Their product offerings enable members to see their favorite flicks for as little as $9 per ticket. Yes, for Costco members, it’s Matinee Tuesday every day.
The store will honor a sale price.
There’s no need to get upset if you happen to purchase something at Costco, only for it to go on sale days or even weeks later. The store’s policy dictates that if you buy something and it goes on sale within 30 days of your purchase, you can bring in your receipt to get back the difference in the prices.
Look for items that end in 0.97.
Why this specific number? Though Costco doesn’t openly advertise it, they will slash the price of a product if and when it isn’t selling well—and when this happens, the price always ends in 0.97.
Don’t ignore those tiny asterisks.
Take notice of the small asterisks in the upper right corner of Costco price tags. If you ever see one of these, it means that the product featuring it is being discontinued, and you should stock up while you can.
Gift cards get you crazy bonus savings.
Don’t forget to check out the gift card section when you shop at Costco. Most of them are offered at discounted rates of up to 20 percent, making them perfect as a holiday gift (or just for you to keep).
You can return pretty much anything.
Costco’s number one priority is ensuring that their members are happy with the quality of their products. And because the company is so concerned with customer satisfaction, they offer a generous return policy that once allowed a woman to return a dead Christmas tree. Seriously.
Use Costco’s low prices to bring competitor prices down.
Not a Costco member but still want to receive those famously low Costco prices? No problem. Simply peruse the store’s website for the deals you want, print out the pages featuring said deals, and bring them to a competitor that offers price-matching, like Target, to score your favorite items for the same price that members are receiving. Though this might sound sketchy, it’s completely legal—and it’s a great way to shop Costco without actually shopping at Costco.
The store offers a wedding registry service.
If you’re serious about your love for Costco, then considering setting up a wedding registry there. Not only do they offer an array of sought-after items ranging from furniture to electronics, but the store’s low prices will also allow your wedding guests to save a pretty penny.
Manufacturer coupons aren’t accepted.
Unfortunately, for all the crazy coupon lovers out there, Costco doesn’t accept any manufacturer coupons on top of the deals it offers in-store. The company is a firm believer in the fact that it’s already offering the lowest possible prices, so it doesn’t feel the need to have to accept any other outside coupons.
For deals on meat, use the secret word.
That secret word? “Chub.” And yes, it might feel uttering this word aloud at the meat department, but it’s a surefire way to score extra savings. As one Reddit user (and Costco employee) pointed out: “We sell our regular ground beef for $3.49/pound. The way we make it is we take our fat trimmings from cutting steaks and mix it with the chubs to bring up the fat content and increase our profits. The 10 lb. chubs are probably sitting around 5 percent-8 percent fat and only cost $2.99/pound!”
You can return your membership.
Costco’s generous return policy doesn’t end with the products you buy whilst shopping at the store. If you are ever unhappy with your membership or simply just don’t want it anymore, you can contact the store and get a full refund on the membership fee.
You can only use certain credit cards at the store.
Before you head to Costco to do some major damage, make sure that you’re armed with the proper credit cards. For a while, the store only accepted American Express credit cards, but in 2016 they made the switch to Visa. And if you don’t have a Visa credit card, you can also use cash, checks, or a debit card.
Buy Costco’s in-house brand for some of the best deals.
Several sources have reported that Costco’s in-house brand, Kirkland Signature, uses the same manufacturers as the name brand products, even though they manage to offer their goods at more competitive prices. Basically, buying a Kirkland product is buying the name brand counterpart—without paying the name brand price.
The free samples are unlimited.
Though the people handing out free samples at Costco don’t technically work there, the store encourages said people to allow each and every customer to take as many free samples as their hearts desire.
Don’t forget to bring your own bags.
Costco doesn’t keep paper or plastic bags on hand—just cardboard boxes. So unless you want to leave the store with boxes filled with produce and other perishable products, you best not forget to bring your reusable totes.
Organic products are cheaper at Costco, too.
Health nuts tend to be picky about their produce—and yet, they don’t seem to mind the selection at Costco. In recent years, the store has become so well-known for its cheap and healthy goods that it even surpassed Whole Foods as the biggest retailer of organic food.
The store offers the cheapest generic drugs around.
Prescription drugs don’t come cheap, but there are ways to cut costs on medications if you know where to shop. According to one Consumer Reports survey, Costco offers some of the best deals when it comes to drugs—and this matters, seeing as people ended up paying as much as 447 percent more on generic medicines at some of the highest-priced pharmacies compared to the lowest.
The food court is extremely cheap.
Costco might be known for its steep savings on bulk items, but that isn’t to say that you can’t find savings in other parts of the store. Take the store’s food court, for instance: For more than three decades, the hot-dog-and-drink combo here has stayed at the low price of just $1.50, and you can buy an entire pizza pie for just $10.
Certain apps will pay you for shopping at Costco.
Costco might not allow any outside coupons, but shoppers can still use rebate apps like Ibotta and Checkout51 to earn some extra savings. When you buy certain products and this is reflected on your receipt, these apps will reward you with cash back.
Listen for a bell.
If you ever hear a bell ringing whilst shopping at Costco, make a beeline for the rotisserie chicken station. This sound means that a fresh batch of chickens has just been put out—and these birds have been known to sell out quickly.