How to Get the Most Out of Your Costco Membership

Credit: / Dave Swanson
Credit: / Dave Swanson

Grocery savings can be terrific, but dig deep for bigger bargains.

Recently, I was kvetching to my sister-in-law about the ridiculous cost of ordering personal checks.

I write just a few of them a month, so I only need to refill my stash every few years. Purchased through my credit union, a recent order of 120 blue safety duplicate checks came to $18.63—a 38 percent increase since my previous order, less than three years ago.

“You should get your checks online through Costco,” my sister-in-law advised.

So I went to Costco Checks and priced out the exact same Harland Clarke blue safety checks. The minimum order—a box of 348 checks, almost triple what I got from my CU—totaled just $14.41 including standard shipping. And if I applied my Costco Executive membership card to the order, the price dropped to a mere $11.53.

The per-check price through my credit union: 15.5 cents each. Through Costco: just 3.3 cents each.

Overpaying for personal checks by a few bucks a year isn’t the greatest sin—I’ve opted to let myself off the hook for this one. But the checks were a reminder: I probably wasn’t getting the most out of my Costco membership. Indeed, when I started to dig deeper into the warehouse store’s offerings, my eyes were opened to quite a few products I could get for less.

From $4.99 passport photos to $22,999.99 diamond wedding rings, I found deals that went well beyond the bulk ketchup and cheap gas we know and love Costco for.

Here are 8 additional ways to load up your shopping cart and get more out of your Costco membership.

Understand Costco’s Pricing Codes

Like many stores, Costco’s standard pricing ends in 99 cents. A bottle of Dom Perignon is $139.99, a 3-pack of WD-40 lubricant is $10.99, and so on. But every now and then, you’ll come across a product with a price ending in .97.

This is Costco’s internal designation for a product that’s been marked down below its original price, probably because it didn’t sell as well as expected. There’s another code, too: An asterisk that sometimes appears in the upper right hand corner of the price tag. It denotes an item that will not be re-ordered. When the current stock is depleted, it’s gone forever.

These codes don’t always guarantee a great deal, or must-buy items. But more than once I’ve used them to get an awesome deal on something I really wanted.

Don’t Forget About Costco Online

I’m not planning to shuffle off this mortal coil any time soon, but when I do, I hope my caretakers will remember to check for deals on caskets and urns.

Yes, you read that right. Funeral caskets and urns are among the hundreds, perhaps thousands of items sold by Costco online that aren’t found in its warehouse stores.

In part, that’s because what is stocked in Costco’s warehouses varies from one region of the country to the next. Standup paddleboards, for instance, might move briskly in a California store but wouldn’t justify the floor space in Kentucky. Additionally, some of these items are seasonally available in stores, but offered year-round at

Among the other unusual items I found online were telescopes, steam saunas, Fitbit wearables, chainsaws, and a 5.3-carat diamond wedding ring. Although Costco stores carry some office supplies (in bulk), I found more items available online, and at considerably lower prices than major office supply stores.

Stop Giving Away Those Gift Cards!

Most grocery and retail gift cards offer the same dollar value as their up-front cost. Buy a $100 gift card to the Apple Store and your lucky recipient can spend $100 there. But not at Costco.

Gift cards sold at Costco are essentially discount vouchers. For instance, two $50 gift cards valid at any Wolfgang Puck restaurant, Fleming’s Steakhouse, or McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant retail for $79.99. That works out to a 20-percent discount on dinner.

A couple years ago, Costco sold $300 American Airlines gift cards for $269.99—a 10-percent savings on airfare. Rounds of golf, helicopter sightseeing trips over Hawaii and the Grand Canyon, Build-A-Bear stuffed animals, gym memberships, and movie tickets are just a few of the other discount cards available.

You’ll find many of these online, but the more regional offers are only available at Costco stores in a given area. That’s another good reason it pays to…

Visit a Local Costco Store on Vacation

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SOURCE: – Dave Swanson

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