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Costco Wholesale Discounts, Deals and Coupon Codes

11 Ways to Save Big at Costco

Bulk up your savings with these slick tips.

Benjamin Franklin once said, "Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship." This advice is especially true in today's economy, where everyday essentials can add up big time. Oddly enough, one of the best ways to spend less is to buy more. Case in point: purchasing items in bulk at warehouse clubs like Costco. This popular wholesale store is a favorite among Slickdealers, and its prices are hard to beat when you shop smart.

 

1. Try before you buy.

Costco Cash Card Scoring great deals at Costco starts with paying for a membership, right? Well, not exactly. You can either enroll in a traditional membership plan to the tune of $55 for a basic Gold Star Membership or $110 for an Executive Membership, or you can always try before you buy with a Costco Cash Card. A Costco member will have to purchase the card for you in amounts ranging from $25 to $1,000, but you can use it to enter the store and take advantage of the club prices. You could also have a Costco member bring you along as a guest if you'd prefer to check out the store in person, but that member will have to make any subsequent purchases for you.

Non-members can also access Costco's health services and utilize the store's pharmacy (which Consumer Reports touts as the least expensive place to buy prescription drugs.) And, in certain states, you can also purchase alcohol at club prices without a membership.

 

2. Know your prices.

Like many other retailers, Costco uses specific price codes -- and it pays to know what each code represents. Here's the general breakdown:

  • Prices that end in .99 indicate that the item is still full price.
  • Prices that end in .49, .79, .89, etc. generally indicate that the item is full price, but the store may have received a price break from the vendor. (Oftentimes, these savings trickle down to the customer, so check the item's per-unit cost to see how the price stacks up.)
  • Prices that end in .97 indicate that the item is reduced.
  • Prices that end in .88 or .00 indicate that a store manager has likely marked the item down to get it off the shelves quickly.
  • An asterisk in the upper right-hand corner of the price tag means that the item won't be reordered. In other words, stock up accordingly.

Some shoppers have had luck negotiating prices at Costco, and it never hurts to ask a sales associate or manager for an additional price break on clearance items or floor models.

 

3. Shop with coupons.

Sorry, extreme couponers. Costco doesn't accept manufacturer's coupons or coupons from other retailers. The reason, however, is that the store issues its own coupons via a monthly coupon book. Members are sent this booklet through the mail, but you can also access it online or through the store's mobile app.

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4. Crunch the numbers.

When it comes to buying in bulk at warehouse clubs, you'll have to do some math in order to do it right. Take the extra time to calculate an item's cost per unit to see if the savings actually compete with other retailers. It's easy to get tricked into thinking you're getting a good deal when in reality you could have purchased the item for less money elsewhere with the help of coupons and storewide promotions.

 

5. Earn cash back.

Costco Executive Membership Depending on how often you shop at Costco, you may want to upgrade your standard Gold Star Membership to the Executive Membership in order to receive 2% cash back on your Costco purchases (up to $750 per year).

The best part about the Executive Membership $55 upgrade is that it's essentially risk free. Costco offers its members a 100% satisfaction guarantee, and the store will refund your upgrade fee if you're unhappy with your savings. When Slickdealer just123me applied for a Costco membership, the store advised that there was "nothing to lose by upgrading" to an Executive Membership, because you'll get your $55 back one way or the other.

 

6. Buy gift cards.

Like other warehouse clubs, Costco is a prime spot to stock up on gift cards at unbeatable prices. The chain sells gift cards for a wide range of retailers at impressive discounts. Of course, you can always buy that special someone a Costco Cash Card, as well. (As Slickdealer hannahsential says, "Costco's the gift that keeps giving.")

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7. Fuel up.

There are two affordable ways to fuel up at Costco: at the pump and at the food court.

The store's self-service gas stations are a customer favorite, and many Slickdealers say that this perk alone justifies the cost of a membership plan since the store's gas prices are considerably lower than those at other stations.

Additionally, the store's food court offers an all-American hot dog and soda combo for just $1.50. (Non-members can eat at the Costco food court as long as it's located on the outside of the store.)

