Is a Costco membership right for your family?


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Buying in bulk can save you serious cash. One place to find bulk products is Costco. Costco is a warehouse store that sells a variety of items in large quantities at discounted prices. To take advantage of it, however, you must pay an annual membership fee. (Find out how to get your money’s worth from a membership.)

So, is Costco worth it? Below, we’ll explore how Costco works and how you can make a Costco membership pay off.

Costco membership fees

To join Costco, you can choose from three different membership levels including:

  • Gold Star membership: The Gold Star membership is $60 per year and ideal for the average family who wants to shop at any Costco location. With the Gold Star, you get two membership cards so you can keep one for yourself and give the other to a partner or child.
  • Gold Star Executive membership: The Executive membership is an upgrade of the Gold Star membership and is $120 per year. If you go this route, you’ll get two cards and earn 2% rewards on your purchases.
  • Business memberships: Costco also offers Business and Business Executive memberships. Their benefits are identical to those offered in the Gold Star memberships, but allow members to add additional people for $60 each and make purchases for resale.

Pros of becoming a Costco member

The greatest advantages of joining Costco are as follows:

  • Low prices: Since Costco sells many items in bulk, you can enjoy low per-unit prices on food, household products and more.
  • Fewer trips to the store: By shopping in bulk, you don’t have to visit the store as frequently.
  • Return policy: With some exceptions, Costco guarantees satisfaction on all the products they sell and will offer a refund for any products that don’t satisfy.
  • Free samples: Yes, you read that right. When you shop at Costco, you can sample many products at promotional booths throughout the store.
  • More than just food and household items: Believe it or not, you can save on jewelry, electronics, vacations, gift cards and even cars at Costco.

Cons of becoming a Costco member

  • Membership fee: As stated, you must pay to shop at Costco by buying a membership.
  • More waste: If you buy food in bulk and don’t eat before it goes bad, you’ll be throwing money down the drain.
  • More storage space required: Buying a year’s supply of paper towels might save you money, but you need to have room to store them. (Are you wasting money on a storage unit?)
  • Crowds: Costco is typically crowded so you can’t count on a relaxing shopping experience, especially if you go on the weekends or after work hours.
  • Limited payment options: If your payment of choice is MasterCard or American Express, you’re out of luck because Costco doesn’t accept these credit cards. The only credit cards Costco accepts are Visa cards. The store does accept most debit cards.
  • Less variety: Costco only sells items from the brands it partners with. A typical Costco warehouse carries about 4,000 SKUs (stock-keeping units, a count of the distinct items for sale), compared to 30,000 found at most supermarkets, so you may not be able to find your favorite brand of hot sauce or cheese.

When Costco is worth it

The ideal Costco member buys enough to make the cost of membership worthwhile and has the space to store all those bulk goods. (Check out the 10 best items to buy in bulk — and the five to always buy individually.) Costco may be a wise investment if you:

  • Live with multiple people.
  • Like to host parties and social events.
  • Don’t have the time to shop often.
  • Live close to a Costco location.
  • Will use your membership on a regular basis.
  • Have space in your home to store bulk items.
  • Can resist the temptation to buy items you don’t really need.

If you live alone, live far from a Costco location, get overwhelmed by crowds, or can’t see yourself going to Costco frequently enough to warrant the annual fee, a membership may not make sense.

A Costco membership can be a big budget line item. Make sure you aren’t drowning in subscription and membership fees.

This article originally appeared on Policygenius and was syndicated by

Featured Image Credit: andykatz / iStock.