 

8. Go off-brand.

Costco Kirkland Signature Brand Costco customers are constantly raving about the store's Kirkland Signature brand, which is essentially its generic alternative to name-brand products. Kirkland Signature items are priced right and oftentimes come from the same name-brand factories as their competitors, so it's a smart way to save a little extra on household staples.

 

9. Stay focused.

The store is known for its lack of signage, so it's all too easy to get sidetracked... or lost altogether. Shop strategically by ignoring the showy offers at the front of the store and heading to the back instead (it's the prime spot for the best deals.) Also, check the end of each aisle for potential savings -- and try to avoid impulse buys triggered by all those "free" samples. You'll never save money if you buy things you don't need just because they seem like a good deal.

 

10. Download the app.

Keep the store's deals right at your fingertips with the Costco mobile app. You'll get instant access to the latest warehouse offers, and you can shop thousands of items not sold in brick-and-mortar locations.

Costco customers can also use the app to order photo prints directly from the store's photo center -- just upload your pictures, select your print sizes and pick up your prints at your local store.

 

11. Extend your savings.

Costco Anywhere Visa Card In 2016, Costco officially ended its 16-year relationship with American Express and entered into a new partnership with Visa, which is now the exclusive issuer of the store's co-branded credit card.

The Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi allows club members to receive 2% cash back on their Costco purchases, as well as 3% cash back on restaurant and travel purchases and 4% cash back on gasoline purchases (including the low-priced fuel at Costco's pumps). But the card's biggest incentive may just be its extended warranties. Costco already offers a two-year extended manufacturer's warranty on TVs, computers and major appliances, but when members use their Costco Anywhere Visa Cards, they extend that warranty coverage for an additional two years. As Slickdealer xcopy says, "This is a great reason to buy electronics at Costco vs. places like Sam's, BJ's, etc."

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Costco members can also earn additional savings with rebate apps like Ibotta and Checkout 51. Just submit your store receipt to score cash-back rewards on featured products.

*****

Are you a Costco member, or are you considering buying an annual membership? Let us know your thoughts on this popular warehouse club in the comments section below!


Browse our Costco coupon page here!

Images courtesy of Costco.



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About the Author
Lesley Sheridan Contributor

Lesley Sheridan is a freelance fashion and beauty writer who lives for Pinterest boards, animal prints, strappy shoes and coupon codes. Her bookshelves are filled with Kevyn Aucoin makeup guides, and her favorite band is and will always be INXS. A Kentucky girl at heart, she currently resides just outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, with her rescue cats, a boyfriend who wishes he were an astronaut and a dog whose favorite word is “pizza.”

11 Comments

1
This comment has been rated as unhelpful by Slickdeals users
#2
like Amazon Costco charges to get their deals. this in effect is making you spend more to at least pay for the membership vs just being on the lookout for store deals. some items are great to get if you need them like their batteries (rebranded Duracell) I hear but still not worth it unless you are into paying for plastic cups plates utensils and throwing them away a slicker deal is washing real cups utensils and plates/bowls and using those again. if you throw a lot of parties for a lot of people it could be worth it but I have always been able to get better deals on essentials with coupons or going to an Aldi store.

having someone you know buy a gift card for you is probably annoying for that member and means your going to have left over funds stuck on the card unless they let you pay with cash on overages.

my SO went with a friend and asked me about items like dish soap feminine please and other household essentials. I immediately thought the diapers would be cheaper. not by a long shot. targets biggest pack was closer to 13 cents a diaper and Costco was nearer 18 cents when looking at size 3. found the same for Sam's club. pretty ridiculous for store brands on a supposedly cheapest anywhere paid club. it's just crazy that a bulk pack of pads is higher per pad vs Walmart's with a higher absorbance (based on the box art and even the same absorbancy was cheaper still lol)
the Ajax was .001 cheaper per ounce for their largest size compared to Walmart's largest size so they win there. that's a ton of soap to buy to save on the membership fee.
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Last edited by burner1515 February 16, 2017 at 11:39 AM.
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#3
A couple corrections. The monthly "coupon" booklet does not contain coupons - it just tells you everything that will be on sale during that ~4 week period (usually from the middle of one month to the middle of the next month). Costco doesn't actually do coupons - just good sales!

Also, Costco food courts are always inside the store, but they are in the area near customer service where you do not need a membership to enter - just look for the door where everyone is leaving, and you can go through there without needing a membership card to go enjoy the excellent food court, or go talk to customer service about their membership options (they'll be more than happy to let you check it out without needing a costco gift card!).
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#4
Quote from Vataro View Post :
A couple corrections. The monthly "coupon" booklet does not contain coupons - it just tells you everything that will be on sale during that ~4 week period (usually from the middle of one month to the middle of the next month). Costco doesn't actually do coupons - just good sales!

Also, Costco food courts are always inside the store, but they are in the area near customer service where you do not need a membership to enter - just look for the door where everyone is leaving, and you can go through there without needing a membership card to go enjoy the excellent food court, or go talk to customer service about their membership options (they'll be more than happy to let you check it out without needing a costco gift card!).
Thanks for the info! (I've yet to try their famous hot dog and soda combo.)
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Last edited by lesleysheridan February 17, 2017 at 10:39 AM.
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#5
Probably won't renew,
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#6
Quote from Vataro View Post :
A couple corrections. The monthly "coupon" booklet does not contain coupons - it just tells you everything that will be on sale during that ~4 week period (usually from the middle of one month to the middle of the next month). Costco doesn't actually do coupons - just good sales!

Also, Costco food courts are always inside the store, but they are in the area near customer service where you do not need a membership to enter - just look for the door where everyone is leaving, and you can go through there without needing a membership card to go enjoy the excellent food court, or go talk to customer service about their membership options (they'll be more than happy to let you check it out without needing a costco gift card!).
Not true. In CA, many costco have their food courts outside the warehouse (Goleta, San Luis Obiso, Alhambra, etc) just to name a few. Most definatley not ALWAYS
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#7
Thanks for the tips. My sister and I split a membership (well, we used to live in the same household, and we signed up together), but will probably switch back to Sam's next year. It is a lot further distance wise, and eternally mobbed. However, I may gift myself a $50 gift card, and if SlickDeals has some deal I really want, I could use that to buy it.

I took a friend recently, and she had to pay with a debit card inside the store, but I swiped my card so she could use credit to buy gas.

Sam's has the same hot dog deal ($1.50), but they offer 32 ounce drinks, vs the 20 ounce at Costco. Pizza is a better deal at Sam's, too ($2.58 at Costco, $2.49 at Sam's).

Now we need to see if we can get a good deal at Sam's (membership ended 8 months ago). Costco is great to belong to every few years - there are a lot of things there that you can't get elsewhere.
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Joined Nov 2007
Lurkin' since 2001......
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#8
I'll start out by first disclosing I am a Costco fanboy. I have had a membership for17 or more years, am a stockholder and love to shop there for value, therapy, and fun. I've got a growing family of five and we try to get as much of our needs met by shopping at Costco first, before trying other retailers, just because I truly believe it's in my best interest financially, and the value and quality of goods/services is that much better.

A little known fact......the annual Costco membership fee you pay is THE only "profit" Costco will make. All of the revenue reported in the financial disclosures will clarify that. The price you pay for an item at Costco is literally what the unit cost is, plus some small added margin for overhead to run the operation. Sam's Club on the other hand is owned by WalMart and is solely a corporate money machine. Shop at Sam's and you're supporting an organization which is there to eake out every single cent of profit margin from selling substantially similar, but lower quality consumer goods than you'll find at Costco. (It's also at the expense of its employees. Sam's does not treat its employees any better than WalMart. We've heard plenty about that in the news recently. Google it and be disgusted. I met Sa Walton and worked for Walmart when their corporate philosophy was very different. They singl handedly op Ned the floodgates of Chinese goods and used to promote "Buy American" years ago.)

Try to return an item at Sam's Club without a receipt. They won't give you what was paid for it, only the last lowest price, and only a store credit. If and when I need to do the same at Costco, they will look up the date of purchase using my membership number and refund whatever was paid to the credit card used, or give me cash, or store credit...if that's what I prefer. It's a difference of philosophy for a MEMBER versus a Customer. Once money is spent at Sam's Club, they will do whatever they can to make it hard to get it back. They have the same technology, and could do the same...it's a strategy to maximize profit over customer satisfaction. Costco has members....there is a difference.

Costco on the other hand has been named as a "responsible corporate citizen" in paying a living wage and job stability, providing health insurance benefits for families, and sourcing products responsibly. SAM's is an imitator and competitor of Costco and the warehouse model, not the other way around. The quality of produce, food, and other things like furniture and clothing is very, very evident....I know because I have memberships to both. (I'd much rather shop at Costco, but location and drive time often are the deciding factors when I have to stop by for something quickly. Produce at Sam's is often found to be spoiled and meat I've purchased is marginal and sometimes bad. (They used to have a 200% Money Back Guarantee on meat if it was bad...but not anymore). I've got a recent video I'll post of a Sam's Club meat purchase experience. (I'll edit the post to do so later, I need to share).

Here's an example of difference between the two.... If you purchase a "case" of soda at Sams, you may be getting a 20 pack....not a full case. Not the situation at Costco. Costco sells USDA Prime, and Choice meats. I don't believe I've ever seen anything close to that at Sam's. Sure there are some things which will be equal....say a case of office paper, or ink cartridges, a name brand cheese, Cereal, cans of tomato paste etc, but Costco IS a step above in quality of goods, and price. If it's less at Sam's a Club, it's either a temporary loss leader, OR inferior quality. (I've even seen prices at Sam's which were more than a WalMart next door.)

And don't even get me started about the difference in the cleanliness of the stores, short staff at Sam's, carts spread about the lot, BROKEN carts, gum stuck to the pavement,trash swirling around at the entrance etc. The Customer Service line at Sam's Club is like going to the post office. There or four people milling around while one other is helping a single customer with a line Five people deep. You'll get through the line, but it's going to be at their pace and the attitudes are an indicator of how Sam's employees are paid, treated, and the culture. It's a grimy, dirty store and shopping experience at Sam's Club versus a clean, positive environment, with smiling happy career employees at Costco.

OP, I'm sorry if I hijacked the post, but I wanted to set the record straight for those previous posters who weren't being fair and partial. I think your article is spot on and beautifully written.
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#9
Quote from jbwhite99 View Post :
Thanks for the tips. My sister and I split a membership (well, we used to live in the same household, and we signed up together), but will probably switch back to Sam's next year. It is a lot further distance wise, and eternally mobbed. However, I may gift myself a $50 gift card, and if SlickDeals has some deal I really want, I could use that to buy it.

I took a friend recently, and she had to pay with a debit card inside the store, but I swiped my card so she could use credit to buy gas.

Sam's has the same hot dog deal ($1.50), but they offer 32 ounce drinks, vs the 20 ounce at Costco. Pizza is a better deal at Sam's, too ($2.58 at Costco, $2.49 at Sam's).

Now we need to see if we can get a good deal at Sam's (membership ended 8 months ago). Costco is great to belong to every few years - there are a lot of things there that you can't get elsewhere.
You're welcome! And you're right, Sam's Club and Costco both have their perks. I actually saw a Sam's Club promotion on our forums where new members can get a free $25 gift card with their $45 membership if that helps!
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#10
Quote from topfuel View Post :
I'll start out by first disclosing I am a Costco fanboy. I have had a membership for17 or more years, am a stockholder and love to shop there for value, therapy, and fun. I've got a growing family of five and we try to get as much of our needs met by shopping at Costco first, before trying other retailers, just because I truly believe it's in my best interest financially, and the value and quality of goods/services is that much better.

A little known fact......the annual Costco membership fee you pay is THE only "profit" Costco will make. All of the revenue reported in the financial disclosures will clarify that. The price you pay for an item at Costco is literally what the unit cost is, plus some small added margin for overhead to run the operation. Sam's Club on the other hand is owned by WalMart and is solely a corporate money machine. Shop at Sam's and you're supporting an organization which is there to eake out every single cent of profit margin from selling substantially similar, but lower quality consumer goods than you'll find at Costco. (It's also at the expense of its employees. Sam's does not treat its employees any better than WalMart. We've heard plenty about that in the news recently. Google it and be disgusted. I met Sa Walton and worked for Walmart when their corporate philosophy was very different. They singl handedly op Ned the floodgates of Chinese goods and used to promote "Buy American" years ago.)

Try to return an item at Sam's Club without a receipt. They won't give you what was paid for it, only the last lowest price, and only a store credit. If and when I need to do the same at Costco, they will look up the date of purchase using my membership number and refund whatever was paid to the credit card used, or give me cash, or store credit...if that's what I prefer. It's a difference of philosophy for a MEMBER versus a Customer. Once money is spent at Sam's Club, they will do whatever they can to make it hard to get it back. They have the same technology, and could do the same...it's a strategy to maximize profit over customer satisfaction. Costco has members....there is a difference.

Costco on the other hand has been named as a "responsible corporate citizen" in paying a living wage and job stability, providing health insurance benefits for families, and sourcing products responsibly. SAM's is an imitator and competitor of Costco and the warehouse model, not the other way around. The quality of produce, food, and other things like furniture and clothing is very, very evident....I know because I have memberships to both. (I'd much rather shop at Costco, but location and drive time often are the deciding factors when I have to stop by for something quickly. Produce at Sam's is often found to be spoiled and meat I've purchased is marginal and sometimes bad. (They used to have a 200% Money Back Guarantee on meat if it was bad...but not anymore). I've got a recent video I'll post of a Sam's Club meat purchase experience. (I'll edit the post to do so later, I need to share).

Here's an example of difference between the two.... If you purchase a "case" of soda at Sams, you may be getting a 20 pack....not a full case. Not the situation at Costco. Costco sells USDA Prime, and Choice meats. I don't believe I've ever seen anything close to that at Sam's. Sure there are some things which will be equal....say a case of office paper, or ink cartridges, a name brand cheese, Cereal, cans of tomato paste etc, but Costco IS a step above in quality of goods, and price. If it's less at Sam's a Club, it's either a temporary loss leader, OR inferior quality. (I've even seen prices at Sam's which were more than a WalMart next door.)

And don't even get me started about the difference in the cleanliness of the stores, short staff at Sam's, carts spread about the lot, BROKEN carts, gum stuck to the pavement,trash swirling around at the entrance etc. The Customer Service line at Sam's Club is like going to the post office. There or four people milling around while one other is helping a single customer with a line Five people deep. You'll get through the line, but it's going to be at their pace and the attitudes are an indicator of how Sam's employees are paid, treated, and the culture. It's a grimy, dirty store and shopping experience at Sam's Club versus a clean, positive environment, with smiling happy career employees at Costco.

OP, I'm sorry if I hijacked the post, but I wanted to set the record straight for those previous posters who weren't being fair and partial. I think your article is spot on and beautifully written.
Not at all -- I loved reading your insights! And thank you so much for your kind words. I really appreciate it. :-)
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#11
You need to mention the roasted chicken in Costco, for $4.99.

Which size is almost double than most of the supermarkets and they actually tasted ok to good.

There are reports saying that this is the item that Costco selling with the most negative profit (% wise)
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#12
If you have a Chase Freedom Visa or Discover card, buy Costco cash cards at Costco.com when your card is offering 5% cash back at Warehouse clubs for the quarter, (as Discover is currently from 1/01/17 - 3/31/17). The quarterly 5% cash back is usually limited to the first $1,500 in that category, so earns a max of $75 cash back for the quarter.
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Last edited by jpell123 February 24, 2017 at 09:30 AM.
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